Way to Cope with Loss

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FootprintsAs I sit here writing this on the eve of my favorite holiday, I look back at how much has happened in the past years of leaving this blog dormant. I met the love of my life, went through loss, got engaged, got married and got pregnant. Which leads me to this current post.

I lost my son to a stillbirth. He was diagnosed early on with a genetic defect call Edwards Syndrome or Trisomy 18. We thought we’d at least get close to term and meet him before we had to say goodbye. However, he had a major heart defect and his little heart just couldn’t keep up. He passed away in utero at 28 weeks (Thursday, November 5th). I somehow knew the moment I had lost him and started to have an internal panic attack. I calmed myself and decided to wait until the next day (Friday, November 6th) when I would be going in for my 28-week OB appointment. To my horror, my OB confirmed my greatest fear; my son’s heart had given up.

My husband and I had been preparing for the loss of our son mentally for weeks, knowing our time with him would be short, but we thought we’d get to meet our living child before we had to say our goodbyes. On Sunday, November 8th, we checked into the women’s hospital to be induced and deliver my sweet angel baby. To be induced, I was given a vaginal tablet called misoprostal and had a balloon inserted to help dilate my cervix. This process was long, uncomfortable and the only thing it induced was a fever and 1 cm of my cervix. I was then switched to Pitocin, which did not affect me at all. They gave me up to the highest possible dose allowed. Nothing.

Thankfully there was a “changing of the guard” so to speak and my new attending doctor came in and put me back on misoprostal, advised me to consider the epidural to help relax the muscles and potentially move things along. I agreed. This new round of misoprostal and a new balloon was far more affective. After 36 hours in hospital, I was finally about to deliver my son at 11:48 PM Monday, November 9th with the easiest delivery I could have imagined. I held my breath for what seemed like minutes thinking, hoping that this was all a nightmare, and he was going to cry out and be alive. Silence.

He was so tiny and yet so beautiful and perfect. He had a head full of black hair, a set of eyebrows to be envied, ruby red lips and his momma’s nose. We knew he was gone, but for just a short moment in time, we could look at him as if he were simply peacefully sleeping. My work was not done yet. Although our son came out with the water intact until the final push, I still had to pass the placenta. Back on the misoprostal I went. The placenta was as stubborn as my cervix. After 8 hours of nothing, the attending, very thoughtfully trying to avoid taking me to the OR to have my uterus scraped, had a resident with smaller hands come in and manually remove the placenta from me. Once again, I am grateful for my decision to finally have the epidural placed.

Due to the fevers, I had from the misoprostal, I was kept an extra day to be pumped up with antibiotics to ensure I didn’t have any vaginal infections. This was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me and my husband more time with our son. The hospital has cooling cuddle cots to help keep your stillborn child cold so that you can have more time with them and time to have photos taken with them. I encourage this if anyone ever has to go through this nightmare themselves. I was finally discharged on Wednesday, November 11th. We had the option to leave our baby in the room or have him taken away from us. Although, we knew his body was just an empty vessel, we couldn’t bring ourselves to just abandon him like that and made the difficult decision to say our goodbyes and watch as he was wheeled away from us forever.

Losing a child in utero feels like losing a massive piece of oneself; like losing a body part. Ever since I had confirmation through today, I feel empty and my heart is completely shattered. I will always have a piece of me gone forever until we meet our son again in Heaven. It has been two weeks since I was in hospital waiting to deliver and yet my body shows no outward signs that I was ever pregnant. I’m at my pre-pregnancy weight, my breasts went from being completely engorged to back to my normal size and my stomach has gone down. The only signs I have left to remember my journey are the multiple fading needle marks and bruising of my arms from the several failed attempts to get my IV in and my bleeding from recovery. In a few weeks, I won’t even have that to remember what I went through.

Going through all of this makes me grateful for even having the opportunity to grow our son for as long as I did. Losing him the way we did was the best outcome for our situation, and we have come to terms that our son didn’t suffer, knew he was loved so much, and we didn’t have to make any difficult decisions as to whether to put him through an invasive procedure to temporarily extend his life for our selfish wishes. With his defects, he could have been born alive at term, but then he may have slowly suffocated until he passed. Knowing that he felt no pain in how he passed is what keeps us from going to the dark side with our grief. The pain is all too real when it comes to mourning the loss of our child and we wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but if we were going to go through this, my husband and I are just so grateful that we have each other to get through this together. I share this story in hopes that those of you fortunate to be carrying your healthy children will give them some extra love for us when you meet them. I would do it all again to see my beautiful son again, to feel him move around and kick me. One day we will try for another baby and be so appreciative of our child but will never forget our first little love. He will always be in our hearts and minds. I hope this was helpful for someone who may have needed to see this.

During our entire experience we are so thankful for our amazing Obstetrician, Dr. Dawn McGee throughout this entire journey. She made sure to be involved with our meetings with MFM and palliative care doctors. She virtually held our hands so many times and made a point to check in on us with phone calls throughout. Along with her, Dr. Marc Kleinberg was the amazing attending doctor who delivered our son, Liam and helped keep me from having to have a c-section or a DNC. Although drawn out, our experience was the best possible one under the circumstances. The nurses and anesthesiologists were amazing, and I could not have asked for the best team at Northwestern Memorial Prentice Women’s Hospital. I do not remember the names of the residents or the anesthesiologists, but I made sure to remember each nurse who took care of me. Thank you to Megan, Lauren, Elise, Liza, Liselle, Molly, Laura, Tori, Kat, Keke, and Kati. You all made what was a nightmare situation for any expecting couple as smooth as possible. I don’t think Luke and I could ever thank you enough.

If you ever have question is where to make donations, just know hospitals are always in need of supplies for labor and delivery along with in the children’s NICU and PICU departments. Please consider donating or even volunteering your time.

Currently my husband and I are looking for a grief counselor to help us get through this pain of losing our son. We are also so unbelievably grateful and in awe of the love and support we have from our family and friends. From, prayers to flowers and plants to dinners and smoothies. We can never show you our appreciation enough. We love you all and know we have true treasures in our lives.

This time I’m back and plan to be back writing more frequently. I hope there are still some folks who will enjoy reading what I have to say. Until then, remember what you are thankful for. We forget all too often that we have so much to be thankful for. Especially with Covid-19 in our lives, let’s be sure to express gratitude for others around us.

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