Dear Baby Number Four,
You were another surprise, just like the child that preceded you. We were even more shocked this time, but instead of fretting over your existence, like we did last time, we immediately embraced it, deciding your life was meant to be if it was coming to us again despite our best efforts to prevent it.
Every ultrasound I went to brought anxiety and fears. After coming off a miscarriage, I was so aware of how fragile and uncertain your existence was. Once we hit the 12 week ultrasound and everything was great – you were so active! – I breathed a sigh of relief and we started sharing the news and planning for your arrival. It was so fun telling the kids about you, to see their surprise and excitement. We had genetic tests run via my blood, and learned that everything looked good and that you were a girl. Another sweet baby girl, just what I wanted. That way Addy would be excited to have another girl in the family and Crosby, our soon-to-be middle child, would stand out from the trio as the only boy. And you, my youngest, were destined to be the baby of the family forever.
We started planning your room, listing the projects to complete before your arrival. I instantly began nesting, my every to-do somehow related to your arrival, thinking about your care while I carried you or easing the transition for your siblings. We were so very excited for your arrival, as was everyone who knew about you. My months with you were not the easiest, as I had horrible nausea, insomnia and a very mildly overactive thyroid (I was being monitored by an endocrinologist who determined the hyperthyroidism was so minor there was no need for treatment).
I felt you move for the one and only time on the afternoon of Sunday, February 28th. I took Addy to the local high school production of Beauty and the Beast and was so happy to finally feel the tiny, delicate bumps of you moving around. It was very early – just near the 15-week mark and I was surprised to be feeling so much movement so early, not just flutters but actual kicks. I eagerly awaited more movement, but it never came again in such an obvious way. But it was still so early, and so I patiently waited, anticipating the day when I could place Addy and Crosby’s hands on my big growing belly and let them feel their baby sister kicking them.
Your brother and sister loved inspecting the growth of my belly and loved yelling into my belly button in hopes that you would hear them. Crosby named you Butterfly. Addy frequently changed her mind, for awhile suggesting Ramona or Beezus after her favorite book and most recently thinking Jessica would be a good fit. She was very focused on finding you a name. We were completely undecided and had not a single name on our list yet.
On Friday, March 11th, after dropping your siblings off at school, I headed for my 17-week check up. I was filled with anxiety and hope that they would find a heartbeat. A few days before, a very small whisper started floating through my mind, planting the idea that maybe something had happened to you. Why were you moving around so much that one day and why hadn’t I felt that movement again? Why were my maternity pants still not quite fitting? Why had I resisted taking belly pictures and telling the last few people about your existence?
The doctor scanned my belly looking for a heartbeat. I held onto hope as hard as I could and prayed to hear that familiar muffled beating. But after a moment of her not finding one, I knew. I knew you were gone. And I knew that quiet voice in my head had been right. The doctor told me not to worry, that babies this small are hard to find. I prayed for your life all the way to the ultrasound room, as I pulled my shirt up and they started to scan. In a split second I knew. It was devastating to see your lifeless body on the screen. The ultrasound proved you died around 15 weeks. The last time I had laid in that spot, you were bumping and moving around like a wonderfully healthy baby, and your dad and I held hands, thinking, “Wow, this is actually going to happen. We are going to have another baby.” Here’s a picture of you at 12-weeks old.
The doctor explained to me that due to the baby’s size, I had to deliver the baby rather than get a D&C like I did for the last miscarriage. She assured me over and over that I did not cause the miscarriage. There was no way to know what happened and about 100 different things could’ve caused it, none of which I could control. I called Joey, who had assured me that morning that everything would be fine, and I could feel his shock through the phone. It was happening again. We had another dead baby. I would be admitted to St. Josephs Hospital in Milwaukee at 4:00 that day to begin inducing labor.
We told the kids before we left, explaining that sometimes babies don’t always grow how they’re supposed to in the mommy’s belly and sometimes they die. And that’s what happened to our baby. There isn’t any way to know why it happened, it just happens, and I needed to go to the hospital so the doctors could help me get the baby out. I told them that I was sad, and that it’s okay to be sad, but everything would be fine, including me, and that we loved them so very much. There would be no baby sister, but we are so lucky to have this wonderful family of ours. The kiddos left with my parents for their house and we headed for the hospital.
