Five years ago, on this day Sunday February 21, 2016, I delivered my stillborn baby Caden. For Caden’s five years in heaven, I am sharing our story. I am sharing to be Caden’s voice, to take a stand for the stigma associated with pregnancy loss, spreading awareness and healing through my grieving process. This story does not mention any names. Thanks for taking the time to read.
In the summer of 2015, David and I were expecting our first baby, a boy. We got married the year before in 2014 and moved into our first house, life was great. I thought and was told all was well with my pregnancy. We were cared by my gynecologist who I was a patient with for the last five years. As the weeks went by, my belly grew and grew.
At 34 weeks pregnant, my best friends hosted a beautiful baby shower for Caden’s arrival. Everything was elephant and chevron pattern, just like his nursery. As a first-time mom, I googled everything on the “best” this and that to buy for baby. My to do list was pretty much complete, even a thank you basket made for the doctors and nurses. David and I finally agreed on his name, Caden Carter.
At 38 weeks pregnant, things started to change. I started getting migraines all day that would subside by the evening. I never had migraines/headaches during my pregnancy or even before I was pregnant. My doctor said it was safe to take Tylenol. A few days later I had a doctor appointment. During my appointment my doctor asked if baby was still moving often, it didn’t dawn on me until that moment that he wasn’t moving as much as before. I also mentioned abdominal pain right under my ribs on my right side. She performed an ultrasound and NST, said everything looked fine. Then she handed me a sheet on kick counts, the first time at almost 39 weeks pregnant. I went on with my day thinking everything was fine, because I trusted my doctor’s care as a first-time mom.
The following day at 39 weeks pregnant, I was getting ready for work in the morning. Work was hosting a last-minute baby shower. I went to the restroom and passed what looked like a large blood clot. I didn’t know what it was, maybe my mucus plug. I took a picture of it and sent a message to my doctor’s office since they weren’t open yet. During my work baby shower, the nurse got back to me and said the clot wasn’t normal and to go to labor and delivery. At this point I was starting to worry.
I arrived at the hospital and was seen by a labor and delivery nurse. She was pleasant but very nonchalant. I had my blood and urine tested and was told it came back normal. An ultrasound was never performed. Caden and I were monitored for two hours (non-stress test). I was told I was having normal contractions. I mentioned the migraines and abdominal pain. Then I tried to show the nurse a picture of the blood clot, the reason I came there, and she said she didn’t need to see it. During the non-stress test, Caden was moving like he was literally going to jump out of my stomach. I told the nurse he has never moved like that before, she just brushed it off. She performed two very painful pelvic exams to where she had blood on her gloves. She mentioned my blood pressure was high, 140/90. After the two hours, the doctor strolled in glancing over my chart saying he spoke to my doctor, and everything looked good. I left feeling reassured everything was okay as a first-time mom. When I got home, I took my usual bath to relax and went to sleep.
The following morning, February 19, 2016. I woke up feeling well rested, I thought it was because I just started maternity leave, I had everything ready to go and my baby boy was going to arrive in less than a week. I didn’t realize I slept so well because Caden didn’t wake me up in the middle of the night. David and I were lying in bed saying his name rubbing my belly, didn’t feel him move… he must be sleeping. We went to get breakfast at a cute café by the house that I would visit often during my pregnancy. I thought the OJ would get him moving, still nothing. At that point I started to really worry. I called my doctor’s office and headed over. A nurse came in to check the heartbeat, said nothing and left. Another nurse came in to check the heartbeat and also left. At that moment I was in tears that something wasn’t right. The nurse came back and said the doctor will perform an ultrasound in another room.
The doctor performed the ultrasound, searching and searching. No movement on the screen and complete silence. And then our lives changed forever, “I’m sorry there is no heartbeat”. We were in complete shock and confused. I was just at labor and delivery the night before and was told everything was fine and my doctor’s office two days before. Literally right after she said he had died, or in her words “fetal demise”, she asked how I wanted to deliver. We needed a few minutes to process what we just heard. We walked out of the room and all of the staff were just standing there staring at us. My doctor was on her computer and looked up saying see you at the hospital. After being a patient with her for over 5 years, horrible bedside manner, where is the compassion.
We went home to get my bags. I took all the baby stuff out of my bag; it was too hard to look at. In the elevator on our way up to labor and delivery, there was a woman in the elevator with us. She had a big smile on her face and said “are you going to have your baby?”, I just cried and looked away. I was taken to a back hallway where there was a teardrop image on the door. The teardrop signifies a loss during pregnancy to notify staff. I heard another woman screaming for the loss of her baby. My family came for support. My mom asked the nurse if they could perform an ultrasound to confirm there was no
heartbeat before induction. A on call doctor came in to perform the ultrasound. Right away he said my placenta was aged, calcified and confirmed I wasn’t having a nightmare, my baby did die. To top it off, he mentioned that he was at the hospital last night (when I was there) and would have performed an ultrasound and delivered Caden. I asked if his death could have been prevented weeks ago and he said probably so. To this day, I still can’t believe what I heard, heart-wrenching to say the least.
With all my symptoms that were dismissed the night before, it was confirmed I had preeclampsia. My blood pressure spiked up to 190/109. I couldn’t stop shaking and almost had a seizure. My doctor brought in a high-risk doctor, and he put me on magnesium to bring down my blood pressure. I was on several medications to where I just felt numb physically and mentally.
