This still seems so surreal. A whirlwind of emotions does not even begin to explain how I have felt since September 13th when we found out our baby girl no longer had a heartbeat.
We found out we were expecting baby number 5 the beginning of June. I was in a panic so to speak, we were not 'planning' on another baby and this time around we were actually trying to prevent it. I was still nursing my 1 1/2 year old and my cycle finally returned. Several weeks prior to our positive test we were talking about how we will wait for a couple more months before trying for another baby. We had our hands full with the four kids we had, finances were tight and my thyroid levels were not in the 'optimal' level. I was working towards getting my thyroid levels under 2.5 before we were going to have another baby. Well apparently God had different plans...much different plans.
The day my period was supposed to arrive it did not. I took a test. It was negative. I shrugged it off thinking maybe it was my thyroid messing with my cycle, maybe it was because I'm still nursing and that is messing with my cycle...who knows. A couple weeks later my period was still missing in action. I had a nagging feeling that maybe I should test again, especially because if you are pregnant with thyroid problems you need to get your thyroid levels checked and medication dosage adjusted as soon as possible. If your thyroid levels are out of wack you have a much higher chance of a miscarriage than if they are in the proper levels. So I took another test. It was positive. VERY positive. I proceeded to take 5 more tests and even made a couple of my friends look at them just to make sure I wasn't going crazy and that they were indeed positive.
I called around to several midwives asking about home births and hashimotos, everyone said hey as long as your thyroid levels are fine and your endocrinologist is happy we are happy. Awesome! I called up my endocrinologist and set up an appointment with her right away. After all I was already 8 weeks pregnant when I found out I was pregnant. I got in with my endocrinologist right away and we came up with a game plan to aggressively get my thyroid numbers under 2.5. Thankfully my thyroid levels were still in a 'good' range so we did not panic. My mind was set at ease and my panic went to excitement! We were going to have another baby!!!!! With 3 boys and 1 girl, we were ALL hoping for another girl. My pregnancy was progressing as normal as ever. My 'morning' sickness was not bad at all, I was exhausted as to be expected and I was really loving the idea of another baby in the home.
When it was time for our 20 week scan I could hardly contain my excitement. Time to find out if it is a boy or a girl! The ultrasound showed a healthy little girl. The only thing that was off were her dates. I was supposed to be 19 weeks and 6 days. There was NO mistake when my last period was because it was my ONLY period. Our baby girl was measuring in at 17 weeks 2 days. Although she was showing to be healthy, she was just measuring small....a lot smaller than I anticipated. But I tried to shake it off, maybe I just ovulated later, maybe that is why I had a negative when I thought my period was supposed to be due and was missing in action. Altogether we just thought the dates were 'off'. No big deal, we just move the due date out 2 weeks to be on the safe side. We were all very excited that we were having a GIRL! Long before we knew we were having a girl we decided to name her Jennifer after my husbands mom who passed away when he was a small child. A beautiful name to honor his mother gone too soon.
I kept feeling her move for about a week after we found out she was a girl. Then it got quiet. I tried not to freak out too much about it because if my due date is off then it is normal to go a while without feeling movement. But the movement never started up again. I thought maybe she is just moving a lot at night when I'm sleeping or maybe she is just in a funny position that is preventing me from feeling her move. Over the next two weeks it would pop in my head that she was gone, I would shake it off and think to myself that I was just being silly. After all, if she was gone I would have other symptoms right? WRONG. So so very wrong.
It was finally time for my next midwife appointment, at that point I was either 22 weeks or 19 weeks 6 days, we discussed going with the later date of February 2nd and not January 14th to stay on the safe side. Alright, new date is set! I would much rather move my date out and still be able to deliver with them, then to stick with the original date of January 14th and go way past my due date and at that point not be able to deliver with the midwives (they are only allowed to deliver up to 41.6 days so we were giving ourselves some wiggle room).
After figuring the new date and talking for a little bit it was time to listen to baby. One of my favorite parts of the appointment. There is just something about that pitter patter on the doppler that gives you a false sense that everything is okay. When they put the doppler over my uterus it was quiet. We listened and tried to find the heartbeat for about 10 minutes. We found mine very well, we found the placenta, but we didn't find Jennifer's heartbeat anymore. I had a sinking feeling but tried to brush it off. I had already set up another ultrasound at the hospital for after the midwife appointment anyway, the first ultrasound we weren't able to finish due to her position and how small she was measuring. The midwives instructed me to go to the hospital and hopefully they can see the heartbeat. Maybe she is just in a funny position.
At the hospital they got me back right away, I told the ultrasound tech I haven't felt movement and they weren't able to find the heartbeat at my appointment. She started the ultrasound and Jennifer was curled up in a tiny little ball. I knew that position wasn't a 'normal' position so to speak. It looked off. I couldn't see a heartbeat on the ultrasound. The tech looked and looked. She checked the blood flow a couple times and then told me she would be right back. With 4 other children I had NEVER had the ultrasound tech leave the room in the middle of an ultrasound, I have always been able to see a heartbeat and the baby was never in a little ball like she was. I knew exactly what she was going to say. She came back into the room and confirmed it, there was no heartbeat. Our baby girl was gone. Time stood still. We had to watch her on the screen for 5 minutes...just to make sure. She needed to get a couple more measurements and asked if I wanted to see her face as well as if I wanted anymore ultrasound pictures. I went into the ultrasound hoping for the best and expecting to be told that she was still a girl...I was not expecting to be told the heart has stopped.
