“After 14 months of trying including one miscarriage, we have finally been blessed with our amazing little boy. Bretten Oliver Withey was born 10 days early (my water ruptured at 2am), on 12.5.12 at 2:41pm. He was 7lbs 12oz and 20.5 in long. His daddy arrived at the hospital after being out of state for work just 2 hours before he was born. He is the light of our life and continues to make us fall in love with him everyday.” ~Jessica
Sent in by Jillian. She says, “This was the birth of my son, Avery Reed. He is my rainbow baby. I had attempted a VBAC but decided to get a repeat c-section after a bad reaction to an epidural that left me weak and feeling pretty sick. It was a difficult delivery, and a long hospital stay after, but it is so worth it.
At first he wouldn’t let go of my OB, and then he started peeing all over the place. The doctors, nurses, and my husband were all bursting with laughter when that happened.” 🙂
This is a guest blog post from Heidi with Stillbirthday. I can’t say enough kind things about this woman and the amazing support and healing that happens because of her mission. She has taught me many things, has helped a dear friend of mine grieve through a recent loss, and never gives up on anyone. I admire her very much and am so grateful for her endless love. ~January
You played with dolls as a little girl. You played dress up and your favorite movie was “Cinderella.” You grew up knowing that someday, you would meet your Prince Charming.
Finally, you met. Eventually, he proposed, and even while in the middle of wedding planning, the discussion of children came up – I mean, not just “someday I want to have kids” but, “After the wedding, we will begin planning on growing our family”.
This transition – just the dialogue, the prospect of becoming a mother – was marvelous, filling you with excitement and anticipation and even a little nervousness. Would you be a good mom? How many children do you want? Which gender?
The morning came, when you woke up before the alarm. You excitedly got out of bed and dashed into the bathroom. You picked up the box, reading the instructions – again – even though, you know, you’re pretty sure you know what you’re doing. Just pee on a stick, right? How hard can this be? With Guinness Record precision, every splash of your urine touched the soft material of the pregnancy test. You then delicately placed it on the bathroom counter, and as you watched, you were thrilled at the wonder as liquid moved past the dial, turning one line pink….keep going….keep going….
The liquid moved to the end of the dial, and you found yourself squealing as it brought with it….another line!
You immediately looked up at yourself in the mirror, rubbing your belly, filled with amazement and joy.
As you left the bathroom, you immediately began processing the logistics of another family member. Which things would need to be packed in storage to make room for your baby? Which closets would need to be cleaned out? Which room would be the nursery?
You laughingly and confidently tucked away the maxi pads. “Ha!” you say to yourself, “I won’t need these for the next nine months!”
You realize as the weeks go by, that getting pregnant seemed to just be the natural progression of things. You got married, and then, it became time to be a mother. You were excited and surprised at the discovery of the pregnancy, but really, you just knew it was something that would happen at some point, right?
You don’t realize it, but seeing those two lines puts you nearer to questions of life purpose, questions of the universe, questions of eternal value, than you’ve ever been before.
That second line puts you closer to discovering what elective abortion really means to you. What if the doctor tells you that your baby is suffering in your body? What would you do?
That second line puts you closer to discovering what terror is. What if your pregnancy just stops working right? And what if there’s nothing anybody can do about it?
That second line puts you closer than you ever imagined, to the most important things in life.
You log on to Facebook. You have 1,000 girlfriends – “Facebook friends” – who you share the news with. “I’m pregnant!” you type into your status excitedly, not realizing that 1 in 4 pregnant mothers give birth to a stillborn baby, in the US alone. Maybe you have heard that, but do not know that in fact, 1 in 2 moms won’t have a baby survive to reach two months after birth.
But then you get up to go to the bathroom.
And it happens.
Your pregnancy is ending, right in the same place where you discovered its beginning.
The next day, you are home from the hospital, with an empty womb and a broken heart. You spend your day weeping and second guessing every decision you made. You begin to assimilate the pieces of your broken heart as best as you can. As you try to make sense of what happened, the rationale and theory you create become especially significant to you:
- What physical, tangible reason could this have happened?
- What spiritual reason could this have happened?
Your own unique answer to these two questions will be the foundation from which your healing will take place. When you are confronted with other reasons, other perspectives, for loss in general or your loss in particular, you may find that it is threatening to everything you believe, every ounce of healing you’ve had, and it can crush you to the core.
- The doctor told me that my baby was “debris” that “needed to be removed”.
- One nurse told me that I was “just having a menstrual cycle”.
- One person told me that God realized the baby was going to have special needs, so He saved me from the burden. That He changed His mind in the middle of His work.
