Friday November 9th I woke up, rolled out of bed, and waddled to the shower as I did on every other morning before work. I was 33 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I took for granted you growing in my belly and was grateful for little more than the work week with overtime coming to an end. I got to work an hour early and stayed through my lunch break; Rori brought me Wendy’s. Everything else about it was a mundane Friday. Nearing 4 pm I started to notice abdominal pain that wasn’t letting up like I thought a contraction should. I didn’t think much of it at first and tried to continue working. I just thought it was Braxton Hicks or ligament stretching. Fifteen minutes later it was clear I was in severe pain and Rori, who had started looking online, had me lay down. I also tried drinking some water. Nothing was easing the pain but I was still in denial that something could be seriously wrong. Between 4 and 4:30 I went to my manager and told her I was going to need to leave. I thought if I just went home and laid down I’d be fine. I drove myself home which was when I started taking the pain more seriously. I remember praying I just make it home safely because the pain was intensifying. I called Daddy and he made his way home too. I called Nan and Aunt Jaime who encouraged me to call the doctor. It was nearly 5 by then so I had to leave a message for the on-call doctor. Not long after I hung up with the nurse I sat up from where I had been half laying on the couch and felt a rush of liquid. Standing up I realized it was a decent amount of blood. Panic set it.
Daddy and I grabbed our essentials and rushed for the hospital. We called both our moms on the way who offered words of encouragement and prayers through tears. I had never been so scared in my life. My thoughts were existing in his strange place where I was expecting the worst was happening yet still not believing it was happening to me. Daddy made me love him a million times more during that trip to the hospital because although he was as scared as I was he works hard at holding us both together when I started to lose it.
Forever and a day later we pulled up to the ER. I remember losing so much hope when I save the blood stain I had left on the truck seat. I waddled in as fast as I could and told the receptionist I was 33 weeks pregnant and bleeding heavily. He did rush for a wheelchair but that was the extent of his fast moving. We had been planning on registering to give birth at the hospital on Monday after our ultrasound appointment so Daddy had to handle paperwork.
Meanwhile an ER nurse wheeled me up to the Labor & Delivery floor. On the way there she tried to distract me with questions about you: how far along I was, what your name is, boy or girl. When I said it’s too soon for me to be in labor she responded that 33 weeks is not that early. I remembered the way and where I was going from the tour our baby class took. We entered L&D and someone directed us to Rooms 204. Next this nurse did several things that made me equal parts terrified and furious. She told me to have a seat on the bed while offering no help to do so. Once I managed to get myself in a somewhat sitting position, she put a towel over the puddle of blood I left of the chair, turned to leave, and said “It’ll be okay”. The last thing I wanted was to be left alone nor was “it” or “I” going to be okay for quite some time.
When an L&D nurse came in minutes (hours in my mind) later and saw the white sheets were soaked red with blood, someone was finally as concerned as I was. She grew wide-eyed immediately told me she’d be back in a second, then rushed back with what had to be most of the nurses on the floor at the time. They strapped me down with more monitors and IVs than i could keep up with. They tried to find your heartbeat with the doppler but couldn’t, not that they could tell me that but I saw it on their faces and I’ve had enough ultrasounds by now to know what I should be hearing. Oh what I would have done to hear your heart beat in that moment. The nurses were trying to determine who my OB was or at leave my office but were frantically calling for any OB. I believe it was during this confusion that Daddy joined me and asked about your heartbeat to which I was the only one to answer and say no, they aren’t finding one. Eventually a nurse had found an OB, a larger man I had never met before came in to do an ultrasound. With his white beard and big belly I remember thinking he looked like Santa. The next moment was surreal and something I will never forget for the rest of my life, as much as I might want to and as hard as I try. My brain did that thing again when it knew what this man was going to tell me but I wasn’t ready to believe it. I became frantic, asking “where’s his heartbeat?”. This nice, calm doctor patted me and said “I’m sorry, there isn’t one, he is gone”. I lost it in that moment. I have never felt so many emotions at once and my mind couldn’t begin to start processing. The only word I could find was No. No, you must be wrong. No, you’re not my doctor and none of this is happening.
