My whole fifth pregnancy had been normal and healthy. I had an early ultrasound at about 6 weeks that showed a healthy heartbeat and baby. Two more ultrasounds followed, one at about 11 weeks and one at 15 weeks. Our little one was active and fun to watch on the screen, and I was feeling good with minimal morning sickness.
Before bedtime on the night before my routine 20 week ultrasound, I decided to get out my home Doppler and listen to the baby. I had done this several times, but hadn’t in at least a couple weeks because all pregnancy worry had pretty much disappeared now that I was well into my second trimester. My four older children were up on my bed with me, and we found the heartbeat right away like usual, beating in the 150s. We talked about how excited we were for the next morning, June 8, to find out if we were having a girl or a boy.
Monday morning. The ultrasound tech called us back, and asked all the fun questions about our family and baby plans as she got me ready for the scan. She looked at the placenta first. I remember thinking to myself, wow she is really taking her time to look at the placenta. She moved on to the baby’s bladder and then brain. She started asking me questions. Do I feel baby move a lot? When was my last prenatal appointment? When was I supposed to see my doctor again? I started to feel heat rushing through me and my body tingle, as these questions had a concerned tone to them. Suddenly she pulled off the ultrasound probe, and told me to use the bathroom quick and then we would finish up the ultrasound. I felt so weird. Something didn’t feel right. I came back to the room and she wasn’t in there. I said to my husband, “I feel like something is wrong. Why do I feel like something is wrong?” Joe said, “So do I.”
The door opened and the tech came in with a doctor. I said, “Something’s wrong.” And they both nodded slowly the doctor saying, “Yes, we think so.” She started up the ultrasound again. This time she went straight to the baby’s heart and zoomed in on it. She turned on the sound, and I saw the white line running flat on the bottom of the screen. We listened. No sound of a beating heart. She moved and got another angle of the baby’s heart and again, we saw no movement and no tones.
The doctor started talking, but I interrupted, “I JUST heard the baby last night at home.” I kept asking, “Is this for real? Is this really real?” and I was told, yes, this really is real and happening. They had already contacted my doctor and she was expecting me when we made our way over to the clinic. I felt like they were talking to someone else. Did this really just happen? Is this really me laying on this bed? This can’t be me they are talking to. I felt so disconnected from reality right then.
The doctor stepped out and just the tech was in there with us. She wanted to take more pictures for us, if we were ok with it. I still was in shock. Really, this couldn’t be true. The heart will be beating now when we see it again. But it was not. We saw again, the stillness of the heart. No movements from the baby’s little legs and arms. We wanted to know if it was a boy or girl, and we saw he was a boy. Before leaving for the clinic to see my doctor, we sat in the empty room. Joe prayed. I couldn’t talk with the tears. How could my baby have died just like that? He was just alive.
My doctor came in right away, and put her arms on me. I can’t remember all that she said; it’s not fair. You’re going to feel lots of emotions, and grieve your baby, and that’s all good. He is your baby, your child. It is painful and it hurts so bad. We don’t understand why these things have to happen. I asked her about what would happen. I’d be induced and give birth to my baby. We decided to wait until Wednesday for the induction. I think I was still in shock, so my doctor made the decision for us. She said it might help to wait and process things before the birth.
When we got home, our kids were so excited, “Is it a girl? Is it a boy?” We explained that during the ultrasound we found out the baby’s heart was no longer beating. The baby had died and was in heaven with Jesus now. Jesus was going to be holding and taking care of our little baby. We told them the baby was a boy, and that we had named him. Nathan Samuel. Nathan was going to be born, but we weren’t going to take him home with us. He would not be able to live with us, because he was now in heaven with Jesus. We also told them we would all be able to hold him and love on him after he was born, and that he will always be their little brother and a very special member of our family. There were lots of tears, but they were also excited for Nathan who got to go straight to heaven and be with Jesus. I started to feel a gentle peace.
My daughter then announced that we must go and build Nathan a Build-a-Bear and get him his baby blanket. This has been a tradition for all our kids when we find out their gender. I thought Yes, of course! I felt so sad, but at the same time I wanted to make the time we had with him special. I wanted our kids to have a part in preparing for the arrival of their baby brother.
