My husband (Tony) and I knew we wanted to start a family together in 2015. We were very excited to see a positive pregnancy test in April 2016. I tested right at 4 weeks as I was diligently keeping track of my cycle. Unfortunately, just a couple weeks later on a Saturday I experienced heavy bleeding. I made an appointment with an OB that Monday. After blood tests were completed it was confirmed that I was pregnant and sadly my numbers were plummeting...a miscarriage, what some might call a "chemical pregnancy" as it was so early. We were heartbroken, from the moment we saw "pregnant" on that test we began contemplating our future family. Summer and fall passed with no results. As we headed into winter and holiday season I was feeling pretty defeated. I continued to track my cycle diligently and when I found myself a couple days late in early December I rushed out for tests. Another positive!
I was a mix of emotions for obvious reasons. This time felt different though, for whatever reason. We were hoping for an OB appointment before Christmas so we could share ultrasound pictures with family. Even though that didn’t happen, we still decided to announce to our parents and siblings that we were expecting, we didn’t want to wait.
The pregnancy was pretty great. Very little morning sickness which completely went away after 12 weeks. 20 weeks scan went perfectly. I was diagnosed with gestational hypertension around 32 weeks and had weekly alternating NSTs & ultrasounds. I celebrated my 2nd baby shower with my side of the family on July 17th, it was wonderful! That night, as I relaxed on the couch with Tony, my water broke at 9:30PM. I was 36 weeks, almost 37. Our hospital bag was already packed so we made our way to Waconia (Minnesota) to the ER. We encountered an accident on the way to the hospital (a milk truck took a turn too fast and tipped over) and were told we had to find an alternate route. Tony explained that my water broke and the kind gentleman made sure we got through so we could be on our way! Needless to say, Cullen Alexander was born at 4:00AM on July 18, 2016. He was ready for the world!!
In 2019, Tony and I began discussing trying for another baby. To our complete surprise, we conceived immediately in June. We were shocked yet so, so excited. We, again, told our parents and siblings right after our 8 week ultrasound. This go round was tougher for me. I had pretty intense morning sickness that only responded to a combination of B6 vitamin & Unisom as prescribed by my midwife. For reasons I couldn’t figure out, my anxiety was very high this time around. I found myself extremely nervous at each appointment expecting to hear bad news. Each time I heard our baby’s heartbeat was music to my ears. Cullen came to almost all of my prenatal appointments and enjoyed hearing baby’s heartbeat as well. Our 20 week ultrasound went great. We had family pictures taken and utilized those to announce Baby W #2 due March 16th! We were getting excited for the holidays coming up. All 3 of us attended my 28 week appointment 2 days before Christmas. I expressed some concern regarding muffled movements which we determined at the time was due to the anterior placenta. We heard baby’s heartbeat, it was beautiful and strong. A part of me really wanted to ask for an ultrasound even if it’s not protocol. I will be forever haunted by talking myself out of asking because I now live with the possibility that things could have been so different had I asked.
Everything checked out at the 28 week appointment for myself and baby. We carried on with our Christmas plans and were in a really good spot. We decided to fit in some family fun knowing it wouldn’t be much longer until we were a family of 4 and things would get a bit crazy. I am so grateful we had that time and shared in that happiness.
I began to have some slight concern regarding movement and chalked it up to my highly anxious feelings I’d had all along. I reminded myself of the positive appointment we had just had a week prior and knew I had another appointment coming up in a few days (2 week appointments had started). The evening of Monday, January 6th I had some uncomfortable lower pains which I thought were gas pains. They subsided and I went to bed. Tuesday January 7th I woke up feeling sick and didn’t really think much of it due to my challenges with morning sickness. I continued on with my day and went to work. I began having the lower abdominal pains again, knowing I was 30 weeks I assumed they were Braxton Hicks.
As the intensity increased throughout the morning I began reaching out to my OB clinic through the nurse hotline. After my 3rd call, the receptionist got the on-call nurse for me. I was instructed to head to the hospital to L&D to be checked. I called my husband and he was on his way to get me from work. It started to become clear to me, as things intensified, that this wasn’t Braxton Hicks and that this was labor. My supervisor called 911 and an ambulance was on its way. My husband arrived at the same time as the first responders. I was told by the first responders that a small section of my placenta had been expressed. After that I had no more pains/contractions so after a few minutes they decided to take me to the hospital. My BP was extremely high, the paramedic took it 4 different times in 3 different ways as he was having trouble believing it was right.
