Things that should never happen to anyone: Losing your child in your lifetime.
Things that should never happen to anyone, and are also completely incomprehensible: Losing your child before you even knew them.
Today is supposed to be the end of Luke's first week with us. His first-week-of-life birthday. And instead, Jeff and I will be picking up his ashes stored inside a teddy bear soon.
I don't know how things went so wrong. I'm numb. We're numb. Our lives are changed forever. The rug was pulled out from underneath all of us.
I woke up early for some reason. Saturday night, I noticed that Luke hadn't been active before I went to sleep, which was weird for him. I figured maybe he was settling in, since I'd read more than a few times that babies tend to get into sleep patterns right before they're born. I woke up Sunday morning, and still nothing. I had some minor cramping, though. I ate something, then drank some juice, and laid on my left side for a good hour--and felt nothing. My pelvis was so sore. But I...felt like something was wrong. I told Jeff. He said we should call if it would make me feel better. I had no idea how fast everything would derail. I called the nurse hotline, and they patched me through to the doctor on call, who just happened to be my OB today. My doctor told me if something felt weird, then for sure go down to Labor and Delivery at the hospital and get checked out--everything would probably be fine.
I went upstairs and got dressed in what I wore the day before. I figured I should probably bring my hospital bag, so I grabbed that, but I told Jeff not to worry about my pillow since we'd probably just be back with a false alarm anyway. We put the carseat in the car, and dropped PJ off at Mom and Dad's, just in case. My Dad...he patted my belly...and told Luke he'd see him soon. Thinking back on this now...kills me. A lot. I told Mom we'd call her.
We get to the hospital, and bypass the enormous security line and head up to labor and delivery. I tell the lady at the desk that I talked to my doctor and she said to come get checked out since I hadn't felt much movement in the past day. Surely everything was fine, because I'd just felt him having a party in my belly late Friday night. I get taken into a delivery room, and sit down on the bed. The nurse comes over with the doppler, and can't seem to find Luke's heartbeat. She says that's weird, and keeps pushing around, harder and harder. Another nurse comes in, and there's more of the same. Finally they pull in the ultrasound machine...and there he was. He didn't seem to be moving, though. Then they called my doctor. And I started to panic. I looked at Jeff, and I think it was about then that I realized what we were being told, in a horrific way. My doctor comes in. I'd JUST seen her Friday, and everything was FINE. His heartbeat was FINE. He was growing. There was NOTHING to worry about. WHAT WAS HAPPENING? I could see the panic in her face, and I started shivering. She started asking something about how to zoom out. But we couldn't see the flicker of his heartbeat anymore. I kept looking up at the ceiling, and then at Jeff. HOW could this be happening? After about 20 minutes of this...my doctor tells me she's "so sorry." I...still can't comprehend this. 7 days later. How? HOW, after the "most boring pregnancy ever" could this be happening? HOW COULD HE BE GONE? She tells me she doesn't know, but that the only explanation she can give for something to happen in such a short amount of time is something probably happened to the cord. She doesn't know. She'll know more once we deliver him...but that's all she can tell me right now...
I honestly don't remember much of the order of what happened next. We were being told that we weren't going to be leaving with our son. He was gone. I remember bawling. I remember freaking out and crying in Jeff's arms. He called Mom and Dad. Chris. All I can remember is feeling completely and utterly hopeless. Like I wanted to die with him, somehow. I was going to be forced to not just deliver my baby...but deliver our baby without a heartbeat. With nothing to look forward to. No crying to look forward to. Nothing. Just Jeff and I would be leaving the hospital together--Luke wouldn't be with us.
