Those words…. “I am so sorry, there is no heartbeat,” will forever be etched into my soul.

Navigating Our Health: Pregnancy Loss & Benjamin's Story

Published Date: 2019-05-09

This is a blog topic I have wanted to write about for some time, but every time I would try, I just couldn’t come up with the right words.

Then I realized:  It isn’t about the “right words,” but more about message and awareness of this issue. It is something we don’t talk about, yet it is something that many women are dealing with.   

This topic is very near to my heart and I want to share my personal experience with the hope it may help another momma out there who has suffered a pregnancy loss or a family or friend of someone who has. 

 

Benjamin’s Story

April 26, 2018:  I was 19 weeks pregnant. We had announced our pregnancy on Facebook about a month before. We had shared the exciting news with our two kiddos Audrey, who was 7, and Brody, who was 4, that they were going to have a new little brother in September.

My husband and I were nervous and scared about having a third child, but were already planning vacations and family pictures in our heads of our family of 5.  That morning I had a routine OB appointment. My husband decided to go with me (THANK-GOD in hindsight) since it was really early and he could head into work afterwards.

For some reason that morning, I just felt uneasy – more anxious than normal. I had not had any “out of the ordinary” symptoms except a few palpitations at night that I contributed to my anxiety. When we got into the exam room, we told the doctor about my anxiety and palpitations. She decided we would check with an EKG, just to be safe, after we listened to the baby’s heartbeat.

I laid down on the table and pulled my shirt up to expose my growing baby bump. She was having a difficult time finding the heartbeat, which was strange because this had never happened before, even very early in my pregnancy.

As a healthcare provider, I knew this was not good. At 19 weeks, we should easily hear the heartbeat.  At this point I can feel myself in a silent panic…. Something is wrong!  She searched for a little while longer and then took me over to the Ultrasound room.  I remember laying down thinking…. “My baby is dead.” 

My husband was by my side, but likely naïve to what was actually happening. They started the ultrasound and as soon as I saw the image, I knew it was true. There was my perfect baby boy laying still in my stomach without a heartbeat. 

Those words…. “I am so sorry, there is no heartbeat,” will forever be etched into my soul.

It was if I had been hit by a train. I was in total shock. Why? How? When? All of these thoughts ran through my mind.

The doctor came in to confirm the findings and they took some measurements of his tiny body. We were taken into another exam room – ironically, the same one we had been in for our first prenatal appointment. The doctor hugged us and compassionately discussed our options and what would happen next. At this point, things get really foggy for me. It was like I was having an out of body experience.  One of those “dreams” where you are watching yourself, but not actually present. I remember being escorted out the back door, so I didn’t have to walk back through the waiting room. We left my car there, got in my husband’s truck, and headed to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital, checked in with the front desk, and were taken back to be registered. I remember getting off the elevator on Labor & Delivery and walking down the hallway seeing the familiar faces of my colleagues with tears in their eyes. They all knew why I was there.    

The staff on Labor & Delivery were absolutely amazing. They were so kind, yet professional. They offered comfort, not only to me, but also my husband who was obviously distraught and in shock. Once again, the details are very foggy, a protective mechanism of my mind and body, I believe. Some moments are extremely clear, while others are a blur. I just know I received the absolute best care by the nurses and my wonderful OB.

It took me time to decide how I want to deliver. Because I was so far along, my options were to be induced, and hopefully have a vaginal delivery, or head upstate to another hospital for a surgical D & E.  My husband and I decided induction that day was the best choice for us. I was induced and my baby boy was born the following day. 

My mom, dad, and in-laws came to the hospital. We were able to hold him after he was born and take pictures. The nurses sent me home with a keepsake box of pictures, a memory card, baby blanket, his tiny handmade hat, and books on grief.

Nothing prepares you for being asked “what funeral arrangements do you have in mind?” What? I have no idea!  I don’t know anything about planning a funeral. Thank goodness my mom was there and able to handle calling the funeral home and setting that plan into motion.

It is a surreal feeling to walk in the hospital with a baby inside you and walking out the next day empty handed.

I didn’t realize it then, but I had just been inducted into a new Mom’s Club that no one ever wants to join….. Mommas who have lost a child.

In a split second our world changed forever. 

 

Through Grief

Grief….. it is a very interesting thing. It looks different for everyone and I have learned through this event that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is a very personal experience.

It is difficult to put into words what the next few weeks were like. My heart ached for this baby I was supposed to bring home. My body was recovering from childbirth and my hormones were all over the place.

My milk came in, which has to be the cruelest punishment to any woman who just lost a baby. I was miserable, sad, angry – all while trying to hold it together for the other two children I had at home.  I didn’t want them to see me losing my mind.

I spent the next few weeks trying to make sense of what had happened. Every time I would walk by the baby’s room, it was like a kick in the gut.

I found the courage one day to go in and empty all of the things we had bought out of the closet. All of the cute little outfits I had already pictured him wearing were placed in a huge container along with all of my maternity clothes. I just needed it all out of sight. It was a constant reminder of what I had lost. 

We received lots of cards, flowers, and casseroles during those weeks. Luckily, we have an army of people who love and support us, from our immediate family and friends to our work families, everyone was so kind and understanding. I know I wasn’t strong enough then to send thank-you replies to everyone, but I hope they know how much I appreciated the thoughts and prayers. 

Side note:  My two best girlfriends sent me an edible arrangement with chocolate covered fruit. There is something pretty powerful about chocolate when you’re super sad and your hormones are raging out of control. 

 

Today

We just “celebrated” a year since his birth. Time does help, but it will never go away. 

The moment hits out of the blue and the feelings of grief come flooding in. I am working really hard to come to terms with everything. 

As a nurse, I like answers… I like to understand the “why.”

Following his birth, we had an autopsy completed, tons of bloodwork, DNA and chromosome testing…. Everything came back normal – no reason he should have died. 

As many mommas do, we blame ourselves….. “Why couldn’t my body protect him?” “Did I do something to cause this?”

I know in my logical head, it is not my fault and there was nothing I could do to prevent this. The emotional part of my brain comes up with all kinds of things. I am still working through all of this. 

One of my favorite quotes I heard during this experience is “It’s okay to not be okay.”

That has become my Mantra, you could call it… especially on those days that are harder than most.

So, if I could reach out and speak directly to those mommas who have suffered a loss, whether it was an early miscarriage, a stillbirth, or the loss of older child…. I would say, “This is not your fault. What you are going through sucks, but you will be able to breathe again. It is okay, to not be okay. In time, it will get easier. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether it is a support group (both online and in person), yoga and meditation, counseling (I really recommend this!!), medication, etc….don’t suffer in silence. Talk to someone! You are not alone!”

In loving memory of Benjamin Wilson Snyder, Born April 27, 2018.