Another strange thing happened at that moment in the hospital much like in the truck on the way there. My brain both accepted what had happened and denied it at the same time. The best way I can explain this is shock. Because in that moment I shut down from shock and stayer there all weekend until I left the hospital. Dr. Bridges who was the doctor on call from my office (Dr. Trussell was off that week and I was scheduled to have an appointment with Dr. Bridges after my Monday ultrasound that never happened) came in to explain what was happening.
I had experienced a total or complete placental abruption. A rare pregnancy condition occurring in only 1% of pregnancies where the placenta – the organ providing nutrients and oxygen to you from me – detaches from the uterus wall. She wanted me to deliver vaginally because it is beneficial for future pregnancies. Nonetheless I was bleeding too badly. They waited for an hour or so to see if labor had progressed but I hadn’t changed from 1 cm dilated and the bleeding was a concern. The physical pain was agonizing and I was begging for relief. I’m told I was given morphine both via IV and a shot to the leg but it did very little to dull the worst pain of my life. Later we found out from an RN that it is common for women to pass out from the pain of a placental abruption. In that moment I thought back a few weeks to when I was writing my natural birth plan and thought I was crazy for thinking I could do this without medications and other medical interventions. Then I reminded myself that there was nothing natural about this situation. You were dead in my belly and the birth plan was out the window. Nothing I had been planning for your birth was going to happen. Daddy signed consent forms for a c-section, blood transfusion, and epidural and finally I got some relief for the physical pain.
The events and timeline of that evening are blurry for me. I remember calling some family and close friends and telling them, growing more sad with each heart I was breaking by telling them the news. I remember minutes turning to hours of Daddy and I sitting in silence between nurses checking in. I remember wanting to go home, thinking if I could just get home and in bed, this would all go away like a bad dream. At some point Dr. Bridges was there explaining to a bunch of people the timeline for my c-section surgery. There was a goofy anesthesiologist who had no social queues and thought making jokes at this time was cool – which I can’t lie, in my state of shock I just smiled and thought of a time when these corny jokes might be funny. The nice nurse anesthetist Mike was also there. After he did my epidural I could feel some sense of relief being under his care. My shock brain lined up the players like we did with the Dads in baby class when we discussed who is present for a c-section. They wheeled me in first to prep me then the anesthesiologist brought Daddy in.
The memories I have of the surgery are hazy at best and probably for the best. I wasn’t feeling anything below my waist anymore after the epidural. Daddy stayed by me the entire time and listened while I told him I wasn’t ready to die. I would have done anything for you to be born alive but nothing in this life was going to bring you back and I wasn’t and am not ready to go to Heaven just yet. At some point you were gone from my stomach and the saddest memory I have is not being able to feel the moment your body left mine. At this point Mike asked I Daddy wanted to step over and see you, which I didn’t comprehend and understood it to mean they needed him to leave and i was in danger of dying. I had no idea you had been born and they just wanted Daddy to see you so he did and he came back to me with tears in his eyes to tell me how perfect you were. Sometime later the nurse put your little body on my shoulder and I held you the best I could for the first time. You were indeed precious in every way and I pleaded with God for you to wake up, open your eyes, squirm, or scream like this was all a big mistake but you were so silent, still, and peaceful. I needed sedated shortly after that because I felt so sick and was getting agitated with discomfort and mistaking it for pain as they were closing me up. I fell asleep and woke up back in Room 204.
The goal had been too keep me comfortable (physically; there wasn’t much to be done emotionally) with drugs but even with everything pumping through my system I got very little sleep that night. I laid awake in shock and just stared at the room. At some point I decided Hallmark Christmas movies should be on the tv; I “watched” them without following anything that was happening and they stayed on day and night. I sent a few texts to my best friends to call me when they woke up, that I had some terrible news. They cried and listened as I recounted for them how my baby boy was now in Heaven and the plans we had for him in this life were shattered. I remember feeling guilty because all the calls and texts I sent to family and close friends were causing them sadness and emotional pain.
On Saturday morning I was worried about Chanel. We had left in such a rush the night before and only fed her dinner so she had to be starving. Jordan called Chris and ask that he stop by and feed her on his way home from work. When he stopped by to get the keys and sent Jordan back to the room with a beautiful bouquet of orange flowers.