- Still another person told me that a mother in Heaven who had experienced a miscarriage on earth now gets to be the mother of my child.
- I immediately felt as though I didn’t belong in the ultrasound room. I was treated as though I was strange for coming into this place with this “material” to be looked at, when everyone else – the waiting room filled with expecting mothers – were there with “real” babies. I nearly expected to be led out some back staircase for people who didn’t belong there. Instead, I had to stumble my way through the full waiting room of mothers with full bellies to exit.
None of these responses match my beliefs about pregnancy – about life in the womb, about all of those big things that we are so very near to while we are pregnant, but don’t realize until we experience loss. A platform specifically for pregnancy loss was needed.
Knowing how to support mothers through pregnancy loss is a needed and relevant pregnancy issue.
How can your friends support you? What can they say to help you?
Even more, what about your pregnant friends? Should they try to hide their round bellies and joyful hearts from you?
Here are some helpful tips, to support a mother enduring loss:
- If you have just found out that you are pregnant, and you know that a friend has experienced a pregnancy loss, consider telling her first, and privately, that you are pregnant. Take her out to lunch, or just spend some time together. Telling her first, and privately, gives her the option to participate or not if you then have a public announcement.
- As your friends begin planning a baby shower for you, and you know that a friend has experienced a pregnancy loss, consider telling her first, and privately, that you would love to see her attend, but that if it is too painful for her, you understand. This allows her to determine if she is ready to be a part of a formal gathering to celebrate pregnancy, or if she is more comfortable giving you a gift privately.
- Go to your friend. Allow her to speak. Allow her to share her feelings. Allow her to be heard. Let her determine for herself if your pregnancy or your presence is hurtful to her.
- One of the loveliest things you can do for a mother who has to face those things we come so near to – a mother facing loss – is to celebrate her pregnancy with a blessingway, even if it’s held after the loss. This validates the life she held and the title of mother she does have. You can tailor her blessingway to fit her unique interpretations and values of pregnancy.
- All of these things give the mother choices. At a time that is so very out of her control, the best way to support your friend through loss is simply to give her choices. This empowers her. One of the things that mothers at stillbirthday learn is that other interpretations of loss don’t have to be a threat or a challenge to your own unique interpretation. Your feelings about your own unique experience are valuable and deserve to be validated, and however you assimilate your experience, you have a right to be validated.
Here are just a couple of things NOT to say:
- You should be thankful (that you have other children, that you are young and can try again, that you don’t have a special needs child, anything).
- It’s your fault somehow (or someone else’s fault somehow).
- It’s not a real baby yet, anyway.
- These things tell the mother how to feel, rather than empower her to determine for herself how she feels. These responses take choices away from her. The best place to start at, is the deepest level of compassion you can offer.
Here are more tips.
Many mothers lose what they consider to be the naivety of pregnancy once they experience loss. Rather than “trust birth”, they may fear every day of their pregnancy, wanting to usher in the ninth month, usher in any intervention, to hearken the arrival of a breathing baby in their arms. If birth can’t be trusted – if it can happen at any time in pregnancy – how can pregnancy be trusted?
You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, spend your pregnancy in fear. You can find joy in the days of your pregnancy, even if those days are few. There is a healthy place, a place with balance, between the assumed expectation of the mother at the beginning, and the suspicious, fearful mother after loss.
Birth Without Fear encourages you to explore your feelings, to determine for yourself how you assimilate your loss. When bereavement is processed on a platform that isn’t designated for it – like, Facebook in general – it can exacerbate the pain and leave already hurting mothers feeling confused and angry. You deserve to celebrate your pregnancy, to marvel at the design of gestation, and to cherish the gift of motherhood.
Stillbirthday believes that you are a mother from conception, and that even the earliest pregnancy loss deserves to be validated for the birth, and the death, that it is. With real, printable birth plans for even the earliest loss, hundreds of certified doulas listed in every US state and internationally, and a training for anyone interested in becoming a birth and bereavement doula, stillbirthday’s message is clear: a pregnancy loss is still a birth – and is still a birthday. We are here to support you in birth, in any trimester.
Once you see the second line, or however else you learned you are pregnant, you are a mother. In the words of Cathy Gordon, CNM, “Every baby is born.”
Your pregnancy is a gift. Marvel in that, and cherish every moment you have of it. In any trimester, if you are experiencing a loss, stillbirthday wants to meet you where you are at, to help you Birth Without Fear.
“These pictures were taken by my hubby literally about 2 or 3 minutes after birth. This is our 5th baby (all girls) and she’s a rainbow baby. We’ve experienced 4 losses over the years, with the last one being just 4 months before we got pregnant with Baby J.
