We were 4 days away from being induced. We were at 37 weeks! Today was our last appointment before we were going to meet our baby! I woke up to our dog Penny’s head resting on my belly. It was so sweet, I felt like her and the baby were going to be fast friends. After getting ourselves together, Mitch and I headed to the specialty clinic in Edina for our last growth ultrasound. Walking into the building, we met my nurse Julie who greeted us with a hug and smile, and I told her, “this will be our last time seeing you!” In the waiting room, my favorite sonographer Karen called my name and we headed back to the room.
As Karen put the ultrasound gel on my belly, I joked with her, reminding that we didn't know the baby's gender, saying “We've made it this far, don't screw it up now!” Baby showed up on the big tv screen in front of us and Deep down I knew what was wrong right away. Karen quickly measured my fluid pockets and then put the doppler on baby's heart – there was no sound, just a straight line of static. She said “there's something concerning, I have to get the doctor” and left the room. Mitch asked “what's wrong?” and I calmly said “there's no heartbeat,” not wanting to believe it. A minute later the doctor came in, as he put the wand on my belly he said, “Your baby doesn't have a heartbeat, I'm sorry” and left the room. I just started shaking, crying. Mitch stood up to hold me. I want to say we cried together, but that doesn't even begin to describe the deep pain we felt and shared in this moment. Karen snuck back in the room with tear stained eyes and wrapped us in hugs, as did Julie our nurse with blood shot eyes; they both had been crying in the hallway.
Things I remember hearing:
“I'm so sorry” “We don't know why this happened” “I could still see the structure of the baby's heart”
These wonderful ladies let us know we could leave whenever we were ready. I remember saying, “I don't want to leave this room because then it becomes real.” Eventually, we found the courage to put one foot in front of the other to walk out of the clinic. Walking out into the bright hot sun felt cruel. The sun felt too happy. Eventually we made the long, long drive home. At home, Penny went nuts when we walked in the house, I could sense her worry. In my closet, I stared at my hospital bag and my clothes, wondering what the hell to even pack to go to the hospital to deliver my dead baby. I took the nursing bras and tank tops out that now obviously wouldn't be needed. I took my clementine swaddle out of the diaper bag I had started packing for the hospital. None of the baby clothing I had seemed right to bring with, and I wasn't going to need my pump or anything else, since our baby wasn't going to be born alive. I remember looking around our house in just a daze.
Arriving at the hospital, Mitch parked. How I managed to get out of that car and walk into that hospital is beyond me. I remember thinking as we walked through the front doors, in tears, “Claire said the only happy reason you go to the hospital is to have a baby.” How angry I was at that thought. We took the elevator up to floor 3, familiar to us as we had been up to Labor & Delivery 3 times in the past week for extra monitoring, due to my high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia). Tiffani, the charge nurse came to get us and escorted us back to Birthing Room 6 – in the corner at the end of the hall. Tiffani let us know we could leave and come back, or just think about everything for a bit. We both didn't want to put off the inevitable. Eventually my doctor (Dr McPadden) came in and gave us hugs and we talked through everything. I just sat there with my eyes shut, numb, wishing I could wake up from this bad dream. I felt like I was going to get sick, getting more and more anxious for everything that was to come.
After what seemed like an eternity, nurse Kim got a hospital gown for me to change into and I got comfy in the bed. (as comfy as I could, I'm now 9 months pregnant knowing I'm about to labor & deliver a dead baby). Nurse Kim got my IV placed in my left arm, it stung so bad. Dr. Savargn had me lay on my side so that he could place the epidural. I slowly started feeling tingly and numb in some areas, it was crazy. A contraction monitor was also strapped around my belly. (How I wish there would've been a baby heartbeat monitor too.)
Then it was time to break my water to start labor. I had been dilated at 3cm for a few weeks already, so McPadden was hoping that breaking my water would get things going without anything else. When my water was broken, they noticed there was meconium in it, meaning baby had pooped in the womb. (We learned later that baby never aspirated it, so she passed peacefully.)
We decided that it was time to start making the awful phone calls. All of a sudden, I remembered that my older brother Lucas had flown to Vegas the day before for a big work conference. So, somehow my sister in law Claire became Mitch's first phone call. Mitch then called his mom, who also thankfully answered. Next, Mitch called my mom. Then he called my dad, who was the only one who it didn't immediately answer. My dad called back a little while later and Mitch let him know what was going on.
The next few hours, I labored down. I drank a ton of water, Mitch tried to take a nap. We saw an article about Crocs stopping production, which Mitch had to investigate. We played on our phones, I breathed through the contractions (I could feel them in the lower right side of my rib cage.) Every so often, McPadden came to check me. Around 3:30pm, I got more epidural medicine and I was progressing to almost fully dilated. Around 4pm, Claire came into the room to visit for a bit.
Around 5:30pm, McPadden checked and I was fully dilated. A few other nurses came in and things started getting prepped for delivery. I asked if there would be a nurse that could just take a few photos once baby was born on my phone. (My photographer Steph said she would be happy to photograph the birth but I decided against it. I wanted the room peaceful and with the least amount of people as possible.) I would let them know when I felt a contraction coming, still feeling them strongly in the lower right of my rib cage. Kim and McPadden argued about counting up to or down from 10. I asked them their middle names, thinking about how we were going to have to name a baby soon. Pushing was so interesting, trying to engage muscles I didn't know how to utilize or even feel. When I would start pushing, I would stare out the window and focus on the tree branches blowing in the wind. I had to put the obvious ending out of my mind while I was pushing, otherwise, I would just pretend to be pushing. I focused on wondering if we were going to have a little boy or a little girl. About halfway through pushing, a comment was made about the paint on Mitch's hands – he had been painting in the nursery the night before. He said, “Well at least I'll have the baby's room ready in time for the next kid!” (It was hilarious). Around 7pm our nurses changed. Nurse Marybeth was great at coaching me on how to push. When baby was finally coming, Mitch tried to sneak a peek, without anyone noticing, but McPadden totally caught him looking and pointed her finger at him and said, “You peeked!!!”
At 7:41pm, our little girl was born and McPadden put her on my chest. This was so surreal. She forgot to announce if it was a boy or girl, so she grabbed her back to check. As I was scrunched up, trying to look at her, I saw her umbilical cord stump and totally thought McPadden had gotten it wrong and that our baby was actually a boy! (We hadn't found out, but Mitch and I totally thought we were having a boy.) As we took in the first sights of our beautiful girl, I delivered my placenta and then dr took care of my stitches. Our baby's face was just so perfectly round. We started discussing names, Juniper was the first one that came to my mind and it just felt so fitting. He suggested another one that had been on our list, but that didn't feel right. She was Juniper. We then decided on Ann for a middle name, which is her grandma's middle name. Juniper Ann was here.