I write to process things that are rolling around in my brain and happening in my life. This last week has been the hardest week I have ever had to endure as a wife and mother. It’s something I would never wish on anyone. Ever. But I have had so many things rolling around in my head that I feel the need to process them by writing. What follows is our story leading up to the birth of our 5th son Knox. I write it more for myself, so that my child won’t be forgotten and so that I can capture what the events of the last week have meant to me. I plan to include these blog posts in his baby book. I share this story so that you can know too and that hopefully my journey and pain will help someone move through theirs too.
We found out we were pregnant with Knox on Labor day. We told the boys after we’d spent the afternoon at Garden of the Gods. They had been praying for a baby for weeks and we were excited to share the news with them. My early pregnancy progressed much like my others have. We experienced an early loss in 2009 at 6 1/2 weeks (prior to the birth of Titus) so I breathed a sigh of relief when we passed that mark. I usually don’t have a lot of nausea in early pregnancy, just a lot of fatigue and not wanting to eat, which is how this pregnancy was and how I felt. I made appointments with my midwife and chiropractor. My labs and exams were fine. We heard his heartbeat without difficulty at home around 8 weeks and at our 12 week appointment with the midwife. We prayed daily for the baby as a family. We prayed that the baby would grow and be healthy and be born at home. The two middle boys (Otto and Zeke) prayed for a baby sister and Gabe would pray for a baby boy. I started to feel the flutters of little kicks and rolls and I started to show around 12 weeks.
We took a planned trip back to Kansas over Thanksgiving week to attend the funeral of Kerry’s grandmother and spend time with our family. Just before we left of Thanksgiving I told work that I was expecting in May.
While we were in Kansas, I had this feeling that something was wrong. I couldn’t pin point it, but I told Kerry that I was worried. I hadn’t felt the baby move as much as I had been, but I passed it off as I was still early (about 15 weeks pregnant) and perhaps we had been so busy I hadn’t paid as much attention as I had been at home. I also noticed that my cravings for spicy food and food aversions had stopped. I passed it off as “I’m in the second trimester and I’m supposed to be feeling better”.
The night we got home (Sunday 11/27) I tried to hear heart tones, but couldn’t find them. I tried not to worry and thought maybe the baby was just turned. But I tried again several times on Monday and never heard even a hint of a heartbeat. I emailed our midwife and another friend of mine on Tuesday and started calling around to see how I could get in for a sonogram to check on the baby. Our sonogram was scheduled for Thursday evening at 5pm. I was so nervous going in. I was praying that everything would be fine, that it was just a defective doppler or something. Anything but what I suspected.
I could tell when the sonographer looked that something was wrong. The baby didn’t look like he had enough room, it looked really cramped and he wasn’t moving. She took some measurements first and then looked for a heartbeat. I couldn’t see the flutter I was hoping to see in his chest. Just empty space. Nothing. My heart sank. She checked again. Still nothing and reluctantly she told us there wasn’t a heartbeat. I tried not to cry. I could tell she didn’t know what to say. She was young and didn’t have children. We left holding each other. We stopped in the lobby and I sobbed. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t understand. I felt so empty, so robbed and so sad. Devastated. Even now, when I close my eyes and think about that sono…I see the empty chest, the gray screen and my heart just sinks. I try to squeeze my eyes harder against the emptiness. The heart break. But it lingers still.
Because I was seeing a midwife, I didn’t have a physician here in Pueblo. I called Dr. Growney on Friday and asked if he’d be willing to see me that day. We, as a family, went to meet with him that afternoon. I felt bad for him because he didn’t know what he was walking in to when he first came in. His nurse hadn’t told him why he was seeing me. He was so compassionate and caring. He was on call over the weekend and he was willing to do whatever we wanted in terms of induction or surgery or waiting. He listened to our concerns, our thoughts and our hurt. I couldn’t have asked for a better physician to care for me. It was such a blessing. We decided we wanted an induction the next morning, because my mom could come and stay with the boys and because we didn’t want surgery. (I would be happy to share our thoughts into why this was the best choice for us at another time).
We checked in to the hospital the next morning (12/3) at 9am. The nurse caring for us started my IV, I had blood drawn and took my vital signs. I have to say…I learned a lot about being a nurse by being a patient. My day nurse and I didn’t mesh well to say the least. I won’t get in to it other than to say she did not put me at ease at all. She made me incredibly nervous and she never acknowledged that we had lost a baby. I felt it was very insensitive.