My last birth with baby #4 was a traumatic one that left me with PTSD for about a year. After lots of prayer, research, and soul searching I knew the best decision was for us to birth at home, unassisted. This was our first home birth, first unassisted birth, and first water birth.
Depending on which dates you use (my conception date or the first ultrasound date), I was between 41wks 5d and 42wks when Baby J decided she was ready to come earthside. Labor was about 78 1/2 hours total with the last 29 1/2hrs of that with waters leaking/broken. While labor itself was long, pushing was quick and she was out within a minute.
I had hoped to go “overdue“- call me nuts lol, and was so grateful to have gotten my wish. The birth itself was amazing and everything was so healing for me.
As BWF says– unassisted birth isn’t for everyone and I can’t endorse it, but for us it was the best decision we could have made for our daughter’s birth and I will cherish the memories forever!”
I can not get over their little girl’s eyes right after birth. She is so aware and looks to be incredibly wise.
Her ‘all knowing’ look on her face and the cord still attached. Amazing.
Noah was born on February 25, 2012
My husband and I started trying to conceive shortly after getting married. We tried for several years, to no avail. Being very health conscious and into natural healing modalities, we decided to address this challenge by improving our diets and lifestyles, and I started doing regular acupuncture and taking herbs. Slowly but surely I started seeing changes in my cycles, and I felt like I was headed in the right direction. In 2010, we got pregnant twice but both pregnancies ended in miscarriages. It was very difficult emotionally, but deep down I knew that I was getting closer to our goal, my body was almost ready.
The second miscarriage in November 2010 was especially difficult, as I went all the way to 13weeks before finding out it was a blighted ovum; there was no baby, just a big empty sac and a placenta. Thankfully I miscarried on my own without needing any kind of intervention. I was rocked to my core afterwards.
For the first time, we decided to avoid conceiving for several months afterwards; I didn’t feel that I could deal with anything pregnancy related. In the spring of 2011, we bought 30 acres of land and started on the path of building our dream in the countryside. In May, as we were beginning to move to our new home, we decided to start trying again. That month, Noah was conceived, and my “due date” turned out to be my birthday, February 19th. What a blessing!
Before this baby was ever conceived we knew that we would want to have our baby at home, in the most simple and natural setting possible. I also felt that I would like to have a water birth, as I love swimming and being in water; a water birth just seemed like a no brainer to me.
I already knew many of the local midwives, and decided to work with a wonderful CNM named Jen. She was the midwife for one of my good friend’s birth almost 3 years ago, and I had been lucky enough to be there to witness a wonderful home birth. So I already knew what Jen was like and knew I would trust her and feel comfortable with her. As an added bonus, one of my closest friends, Justine, had been apprenticing with Jen for a few months already, so I would be blessed to have them both there at the birth! From the start I felt very confident in my own abilities to give birth naturally and trusted my support team completely.
I had a fairly uneventful pregnancy, felt good the whole time, no major complaints. I spent a lot of time in the wilderness of our land, enjoyed the quiet peacefulness of the countryside and just felt as if everything was finally falling into place in our lives. Winter arrived and surprised us by being incredibly mild. I had been a little concerned about giving birth in a snowstorm, worried that the midwives might have a hard time making it in bad weather, as we live almost 1 hour outside of the city. But the weather remained warm, and snow rarely stayed on the ground for more than a day or two.
Around 37 weeks I started losing little pieces of mucus plug every day. Just after 38 weeks, I started experiencing daily prodromal labor. I would get 3-4 hours of Braxton-Hicks type contractions, mildly uncomfortable, but usually not enough to make me stop whatever I was doing. It would come and go, not regularly, and then slowly vanish. I didn’t mind too much, and Jen reminded me that everyone labored differently and that it sounded like my body was doing some of the work in advance. That sounded good to me! Almost every day I would get a few hours of these mild contractions, and around 40 weeks I started getting a little annoyed with them. Each day I would get hopeful that it would lead to something (especially on my birthday, I would have loved to share a birthday with my baby) but then it would fizzle out.
February 22nd, I woke up feeling “off”. I just didn’t feel like myself. My husband went to work, I was alone all day and felt so irritable for no reason! Everything annoyed me, I couldn’t stand the dog and cats, I felt grumpy and annoyed with the world. That night when my husband came home I had a meltdown, it felt like I had been holding so much in. I cried uncontrollably, feelings started flooding up from within and I realized I had never completely put my last miscarriage behind me. I cried for a while, I just let it all flow out, and talked to my husband about what I was feeling. I felt so much lighter afterward, like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
Later that evening, I suddenly felt as though baby had really shifted and had gotten lower. I noticed a big space at the top of my uterus, just below my ribs. Yes, baby had definitely dropped! I checked my cervix and could tell it was more effaced and dilated than the previous time I had checked. I was very excited, I knew real labor wouldn’t be very far off.
