As we approach July 16, 2013 it’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by. For everyone one else, it is just another day…for Seth and I, and maybe more me, it is a day we have been dreading. The events of that day still seem so unreal to me. When I allow myself to really think about it all…its very surreal. It’s as if I’m watching a movie, only I’m the main character in the film. I’m the character going through the physical and emotional pain of that day, weeks, and months that followed. The problem is I can’t just fast forward and get to the end of the film to see that it all gets better with a happy ending.
A few years ago I suddenly found myself in a place I never thought I would… a divorced 40 year-old woman with four amazing children. During that transitional time, my first priority was to make sure my children were alright…It was hard, but we made it. My second priority was continuing to provide for them by working as a Infant/Toddler Teacher and as a Childbirth/Lactation Educator. My whole world was surrounded with children, pregnant women, and babies. While I’ve continued to work as an infant/toddler teacher, going back to teaching childbirth classes has proven to be much more difficult.
In the summer of 2011 my children and I went to a BBQ and I was introduced to Seth. I wasn’t looking to date seriously or have a relationship with anyone, but there was just something about him that I can’t really explain. I just know as I spoke to him there was such a kindness in his eyes that completely drew me in. As I introduced him to my kids, I thought that would be the end to our friendly conversation. To my surprise, my gang didn’t make him turn and run! Seth and I just hit it off… He was genuinely interested me and we quickly fell in love. All of my friends and family just adored him right away and more importantly so did my children. Seth had no children, so suddenly being involved with someone with children was a whole new experience for him. It was all going smoothly and everyone was getting used to each other, when I found out in March 2012 that I was pregnant!
The term mixed emotions is a complete understatement!! Okay, so let’s talk the children first. The boys were surprised, but amazingly supportive and maybe even a bit happy, but being teenagers it’s sometimes hard to tell . My youngest, my daughter was ecstatic! She was jumping up and down and telling anyone and everyone who would listen that I was pregnant…even the check out ladies at the grocery store. So onto Seth…yes he was happy but so many other emotions as well. Yes, we were in love but having a baby with someone pushes that relationship into a whole other realm. You will forever be connected to that person and now be truly responsible for another human being. I remember him being worried that we would be able to do all the things we had planned to do. I reassured him we would, it would just be different. We could have all those adventures. ..Just had more things to bring along on them. So now onto Me…happy, worried, concerned, and honestly really, really scared. I was done having children, so finding out I was pregnant was a bit of a shock for me. I would be 43 by the time this baby came into the world and being in this field my head starting racing with all the things that could go wrong. I reminded myself I had four easy, uneventful pregnancies and birth experiences that friends were envious of. I was in the best shape of my life…I could do this. I went forward focusing on the miracle of it all, taking even better care of myself and just enjoying the whole experience.
So that age thing…yeah I am of “advanced maternal age”…could that phrase possibly suck anymore? We spoke with the genetic counselor about CVS versus amniocentesis. After long discussions on what would be the better procedure, and the counselor really pushing us towards CVS, we decided on the CVS procedure. A choice we would both later deeply regret. I found it to be more painful than I had expected. Both my cramping and bleeding were pretty severe. I went in the next day and they found a subchorionic hematoma…a bled at the site where they removed placental villi, located between the wall of the uterus and the amniotic sac. I was put on limited activity and pelvic rest. More importantly I was reassured that the baby was just fine and that the bleeding would stop.
Results came back at 13 and half weeks and we found out we were having a boy and he was perfect!! I don’t think I can explain how thrilled Seth and I were that everything was great with our baby boy. As a family we chose the name Ethan Seth. We moved forward planning for his arrival and getting a larger place to accommodate Ethan and Seth moving in with us. Every week I went in for an ultrasound to measure the amount of blood and to check on Ethan. I was reassured each week that the blood was dissipating and that Ethan was growing fast and everything was fine. I remained on limited activity and pelvic rest which was difficult for us but our intimate moments became lying in bed talking about our future.
At 22 weeks I woke up in the middle of the night having mild contractions. I of course was concerned, but thought to myself. .. You did too much this weekend. I went downstairs got some water and laid down to time them. After an hour, I woke up Seth and told him we needed to go into the hospital. I tried to reassure Seth that things were going to be fine, but maybe I was trying to convince myself as well. When we arrived we were checked in with little urgency since they were mild. The doctor said I wasn’t dilated at all and my cervix was still elongated. I was given a shot of Terbutaline to stop contractions and sent home with instructions to come back if they didn’t stop or if they got stronger. We went home and Seth went to sleep and I laid there still feeling them but not as strong and getting further and further apart as I dozed off to sleep with my hands on my belly.
A couple hours later I was woken up with strong contractions, I remember the feeling of panic as I reached for Seth and he wasn’t there. He was in the shower and I called to him and said, “We have to go back now!”… Not even recognizing my voice as my own. On the way to the hospital the contractions started coming one after another and the pain was becoming unbearable. Having unmedicated births in the past, I knew what I was feeling was all wrong. This time as I walked into labor and delivery I was rushed in and quickly hooked up to a monitor and checked. It’s weird but everything that happened after that point seemed to move in slow motion, just like a movie. .. yet it all happened so fast. I remember the doctor’s mouth moving and hearing the words, “You’re 3 cm dilated and the bag is bulging…even if I give you more Terbutaline I won’t be able to stop the labor.” Looking into Seth’s eyes I told him, “It’s too soon honey, he won’t make it.” The look on his face at that moment I will never forget…even as I recall it tears stream down my face. For someone who was so unsure at first, all he wanted was to have his son and the reality that it wasn’t going to happen flashed across those kind eyes.
The nurses were trying unsuccessfully to get an IV started. I was wheeled from triage to LDR with great urgency. My contractions weren’t really contractions, they were one continuous one and pain that I can’t even describe. Once in the LDR room I was already dilated to 10 cm and Ethan was coming. I remember trying to stop it, trying to will my body to keep him inside and crushed that my body was failing me. Praying to a God that wasn’t listening. Ethan was born …along with the placenta and so, so much blood. Seth looked white and scared, I was afraid he was going to pass out. He told me a few days later that at that moment he was petrified thinking, ‘I’m loosing my son and now I’m going to loose her too!’ The doctor explained to us that it was placental abruption. ..caused because my uterus had just become irritated with the blood over time and started viciously contracting to get it out. This explanation was hard to hear then and still now, knowing that a procedure I chose to do ultimately lead to the loss of my son.
Ethan was checked by three pediatricians and the words, “There’s nothing we can do, it’s just too soon.” were the most difficult words to hear, even though I already knew it to be true in my heart. Ethan was then placed in my arms still alive. All the urgency in the room left with the people and their apologies. It was just the three of us and one nurse. I will never forget her kind face or her loving words. The priest came in and he was baptized and given last rights at the same time. It was so quiet then…so peaceful…Ethan passed away in our arms…this little beautiful baby boy who looked just like Seth…this sweet little one that we had so many hopes and dreams for…so many plans…so much love…was gone. As we laid in the bed together holding Ethan in our arms, we focused on the window and the pine tree that was swaying in the warm summer breeze…I remember thinking…outside it’s just another day… for everyone else.
As a year has passed, I’ve realized there is no “happy ending.” Life just goes on. Yes, there’s happiness and love, but not a day goes by that we don’t think of our loss. And every year we know July 16th will be just another day…but for us…it’s the day we truly realized what heartbroken meant.