Last year on May 5th I gave birth at 19.5 weeks. He didn’t make it. This is the story of what I went through that day in hopes that it will help another somehow and that sharing it will help ease the pain I still feel. Read at your own discretion, I’ve decided to hold nothing back.
Fatherbean and I found out I was pregnant in January after I went to the walk-in clinic. Due to many factors we were just scraping by at the time – I was out of work and he was working reduced hours in retail. However, we were happy as we are both getting on in age (mid thirties) and figured that there really is no good time and we’d make due.
This was our first pregnancy. We’ve been together for about 8 years at this point – not married but common-law – and own our own place together. I’d just gotten off the medication I was on for depression and anxiety disorders after three years of healing that started with a two-week stay in the local mental health unit at the hospital.
From what I understand the Doctors don’t keep that close an eye on you in the first few months – and that the ob/gyn my Dr recommended only wanted to see me at or around 20 weeks. So Fatherbean and I were pretty much on our own to navigate these new waters.
Things were alright until about 12 weeks in when I started seeing some bleeding. Enough that I needed to wear a pad daily. I made several trips to the emergency room over the next few weeks. Usually late night where the Dr listened for the heartbeat and possibly sent me for an ultrasound. They couldn’t find any reason I would be bleeding and baby sounded fine so they sent me home.
After a few emergency trips I went to see my family Dr. She listened for the heartbeat and went over my ultra sound readings. I’m still bleeding with mild cramping. She couldn’t find anything wrong either so again I went home. She got me an appointment with a local ob/gyn for just before 20 weeks.
The week before the appointment the bleeding was the same but the cramping somewhat worse. However I noticed that I was peeing a lot more than usual and Fatherbean suggested that I might have a bladder infection. I made an appointment with my Dr (who said that I should just drink cranberry juice) for about a week and a half later.
It’s the night before the ob/gyn appointment. I’m sleeping in the bedroom and Fatherbean is sleeping on the couch. Sometime in the middle of the night I roll over and a big “gush” of liquid comes out. I think to myself “I wet the bed!”. Soaked was more like it. I got up and found a towel and cleaned myself and the bed up. Then I put down another towel to go back to sleep on. Remember, at this point I’m thinking “bladder infection” and not anything else. Plus I have an ob/gyn appointment in the morning and they can check me out then. There’s a dull pain in my back and the cramping is somewhat worse. I try to sleep.
In the morning we go to the ob/gyn’s office. Turns out the doctor I was supposed to see, Dr B, was not available. The office is really busy. So they assign me to someone new, Dr M. Fatherbean and I wait for what feels like forever and though I was experiencing a lot of pain in the morning it seems to have ebbed while sitting in the office. Before seeing Dr M we are assessed by a nurse. She is very kind and goes through my whole medical history and pregnancy history with me. She listens to my story about what happened the night before, all the bleeding and cramping I’m experiencing and tells me that she’s sure the Dr will want to check me out and get an ultrasound. I’m relieved. The nurse listens to the baby and there is a heartbeat.
Dr M waltzes into the room. She talks with the nurse a bit. She then turns to me and starts asking me questions about my anxiety and depression issues. She says they are concerned about PPD and wants to assess my risk factor for that. The nurse points out the more pressing issues of my “bed wetting” and cramping. I start to recount my story about the night before but Dr M stops me. She says that if I was in labor and that had been my water breaking I’d still be leaking. She says that it’s probably a UTI and not to worry. I should just give them a urine sample and they will speed up the results for me and call me in a couple hours to let me know how to proceed. There is no ultrasound, no “looking” to see what’s going on down there. Nothing.
Fatherbean and I leave. We were going to have lunch at the mall but I feel horrible so I kiss him goodbye as he heads to work and I go home.
5 hours pass. There is no phone call. The cramping and pain is sharp now and my back is really hurting. I try to sleep but it doesn’t work. Finally the pain is too much and I call my father in law for a drive to emergency. I tell him not to worry, that the ob/gyn said it was a UTI and I probably just need some meds. He goes home.
In emergency I tell the triage nurse my story again and mention that I’d seen the ob/gyn in the morning but hadn’t gotten the results. However the pain had become enough for me to show up at emergency. I’ve told her I’m 19.5 weeks pregnant. She puts down UTI and sends me to the non-emergency emergency section with a pager. It will go off when the Dr can see me. Now, this is the only hospital in the city where I live and it serves a large population. There is usually a long wait time. This day was no exception.
The pain is getting worse. It’s like someone is stabbing me from back to front and right down to my vagina. It’s gotten so bad and so frequent I’m crying out in pain and falling down. I’ve had to make several trips to the bathroom with diarrhea. People in the waiting room are looking at me funny as I cry.
