Trigger Warning: The following post describes infant loss, which may be triggering for some parents and families.
By Heather Moore
Pregnancy loss is real and it happens more often than people realize or talk about. This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. You see, I lost a baby. Not just any baby – my first born, my daughter, the child who made me a mother. She died before I had a chance to hold her in my arms. She died just days after she was considered a full-term pregnancy. Actually, it may have been a few days before. I’m not really sure – those memories are a fog in my mind.
It was four days before my 27th birthday that I found out that I was pregnant. The first words out of my mouth when I saw the two pink lines were “Oh shit.” I was scared and excited. Not really sure if I was ready to be a mother. I had planned on waiting until I was 30 years old to have children but sometimes God and life laughs at plans like these. Over the months I heard her heartbeat, saw her on ultrasounds, and felt her moving. I fell in love with her and started to let myself feel comfortable in my new role as a mother. I became her mother the moment I found out I was pregnant. I took care of my body so she could grow safely inside, educated myself on birth, and dreamed of what our life would be like together. My whole pregnancy was pretty normal. She was healthy and so was I. I had decided after much reading and research that I wanted a natural birth free of medications and other interventions. I chose the best path for the both of us. As a new mother, I thought I was doing everything I could to keep her safe.
At 36 weeks, I had a doctor’s appointment and heard Brinley’s heartbeat on the doppler. Later that day my friend came over and we took my pregnancy photos and went to see a movie. While at the theater, my friend felt her kick, which I remember quite vividly. Sunday, August 15 was the 37 week mark; I had reached full-term*! I was getting excited to be welcome my daughter home in the next few weeks.
Tuesday, August 17
It occurred to me that I couldn’t remember the last time I felt Brinley move. Knowing I had a doctor appointment that afternoon I paid attention to trying to feel her move throughout the day. My doctor appointment was at 4:00 p.m. that day and I had a feeling something was wrong, but naturally, I hoped I was wrong. When the nurse tried to find her heartbeat, there was nothing. She left to get another doppler and start up the ultrasound machine. My mother was with me at the appointment and I broke down crying when the nurse left the room. When the nurse returned, instead of using another Doppler she took me to the ultrasound room and to look at Brinley and try to find her heartbeat. I then heard the nurse say words that no mother should ever hear: "There is no heartbeat."
With one doctor on vacation and the other in surgery that evening, I was given the option of going directly to the hospital and waiting until morning to be induced or to go home and come back in the morning. I chose to go home and be with my family. I’m so thankful that my mother was with me to drive and call people because all I could do was cry. My husband, step-daughter, mother, brother, and sister all came to my mother’s house where we spent time together before I was induced the next day. There was a peace in being with them and spending those last few hours with my daughter still in my womb.
Wednesday August 18, 2010
I arrived at the hospital at 7:00 a.m. to be induced. One final check for signs of life, and there were none, then they broke my water. I was started on Pitocin and given an epidural. My dreams of natural childbirth went out the door when I had to be induced. I probably could have done it without pain meds but I didn't want to feel any more pain. The epidural was a little difficult to place since I have a bit of scoliosis in my spine, but when it was in I was numb from the waist down. Over the day I waited for my contractions to do their job. I had some trouble with the epidural being too strong to where I couldn't feel anything so we had to slow it down and wait for the feeling to come back.
Finally, around 5:00 pm it was time to push. While I was pushing I felt intense pain on my right side and I started to panic. I thought, "I don't know how to BREATHE through this!" A few more pushes and she was out. I broke down crying as soon as she was placed on my belly. Her lifeless body there for me to see. She was beautiful and the room was silent. I gave birth to my first child at 5:41p.m. Aug 18, 2010. She weighed 6lbs 2oz and was 19 inches long. Brinley made it to 37 weeks and 3 days gestation.
My husband cut her umbilical cord, then nurses took her to clean her, take pictures and take hand and footprints. The hospital also cut a locket of her hair. She had a lot of brown hair. When they brought her back, all of my family, including my father who flew in from Ohio, and my mother-in-law who drove two hours, took turns holding her.
My doctor’s office told us about this organization that takes free professional photos for parents who experience loss. They are called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) and they came to take pictures after Brinley was born. I couldn't hold her very much. It was just too hard. I held her while they did pictures and then I put her back in the bassinet. I wish I had held her more. I wanted so badly to spend more time with her and hold her, but it was just too hard. We ended up leaving the hospital with her outfit, some blankets, her footprints, some of her hair, and pictures the hospital took, along with photos from NILMDTS.
