MY STILLBIRTH STORY
On an early Saturday morning in October 2020, I took a pregnancy test and forgot about it for a few hours.
When I went back into the bathroom, I saw it was positive and yelled for my husband. I could not believe it. I had been using ovulation predictor kits and going to acupuncture to regulate my cycles. Having been told I likely had polycystic ovary syndrome a few years prior, I expected our path to pregnancy to take much longer than the few months we tried. We were excited, cautiously optimistic, and under four weeks pregnant.
I messaged both the OB-GYN I had seen earlier that year and a birth center run by midwives. Growing up, my mom was a childbirth educator and doula. As a kid, my sisters and I would sometimes play with her educational model pelvis, complete with an amniotic sac, placenta and baby.
Based on what I learned about the birthing process in nursing school and my mom's background in birth education, I knew I wanted to try for a low intervention birth. My husband and I took a virtual tour of the birth center and decided it was a good fit.
At our first ultrasound, we were relieved to see the heartbeat flickering on the screen. Our baby was measuring right on track for gestational age and had a strong heartbeat. At eleven weeks, we found out we were having a boy. We chose his name, Beau, and announced our pregnancy to our family and friends.
Due to the birth center's policy, we saw a maternal-fetal medicine specialist for the anatomy scan. We learned I had an anterior placenta, which I suspected based on movement, and found out Beau measured in the 91st percentile. His size made me nervous for my gestational diabetes test, but I passed on the one-hour test without any problems. My fundal height always measured right on track for gestational age.
Around 32 weeks, and ultrasound confirmed Beau was head down. Everything was going just as we wished to have our birth at the center. The only hiccup was testing positive for GBS, but I opted to treat it with antibiotics during labor.
At 40 weeks, I opted for a membrane sweep to see if that would help start labor.
It did not, and on July 13, I was 41 weeks pregnant. That day we had an appointment with the midwives for an ultrasound to assess fluid levels and a nonstress test. My fluid levels were good, and we saw Beau swallow on the ultrasound.
I was eager to get labor started and asked for another membrane sweep. I was 3 cm dilated. The sweep brought me to 5 cm, but my water broke at 11:35 am at the end of the sweep.
We were elated to be meeting Beau soon! After my water broke, I started on an IV antibiotic and the nonstress test. Beau was doing well. I was having contractions, but I could not feel them. The midwife suggested that I get an acupuncture appointment scheduled to help get my contractions going. We went straight from the birth center to acupuncture.
Contractions started to pick up. By the end of the appointment at 4pm, they were coming every 5-10 minutes. During the 40 minute ride to our house, I started getting uncomfortable, so we called my mom to meet us there for labor.
By 9 pm, my contractions were 1 minute long, every 3 minutes for two hours -- so we left for the birth center.
My temperature stayed normal, and my amniotic fluid had been clear all afternoon. After the twenty-minute car ride, we arrived at the birth center. We were shocked to find that I was 9.5 cm dilated. I labored with the help of my husband, my mom as my doula, a nurse, and two midwives.
They checked Beau's heart rate intermittently, multiple times throughout the rest of labor. During one check, the midwives told us Beau's heart rate dropped, they had me switch positions, and it rebounded back to normal right after. No one thought anything of it.
As midnight was approaching, I remember hearing my mom, husband, and the midwives talk about Beau waiting to be born on the 14th. We thought 7/14/21 was a lucky birthday -- all multiples of 7.
I finally pushed Beau out a half-hour after midnight on July 14. My husband caught Beau, but the midwife quickly took him out of his hands.
At the time, I had no idea the midwife removed a double-wrapped cord from Beau's neck when his head showed, or that the cord wrapped around his body.
I remember them directing me to push for the first time that night, right after I pushed his head out.
The first time I saw Beau, he looked lifeless, laying in front of me, surrounded by meconium.
The endorphins from labor immediately wore off while shock took over. I started crying, screaming the word NO repeatedly. They suctioned Beau, clear fluid came out.
The midwives lifted him onto a tiny clear board. They started compressions and called 911.
I was shaking, crying, screaming, in shock, sitting on the same bed my son was getting CPR on.
A few minutes later, the ambulance team came in and took Beau to the common area of the birth center. The attention was back to me to deliver the placenta.
The midwives gave me a shot of Pitocin, and somehow, between my own screams of knowing my son was not going to survive, I got the strength to push the placenta out.
At some point, an ambulance took Beau to the hospital that was one mile away. My husband was with Beau the entire time. A second ambulance arrived for me, and I ended up in the ER in the bay next to Beau.
It felt like hours later when the neonatologist came in the tell me Beau had a heartbeat. But it had been so long that he would not have any quality of life. We decided to stop treatment, and they called Beau's time of death.
We spent the next ten and a half hours holding and loving Beau. We admired how perfect he was -- with his dad's nose, dark eyebrows, and detached earlobes. He had my lips, big feet, and dark, wavy hair with the same cowlick as mine.
We decided to donate Beau's heart valves in the hopes we could spare another family the grief we were now consumed by.
Unfortunately, this meant we had to give him up at 1:30 pm. It was the hardest goodbye we have had to make. I watched my husband place my son's body into a little white box. The nurse covered Beaut in a purple blanket, closed the lid, and she took him away.
We left the hospital that evening with a weighted teddy bear and a box of mementos from my son. We had no idea what life would now look like as new parents without their baby. But on that smoky, rainless afternoon, a rainbow shooting straight up into the sky appeared. We knew that was our boy showing us he was still there with us -- even if the car seat was empty.
Now we are always looking for our rainBeau.