On the drive there, I fought against the image of what this trip was supposed to be like – my parents happily getting the kids as we quickly drove off to bring a baby into the world. This drive had always been filled with excitement before, and now it was thick with loss.
I stepped into the hospital, down the hall from where I had delivered two healthy babies, and began crying. The staff was beyond amazing, just like they always have been. These women had been through this same scenario so many times before, with so many other women, some in even more devastating circumstances. They knew just what to say and what to do.
They explained my labor would be induced, much like it was with Addy, with two tablets being inserted into my cervix every 3 hours until labor began. With Addy, labor began within 2 hours. It would not be so easy this time.
After 2 doses of the medication, and finding it wasn’t dissolving well, the doctor had me take the medication orally, the next best method, letting each tablet dissolve in my cheeks. I tried sleeping that night, but between people coming into the room every 3 hours and the events of the day, it didn’t happen. I looked over at Joey, stretched out on the same crappy pull-out couch he’s had to use for every delivery, and remembered the last two times we had done this. It was so similar, but so very different.
At 7:00 on Saturday morning, after 4-5 doses of the chalky tablets sitting in my mouth, I began contracting. The nurses and doctors had explained that it would be a long waiting game and then all of a sudden, my body would kick into gear and things would move very quickly. And that’s exactly what happened. Because I was contracting and dilating, I was in a lot of pain. But since I was just delivering a tiny baby, there was no epidural. I had an IV for pain medication, I don’t even know what it was. It took the edge off, but this was hands-down the most pain I’d been in for any of my labors. Ironic that the tiniest baby was the hardest to get out.
I pushed briefly, a tiny bag of waters coming out. But mentally it was so hard to be going through the real delivery process. The nurse and doctor explained that sometimes just standing up or sitting down over a toilet could quickly make the baby come out. I stood, they put a special pan in the toilet, and before I could even sit down she fell right out of my body into the pan. They cut the no-bigger-than-a-string-of-yarn umbilical cord right in the bathroom. I fought the urge to look at you. The nurses and doctors had explained that we could see you if we wanted to, but because you had been in my body, dead, for about 2 weeks, your tissue would be very soft. We asked them to look at you first and if you looked good, like an image that would bring comfort, we would see you. I headed back to bed to try to deliver the placenta while they cleaned you up.
The nurse brought you in in a small little bassinet-type basket, filled with bunting and blankets and little pillows. Your tiny head was covered in a hat, your body hidden beneath a small pink blanket. And as I looked at you, I saw your sister’s cute little nose and mouth, your brother’s big eyes and my check bones. I saw the girl you could’ve been. The girl you were trying to be. I saw the girl who would’ve been the perfect addition to our family. You were 6 1/2 inches long and weighted 3 oz. Born at 8:52 on Saturday March 12th. The chaplain come in and we said a prayer, but I barely heard her words because a huge amount of physical pain was rolling in.
My body was fighting something – maybe the placenta? – but couldn’t get it out. The pain medication seemed to do nothing. It was, without-a-doubt, the most pain I have ever felt. The doctor checked to see what was going on. It was not the placenta, but a huge amount of blood and blood cots. She began pulling the clots out and Joey said there was a tremendous amount of blood. She finished, the pain was gone, but they still couldn’t get the placenta out because it was so small and fragile. Because of the amount of blood loss, they decided to move me to the operating room and begin a D&C to remove the placenta. At this point, I couldn’t stand without blacking out. Joey said goodbye to me and they wheeled me through the halls of the hospital. The anesthesiologist looked just like Christoph Walz, the actor, and talked to me in a voice so soothing it made me cringe. And then I woke up, with Christoph Waltz sitting next to me, soothingly asking me what we last talked about – “where we went to high school,” I said.
It was done. My labor and delivery of my third child was over around 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. I was wheeled back to our room, my throat killing me from being intubated, but relieved it was all done. The delivery story of my third baby was written. Now came the struggle to move on.
I was pale and dizzy. I hadn’t eaten in almost 24 hours and scarfed down my second turkey sandwich since arriving at the hospital. After 17 weeks of no lunch meat, it was the only thing that sounded good. We had to make burial plans for you. A traditional funeral service seemed too much to bear and too much to put anyone else through. We opted to have you buried in a cemetery near our house, in a large space the hospital maintains. You won’t have your own marker, but I’ll be able to visit you if I feel I need to.