I was immediately brought into the ER and the on-call OB completed an ultrasound in which he believed he had found the baby’s heartbeat, it was a little low but he was hopeful. I was then rushed to the OR as they began to assess whether a vaginal birth was possible/safe or if a c-section was necessary. The decision was made for them when a nurse shouted, “I see a foot!” Baby was breach and my body was calling the shots. The doctor quickly assisted in extracting our baby due to baby’s position. Official birth time was 3:31PM. He immediately called for NICU and took our baby out of the OR. The nurse standing with me, holding my hand throughout all of this, asked for gender as we had decided we did not want to find out. It was at that moment I found out we had another little boy.
The doctor returned shortly after and told me our baby was unresponsive and that the NICU team was working diligently to resuscitate him. He asked me a bunch of questions about my pregnancy, baby and any issues/complications I might have experienced. I told him whatever I could just praying/waiting to hear baby screams coming from the other room. The doctor left to check on our baby/any progress from the NICU team. He returned to inform me that all efforts had been unsuccessful and that our baby was pronounced dead. He stated that due to some skin abnormalities he believed our baby had passed away at least 2 days, possibly more, prior. He said the heartbeat he picked up on the ultrasound was most likely mine. He informed us Oliver was presenting smaller than 30 weeks which aided in his thought process regarding when he died. I was in shock, this can’t be right. Just 2 weeks prior we heard such a strong, healthy heartbeat. They brought our baby to me right as Tony was being brought into the room. I sobbed. I told Tony I was so sorry and just sobbed. We would spend the next almost 24 hours with our son, Oliver Allen.
Cullen came to the hospital and was able to meet his little brother. We did our best to explain what had happened at that Oliver would not be coming home with us. We all snuggled and took pictures. We had our Pastor come and complete a baptism for Oliver, it was intimate, beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking. The nurse took Cullen to the play area so Tony and I could spend our final moments with Oliver. We took in every inch of him from his bright white curly hair (just like his big brother) all the way down to his sweet little toes. We snuggled him, kissed him, I said sorry to him repeatedly and told him this was “see you later”, not goodbye. Almost 24 hours after his birth, I had to hand Oliver over to the funeral director. It was the worst experience of my life. As he walked out the door all I wanted to do was scream for him to come back. I collapsed into Tony’s arms and sobbed.
I spent the next 2 days in the hospital as my BP was still extremely high. I began lactating while in the hospital which shoved the dagger further into my heart. Once released on Friday January 10th, Tony and I made our way to the funeral home to sign the papers for Oliver’s cremation. We wanted Oliver at home with us and since we couldn’t have him alive, we wanted him with us the only way we could. We picked out a little urn for him with a teddy bear etched into it and added Oliver’s name, birth date and the words, “Always with Us” on it. It was a silent 30 minute car ride home. I made the decision to pump milk in order to donate it. I was hoping to donate it to a NICU as we had utilized donor milk for Cullen but was unable to due to being on BP medication. I ended up donating a total of almost 500 oz to 2 different Mommies and their littles, one also named Oliver. It was so hard to give that milk away although I knew it was my way of parenting Oliver and adding to his legacy. We were also able to donate almost $2700 in Oliver’s name to Star Legacy Foundation thanks to the generosity of family & friends.
We have spent 8.5 months without Oliver now. It’s been so hard and the guilt I carry is debilitating some days. I am grateful that I have supportive family and friends and that I have found some amazing women on social media who have also experienced this earth-shattering tragedy. I had a MFM appointment in March where we received confirmation of IUGR for not only Oliver but also Cullen. IUGR was not something I even knew about until I connected with other loss moms, I was angry that this wasn’t a conversation that was had after Cullen was born. I questioned whether this could have altered things for Oliver had it been discussed/reported with Cullen, a question I’ll never have answered. I have since had my thyroid tested per request by the MFM doctor which uncovered a completely dysfunctional thyroid, which has led to more guilt for me knowing that Oliver paid the ultimate price for my dysfunctional body. It all leaves way too many “what ifs” which complicates my grieving process. Oliver will forever be with us in our hearts and I will never stop sharing his story because the love and happiness he brought to our lives for the 7 months he was with us can never be taken away. You are forever my always sweet boy. We love you.”