On the morning of February 24th, I called my mom in Canada to give her an update and let her know I was still waiting to give birth. We had a great conversation and she told me she would send me some labor vibes. I was having more prodromal labor while we talked, but didn’t think much of it.
Around 1pm, I stood up from sitting on the couch and felt a gush in my underwear, so I ran to the bathroom. I thought it was just more mucus, but soon realized more and more kept coming out – my water had broken!! I was very excited and called out to my husband from across the house; he was very excited too! I tried getting back up from the toilet to go about my day but more kept coming out. So I sat on the toilet for what seemed like forever, while fluid dripped out slowly. When I finally got up, I went into the living room and sat on the birthing ball, relaxing with some mild contractions.
Suddenly the wind picked up outside and a hail storm came down out of nowhere! It really surprised me! I sat on my birthing ball, watching the hail come down on the land. It was beautiful, the wind was very strong. This sudden change in weather prompted me to look at the weather forecast because as of the day before, the predictions were of mild weather all weekend. But apparently, something had changed because now the weather forecast called for a snowstorm overnight!! Where did that come from? Somehow, deep down, I wasn’t surprised.. this baby would be born in a snowstorm after all!
Around 4pm I started getting a little more uncomfortable as the contractions got more regular. I had my husband fill up the birthing pool that was already set up in the living room, and then he called the midwives to let them know I was officially in labor. I got in the pool at 5:30pm, and the midwives arrived just after 6pm.
I really enjoyed laboring in the pool, it was very relaxing, and most of my labor was totally bearable, mildly uncomfortable, that’s all. I have always had very painful menstrual cramps and comparatively labor didn’t feel so bad, especially since I got a break every 2 or 3 minutes. I had expected to want to be left alone and to feel somewhat self-conscious during labor, but it turned out I really enjoyed having the midwives there, chatting between contractions. My husband and them took such good care of me, and they made sure the pool was nice and warm for me the whole time. I even told them at one point that I should give birth more often because I was really enjoying having 3 people taking care of me and just being 100% present for me.
I spent most of my time in the pool either laying back, or laying on my side. I could tell baby was still right anterior occiput, as he had been for the last several months, and even though I knew that was fine, I also knew that left anterior was a more ideal position for the baby to come down into the birth canal. So with that in mind I laid on my left side and asked the baby to please flip to the other side. A few contractions later, one of the midwives checked the heartbeat and we had to look all the way on the left side of the belly to find it; I felt my belly with both hands and realized the baby had indeed shifted! I was very excited about that.
Around 10pm, shortly after baby shifted to the left, contractions changed a little bit, and got stronger, in what I assume was me hitting transition. I could tell the baby had dropped a bit lower too and that I would be feeling pushy soon and I said so out loud. I was still relaxing and breathing deeply with each contraction when I suddenly felt an incredible wave of pleasure spread throughout my entire body; it very distinctly came up my spine and into my head. It felt so good, what was going on… wait a minute, I was having a powerful full body orgasm! It was such a profound feeling that I started quietly crying. I relaxed through the orgasm, partially in disbelief that it was happening, and as it spread to my extremities I started getting a tingly feeling, especially in my hands, and they started going numb. It was a very odd feeling, like powerful natural anesthesia flooding me. I told my husband and midwives that I was having the most amazing orgasm (I surprised myself in that moment even being comfortable sharing that) and I asked them to please massage my hands; the numbness kept getting stronger and my fingers were starting to curl into my hands and I couldn’t move them anymore, I had no control over it. Getting my hands massaged felt really good though and eventually helped the numbness disappear as the waves of the orgasm also faded away.
I continued to breathe and relax through each contraction and soon realized I was starting to bear down and be more vocal with each wave. I thought, awesome this baby will be out in no time now! But as the contractions came and went, I tried different positions and I started encouraging the pushing feeling. But I could tell it wasn’t working. I would feel down with each wave and could just tell that the baby’s head was not moving. I kept trying and trying for what seemed like an eternity. I was getting frustrated, and was starting to get really tired, I was falling asleep between contractions for a while.
In our birth plan, I had asked that the midwifes not do internal exams unless it was necessary. At this point, I had been involuntarily pushing for several hours, so Jen offered to check me to see if baby was indeed ready to join us. I agreed, as I really wanted to know what was going on down there. Jen announced that I was fully dilated and completely effaced. But she commented that she noticed my pubic bone was quite prominent and that it might be more effective for me to try pushing upright/squatting. I could not imagine standing up at that point, I felt like I had little to no energy left, I just wanted to lay in the pool and push the baby out that way. I tried sitting and getting on my knees in the pool but that felt no different.
