October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Statistics show that 1 in 4 women have suffered from some kind of pregnancy loss. However that number is believed to be under reported. Today, I want to tell you that I am 1 in 4. I lost my only daughter when I was 38 weeks pregnant. I originally published her birth story play by play for her first birthday in heaven. I later compiled it into an easier to read format. This is Eveleen’s story.
My pregnancy was a surprise. After my difficult time with Parker’s pregnancy, I had been advised to not have anymore babies. My urologist felt like my kidneys couldn’t handle another pregnancy. I didn’t feel like my family was complete though. I had faith that if I ever got pregnant again, then that pregnancy would serve a greater purpose. However when I did get pregnant 5 1/2 years later, it couldn’t come at a worse time. I was trying to build a steady midwifery business in Denton. I was not in a steady relationship. My oldest was on his way to college.
This pregnancy ended up being very difficult. I dealt with that now familiar morning sickness until 24 weeks. I suffered from depression over my situation. The only good news was that when consulting with a new urologist since I had moved away from the old one, he found no new kidney stones. He agreed to monitor me throughout my pregnancy, so that I would not be in the same situation as last time.
One morning, I awoke at 4am to pee and could not remember the last time that I felt the baby move, I got up and did the all the things that I tell my clients to do. I had something sugary and tried to get baby to move. Then I went down to my car to get my Doppler to try and find heart beat. I called my midwife in a panic and we agreed to meet at the local hospital. They couldn’t get a heartbeat either and so an ultrasound was done to show that the heart had stopped beating. I started frantically messaging a few people.
My midwife arrived just in time to discuss options with the on call doctor who just happened to be the best VBAC Doctor in the whole DFW area. After some discussion, we decided that a slow induction would be my best course. As I got admitted, my friend and my pastor’s wife arrived to support me. We started with a low dose Pitocin drip. Around noon, Dr. C came to check on me. I was having light sporadic contractions, but still only dilated to 1cm. He tried to break my water, but by that time, my body had mostly reabsorbed it. I had a great nurse that I had worked with before when there with a doula client. She was a bit used to getting her way though and not used to the full discussions and input that we gave for each decision. At first, every time my midwife left the room, she would try to persuade me to do something that we had vetoed during the previous discussion. I think by the time her shift ended, we had her looking at some aspects of birth differently though.
My oldest son called at some point with some college problems. When he heard how my day was going, he decided to call his aunt to help him adult instead. My doula, friend, and former apprentice showed up. The atmosphere in the room was so full of love and support. I compartmentalize very well, so at times, we could almost forget why we were there to begin with. But then it would hit and the tears would flow. A Chaplin was sent to help us and talk things over. My midwife finally had to take my phone away and screen calls and messages because it would not stop ringing with placenta and midwifery clients needing/wanting things from me.
My friend and pastor’s wife left for lunch. They snuck me some bean burritos back in, my comfort food after working a total of 7 years at two different Taco Bells. When my second son and his friends got out of school that day, he messaged to see if they could come see me. The full impact of what was going on did not hit him until my midwife explained while I was in the bathroom. I am still amazed by the love and care of these boys considering our society still discourages boys from displaying this kind of emotion. Before the boys left, my pastor and his daughter also came by to offer their prayers and support. His obvious discomfort at being in the “birthing room” made the fact that he took time to come by all the more meaningful.
Shift change brought a hand picked nurse who they thought would best meet my needs. And Amber was awesome. Dr. C was going off call, but volunteered to continue on with me until I birthed. The Pitocin was turned off so that I could shower and eat. My midwife went to get me Chipolte and the others went home to get some rest.
I was still 1cm with sporadic contractions which stopped not long after the Pitocin was turned off. We finally decided to try low dose Cytotec, something that I had been holding off on as long as possible with being a VBAC. After the first dose, my midwife and I laid down to rest. We chatted for a few minutes, but I quickly passed out. I slept hard until it was time for the next dose, waking up with drool on my pillow. With the second dose at 3am, I started to have light and sporadic contractions again. This time they were coming a bit stronger though. 24 hours later and I was still 1cm. We moved up to a higher dose of Cytotec and this dose was inserted vaginally.
The atmosphere of this day changed drastically. While the party atmosphere of the previous day was what I needed emotionally, it was not conducive to establishing a good labor pattern. We kept this day quieter and more low key. One of the people that I had contacted the day before was my friend Laney. At the time that I messaged her, I was not even thinking about the fact that she is a bereavement doula with Stillbirthday. She tried to come the first day, but ended up at a birth with one of her regular clients first. She came as soon as she could though.