I suffered from an epidural headache for two weeks after my delivery. If you’re unfamiliar with that, basically you can’t sit up or stand without having an intense headache because of a spinal fluid leak. It takes about two weeks to heal. After her birth we had to make funeral arrangements and decided to have her cremated. The funeral home did the service and cremation for free, which some funeral homes will do for parents who experience infant death. We had a funeral for her on Saturday, which was not only emotionally difficult, but physically as having to go to her funeral with an epidural headache was not easy. Many of my coworkers, friends, and family attended.
It has been four years and two months since her birth and I am in a good place now. I have since had another daughter who brings me so much joy. I think of Brinley every single day and I'm sure that will never change. Her birth set the stage for every baby I had afterward. So much knowledge, fear, anger, strength, hope, and love came from having Brinley in my life.
After losing Brinley, I started seeking support on BabyCenter online support forums, then I moved over to Facebook support groups. Both during my pregnancy and after Brinley was born, I blogged a lot just to get out my feelings. Outside of the internet, I sought counseling locally to work through my emotions, which has helped tremendously. I have since started a local baby loss group called Face2Face Myrtle Beach. If you’re interested in reading more about my journey, you’re welcome to check out Brinley’s pregnancy blog and the Brinley Love blog.
If you are looking for support, I highly recommend starting with these resources:
Finding New Joy
The experience of my second daughter, Ever's, birth was beautifully joyful. After losing Brinley, we were ready to try for another baby pretty quickly. My pregnancy with Ever was one of stress and hope. I found a doula this time around and was determined to have a more natural birth in the hospital setting. I went to a birthing class led by my doula called Birthing from Within. It allowed me to learn more ways of relaxation and express my worries through art work. It was very healing.
One year later on October 30, early Sunday morning, my lil’ bird was ready to join the world. I went to bed at 11:00 p.m. only to wake up at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, and 3:00 a.m. with contractions. When I couldn't go back to sleep I started timing my contractions. After about an hour of 5 minutes apart contractions, I woke my husband up to go into the hospital. He asked if he could sleep another hour. Haha… no.
We arrived at the hospital about 5:30 a.m. All day Sunday I stayed at the hospital and walked to get labor going on its own. I was able to eat and pretty much do whatever I wanted while there all day. My mom, doula Ashley, and my hubby spent the day with me. My dad and step-mom arrived from Ohio that afternoon. My sister got off of work and came up as soon as she could. I spent the day walking and bouncing on the birthing ball. I think I dilated another centimeter over the course of the day. By about 6:00 p.m. I was given the option of breaking my water or taking some medicine to get some sleep. I chose sleep since I had been up since 3:00 a.m. that morning.
The next morning, they broke my water. From then on I wasn't allowed to eat anything. I again spent most the day walking the hospital and bouncing on the birthing ball to progress my labor. The contractions were coming and going about 5 minutes apart as they had been for several days. They slowly got stronger but nothing I couldn't handle. My doula was great in keeping me calm and focused. She helped me breathe through the contractions. They were surprisingly strong but not painful.
By 5:00 p.m. on October 31, after laboring naturally almost two days, I was dilated to 7cm and ready for some relief. I chose to have Pitocin and an epidural to progress my labor and hopefully have Little Bird before midnight. There was a little trouble with getting the epidural but we finally got it in. I could no longer feel my contractions so I laid in bed and waited. At some point the pain kicked in again so they had to give me more medicine. That didn't seem to do anything so they gave me a different kind of pain medicine which did the trick. At 7:00 p.m. I was pushing, and at 7:30 p.m. Ever Nicole was born.
It was Halloween, the night I had hoped all along I would have Ever. My midwife was appropriately dressed as a deviled egg. Ever weighed 8 lbs 3.4 oz and was 21 3/4 in long. She was also born on the day Earth reached 7 billion in population.
It was the best thing in the world to hear my baby girl scream. Since Ever’s birth, I’ve realized every day just how much I’ve missed with the loss of Brinley. Ever is such a joy to have in my life.
*Full term gestation has recently been revised to begin at 39 weeks by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.