MY TFMR AND STILLBIRTH STORY
Everything was going really well. I finally met a guy I thought I could spend my life with and he wanted to have kids. We didn't want to waste any time because we were both older. We purposely weren't using any protection. I got pregnant on our honeymoon.
It was time to do the sonogram. Somebody told us that if you bring a cassette tape, they can actually record the sonogram onto it so that you can take it home and watch it. We brought a video cassette tape and were so happy. I'd still been very active, I was still working, really feeling sassy, feeling like I had it all together.
A doctor came in, turned the machine on, we saw the baby, and we saw the heartbeat. My husband and I were really excited. He handed the tape to the doctor and said, Is it possible we could film this?
All of a sudden the doctor just closed right up and he didn't look at either one of us. He didn't take the tape from my husband, and I knew immediately something was really wrong. There was this long silence that was just awful.
We didn't know what to do because he wasn't saying anything. He captured one image of the baby, turned off the machine, and said, I need to tell you that your baby's brain is squished to the back of the neck.
He pointed to the picture of the baby’s brain, and he started talking about how normally you would see two hemispheres – right and left – but we couldn’t see that in this picture.
Then in my own mind, I went into a dark black tunnel.
We asked, What does this mean? He said, Chances are slim that the baby will make it to be born, and if the baby does make it, will be severely retarded and probably won't live through the first year of life.
Everything just stopped.
Then he had to get all this information to us and said that based on how far along I was, we only had two days to do something about this. Otherwise, it was illegal to abort.
It was awful. What started out to be this fun escapade to see the sonogram and record it on a video, became really sad.
Two days shy of five months – that's a long time to go along with hopes and dreams.
You think you're going to be having a baby. You've told everyone, and everyone's excited for you. And now you have to tell everyone that you're not.
I left Kaiser, had the baby in me and the baby was alive, but I'd been told by the doctor the baby probably won’t make it all the way.
Option one is to continue to stay pregnant for another four months, knowing that the baby might die at any time.
Option two was having a baby that is so severely retarded it could never be functional on their own, ever – and you don't know if it'll survive the first year.
Option three is to kill the baby.
There was nothing we could do, but we had to do something. We had to make a decision.
The best way I can describe it is like a blue sky and then a dark black storm. Everything changed from blue sky with the big sun and happy, I'm having a baby! to THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER.
I just couldn't do it. I couldn't go four more months of pregnancy with this situation, and my husband agreed. Thank God we both felt the same that way about it.
I went into the shower and I just sobbed my eyes out.
I stayed in the shower for the longest time so I could just cry and cry and cry and cry, and then I got out of the shower and I told my husband, Just make the arrangements for us to go back tomorrow. We’ve got to get it over with as soon as possible.
I got in bed and we just held each other.
The very next day, we got up in the morning and went back to Kaiser where they would induce labor and I would go through childbirth.
I'm giving birth, but what happens to the baby? Is it going to hurt the baby? What happens if the baby's born alive? Is that possible? Do we just let it suffer and die outside the womb?
It was just terrible. Because you're very maternal – you have all these hormones in you, and you already love your baby.
They said they would stick a shot that would go up through my womb and through my vaginal canal, and they would inject the baby to put it to sleep.
I thought, So now I have to be a murderer. I don't get to have a baby. We're murderers. We're murdering a living being.All this horrible heavy stuff.
This nightmare-- can this get any worse?
Moments after I’d given the green light to pump me up with pain medication, a team entered the room, gave us all these pamphlets, and a counselor strongly encouraged us to hold the baby:
We’ve been through this with many people, and what happens if you don't hold the baby – people have a problem grieving or finishing grieving. The feedback we've gotten over and over through the years is that they wish they had held the baby. And for those people who do hold the baby, there's closure.
The pain medication had kicked in and at this moment I was really drowsy and high, basically. The last thing I wanted to do is think about holding the baby.
The labor was three hours or so, but I was all drugged up, so I can't really say that it hurt. Then she was born – it was a girl. This was the hardest part of all. She looked perfect.
We had been told her head was hydrocephalus – it's when a vein either doesn't open properly in the brain, or it closes prematurely, and the whole head is filled up with water. There's so much pressure that it pushes the brain and squishes it to the bottom of the brainstem.