I find a nurse to tell that the pain is worse. She says that I’ll just have to wait for a doctor. I insist no, the pain is really bad and I don’t know what’s wrong. Then I suddenly need to go to the bathroom and ask if she’d come with me. She can’t so I go alone.
It’s there in the bathroom I figure out what is happening. I’m in labor. The way I figure it out is I started to give birth. I had been “pushing” in the bathroom and I reach down and there is a little foot. I start to hyperventilate and panic sets in. I open the door and start screaming for help. A mother and her little girl hear me and run to get the nurses. I’m in so much pain both physically and emotionally I’ve lost it. I’m crying and screaming about how it hurts and please save my baby and oh my god it hurts and for someone to help me.
I must admit they worked very fast at this point. They got me in a wheelchair and took me into emergency. Suddenly there are many nurses running around me telling me their names and trying to calm me down. The emergency Dr okays some morphine for me until the delivery Dr can arrive to help me (I’m across the hospital from Labor & Delivery at this point).
Much of the rest of this is a blur. Partly because of the morphine but I also blocked much of it out. I know there was a midwife there trying her best to keep me comfortable. Suddenly a Dr shows up and walks me through labor. The baby was feet first so it’s a long process. He tells them to give me more morphine. I go through labor like any other woman with pushing and screaming and help from the Dr and nurses. They are around me holding my hands and crying with me. One of them is calling Fatherbean at work (how I was able to yell out his work number during this I don’t know). They tell me he’s trying his best to get away from work.
Finally it’s over. I ask if it was a boy or girl. Boy they reply. I don’t need to ask if he’s still alive. I know.
They wheel me up to labor and delivery. I still need to deliver the placenta. Fatherbean shows up just after I get there and I finally feel it. I finally let loose and just cry.
Dr K who was the one in emergency comes by. He expresses his sympathy and explains what’s going to happen next about the placenta. He’ll be around until it happens to make sure I’m alright physically. I like him. He’s sensitive but to the point.
The nurses are very kind and bring me the baby. This point weirds me out a bit. Fatherbean and I get to say our goodbyes. We give him a name so that he isn’t just remembered as “that baby”. It’s Joel. We’re given all the things a normal birth would be given. They also take pictures. Some mothers, they explain, like to have them later on to remember by. I agree only because I don’t know what I want at this point. Turns out I didn’t need the pictures. I’m on the other spectrum where the whole holding the dead fetus just repulses me and pictures just remind me of the traumatic experiences of that day. It’s nice to have the baby clothes though. I do understand why this is important for other mothers and hope that they do it in more hospitals – whatever it takes to give emotional healing.
The hospital treated this with the utmost care and sensitivity. I thank them for that. I needed the support. Telling friends and family afterwards was hard but we received much love and well wishes all around. They still don’t know why I went into labor. Dr K thinks it may have been an undiscovered UTI that infected my cervix. The baby was fine, no problems there. I guess we’ll never know why. I often wonder if someone had bothered to open my legs and really “look” during all this time if they would have found something.
I have trouble trusting doctors now. The original ob/gyn failed me spectacularly. While I understand that people make mistakes I believe if she had LISTENED to me and not focused on my anxiety (brushing off the current situation) that much of what I went through could have been prevented. I know now that I need to trust my instincts even if they’re wrong because second guessing myself can lead to tragedy. This pregnancy I am seeing Dr K and he’s been great. He’s matter-of-fact and to-the-point but still sensitive and wonderful. He has years of experience and has worked with me to curb my anxiety and keep this pregnancy going.
This experience has been the major reason I’ve had so much anxiety this pregnancy. I was terrified of rolling over in bed during the early months – scared I would “trigger” labor. I know now that labor probably started days earlier than that initial water breaking but I still feared it. The weeks of 17 – 22 were nerve wracking. I’ve been afraid to get close to Babybean, to decorate the nursery, to buy baby things. Blogging about the positive things has helped me settle down and start to enjoy the pregnancy. Not fear it. Now that I’m past the “danger point” I’ve started to work on loving this belly and all that it entails. I’m working with a psychiatrist and a clinician to help ease the overwhelming anxiety and get me to a positive place. I’m even ok with the drugs if it means I will be less stressed and therefore better for Babybean. I’ve lived Babybean’s pregnancy hyper-vigilant of any and all pain. I know what to look for now.
Trust my instincts. Question the doctors. Insist on treatment. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Though traumatic I learned a lot.
Today is Joel’s birthday. You were too small for the world but not for my heart. Forever, Joel. Forever.
“A family is a circle of love, not broken by a loss, but made stronger by the memories. We remember.”