A relaxed in the pool for a few more contractions, as I prepared myself mentally for the hard work ahead, and I eventually got out of the pool, and went to the bathroom. I felt like I needed to have a bowel movement and that if I did I would be able to push more effectively. But sitting on the toilet was extremely uncomfortable and I soon gave up on that. I came back into the living room and the midwives suggested I try pushing laying on my side. So I laid down on the couch, and Jen held up my right leg to help open up my pelvis. That was unbearably painful and as soon as that first contraction was over I told her, “No way”. She reminded me again that squatting would probably work, that I could stand up and then squat down when the wave started.
I gathered all my strength and I eventually stood up. My husband sat down on a chair facing me and as soon as that contraction started rolling in, I squatted down in front of him, leaning into him as he held me. I started to roar like a lioness, I couldn’t help it and it felt so good to just be as loud as I needed to be! And with that first contraction I decided baby was coming out no matter what. I pushed very hard, with every once of strength I had left. The contraction was very intense, and I felt a strong burning sensation; I thought, “Ah this must be the ‘ring of fire’ I had heard about”. Suddenly Justine said, “Kathryn the head is out!” I couldn’t believe it, I reached down and there was a baby head! When I felt his little head, I just couldn’t wait for the next contraction, I kept pushing with all my might, screaming at the top of my lungs, and the rest of his body came out a few seconds later. It was 3:22am.
Justine gently guided him the few inches to the floor with the bare minimum of touching. I was still squatting and couldn’t see him, so I asked if everything was okay, and Justine said, “Take your time, everything is fine, he or she is breathing and is doing just fine”. I was very touched that she did not announce the sex of the baby, as we had asked that either my husband or myself be the ones to announce the sex. I took a few deep breaths, and with some assistance I leaned back and sat down, on the floor with the baby between my legs. There was blood everywhere and the baby was covered in blood, yet he was laying there calmly, silently. I looked at my beautiful baby and saw a penis; “you’re a boy!”, I exclaimed! I couldn’t believe it was a little boy! I had really become convinced that I was carrying a girl, even though my husband had been telling me for weeks that it was a boy. I picked him up onto my chest in complete awe…I was the first person to hold him… and my husband came and sat next to me, crying his eyes out. Our little boy was absolutely perfect.
I went back into the pool with Noah and gently washed off the blood from both of us. He stayed calm the whole time, I think he enjoyed being in the water, as did I. It was calming and I was in a bubble of bliss. His cord remained attached the whole time we were in the pool together. But after about 45 minutes, the placenta had not come out on its own. By that point the cord had stopped pulsing, and my attempts at pushing out the placenta, even while providing some guidance for the cord were unsuccessful. So Ian cut the cord and took Noah for some skin-to-skin daddy time.
I tried pushing and pushing, and nothing was budging. Jen suggested that I come out of the pool and squat to push it out. Not again!! Really? I had to go through that again? I reluctantly got out of the pool and Justine felt my abdomen to make sure the placenta was detached and ready to come out. Justine could feel the placenta was waiting right inside; I just had to push it out. I squatted and she guided the cord toward my back to help me feel the right place to push. Ouch! That was more uncomfortable than I would have imagined! Out came the placenta, and it was huge! No wonder it wasn’t easy to push out. Justine examined it and placed it in the fridge, as I had planned to dehydrate it and encapsulate it.
I did end up tearing from the birth and it was bad enough that I needed a few stitches. I was very frustrated about that and I couldn’t help but wonder if I could have breathed the baby down more gently, gone slower and avoided tearing.. but I will never know. Pushing him out in one powerful push was what felt right at the time, and I can’t turn back time.
After getting stitched up in the bedroom, Ian Noah and I snuggled into the bed and I nursed Noah for the first time. He latched on right away like a champ, what an incredible feeling! It felt so right, so natural, having him snuggled against my chest. I was over the moon with love and happiness, and already, the last 12h of laboring and my exhaustion seemed to melt away and none of it mattered anymore; my baby was finally in my arms. We eventually weighed and measured Noah and found out he was a healthy 8lbs 9oz and 21inches! Wow, what a healthy baby boy! I was one proud mama; proud of myself for having just gone through such a powerful and intense experience, and so proud of my beautiful son.
I didn’t sleep that night, I just held Noah next to me in bed, nursed him and looked at him. I was speechless. I was finally a mother.