The thoughts that swirl through your head when you're told something like this are baffling. Why? How? What if he's actually ok? Can we save him? There has to be SOMETHING you can do? HOW CAN I DELIVER A DEAD BABY? How am I going to survive labor knowing that there's no reason for me to even be going through it any longer? I'M 39 WEEKS. If I'd just had him the other day, we'd all be FINE. WHY DIDN'T I JUST START LABOR ON MY OWN BEFORE THIS? What could have caused him to get stuck in his cord? How will we go through life never knowing him? Why the FUCK did God allow Snooki to have her baby and not me? What did we do to deserve this? Why does everyone else I know get to leave the hospital with their baby, but Jeff and I don't? How am I going to get through this pain? Will I ever be able to get through this? What are we going to do with all of his things? How can we go home to his empty bedroom without him? THIS WAS NEVER IN MY VISION OF HOW THIS WOULD GO.
Mom and Dad came bursting into the room, and I never ever want to see them that way again. Witnessing hearts breaking because of something that's happening INSIDE OF YOU is the most horrific feeling I've ever known. We were hysterical. All of us. It didn't feel real. It still doesn't feel real. How does this happen? Why did it happen to us? Soon Lauren and Pooter came in, and the sadness just...killed me. I have never felt so helpless in my life. My brother was hysterical. And there was nothing I could do.
My doctor came in soon and told me that they were going to start induction. First we'd start with a Cytotec tablet that had to be inserted vaginally to ripen my cervix. Since I was only 1 cm dilated still, it was going to be a long night...but the sooner we could get through this, the better. And so it began...
Mom tells me that Ali's on her way home. She got a flight. She'd be there by 9:30. And then...we waited. By this time, it was about 5pm, and the day had just...lost all sense to me. The 6 of us sat in the room...in disbelief. All of our hopes and all that was to be with Luke joining our family...was no longer going to be. Just like that. It just was. And there was nothing we could do about it.
The night went by in slow motion. I started getting more and more cramps, which kind of then led to contractions. I was put on Pitocin a couple hours after the Cytotec. Then things started to get more feeling. At about 9:30, Ali and Angela got there, and we all lost our shit all over again. Our hearts just kept getting broken, over and over, as the hours passed. The contractions started coming more and more frequently, and were starting to get more painful...so at about 10, the anesthesiologist came in to give me my epidural. For all the fear I had about getting one...it felt like nothing with everything that was on my heart and mind at that time...It was over before I knew it. And then so was the physical pain, in a way.
At about 11ish, Dad, Pooter and Lauren went home to be with the dogs. Angus headed home around midnight, and soon it was just Jeff, Mom, and Ali left with me. I don't really remember what we were talking about for most of the time. I tried to get some rest--To build up some strength to do what was inevitable at this point. God knows I needed it. But sleep was the farthest thing from our minds. We sat. We talked about everything that could have been. We cried a lot. A lot. I honestly don't know what I would have done if all of them hadn't been there with me. I surely would have willed myself to die. I'm almost positive.
By about 3am, I'd gotten a short nap in. My blood pressure monitor was constantly going off though, as the epidural kept making it drop, and I have low blood pressure anyway. At one point it was down to 80/67ish. I felt so tired, yet there was no way I could sleep. I got up to about 6cm dilated by then, and from there, things progressed really quickly....Before we knew it, we were getting told that we were going to start pushing soon. I think it was at that point that reality hit me. Really hard. I wanted to get this over with so badly. I wanted to SEE our son. I didn't care if he was not going to be alive. To SEE him would make this all real. And pretty soon Mom and Ali left the room. It was Jeff, Sheri (our nurse), and me. Sheri had me start the pushing by herself...and I just...don't even know how I did it. I don't. There was one point where I couldn't breathe--where I couldn't even keep track of where I was in my breathing. I just kept looking into Jeff's eyes to focus on the ONE reason I needed to make it through this. I started to black out. Sheri was a godsend though and talked me through what was definitely a panic attack. My eyes felt like they couldn't stay open and the room kept spinning. I didn't want to accept what was happening. It was about 5am at that point, and I remember Sheri calling for Dr. Lin. Soon, she came running in along with a few other nurses. All of a sudden, things got SO painful. And I knew he was close. I felt like I couldn't do it anymore though. I just wanted to give up. Close to the end, more nurses came running in, and I felt like at that point, I'd lost all control over everything. My doctor was yelling at them to get a stool. Jeff got pushed out of the way by one of the nurses so that she could get on top of me and push from my stomach. My doctor said his shoulder was stuck. They were twisting him so he could come out...I couldn't believe what was happening. And then finally, the pressure was almost gone. Luke was out. And there was silence. I bawled.