February 21, 2016, at 12:10 am, after almost two days of being in labor, Caden was born sleeping, just silence. I wish I could go back and hold him longer than a minute, kiss his sweet face, take his little hat off to see all his dark hair, unswaddle him to see his lifeless body, touch his fingers and toes, peek at his eyes, take pictures holding him, tell him I love him… I yearn every single day for these things… I just didn’t know, and it still hurts so much to know that was my only chance.
I was told the heart strip from the night before looked “beautiful”. We decided to have an autopsy done on Caden to hopefully get answers and to be prepared for future pregnancies. We agreed that if we got blessed with another baby, the middle name would be Caden, Cora Caden.
The following day I was released to go home. I remember being wheeled out of the hospital with empty arms, after carrying my baby for nine months and being in labor for two days, nothing to show for it. When I arrived home, I couldn’t step foot in the nursery, it was a cruel reminder that my baby should be here. Like all mothers, I was in pain from giving birth, bleeding, crying in the shower from my milk coming in and trying to do everything to stop it and my hair falling out in clumps. I was prescribed blood pressure medication, four pills a day. I could barely stand in the shower or even walk outside without trying to catch my breath, I was obliviously over prescribed. I never took anxiety medication until after Caden died, I was on Xanax for two months straight to help me sleep before weaning off of it. The me before Caden died would never take medication like that, the me after he died didn’t even question taking it, I needed it to relax my mind. For the first month, I barely got out of bed, I had so much fear of everything. My arms would physically ache because my baby wasn’t in my arms, and I would have stabbing pains in my chest from being heartbroken.
I started searching for answers to what went wrong, why did my baby die. In my discharge paperwork from the 18th, the nurse stated, “patient is worried she has preeclampsia”, I had all the symptoms, but they were dismissed. I should have trusted my intuition and not the so-called medical professionals.
On February 25th, 2016, the day I was told over and over again my baby would be born, I was signing for his autopsy to be performed and at the funeral home picking out his urn. It took a month to get Caden’s ashes, I was told the holdup was the cause of death. Contacting the funeral home almost daily to see if my baby’s ashes were ready to come home… having a conversation about my baby in a body bag with a missing lock of hair I requested… the nurse telling me the photos they took of my stillborn baby didn’t turn out good… days after being asked “when are you due?”, “do you have any kids? “God wanted another angel”, “sorry to hear about your miscarriage”, “I know what you are going through, I had a miscarriage”, etc… all the baby advertisements in the mail, “congratulations on your baby”, …going back to work after mourning for three months with coworkers asking how the baby is doing… hearing newborn babies crying… seeing newborn babies and pregnant women everywhere… removing the car seat from my car… items still coming in the mail that I ordered for my baby… changing the radio station every time I heard Coldplay… searching for answers to what went wrong and what is wrong with my body… being told the doctor cut the wrong muscle in his leg for the genetic testing and the pathologist had to cut another piece of his muscle. No parent should ever have to experience this, it’s absolute torture.
Two weeks later I met with the pathologist that performed the autopsy on Caden and my placenta. Caden was completely normal and healthy for a full-term baby at 7lb and 3 oz. I know the weight of all his organs, including his heart. My placenta was not normal nor healthy. It was too small for him, aged, calcified, chronically inflamed, dead tissue, he pooped in distress, basically my placenta was no longer supporting him. The pathologist said he just gave up.
After Caden’s death, I was blessed to get pregnant again with his little sister Cora Caden, my rainbow after the storm. My high-risk doctor was amazing and told me I was going to bring this baby home. I had a scheduled c-section, before the doctor took off the belt to cut into my stomach, I said please confirm there is still a heartbeat… that was my second birth experience, fear of death. I had severe post-traumatic stress syndrome and postpartum anxiety that caused insomnia for three months, I was afraid of losing another baby.
Two years later we had our pot of gold, Caleb Carter. I was anxious to have another baby boy, but knew this baby was not getting taken away from me. We did have a scare when he was born with a true knot in the umbilical cord. He came out screaming and healthy.
I still have difficult days… looking at my babies and wondering if they look like their big brother… seeing five-year-old’s that would have been his age… just hearing a stranger say “Caden” takes my breath away. It’s very difficult to accept his death when I know he was a healthy baby and would be here if I was induced that night before at labor and delivery. After his death, I learned so much about stillbirths and the warning signs, it infuriates me that three medical professionals dismissed all my symptoms when it was Caden’s way of saying he was in distress… I just didn’t know; I trusted their care as a first-time mother. Maybe I was overlooked because someone had a long day, or someone needed to go on a break, or someone needed to go home, or someone had patients that were more of a priority, or simply because someone was distracted with their own personal issues… I will never know… ” The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
If I can give any advice to future first-time mothers, it would be count the kicks. The doctor must provide information on kick counts, explain how to do them and the importance as soon as a mother feels kicks. Also trust your intuition, even if a healthcare professional tells you everything is okay, demand to stay at the hospital and monitor your baby.
Still to this day, there is a stigma around stillbirth. No one wants to talk about it, because someone might feel uncomfortable… More than 26,000 babies are stillborn in the United States each year 71 per day. Worldwide there are over 4 million stillbirths each year. The stillbirth rate in the United States has not changed in the last 50 years… a very heartbreaking statistic, the silence needs to be broken, knowledge is power.
When a baby is born, it’s the mother’s instinct to protect that baby. When a baby dies, it’s the mother’s instinct to protect their memory. Caden will always be in my heart, until I can hold him again in heaven. His name means “spirit of battle”, his spirit will always be with us… I am coming to terms to forgive, not because anyone deserves forgiveness, but because I deserve peace.