Liz and I ‘met’ online a year ago. Unfortunately it was not a good experience for either of us. Neither one of us understood where the other was coming from and it became heated very fast. My reactions were nothing short of ridiculous and full of hormones and emotions one might expect from a 10 month pregnant woman. I regret my actions. Over time, Liz and I finally let down our walls, started to believe each other, offered apologizes and gave forgiveness.
I share my thoughts with you first for two reasons. The first being that communication is only 30% of what is said. The rest can not be seen or heard (body language and tone). Communicating via the internet, while a wonderful tool, can go bad fast. Please be aware of this. Second, because I want to let others know that even if you feel wronged, attacked or hurt, there is always hope for healing and unity. I am regretful of my actions towards Liz and I am grateful she accepted my apologies. I am humbled by her generosity to do the same for me. I have always believed Liz and Aquila’s story should be heard and am honored to share this brave family’s story here. ~Mrs. BWF
My daughter died at my home birth from a combination of a severe Chorioamnionitis infection, followed by a complete placental abruption. Unfortunately my midwife, a Cpm with only 150 births under the belt, was completely unprepared and under trained for handling such severe complications. The midwife, Faith Beltz was found guilty of failing to transport by the Texas board for midwifery here, but unfortunately no lawyer would take our case, because Faith, like almost every other home birth midwife, does not carry malpractice insurance. This is Aquila’s story.
The week before: December 10th 2009
I went in the morning to the last bible study meeting of the year. About halfway through, I started getting contractions and feeling very cold. I left early, gathered kids and drove us home. I got home and could not make it past the couch, the contractions were bad and I was shivering. I called Gabe, and turned on the TV. I went up to take a hot shower. The hot water ran out after I had been in there for what seemed to be a very short time, but must have been quite long.I turned off the water, but could not stop shaking enough to get a towel. Just then Gabe came in the bathroom and wrapped me up in one. I remember my teeth were chattering like crazy.
We called Amy (best friend and doula) who came right over. This started the -fill the tub, bring labor tea, rub back labor support from both of them. Amy took my temp, which was over 102. She called the midwife – Faith Beltz, who came over soon after. By the time Faith got there the contractions had puttered out. She listened to fetal heart tones, which were 190-200. She said this was caused (probably) by the fever, and she wanted to make sure I did not have a bacterial infection. So, she drew blood for a CBC and left to take it in.
Four hours later the numbers were in. The numbers were confusing for Faith, so we went into the hospital. They decided I have a virus, not the flu, and that my Ketones were VERY high. This was caused by me getting dehydrated from the fever, and the high ketones where irritating my uterus, causing the contractions. They had me eat and drink, and the doctor offered an induction, which I said no thanks. He smiled and said it was fine with him, I should have a great home birth. I spent the next three days in bed recovering.
The Day Before: Dec 18th 2009
I was 3 days overdue and miserable, so I took Castor oil in the morning (2T). This produced it’s designed effect, but no contractions, but I was sure I would go into labor that night. I laid a water proof pad on my bed and went to sleep.
Labor: December 19th 2009
Midnight, on the dot, my eyes opened. I thought “Why am I awake?”. Then a I felt a pop, followed by a gush. I felt so relieved I had put down that pad! I waited for the gushes to subside so I could waddle to the bathroom and grab a pad. I texted Faith and Amy to tell them my water broke. I was having contractions every 5 minutes, and was very excited, so I played on the computer till about 4am. Then I decided that nothing much was happening, so I should try to sleep. surprisingly I fell right asleep and slept in till 6am.
A while after I awoke, I called Faith to check in, and went about my morning. By 11 am contractions are regular and Amy had come over, along with Yoshimi, a hair braider. I bounced on the birth ball while she braided my hair and told me about births in Japan. Amy and I joked.
11:45 am I called Faith to tell her I was getting in the tub because the contractions were too strong for me. We call the photographer Katie Jo who comes out to capture the labor and birth.
We also call my dear friend Bethany to watch the children (because they are coming in every few minutes to “check on me”).
Faith arrives at 2:15pm. Aquila’s heart tones are in the 170’s and my temp is almost 101. They all are trying to cool me off with cool cloths and tea. The pain is intense and when I check myself I cannot feel very much cervix. At around 3:45 everyone is out of the room except me and Faith. I pass three chunks into the tub. I pick them up to throw them away. They are blood clots, hard, gelatinous, and about 1-2 TB in size. (Faith records this in her notes as “bloody show”).
At this point Aquila’s hear tones are at or above 180 almost every time, but on the records it shows them as 170’s…
Faith checks me, because I am acting and feeling like I must be in transition- INTENSE, almost non-stop contractions, and “pushy” feelings, and retching from the the intensity. I am only 5-6. This is where I lost all calm and got scared. There was no way I could do this, and now Faith was wanting me to get out of the tub to try to cool me down. After getting out I notice I am dripping blood, which I show to Faith. I labor for some time out of the tub, and the contractions don’t ever stop. I remember saying, “They just don’t stop. They won’t let go!”
