Jennifer & Mike Livingston’s story of stillbirth…..
On July 27, 2015, after months of trying to conceive, we found out I was pregnant with our second child. My husband, Mike, and I were over the moon; our 2 year old son Jacob would soon become a big brother! I would spend the coming months doing all the right things to ensure a healthy pregnancy. I diligently avoided soft cheeses, deli meats and hot tubs and kept up with my work out routine. Mike and I immersed ourselves in the plans to build a brand new house to accommodate our growing family. I dreamed about the baby I was carrying. Would it be a boy or a girl? Would he/she have my eyes? Mike’s lips? Jacob’s eyelashes? I dreamed about this pregnancy and the future of our family with the blissful naivety of a non-loss Mama. In fact, looking back, I can only think of once or twice when I’d had an anxious pregnancy thought. One of these times was when the possibility occurred to me that the baby’s umbilical cord could become wrapped around baby’s neck. How would you even know? The thought scared me enough that I blurted it out one day to my sister in law, experienced mother of 3, and we both quickly dismissed this scary thought as something that would never happen. It was 2015 and that sort of thing didn’t happen in today’s day and age, right? I’m haunted by this conversation to this day.
Then came that horrible day that changed my life forever. March 15, 2016. The day Mike and I unwittingly joined the club no parent wants to be part of: The Bereaved Parents Club. It was just 8 days before my scheduled c section when we would welcome our sweet baby into the world! I remember this day so clearly. I replay this day’s events over and over again in my mind most nights before I fall asleep. That day consisted mostly of Jacob and I running errands preparing for the arrival of our newest family member. We went to the baby store and picked out outfits for the baby to wear home from the hospital and also for Easter, which was coming up. We bought one outfit of either gender, since we had kept the baby’s gender a surprise! Afterwards, we went to a nearby park to enjoy the unseasonably warm and sunny day. There was not a cloud in the sky and promise of spring lingered in the air. It was while I sat there watching Jacob play that I realized I hadn’t felt the baby move all day, which was strange because this baby was ALWAYS on the move. “What if something was wrong?” I shuddered at the thought and quickly dismissed it. That just couldn’t be. I had been in the “safe zone” of pregnancy for several months now. I now know that there really IS no “safe zone” of pregnancy.
I returned home and was shaken enough to call Mike to report my realization that I hadn’t felt the baby move. We agreed that I should call the Doctor, just to be safe. I tried drinking juice, laying on my side, eating a cookie, nothing was working to get this baby moving. I was told to report to Labor & Delivery at the hospital to get checked out, just as a precaution. I was placed in a room and the nurse attempted to hook me up to the Doppler to hear our baby’s heart beat. One by one, nurses were quietly coming into the room and adjusting the Doppler, yet all that could be heard was an eerie static sound. After several rounds of this, an ultrasound machine was wheeled in. I found it odd that they turned the screen away from Mike and I as the nurse scanned my very round, very pregnant belly. Why wouldn’t we want to see our baby? Then the doctor came in. He tried his hand at the ultrasound machine and then slowly put the wand down and uttered the three most earth-shattering words I’ve ever heard: There’s no heartbeat. I heard him say these words, but their meaning did not register in my brain for what felt like an eternity. I could feel myself floating above my hospital bed and over Mike as I processed the condolences from the doctor and nurses in the room. I heard the most guttural, soul-crushing scream as I floated there. I searched the room, but I couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. Me. I realized that the scream was coming from me. Never before had I made a sound like that. I didn’t know I was capable of making a sound like that. And by the horrified look I saw right then on my dear husband’s face, I hope I will never have to again. In that moment, the near-perfect life that Mike and I had built together came crashing down.
Broken and stunned, we returned to the hospital the next day, March 16, 2016, so that I could give birth to our silent angel. We met our bereavement nurse, Joni, and she escorted us to the Operating Room to prep me for my C Section. Joni made me as comfortable as possible and thoughtfully gave me aromatherapy oils to help keep me calm for surgery. I don’t know what I would’ve done without Joni during my delivery and after-care! She just thought of everything to comfort me. This delivery was so much different than Jacob’s. It was SO quiet. There were many tears from everyone in the room. I could feel the pressure of the baby exiting my body and I just sobbed. As I saw his pale, lifeless body pass by me to be weighed and measured by the nurse, Mike tearfully whispered to me what we’d waited 38 long weeks to know: It was a boy. A lifetime of brotherly memories flashed before my eyes as I imagined Jacob growing up with a little brother. Andrew Michael Livingston, 7lbs 11oz of pure perfection, was born silently into heaven. He had Jacob’s nose, Mike’s lips and a strawberry hint to his hair if you looked at it in the sun. My doctor confirmed the devastating news that Andrew’s cause of death was a double nuchal cord. The umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck. Twice. A mother’s primary responsibility is to protect her child and I failed him. I struggle with this thought quite often.
We spent the next 3 days in the hospital making a lifetime of memories with our sweet angel. We snuggled, read him our favorite books, watched our beloved Hoosiers play basketball and shared our perfect baby with close friends and family. He was surrounded by nothing but love. I was so proud to share him! Thanks to Joni and the Caring Companions volunteers, we left the hospital with a memory box filled with tangible memories of our Andrew. They carefully made molds and prints of his tiny hands and feet and gifted Jacob with an “Angel Bear” and children’s book about having a sibling in heaven. My favorite thing we received were the professional photos taken by Stacey, a volunteer photographer with the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep organization. These photos are my most prized and precious material possession! It gives me great comfort to see Andrew’s sweet face every day.
Andrew, you were worth every moment.
Jennifer & Mike Livingston, Andrew’s parents