Amber the night nurse asked me if I knew of a nurse that I would want since Stephanie from the day before was off that day. I remembered one from another doula birth that I really liked. I was trying to describe her without much success until I said, “I think that she had a lot of kids.” That was the key and Amber found a picture of Dawn on FB for me. Dawn was the one and she was the best nurse that I could possibly have.
The Cytotec alone was not doing the job either. I was still 1cm, so around noon I got hooked back up to the Pitocin. My contractions finally started developing into a pattern and getting stronger. Around 2:30pm, the contractions finally we’re getting lower in my uterus and more intense. I remember telling my midwife two things. #1 that I would be so pissed if the baby was a girl, since I did not know gender. #2 that I did not want an epidural.
We switched rooms so that I could use a shower to help with pain relief. In my mind, I had turned into a white Incredible Hulk though. I was trying to rip the shower head out of the wall. I hit the wall at one point and saw my fist going through the wall. In my mind, I was picking up cars and throwing them.
After school got out, my son again started texting me to see if he could come by the hospital. At that point, I desperately needed to see him, but did not want him to see me in Incredible Hulk mode so I asked for the epidural. My midwife wanted me to eat something beforehand, but I was refusing to. She ended up placing things in my hand or mouth, so that I would automatically do it, which I did. But then I threw my trash at her during the next contraction. If we hadn’t been such good friends beforehand, I don’t think that I would have done that. When the anesthesiologist came, I used my disassociation to cope again. I started talking to him about his training and why there are more men than women anesthesiologists. He told me to curl around something so my midwife had me hug her neck. I told her later that she was lucky that there was a needle in my back otherwise I would have ripped her hair out during the contractions.
My son and his friend came and I was able to visit with them about the things that were important to them. We talked about things like what their plans were after graduation. After the boys left, I laid down to rest. We ended up quietly chatting though.
All of a sudden I felt something. When I told the midwife and bereavement doula this, they said that since I was a midwife, I should check it out. I reached down and felt what I thought was amniotic sac. I pulled up my hand and there was finally bloody show on it. I asked my midwife to check what was going on. As she lifted up my blanket, Nurse Dawn walked in. She saw the midwife looking guilty and asked what was going on. I waved my hand at her and said “Look! I felt something.” So she came and checked me. 9cm!
She started to walk to the door to alert the doctor and get some more nurses to come set things up. As she put her hand on the door handle, I told her to wait. I felt a plopping feeling and her head was out. She and the midwife came over and to see what was going on and then grabbed some gloves. I heard something about not pushing. I said, “I’m not pushing. Oh, wait. Yes, I am.” And I involuntarily pushed out the shoulders. I birthed her onto the bed. My midwife asked Dawn if she could hand me the baby.
A few minutes later, my midwife had me look to see her gender. I got my girl after 20 years of waiting for one. I was so heart broken. Dr. C had gone home because of burst pipes, so the on call doctor came to deliver the placenta and check for tears. I had already noticed and pointed out to her and my midwife the obvious signs of Down’s Syndrome. They took her away to do all the usual weights and measuring and found more signs of Down’s. The doctor was pretty confident that she passed from a heart defect due to the Down’s and Dr. C confirmed it the next day.
I am very grateful for my bereavement doula. She was able to get hundreds of pictures of the birth and afterward. I was informed that I could keep my baby as long as I wanted. If I ever wanted, they could put her in the cooler for a couple hours to keep her fresher. I have since learned that many hospitals limit how much time you can have with your baby. I have also learned of an amazing product called a cuddle cot. It keeps the baby cool while she stays with you. I would have loved something like that. I never wanted to let her go to the cooler, because I knew that I would be saying good bye soon enough.
While we waited for my epidural to wear off, we did some art work and played around with my placenta. I got to cuddle my baby and spend time deciding who she was. My boys and I had all amazingly agreed on a boy’s name and a girl’s name. Until a friend stole my girl’s name. I went from 97% sure of the name to 50% sure. I also spent time worrying about whether it would be harder or easier for the boys to handle her death if I used the name that we had agreed on. One day while I was stuck in Arlington waiting between appointments, I went to a Half Price book store to kill time. I found a few names that I secretly added to the list that followed our specifications. So while I agonized over who she was to be, I pulled the list out. Eveleen (Ayv leen) meant wanted or longed for. More and more I kept going back to it. While it was a rough pregnancy with lots of hard emotions to work through, she was wanted. She was and still is longed for.
Are you 1 in 4? Have you had a miscarriage or a full term loss? Too often, we hide our losses from others. One of my goals since Eveleen’s birth has been to help normalize talking about pregnancy loss. Feel free to share your story with me either here in the comments or by emailing me privately.