I was given Cytotec to induce contractions and my labor. Cytotec is a medication that is often used for labor induction, but I was given higher doses because my body wasn’t ready for labor. I was 16 weeks and 2 days pregnant the day I was induced. The majority of the day was spent waiting. We had brought things with us to the hospital to do and read, but we couldn’t focus. I tried to sleep, but sleep hasn’t come easy. We spent a good part of the day staring at the clock or TV. We were just numb. I was thankful for the alone time we had to talk and grieve together as a couple. My contractions were really manageable. The nurse was surprised and kept offering me pain medication. I finally told her I would ask for it if I wanted it.
I was given the medication every 4 hours. 10 am and 2pm. My nurses changed at 6pm. My night shift nurse was a breath of fresh air. I could tell she was nervous (I think I was the first patient she’d had that had lost a baby), but she was calm and caring. She called Kerry and I by our first names (something our day shift nurse hadn’t done). She told us she was sorry for our loss and acknowledged how difficult this must be for us. She was exactly the kind of nurse I had been praying for all afternoon.
At 6:15 my water broke after a trip to the bathroom. I called the nurse and told her. She gave me another dose of cytotec and called Dr. G. I expected things to pick up a bit, but my contractions still stayed manageable. Kerry sat in bed with me for comfort. Around 8:45, I felt a really strong contraction and felt more pressure. I knew that the birth was imminent and called for our nurse. She also had the charge nurse with her, who was also really awesome. I knew her from taking my clinical group to Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. I was so thankful for the staff that was with me.
I pushed twice with the next contraction and the baby was born. I asked Kerry if he was okay while the nurses wrapped the baby up. I asked if she could tell if it was a boy or g
irl and she said the baby was a boy. The nurse handed the baby to me to hold. He was so tiny, but so perfect. We counted his fingers and toes. We touched his feet, his hands, his face. We took pictures of our baby Knox and we were in awe of how perfect he was, even though he was so tiny. Kerry and I each took turns holding him and taking it all in. As strange as it sounds, while we were grieving while we holding him…we both felt so blessed. So blessed with another son…so blessed that we had been able to experience this pregnancy even though it was cut short…and so blessed that we have had 4 healthy pregnancies and births. God is amazing. While we don’t understand the purpose for the loss, we are still in awe at His amazing creation in our son. We could see on his fingers where his finger nails were starting to grow. We could see his tiny perfect ears and his little tongue. We could feel his knees and his legs, we could see his ribs and his spine. He is perfect. He is incredible. He is our son.
While we were taking it all in and cherishing our time with him, it became apparent that the placenta wasn’t coming like we’d hoped and I was losing a fair amount of blood. Dr. G came in and looked the baby over too, he was also concerned about the amount of blood I was losing. He ordered some additional labs and prepared me for the option that we might have to go to surgery to remove the placenta. He wanted to give us as much time as possible with our son, and so he was patient and allowed us to hold Knox and try to remember every nuance about him.
I started to feel a bit light headed and my blood pressure dropped quite low. At that point, and after looking at my labs, Dr. G felt that we needed to not waste any more time and go to the OR. I have never been under general anesthesia before and because my lab values were so low, it wasn’t safe for me to have an epidural so going to sleep was the only option. I said goodbye to our sweet baby, knowing that I wouldn’t see him again until we are reunited in Heaven. It was difficult for me…I wanted to hang on to him until the last second. It felt terrible to have him wheeled out of our room in his little crib.
It terrified me to be taken down to the OR. I was so afraid that the surgery would have complications. It seemed that everything that could go wrong…had gone wrong with the birth and I was afraid it would continue to go wrong. I knew our church and our family was praying for me. I knew Kerry was praying for me and I was praying. My nurse prayed with me before I went to the OR, I don’t think she’ll ever know how important that was to me. I know that she prayed for me the entire time I was off the floor. I was praying that if anything went right…it would be this surgery. I was so thankful for Dr. G. He knew I was scared and held my hand while I was put under anesthesia. I remember looking up at him with tears in my eyes while he held my hand.
The next thing I remember was waking up in recovery, crying. I felt like my emotions had caught up with me. I asked the medical student with Dr. G if I still had my uterus. My fear going in to surgery was that there would be a complication and that I would need a hysterectomy. She told me yes and I heard one of the OR nurses say “she just asked if she still had her uterus”. I replied “yes…because children are important to me”. I was crying and grieving my baby in recovery. The medication they gave me to relax, acts kind of like if you drank too much, so my “strong” facade had diminished and I was able to cry the tears I had been holding in. I felt so weak and helpless.