I start SCREAMING with every contraction. I say (at least three times), “I can’t do this. I want to go to the hospital. I want an epidural”
It is very important to note here that I said this at least ONE HOUR before we tried to transfer. An hour before she died. And in the birth records, Faith repeatedly states that I was refusing to transfer. She NEVER said “transfer” to me. She never said “emergency”, or “abruption”. This is backed up by the other 3 people at my birth.
Faith was not even in the room for me asking to go- she was gone out of the room for at least 20 minutes, on the phone.
When she gets back she check me on the bed. Still 5-6. When I get up the chux pad is stained the color of vomit. It perplexed me at the time, but later I figured out it was blood and meconium. In the birth records she states it was bloody show and clear fluid. At this point I say, “My mom had a baby die from an abruption”. Faith says nothing. Finally my husband and doula start dressing me to transfer, while Faith is packing her stuff. I realize how very far away the hospital really is…
Please pay close attention to these words…the hospital was 3 MINUTES from my house. But that means NOTHING when bad things are happening and you are in hard labor. It took at least 30 minutes to get to the car. 30 MINUTES. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are safer than you are.
My contractions at this point were what is called Tetonic- never stopping. This is a huge red flag of an abruption. I could not take a step without a contraction. My doula at this point says to Faith, “Should we just call EMS? It will be faster than getting her dressed and downstairs?” Faith says no.
I make the most physically painful journey of my life down the hallway, downstairs, and out to the car, only to find Faith wants me to go in a different car than her. At the time this made no sense and still does not. Why would you leave the laboring woman to drive without a care provider?
As I am trying to climb into Amy’s passenger seat, I have the urge to go- you know the ‘I am about to push out this baby’ feeling? I make it back to the living room, where I yell for my son to get off the couch. Bethany herds them upstairs. I don’t even get my underwear off (those stretchy, post-birth, throw away ones). She slips out into my hands, completely limp, in a river of blood.
After birth: 5:30 pm December 19th 2009
Faith had packed up all her equipment, so she had nothing to even suction Aquila, so she was sucking blood out with her mouth. She yelled for someone to get her the bulb syringe and call 911. Her and Amy started CPR while I sat on the couch next to Aquila. I held her foot, limp and pale, and rubbed it. It took EMS 12 minutes to get there.
When they came in they took over with Aquila and Faith came and sat in front of me watching the paramedics work. I asked her if she (Aquila) could live after this long. She said, “She is not going to make it”.
I had strong pains. She asked if it was the placenta. I said yes as I pulled up a clot the size of a placenta (the birth records says it was a cup sized). Then I got pains again and passed the actual placenta. Faith’s records say I stopped bleeding after this, but I didn’t and she never checked my bleeding. She should have given me Pitocin.
Note here-they DO NOT Carry Pitocin in ambulances (at least they don’t in Austin TX). My paramedic also had NO IDEA how to do a uterus massage, so I bled all the way to hospital. I am so very lucky I did not die. A large percentage of mothers hemorrhage to death with an abruption bad enough to kill the baby.
Here is my second biggest regret of my life (second only to choosing home birth with a “hand’s off” midwife). The paramedics asked me where we should take Aquila. They suggested Dell Children’s Hospital, saying that they had a better NICU than the hospital 3 minutes away (later to find out this was not true). The said they would take me to Brakenridge, which they said would let Aquila come to me at that hospital- completely untrue..Brack and Dell were about 20 minutes from my house. Longer to bleed for me, longer to not be in a hospital for her (though I wish the would have called time of death at my house so I could have just had her with me).
We are put into separate ambulances. Gabe goes with her, Amy with me. When I get to the hospital, I end up passing out from blood loss. They do two manual extractions of clots to get my bleeding to slow. I find out after this that she has been declared dead and Gabe is coming to the hospital. Gabe ends up in the ER about an hour after getting there from a migraine (stress) that makes it hard to see. They give him a shot of morphine.
At this point I am freaking out because they are saying they cannot bring Aquila’s body from the other hospital- the only one who can pick her up is the medical examiner. Apparently, since she died at home they opened an investigation. At this point the med examiner was threatening an autopsy without our consent. I would not even be able to see my baby until days later, possibly after being cut up. This is part of my story I have never written, because it is the biggest nightmare. All I wanted was to hold my daughter, to see her and tell her goodbye. I never did. At least, not until 3 days later. She was cold and discolored from time. I spent those 3 days hyperventilating and sobbing. Not because she was dead. I could accept that, but because I could not even see her.