We went and built Nathan his very own bear, and got him a special baby blanket. Their little brother was getting so much love. One more thing we wanted to get Nathan was an outfit. He needed something made just for him. I knew I wouldn’t find anything tiny enough in a store, but a good friend of mine sewed and she had the idea of getting a preemie outfit that she could alter to make tiny.
People were praying hard for me as the word of my baby’s passing got around, and I could already feel their prayers at work. I didn’t feel how I thought I would feel. I was so incredibly sad and I missed my baby beyond words. My heart felt broken. But I had this peace that passes understanding. I knew Jesus was holding Nathan for me even though it broke my heart to know I wasn’t going to be the one to take care of my baby. I wasn’t going to change his diaper, wipe his face or clean off spit-up. I wasn’t going to nurse him or comfort him when he was sad. I’m his mommy and that’s my job and I wasn’t going to be able to. I started to pray hard. I cried to Joe that Nathan wasn’t going to know me. How could he know his mommy if I wasn’t there for him? And Joe said, “Jesus knows you better than you know yourself, and he will tell Nathan everything about you. He will know exactly who his Mommy is.” I find comfort and joy in that even in the midst of my broken heartedness.
Tuesday night, we packed our bag for the hospital. I kept wishing it wasn’t happening. My friend Julie met us at the hospital at 7am, ready with oils, massagers, and other supplies to help me through the labor. I had planned to get an epidural early in the induction because I didn’t want to be so focused on managing the pain of contractions that I couldn’t focus on Nathan.
My nurse led us to the birthing suite. She said they had one for me that was at the end of the hall that would be quiet for us. On the door was a white rose, a sign that this was a demise birth and not a live birth. I was walking in that room about to do something that is every mother’s worse nightmare; give birth to death. Only I was awake and it was real and it wasn’t happening to someone else; it was happening to me.
She took a lot of time to explain how everything would go, and soon my doctor walked in. We spent time talking and crying, and then she wanted to do a quick ultrasound to verify everything. She also spent more time looking at the placenta, thought it looked rather low and it concerned her. She hadn’t received the official ultrasound report from Monday yet, so she left to go track down the radiologist. Later she came back, and said the report noted I had some degree of placenta previa. She said if the placenta was covering most of the cervix, a natural delivery wasn’t possible because I would bleed out. If that was the case, I would have to be sent to a different hospital to have a D&E performed, which meant surgery I would be put under for. She was going to make some calls to the perinatologists for recommendations, and also get another ultrasound ordered to take a closer look at the placenta. When she left, I asked my nurse if I’d still be able to hold my baby if I had to have the D&E, and she said, “If there has to be a D&E, that means the baby will not be intact after the procedure.” Those were probably the absolute worst words ever. We all started crying and Julie began to pray over us and our baby. I had to hold little Nathan and see him. My bigger kids were all waiting to meet their baby brother. This was not happening.
We walked down to Imaging and began another ultrasound. The tech did not say much and we were quietly praying. I asked her to take more pictures of my baby because this might be the last time I saw him. He still looked so perfect inside me.
We walked back upstairs and within moments, my nurse came flying in excitedly, “We’re good! The placenta is about 1cm away so we can start the induction! We can have the baby here!” There was a huge wind of relief and praise in the room, and my doctor came in quickly after. I had never been so excited that I was going to be able to meet and hold my baby. Everything changed after that. I realized how blessed I was that I was going to get to hold Nathan. Even if for a few short hours, I was going to see what he looked like and show him off to his siblings and love on him as much as I could.
We finally started the induction at 10:30am. I had to lay flat for an hour after receiving the Cytotec. Within that hour, I had started to feel mild contractions. Joe, Julie and I talked quietly and laughed and anticipated the birth. By the second hour, the contractions were more regular and I started to wonder if Nathan could be born quickly.
My nurse returned often to check my vitals and to see how I was doing. She put in an IV for fluids to prepare for an epidural. That’s when I started to second guess getting an epidural. I was enjoying the contractions and pain as it made me feel closer to Nathan. I was feeling the whole experience and I loved it. But, I knew it could and would get worse, and I didn’t want to feel out of control pain and not be mentally present for his birth. I told her I wasn’t ready for an epidural yet.