Since her head was hydrocephalus, I thought she would look retarded. I thought she would definitely look different, but she did not.
You don't normally get to see a baby outside the womb at five months. They’re basically not meant for this world yet, not fully cooked. But beautiful. Effervescent. She was fully formed, kind of perfect. All the fingers, all the toes. She didn't have any kind of pain on her face, so that was helpful, at least. Eyes were closed, like a peaceful angel.
I thought, Oh my God, what if they were wrong?
We held her and she was beautiful. We named her Mia.
Kaiser offered a support group where I could go and be with other people like me in a circle. I said, No way in hell. I do not want to do that.
All I wanted to do was talk to my mom, but she was on vacation and not reachable. My grandmother was the one who answered the phone. I told her what happened. I'll never forget how my grandma responded:
Here's what you're going to do. You're going to find some change around the house. You're going to walk to the street corner. And you're going to buy yourself a hot dog.
She was so sweet, and she was just trying to tell me to go do something nice for myself,
but what she described was like an option 70 years ago! I just said, Oh Nana, okay, thank you so much.
I laughed so hard with my husband. I totally needed that laugh.
Then I went into a very deep depression.
My hormones were all whacked out, my milk was coming in, there was no baby to love, nothing to hold. Every fiber of my body wanted to nurture something.
When you don't breastfeed, eventually your boobs are so extremely sore for four or five days. Then the milk starts to dry up. Then that notifies the body, and the whole hormone cocktail starts changing.
I already had a really depressing thing just happen to me, and now I had that hormonal mix of postpartum depression – so it was dark for a while. It was just really dark.
They said, Don't get pregnant right away because of this very reason. You must give yourself time to come down off of all of that.
But I had all these hormones, and all I wanted to do was just hug my husband. We got pregnant a month later.
And I miscarried.
I think I was two months pregnant. It was almost like I just I skipped a month of my period.
I have no recollection of that miscarriage. I kept trying to remember it and I kept thinking, Did something come out in the toilet? How did I know I miscarried? Maybe I just blocked it out.
Compared to what I had been through: birthing a baby, having to hold a baby, feeling like I murdered a baby, and all the depression from the hormones – that miscarriage was nothing.
This was the first year of our marriage together. We were pregnant on our honeymoon, so we went right into the baby thing, having a baby, and then this horrible experience of having to give birth to this baby, and depressingly kill the baby.
I use that word because I think it's important for me. I wasn't able to say that for a long time – that I killed the baby. But I did.
I think why it's important for me to say it now is because that IS what we did, and that has weighed on me ever since. I always have that black mark on my soul that we did that. It’s easier for me to talk about it now that it's been 26 years.
Anytime I see somebody that has a down syndrome or special needs child, I always think to myself, They were stronger than me. I couldn't do it. I wish I was the person who could’ve said, Yes, we're going to keep the baby. Or We'll deal with whatever comes our way. I have the most admiration for people like that.
I wish I had known somebody else who had gone through my experience because it was really different than a miscarriage.
I wish there had been somebody else I knew who had to make the same decision that I made, Maybe I do know somebody, but it's not the kind of thing you would ever talk about. I don't talk about this to anybody – only in my own mind.
I don't regret our decision, but it was really, really terrible to have to make it.
I thought, Oh my God, am I never going to have a child? Because I really always wanted a child. I always wanted to be a mom, even at a young age. Now I'm never going to be a mom. Why isn't this working out for me?
But it did. I went on and had my dream. I had two more daughters. And I’m now a grandmother. I have had a full life, yet there's no dressing up what happened. It was terrible, and I still do carry guilt.
When I look back on what Mia's purpose was in my life, I think, I took a lot of things for granted before that happened.
There's women who struggle just to get pregnant, and there's people who want to have children but they can't seem to meet the right person. There's so many different scenarios, and I had everything – and just took it all for granted.
These days I don't see God as a punishing God, but back then that's how I saw it. I just thought, Oh we really didn't have enough of a grateful mindset or humility. We definitely did once my next baby came because of everything we had been through. It's a horrible situation, but it makes you appreciate so much more the baby that you do get.