The doctor went up and talked to Kerry and told him that he (Dr. G) had never seen someone wake up so easily from anesthesia before. He said I was talking in complete sentences and was awake and alert. I was taken back to the room by about 2 am. I was given several medications in recovery to try to stop the bleeding and I was given more IV fluids and antibiotics when I got back to my room.
While I was in the OR my nurse and charge nurse made a memory box for Knox. They were able to get footprints and print some pictures for us. I was so very thankful they got the tiny footprints they did. They are precious.
I was so tired, but couldn’t sleep. Kerry was able to sleep for a couple hours, but I was restless. My blood pressure stayed fairly low and I wasn’t putting out urine like I should have been. My nurse was so wonderful. She made me feel safe and cared for. She hugged me before she left and prayed with me again before she left for the day. It made such a difference to me to know my nurse was a believer.
My day nurse from the day before was back on Sunday (12/4). I was kind of dreading that. But was hoping to go home. I was still incredibly weak and tired. My labs were drawn again in the morning and they were quite a bit lower from the night before. I was given a blood product substitute called Hetaspan to try to increase the volume in my body. About 10 minutes after it started going in my hands and feet started to swell and I started to feel really anxious, like something wasn’t right. I started to feel really weird and called my nurse. I asked her to turn off the infusion because something was wrong. She was hesitant to do it, but I told her to and to call the doctor. (She really drove me nuts).
Dr G came in to see me and talk to Kerry and I about 10am. He told Kerry I had lost about half of my circulating volume (so about 1/2 of the blood in my body). He said he thought I had an allergic reaction to the Hetaspan and to add that to my allergy list. He talked with us about the grief process and what to expect. He gave me some medication to help me sleep and for pain. He also talked with Kerry about how he, as a dad, will grieve differently and to care for himself too. I so appreciated Dr. G. He was fantastic. God answered prayers for compassionate caregivers (for the most part). He said the criteria for me to go home was to be able to get up and walk around without falling over.
I tried sitting up and standing a bit, but got really dizzy. I felt so weak and tired. When I stood up, my blood pressure stayed up by my heart rate went up really high (a sign that my body is trying to compensate for low volume). It was decided that I could probably use a unit of blood. So the infusion began around 2:00pm and finished around 4:00pm. I felt a little better, still weak but not quite as dizzy as I had been. I was able to stand and walk to the bathroom. We decided we’d eat supper and then go home. We left around 6pm that night and then went to get meds before going home.
We have been home now about 2 days. It’s been an adjustment. The big boys understand what has happened, but our tender hearted Otto is having a little trouble making sense of it all I think. He’s said several times “I wish the baby was still in your tummy” or “I wish the baby wasn’t dead”. He asked to by a stocking for Knox for Christmas this year. Right now his stocking is the only Christmas decoration we have up. Otto has asked several times to see pictures of Knox, but I’m not sure he’d be able to handle seeing them just yet. I don’t think he’s prepared for what a 15 week old baby looks like, but I know for him it may be important to see them in the future.
Our son shares the date with Kerry’s cousin Jenny. She went home to be with God 30 years ago on December 3 at 6 months. While it is a sad day for Jenny’s family, and ours, we are honored in a way that our children share the same home going day. That 2 very loved children will be remembered on the same day.
As a family we are t
rying to make it through. We are thankful for the love, prayers and help from our family, church family and friends. Sleep doesn’t come easy for me still. I’m tired, but can’t seem to sleep, even with medication. The grief and tears sneak up on me at weird times. I found myself laying down holding my belly where Knox once was…it felt so empty and I cried. I am thankful for the little ones I have…I’m thankful they still want to be held. I think if they didn’t I would feel even more empty than I do. I know that Knox will always be a part of our family, I pray that I will be able to trust my body again. I pray that the raw grief will heal. I pray that someday God will bless us with another baby, not as a replacement, but to help heal me.
I am thankful though, that God has surrounded me. He has answered prayers, He has protected my body and He will heal my heart. I do not understand why He has brought me to this trial. I don’t understand what lesson I am to learn from all of this. But I have found comfort in the following passage…
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
For now, I am learning to trust in Him. To trust that He will meet me where I am. He will guide us through this trial and we are blessed.