Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When Hello means Goodbye

"A wife who loses her husband is called a widow. A husband who loses his wife is called a widower. A child who loses their parents is called an orphan. But there is no word for a parent who loses a child... That's how awful the loss is." - Neugeboren 1976

"When we actually taste the salty tears that come from child loss, it is then that we become acutely aware of the pain of a broken heart. A broken life. A lost love. A forever ache. A biting sting that hurts even the very soul."

I found out I was pregnant while on vacation in Philadelphia. September 27th 2008. The truth is I "knew" I was pregnant for almost a week before I actually took the tests that day. Yes I said tests...I think I took three before I finally believed they were right. That was probably the happiest, but scariest day of my life - up until that point. I was one of those weird girls growing up who always wanted to just be a mom when I grew up. Don't get me wrong, I had aspirations of my own - everything from being a doctor or a lawyer to becoming a famous actress...but from the time I was about 12 I knew that above all else I wanted to be a mom. I'd be content being a soccer mom...having my life revolve around my children's happiness. So as scary and real the day I found out I was pregnant was - it was also the happiest I'd ever been.

I had always wanted a little girl...someone who's hair I could do and who I could dress up. I had daydreamed about my adorable little girl. But almost instantly after finding out I was pregnant I knew it was a boy. People would ask me, what do I wanted to have...and I'd say "well I wanted a girl, but I know its going to be a boy.....but as long as it's healthy though I'll be happy...it just means when I have a little girl she'll have a big brother to take care of her." I had an ultrasound at 16 weeks 6 days - a little early but I was hopeful they'd be able to tell me the sex. And they did. A little baby boy. During the ultrasound the tech kept going over his body, making measurements...I was a little nervous. When she finished she said we needed to talk to someone about something she'd found. My heart dropped. The lady we spoke with went over something they found, something they said was most likely insignificant but something they needed to share none-the-less. There was a difference in lengths of his legs. It was a very small, almost unnoticeable difference but they had detected it and needed to let us know. I was advised to take a blood test to see if it was something to worry about. I took the test two days later and waited two weeks (over Christmas and my birthday) and the results finally came back. Everything was fine. We had our scare but our baby boy was healthy and there was nothing to worry about anymore. Now my biggest worry became guarding against stretch marks (Palmer's cocoa butter) and the terrible back pain I had due to baby sitting on my nerves...but everything was expected to go well and I was expected to bring home a healthy baby boy. We finally agreed on a name in January - Ryan Austin.

Friday February 13th (at 25 weeks 3 days) I went into my routine doctors appointment, a heartbeat was found and I was quickly rushed out of the office (a typical doctors visit I had become accustomed to). I was, however, instructed to start doing kick counts in the next few weeks. I was impatient in my pregnancy...typical for me, so I started doing them that night. 10 kicks in 10 minutes. He was moving like crazy that night, which was typical most days. Saturday night it was 10 kicks in 20 minutes. Slower but still very good. Sunday night I went to a movie and tried to pay attention to kicks...it was 10 kicks in around 45 minutes. Monday night, for some reason - I dont remember why - I skipped doing the kick count. I was only 26 weeks pregnant and you aren't actually supposed to start until 28 weeks and since I had felt him move earlier that day I didn't do it that night. The next day I was at work all day, I work at a preschool and I'm often very busy all day so I hadnt noticed him move but I figured it was because I was so busy. However I went to class that night and noticed he wasn't moving so I called the doctor and was told to go home, eat some peanut butter toast and lay down on my left side to see if he started moving. 45 minutes later he still wasn't moving and I decided to drive myself down to the L&D section of the hospital. I drove there thinking they were going to tell me I was worrying about nothing and that he was just facing backwards or something. That was not what happened though.

When I arrived they took me into a room and hooked me up to the fetal monitor. At first they couldn't find his heartbeat, but then they did. 120. I figured this would be when they'd tell me to go home. But instead they brought in the ultrasound machine and watched him briefly. They could see his heart beating but he wasn't moving. At all. The doctor ordered a special ultrasound. That tech watched Ryan for about 45 minutes, during which time the baby did not move once. After the ultrasound a special doctor came in and talked with us and the other doctor about what our options were. We could do an immediate c-section, or we could hold out 48 hours since he did have a heartbeat and let the steroid shot they gave me have a chance to help Ryan have a better chance at breathing. Both doctors advised waiting the 48 hours and it seemed like the right choice. However only an hour or so after that Ryan's heartbeat started drastically falling and I was rushed in for an emergency c-section. The doctor pulled Ryan out and then the nurses rushed him out to take him to try to recessitate him, Joe was told to go with the baby. Minutes later Joe returned, crying. He told me our baby had been born still. They could not recessitate him. He was gone.

We spent the next three and a half days in the hospital, holding our baby boy. Joe cried often, I didn't cry once. The day I was discharged we had to walk out of the hospital and leave our baby boy. I felt like I had just abandoned my child. I got home and it took all the restraint in me not to get in the car and drive back to the hospital.

We had an autopsy done. It was inconclusive. Actually, it came back "normal". Because a baby dying is normal, right? One of my doctors thinks a virus I may have had could have caused this. Another doctor thinks it could have been something neurological, like a fetal stroke. Both of these things are unlikely to ever occur again.

It's been 2 months, 1 week and 3 days since Ryan was taken from me. Everything in the world seems backward. Sunny skies are grey to me. Conversations hold no interest. People around me have gone on...it is as if Ryan was never there. To everyone but me. I think of nothing but him.

"As the months pass after the loss of a child, life for others has gone back to a normal routine. Rushing to and fro. Busy at work. Making vacation plans. Going to the movies. Planning for the holidays. For a parent who is suffereing from child loss, the entire world takes on a new look. Thins that once seemed so urgent, so important, no longer seem to have much significance at all. Child loss changes our priorities feal fast. What once seemed to have a life urgency no longer even seems worth mentioning. It just does not seem to be that terribly important if our bathroom towels are frayed and do not match. Who really cares? What we miss are the giggles of the child that should have played in a bubble bath in the tub. It just does not seem life threatening if the kitchen floor is moped once a week. What is important is that we miss the little feet that should be tracking mud along the floor. And nobody seems to understand, much less care. We are left wondering if anyone even remembers our child."