Once my blood levels approached a safe zone, we were discharged.
The nurse wheeled me toward the exit, just like they always had done in the past. Except this time instead of having a new, precious baby in my arms, I carried a pink box filled with tiny, miniature mementos that you had never touched or needed. Little pink blankets, an itty bitty hat and booties. And all I could think was how cruel this was. How horrible for a woman to have to endure this. How could God do this to anyone? Why would God give me a baby – again – just to take it away, again? I couldn’t stop seeing your little face or desperately wishing I could go back in time to change the outcome. My heart broke apart more than I ever knew it could.
This has been a devastating loss. I can’t even put into words how sad I feel, how much I wish things could be different. How hard it is to go from having a growing pregnant belly that everyone asked about to an empty one that is mourned. No more baby left to care for while she grows. No more baby to plan and prepare for. Back to trying to remember what life was like before she ever entered it.
I keep reminding myself that this could have been worse. Some women lose their babies at 28 weeks, have stillbirths, have 5 miscarriages and still don’t have a child. I have two healthy children. As far as tragedies go, this could have been so much worse. I look at my life and know and feel that I am blessed. So so lucky to have what I have. And all to familiar with how quickly it can change.
We ordered an autopsy on the baby and had extra blood work done to try to figure out what happened, why this keeps happening. The doctors and nurses prepared me for disappointment, explaining there rarely is an answer. My thyroid has been checked again to see if maybe my levels changed during the pregnancy, which could cause a miscarriage, and while they did get worse, they were still within normal levels. Chances are, I will not ever know, and that’s hard to accept. But I know there are so many women who have been through this. So many women who have lost babies, even further along than I, and just like me, go on with their lives.
I know I will be okay. I do not mourn the loss of a baby or wish for another baby to take this one’s place. I didn’t go into this needing another baby. I mourn the loss of this little girl, this specific child, who was almost mine. She was so well cared for while she was with me and she would’ve been so deeply loved.
Our friends and family have been incredible, sending flowers, food and love and support. It makes this loss so much more real than the last one. Everyone is behaving like an actual person died. And I guess when life gets this far along, when everyone sees and celebrates its expected arrival, the potential of that life becomes so real, gives it weight and makes it something that should be mourned and honored.
Addy and Crosby talk about the baby. Addy asks how she got out of my body, how she died, will there be another baby? I tell her no, our family is complete just as it is. Our family will be Mommy, Daddy, Addy and Crosby. And she seems relieved. I feel like now I finally see how she really felt about a baby coming. That although she never said it, she may have been nervous about how it would change our family and her life. A few of Addy’s friends at school have asked her what happened to the baby. I feel bad that she has to field questions like this, but am so impressed by her ability to answer – she died and we don’t know why. Crosby is still trying to understand that there is not a baby coming. He talked about it so much, reminding me daily that the baby will put everything in her mouth so we’ll have to be careful. He has asked why this baby in my belly did not grow right, but he did. And that amazing question is one I will never be able to answer. I simply said sometimes that’s just what happens, and I am so so happy he got to be my little boy.
This little girl, our little Butterfly/Jessica/Ramona/Beezus, will always be with me. She will always be loved. She will always be my third child (not my fourth. I’m convinced my last miscarriage was this same little girl). I know my mourning will last a long time, that I will move on with my life and my family, but sadness for her loss may spring up at any moment, no matter how much time has passed. I will love this child I never knew forever.
I had a dream two days before learning of the miscarriage. I always have these amazing, vibrant, trippy dreams while pregnant – one of my favorite parts of the experience. The dream ended with Joey and I in a huge, deep lake or ocean, an image that usually brings fear in my dreams, but this time there was peace. We were swimming, working together to pull a boat behind us, and in the boat sat Addy and Crosby. I can’t help but think the universe was telling me something. Showing me what my life was to be. I find comfort in that image, trust it and see the truth in it. See our future in it. This little girl does not get to go on a journey with us, but is part of us now. And while we’ll let her go, she’ll always be part of this family’s story.