Soon it was time for another dose of cytotec. Maybe after this I’d want the epidural, I thought. Before supper my contractions were suddenly starting to feel more painful. I wanted to be checked because if I was still only 1 cm, I wanted that epidural! My nurse checked me and could feel the sac coming down, and thought I was 5-6cm. Julie got out her oils and started to do some back massages for me. I sat on the edge of the bed for a long time, feeling each contraction get stronger. Joe and I held hands quietly and prayed. My doctor came in and wanted to check me. At this point, I decided against any epidural or pain medication. I wanted to keep feeling the contractions that would bring Nathan to his birth. I loved the connection I felt with him through the contractions.
I asked her how long she thought until he was born, and she was confident it would be within the hour, most likely a lot sooner. “I need to go make a quick note of this, be right back.” And my nurse and doctor stepped out of my room for a moment. I started feeling lots of pressure. Suddenly, I could feel Nathan coming down. “He’s coming!” Joe and Julie jumped up and Jen, my photographer, called to get the doctor. There was no waiting, and I wanted someone to catch my baby in their hands. “Julie, catch him, he’s coming,” and she was there just in time, holding my sweet baby in her bare hands, still snug and cozy inside his sac. Nathan Samuel was born June 10, 2015 at 7:10pm.
We were all laughing, crying and it was perfect. I couldn’t believe how his entrance into this world happened and I will ever be so thankful for my sweet friend Julie who caught my baby. My doctor came over, and we all admired little Nathan. Everyone kept saying through tears how perfect he was.
Soon his sac was removed and Joe cut the tiny cord and carried him over to me. It was the best feeling ever, to see my little baby. I remember saying, “Wow this is so weird. This is crazy.” I couldn’t stop looking at him. He was so tiny and his skin so shiny and thin. I didn’t want to move him because he was so fragile, but my doctor said it was OK. I moved around his tiny legs and I felt his feet and hands. He had long nails already. Everything was there. I opened up his mouth a bit and could see the lines on the roof of his mouth. He had strong arms and shoulders. I could even see his tiny nipples on his chest. Other nurses came in and just oohed and aahed over my baby. They congratulated me. I felt so proud of Nathan. I don’t know how I did it and I couldn’t have and that’s why I know it was all God, giving me strength and comfort. I knew so many people were praying for the strength and comfort to be with us.
Our kids were waiting out in the hall and I was ready to have them come in and meet their brand new brother. We showed them his tiny baby parts, and explained why he looks different than a big newborn usually looks. We told them he has a new body in heaven and was with Jesus, but that we got this time here to hold him too even though he was not alive. Chloe wanted to hold him. It was so sweet. Chloe adores babies and Nathan was no different. She said hi to him and told him she loved him.
The nurse brought in the baby scale. He weighed 6.4 ounces and was 21.5 cm long. She wrote his stats on his bassinet tag, which they filled out for him just as they would any newborn baby.
We knew it was time for the kids to start saying goodbye. Nathan was about 3 hours old, and his skin was starting to get dry, peeling and even more delicate. My heart was breaking.
Joe and I were alone and all I wanted to do was lay next to my tiny baby. The next few hours we spent snuggling him and listening to worship music. I started to get so sleepy and just wanted to fall asleep with Nathan next to me, waking up in the morning with him alive. But I knew that wasn’t happening and if I fell asleep for a few hours, I would wake up to him looking even more different than when he was born.
We knew it was time to start saying goodbye so we called the nurse. She brought a little box for him, and he would spend the rest of the night in the nursery until the funeral home came to pick him up in the morning. We took off his baby outfit, wrapped him up in a clean blanket, and placed him in the box. The nurse asked if we wanted to come with and see where he would be. I imagined him laying in the box and put up on a shelf somewhere; my poor baby. Joe carried Nathan down the hall while the nurse pushed our things. We walked into the quiet nursery, and there was a special bassinet just for Nathan. I felt so relieved he wouldn’t be put on a shelf. Saying goodbye and seeing him for the last time was probably the worst feeling ever. I was really leaving my baby here and going home without him. I didn’t think my heart could break more but it did. It was shattering into teeny tiny pieces. Our tears didn’t stop for several hours.