I remember being so hungry that morning. They were worried about me getting sick after major surgery so I was only given apple juice and jello at first. Emotionally I hadn’t started processing yet, something I didn’t do until well after I got home. For my husband however it was like the dam gates had opened and he got all his crying out that weekend. For hours on the pull out couch in my room I’d listen to him sobbing without having a clue how to console him. I had just lost you, his first son. There aren’t words for that. Looking back now it was harsh but I told him he had to get it together. I was still uncomfortable at best and in severe pain at worst and seeing him cry uncontrollably made me want to lose it myself which hurt physically. We sat in silence and shock at times we were barely able to hold it together.
Later on that morning Rori came to visit and eventually Yvonne. They were our first visitors and we were so grateful to have them there to pass the time until the Moms arrived. Rori had the biggest, most beautiful white bouquet of roses, lilies, and hydrangeas delivered and it was refreshing both to smell and look at something so pretty and full of life. Having their company was therapeutic in that it reminded us that life was still going on around us and we even shared a few laughs. The Moms arrived around noon and my friends left us greet them with the conversations we never wanted to have. Barely having processed what happened myself, it was hard to see my Mom and Beth breaking down and crying. Much like sharing the news I felt guilty and even sadder, as if I was responsible for this happening and making the Moms so sad. I was relieved they were both here though finally. Brittany also came to visit sometime that afternoon and I was so grateful to see her. I haven’t seen her since she left our office and her coming made me long to go back a few weeks to when my life was normal, to what I am now calling the before.
All day I had been thinking of your body, wondering where they were keeping you and if you were warm, only to remind myself you weren’t actually here in this hospital and were in a much better place looking down on us all with healthy eyes. I struggled with wanting to see you and hold you because I knew in my heart it was just your body but in the end I am glad your daddy and grandmas pushed me to see you. Looking back now I wish I had held you longer and examined your body closer so I could know and remember everything about you but I don’t have any regrets because in the midst of the traumatic situation I’m thankful for the decisions we were able to make. Saturday afternoon one of the kind nurses brought you to my room and we held you and loved you for the next hour or two. My mom was adamant about taking pictures of you, something I hadn’t really thought about but am so grateful now because they are some of the most precious mementos I have of you. I put on my strongest smile and encouraged Daddy, Grandma, and Nan to do the same, knowing in the future we will look back on these moments and want to see the happiness that you brought to our lives in your short time here. Several books I’ve read have stories from other bereaved parents that express regret at not holding their babies longer and it made me wonder if I should have held onto you for a little while or even asked if you could stay in my room but I find peace in knowing that this was just your precious little body I was loving and your soul had already left us for your eternal home. I’m just thankful my family convinced me to see you at all because I had been wondering if this was something I was strong enough to handle, if I was strong enough to handle any of this. I rocked you and sang to you and tried to fit a lifetime of love for you into those moments. Some time later after everyone had a chance to hold you a few times and we all got to know your physical characteristics we asked the nurse to take you. I don’t know where it is that you were kept at the hospital but I have faith that the sweet nurses cared for you just like they would any healthy living baby.
Saturday I still had a catheter so movement was limited to sitting in the rocker for a few hours while I held you. By lunch I was finally given some real food and enjoyed some chicken and mac and cheese. Surprisingly given my stomach issues it all went down just fine and by dinner time I was eating Subway, having craved a sub for the last six months. At some point I was given my second blood transfusion and nurses were in every few hours to draw my blood. I had also been running a bit of a fever so they were monitoring my temperature often too. Being in a room on the labor & delivery floor was intensely painful emotionally; with every opening of the door I was reminded that I was surrounded by laboring mamas who have healthy screaming babies. A few of the nurses would come in and not close my door, as if the fact that the door didn’t have a pink or blue bow didn’t tip them off that I was not a normal new Mommy. I was so thankful when your Daddy kindly but strongly asked them to shut it so I didn’t have to hear the babies cry. I’m glad I was in the care of some of the kind-hearted L&D nurses but it was hard to be near so many triggers. That night I think I got even less sleep with the nurses checking me every few hours. At one point a mother in labor was put in the room next door and I could hear her moaning with labor pains. It was then I decided I needed to do whatever I needed to in order to go home the next day which Dr. Bridges said was a possibility when she came to check on me.