It was 5:23am on Monday, September 10, 2012. I've never felt so helpless in my life.
Jeff was there for him, though. While I was stuck delivering the placenta...and then getting stitched back together...Jeff was there for Luke. Sheri wrapped him up and Jeff sat down in the chair next to me so I could see him while they fixed me.
Finally, I got to hold him. I've never been so simultaneously heartbroken and overjoyed at the same time. I never thought I'd hold a dead baby in my life. Yet here we were. Our baby. He was gone. But he was so perfect and beautiful. It's true what they say that you fall in love with your child the second you see him. You do. It's instantaneous.
He was so perfect. 9 pounds 12 ounces. 23 inches long. Blackish brown hair--tons of it. And blue eyes. I was exhausted, but I never wanted to put him down. He was still warm. My doctor said it was what she thought it was. His cord was wrapped around his chest--and then around his arm. Jeff said that when he saw the cord, it was sort of flattened on one side...He somehow got himself completely cut off from his lifeline...
Seeing the person that Jeff and I made together was supposed to be the most joyous experience of our lives. Now it was the most heartbreakingly traumatic. How could we leave the hospital without him? How could he be dead? How are we going to get through this?
We had the chaplain come in not soon after Luke was born. I could tell he was terribly uncomfortable, and this was our first experience with someone encountering us in our predicament. He blessed Luke, and baptized him. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Luke was supposed to be surrounded by our family when we baptized him. Not like this. But it's all we had. We held him. I wanted nothing but to hug him. But we couldn't...Sheri went out to ask my Mom and Ali if they wanted to come in and see him. And then they joined us. And we all broke down crying again. Meeting someone for the first time in death is traumatic, let alone when he's your grandson or nephew.
We sat in the room most of the morning. I think I was in shock. Luke stayed in the room with us, peaceful and wrapped in a blanket and beanie laying in what was supposed to be the warmer. Jeff picked him up and held him a lot. None of us wanted to move past these moments, because it meant that we had to move forward with our lives. The morning nurse wasn't nearly as wonderful as Sheri, but she did her best walking into the shittiest situation imaginable. We had a lot of decisions to make now. Were we going to do an autopsy on Luke? Genetic testing? They'd do lots of labs on my blood and the placenta as well. We had to decide which mortuary to send him to. Lots of things. We settled with just the genetic testing.
Later, another on-call doctor came in, and explained to us that if we were worried about genetics being an issue...and the reason we weren't doing the autopsy was because it was invasive...since we'd already done the genetics screening before...there wasn't much reason to do it again. He said it would be invasive as well, and probably wouldn't come up with anything else. We agreed to just leave him be. More than anything, this was looking like a cord accident and nothing else. Sadly.
We waited in the hospital through the morning. My doctor said she'd discharge me by noon if I wanted, as it was probably going to be torture to just hang out in the hospital listening to people have their babies. It was. We could hear people celebrating. My poor Mom and sister had to sit in the waiting room with people meeting their new babies for the first time, and there they were...waiting for news of Luke's death.
I'm not sure if the physical pain of giving birth was superseded by the mental pain in my situation. I had just given birth to a full-term baby boy that weighed nearly 10 pounds...but nothing hurt as bad as my heart or my head. Getting up out of that bed after something like 14 hours of not leaving it was painful. I was weak. Walking was hard. But seeing our son there...killed me more than anything.
After the morning nurse tried to get us to eat some breakfast and lunch, we had to beg our way out of there. A social worker came in and gave us a packetful of grief materials. She spoke to us about how important it is to get help. Finally, they took me off the IV, gave me my painkiller prescription, and we were saying goodbye to Luke. Watching him get wheeled out of our room was unbearable. Completely unbearable.
They got me a wheelchair, I got dressed, and we left to go home. We were never going to be normal again.