This is first time I saw her, at the funeral home.
We buried her 2 days before Christmas. I held my daughter in my arms during the service while she sobbed. My milk came in that day, throbbing, with no baby to feed. Every day I miss her……
Did you know babies can die? You can spend ten plus months nurturing and providing life for your baby and they can die. You can have tests, ultrasounds, consults, experienced obstetricians or midwives and your baby can still never take a breath on this Earth. Whose fault is this? Who can I blame? How can I fix this?
Your baby is still gone. You must still live. You must still love.
When my husband and I realized we were expecting our third child, we were filled with love and also anxiety. I was nursing our thirteen month old son and all of those snide remarks I thought to myself about women having babies close together rang loud and clear with a big slap of “ha ha” across my face. So, I did what every other mother in the history of the world has done, I refused to feel sorry for myself and went to work on this pregnancy.
This was my easiest pregnancy yet. I knew intuitively I was carrying our daughter. I interacted with her as if she were already in my arms. I loved her. Correction: I love her, present tense. I have two sons and was elated to finally have a daughter to share with the secrets of women.
Every pregnancy, every mother is carrying her child, her future. She has re-planned her life around that child. Every decision she makes is for the betterment of her family and includes her newest child who just has yet to be placed in her arms. The morning I confirmed our daughter had passed in my womb has been welded into my soul. I screamed. I cried. I clawed my stomach.
How did this perfect pregnancy end in tragedy? Where was God? There is no God, I hate God. My mind raced with emotion.
Three days after my daughter’s funeral, I came across a blog article that used the death of my daughter as a commodity for their own profit and beliefs. The author dangled me in their coliseum of propaganda for the ravenous dog followers to salivate and gnaw on my pain while blaming my care provider and I for her death. The worst part? I am not the only woman to be used by this author and emotionally stoned. That hatred must end. Do not fret, it will.
This is a private journal entry four weeks after her death and truly captured my state of mind while under the dark veil of grief:
”There is a darkness that surrounds a mother who has lost a child. It is not evil. It is not God. It is pain, physical pain. I do not think one believes they are depressed when they truly are. How would you know? Who wakes in the morning and says, “Yep, I am depressed.” I am in such pain that it hurts to breathe and there is an ache in my stomach that will not go away. I drink to excess and eat when I can. I am heavy with the weight of a dead child. I carried her for forty-one weeks; I felt the sciatic nerve pain and my back ached with the love of a mother. I want to be better; I want to feel whole again. I want to be a good wife and mother. I want to be a woman who loves and trusts and feels happy. How does that happen? How do you go one day from pain to another day happy?”
I have found women to be awkward around me since her death. I am sure most do not know what to say to a mother who has lost a child.
Here is my advice:
1. Give her a hug and ask her if she needs to talk. If she has nothing to say,ask again in a few days, she will have forgotten your offer by then.
2. Don’t say, “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” She will not call you. Go to her house, do her dishes, wash her clothes and make sure she has taken a shower.
3. Help her brush her hair.
Some mothers need to birth another child right away and some mothers will wait. Neither choice is to be judged. When a child is born after a previous loss, that child is referred to as a “Rainbow Baby“. The term can take on many different meanings from a cute phrase to a deep spiritual connection to one’s creator. I like to think of it as a symbolic reference that even though there was a horrible storm, a light shone through and created beauty. This does not mean the mother is “over” her lost child, rather the sting on her womb has receded to a scar of life, merely faded, not erased.
Somewhere around 1 in 4 women (depending on a variety of statistics) will experience a miscarriage or stillbirth, so the odds are good that you or someone in your circle of influence will feel this pain. I would hope that you are able to either lend a helping hand or offer words of encouragement and hope, less this woman falls too far in despair to be pulled up again. When that same woman shares she is carrying another child, let her be scared. She will never pass a “safe” week, she has lost her innocence. Call her. Give her space. If she needs to talk, listen to her.
Above all else, let her be.
The picture is of this mother’s sweet baby’s feet. Just a reminder that no matter how small you are, your impact can be immeasurable.
*Blog post was written by BWF mother. She runs a private support group for women who have lost a child. If you need the support of this group, email us through the Contact Page and we will make sure you get connected.
“My daughter was born on Christmas Eve. She was so alert from the moment she was born! The expression on her face in that first picture amazes me. I hope to write a birth story soon, but in the mean time, here are a few pictures. I started following your Facebook page and blog before I was pregnant, through a miscarriage, and then through our birth. Thank you so much for all that you do, and for keeping it open and supportive” ~Danielle