Early Sunday morning, after I did manage a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, I woke up with a small glimmer of hope for the first time in two days. At four am I posted to Facebook a few of the pictures we had taken the day before and announced your birth into Heaven. I didn’t even think twice about it but in the weeks since as I read about pregnancy loss I’ve learned this is a controversial topic many people are not open to sharing. You are my child and have as much right as any to a birth announcement so with tears streaming down my face, I shared with the word how my son entered my life, not here on earth but in Heaven. The prayers and support from family, friends, and even people I barely know or don’t even know was overwhelming and it reminded me that even in the short time you spent with us here on earth you touched the lives of so many. You knew nothing but love here and your cup was overflowing with it. It brought so much joy to my heart knowing that you not only mattered but were not going to be forgotten in the life.
With this small hope I focused on preparing myself to go home. They had taken out my catheter that morning and were slowing taking away the monitors and IVs holding me down. I was up and moving about organizing the room with much less pain than I had the day before with just trying to stand. I asked your Daddy to talk to the nurse about bringing you in to hold one more time since it sounded like we may be able to go home. The hospital chaplin came in to baptize you and we cuddled you some more. You were so perfect to us in every way. You had a full head of dark hair, hair that the sweet nurse Tracy cut a few tiny locks from for us to keep. You may have only been 3 pounds 6 ounces but you were 16.5 inches long and had the biggest feet I’ve only ever seen before on your Daddy. Your fingers however were all Mommy’s, long, thin and delicate. You had a freckle just under your chin. I do wish now that I had held you longer and looked you over more closely but I was too scared if I held you too long I wouldn’t let go. I can’t explain what it did to my heart to look at you and think of the million things I’d never see you do in this life. It haunts me now that I won’t ever see your eyes and what color they are or hear your cry or hear you tell me you love me. I have faith that I will know you in Heaven someday but the pain of not knowing you here is much too real. All these shattered dreams crowded my mind as the nurse came to take you away that last time and I don’t remember how long it took me to stop crying after that.
Dr. Bridges visited me again that day and said that if I was able to get up to take a shower and take the bandage off for her to look at my incision and staples that I could go home so once I said goodbye to you sweet boy I had a one track mind to get out of there. Grandma and Daddy had run home to get some things so just Nan and I were left to navigate my first shower. As I was working on getting the bandage off Dr. Bridges came back which luckily she did because I was having trouble with the tape on my own. She said everything looked okay and that as long as I took care of it well at home, I could go. Daddy was a rock and handled your cremation plans with the funeral home so you would be going there later that day. I signed some discharge papers, for what exactly I don’t remember, and prepared for what I now know is the hardest trip I will ever take.
There is no preparing for it and hopefully it is something I never have to do again but leaving the hospital without my baby was harder and more painful than anything I’ve experienced in my 26 years let alone the last three days. Daddy knows my kind, soft heart so well and talked to the nurses before they brought me out about moving the babies they were holding out of my sight. I cried the entire way, not really feeling the tears piling up on my face until they rolled down my cheeks. I clutched the pillow on my lap so tightly and tried to wish it all away, wishing none of this way happening and this was you, Avery; healthy and crying in your car seat on my lap instead. I prayed God would take me too in that moment when I thought I couldn’t survive that pain. I thought a broken heart was literally going to kill me. Back that same route we came in not two days ago, back down the elevator and out the emergency exit Daddy had the truck pulled up and I cringed thinking about all the blood I had lost on that seat. I don’t remember hearing much on the way home, someone talked now and again maybe to me even but I didn’t say a word. All my mind could focus on was how I just left my baby boy. I put my hand out the window to feel the breeze to remind myself that I was still alive. And then we were home. I went right to Chanel who I had missed and knew she was wondering where we had been all weekend.
There were a few times over this weekend that I bartered with God to let me take your place or to take me too. You couldn’t live without me so how was I supposed to live without you. Now, almost a month later, although I’m looking forward to the day I meet you in Heaven, I know God has more plans for me here in this life. There’s more love I can give to your Daddy and hopefully love I can give to your siblings in the near future. There’s love I can show you too even without you here, unconditional love and the kind that spans all distance and worlds. As I look back on this weekend, Avery Jordan, I don’t consider it the weekend that I lost you but the weekend that you came into our lives, made me a Mommy and Jordan your Daddy, and the weekend that we learned to look at love in a whole new way.