After the ultrasound I went back to the birthing center to talk to the midwives. What were my next steps? I have carried 4 babies to term...up to 42 weeks with 3 of them. Why would this pregnancy be any different? Why wouldn't I be able to carry this baby to term? I thought I was in the "safe zone". Since my baby was no longer alive the midwives had to transfer my care into the hands of an obgyn. I was not thrilled with the idea but I understood. I was now considered to be "out of their scope of practice". I set up an appointment with the obgyn and saw them a couple days later.
We asked for another ultrasound, just to make sure. She was still gone. It was estimated that she passed during her 18th week. I asked why I hadn't gone into labor or started bleeding, it made no sense. She passed away the first part of September, we were now mid September and I had NO bleeding or cramping. Apparently it was because if your placenta is still working, your body still thinks it is pregnant. We set up the induction to come the following Monday. I wanted to wait over the weekend so my mom could come from South Dakota and watch the kids while my husband and myself were at the hospital being induced. Part of me wishes we didn't wait over the weekend, another part of me is glad we waited. It gave me time to prepare as much as I could possibly prepare.
We were supposed to be at the hospital at 7 in the morning on September 19th. We unfortunately got pushed back several hours as the hospital was 'full'. My anxiety increased as did my anger. I was pissed. I wasn't going in to deliver a baby because I was uncomfortable. I was going in there to deliver my DEAD baby. I just wanted to get this done and over with. I was sick and tired of waiting. I needed to start the healing process and I knew I couldn't as long as she was still in me. We finally were able to be admitted into the hospital around 1 pm.
They started induction around 3 pm by placing the cytotec behind my cervix. A couple mild cramps and a couple hours later I got another dose of cytotec. The second dose was definitely the one that did it for me. I labored for the next 13 hours. During that time a woman I had never met before from Hope Remains came into my hospital room with a cuddle cot, a gift for our baby girl/us and a very calm and gentle demeanor. She sat with me through labor, helping me cope and truly understanding what I was going through. It was so nice to have someone there who 'got it', who knew what I was going through and who could relate. After almost 24 hours of no sleep, back labor, contractions on top of one another I was beat. I was emotionally exhausted as well as physically exhausted. I have had natural births before, I knew that in a normal birth setting those back to back contractions meant I was almost done. But in a situation like this...it wasn't the case at all. I was defeated. The nurse gave me a dose of something amazing that really just made me feel like I was drunk and then a sleeping pill. I passed out. A little over an hour later I woke up with a feeling of something about to come out. I thought it felt more like a blood clot. I knew it was my baby girl, but it didn't feel like that pressure when a full size baby comes out. It didn't hurt at all.
4:26 AM on September 20th, 2016 our baby girl was born. She was perfect. You could see where her hair follicles were, she wold have had hair. She wasn't deformed or disfigured at all. She was beautiful. My heart fell in love and shattered all at the same time. I didn't even know it was possible, but it is.
Jennifer Grace Dannen was 7.2 ounces and 8 1/4 inches long. She literally fit in my hand. After her delivery we saw that one part of her cord was twisted very tightly. It helped with closure KNOWING what had happened, not everyone gets that. She was also considered a stillbirth because according to my last menstrual cycle I was 23 weeks. Even if we would have gone with the later date, it would have put me past that 20 week mark where they are considered a stillbirth and not a miscarriage. We filled out the paperwork for her Birth Certificate Resulting in a Stillbirth. I held her, I touched her, I took picture of her. I loved her.
We think that her cord started to twist up several weeks prior, which was resulting in her measuring smaller and ultimately ending her life.
There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of her. We decided to cremate her and some of her ashes went into a necklace that is specifically made to hold some ashes of your loved one. I wear that necklace everyday, keeping her close to my heart. The remainder of her ashes are in an urn, on top of our dresser.
The ache in my arms is a very real thing, the pain in my chest hasn't gone away and I never knew it was possible to cry as much as I have over the past several weeks. I miss her more than I knew was possible as well.
There is no such thing as a safe zone in pregnancy, although your risks of loosing the baby do go down when you enter into the 2nd trimester, they do not disappear. We talk about possibly having another baby in the future, but at this moment we are just taking the time to grieve our baby girl and to just enjoy time as a couple.
Looking back over my pregnancy I realized that although we were very excited to be adding to our family, neither my husband nor myself were really able to picture her at home with us. For the life of me I couldn't picture bringing her home with us, I couldn't picture her crawling around the house or just being with us. When I stopped feeling her move it would pop up into my head multiple times that she was gone, but I just kept trying to brush it off. I was able to connect with her, but not on the level that I did with my previous 4 babies. I know that sounds weird and to some people that may sound harsh, but it is the reality and I think it is because God was preparing me for loosing her. I could be way off on that, but to me it makes sense. It doesn't make it hurt any less, as I have typed this out I have had to wipe away my tears multiple times and I miss her with every part of my body.
This whole experience has opened up my eyes to how thankful I am of my children who I was able to carry to term and who are growing up in front of my eyes and are healthy! Even on the days that they are acting out and testing my patience, I am grateful for them. It has also opened my eyes to how painful it is to lose a child. It literally is something that you cannot imagine if you have never dealt with it on a personal level.
RIP Jennifer Grace, you are forever missed - I can't wait to see you again someday <3