I am so grateful to have a safe place to share my story (and that of my son, by default). What I’ve written is long-winded, for which I apologize, but I thank you for wanting to read it:
I am a proud mother to two beautiful children. I am also a nurse in the neonatal ICU. I care for the most acutely ill infants in the whole state, and my perception of the world is painted by what I experience on the unit. There is tragedy, but there are also miracles, and every possible pregnancy complication and outcome was constantly playing in the back of my brain as I anticipated the births of my children. My little girl was born in 2017. While I was worried about all of the possible issues we may encounter, I was incredibly lucky. There were no complications, after all, and I delivered her via C-section (due to cephalopelvic disproportion) at 39 weeks and 5 days gestation. She is beautiful, feisty, smart, sweet, and so funny...but I am sure I am just a little biased.
In November of 2019 we discovered that we were expecting our second baby. I was so excited, but tried to temper my expectations because the anticipatory anxiety was overwhelming and pervasive. Despite my fears, everything was text-book as we hurdled headlong into the reality of the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic. My home and work environments changed dramatically, and I was still working three 12-hour shifts every week. In mid-May I went in to urgent care, concerned about COVID-19 symptoms, including shortness of breath. It led me on a wild goose chase, involving a work-up for a suspected pulmonary embolism (PE). Fortunately, in the end I was negative for both COVID-19 and a PE, and I was sent to labor and delivery for a non-stress test. It was also uneventful, but I was asked to come in the following morning for a second non-stress test. It, too, was perfectly within normal limits. Two days later, I followed up with my OB. He checked the baby’s heart rate and sent me on my way until our next regular appointment. That day was the very last time I heard my son’s heartbeat.
On May 31st I headed into work for my third shift in a row at about 6:45 AM. I was tired and felt a little “off”, but couldn’t pinpoint exactly why and shrugged it off. I felt my little boy moving that morning as I got ready for work, and periodically throughout the day. My assignment was really busy, though, and I didn’t get lunch until close to 3:30PM. The last time I can recall feeling moment was between 2:30 and 3 PM. That night, I didn’t head home until close to 9 PM. As I charted following report, I drank cold water. It didn’t prompt any movement, which I thought somewhat odd, but I proceeded home, anyway. During my drive home, I still didn’t feel any movement. My daughter was asleep when I arrived home, and I sat down to dinner with my husband. We talked about our days, I mentioned that it was the 12th anniversary of my maternal grandmother’s death, which felt strangely significant to me at the time, and the conversation went from there.
At this point, I still hadn’t noticed any significant moment, which was strange because my little guy was very strong and moved a lot more than my daughter did in-utero. I figured it was all in my head, took a shower, and got ready for bed. I didn’t have work the following morning, so I stayed up late to do a two-hour kick count. As I counted, I used my stethoscope to try finding my baby’s heartbeat. I was unsuccessful, and, 23 minutes into the count, I called labor and delivery to ask if they thought I should come in. For peace of mind, they said I should, so I nervously got dressed and told my husband I was headed to the hospital. At this point, I thought my concern was an overreaction, so I woke my husband and told him to stay home with our daughter. He told me to call him if I needed him, started to fall back asleep, and I drove to the hospital by myself. When I got to the hospital, I entered through the ED. They gave me a mask and sent me up to labor and delivery with wishes of good luck.
The whole way over to the hospital, I had analyzed what might be happening, if anything, and told the baby that we’d be okay. As I entered the hospital, I began to feel exceptionally uneasy, though. In labor and delivery triage, my nurse attempted to find the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler, but couldn’t. She calmly said she’d call the on-call OB to get an ultrasound. I was getting more and more nervous, but drifted off to sleep for about ten minutes. Everything must be okay if I could sleep, right? I told my little boy that we’d be okay...and then the doctor arrived. He said he’d come as quickly as he could, and that he’d said a few prayers on the way down. He sat down to start the ultrasound, and took a very long time tracing back and forth along my abdomen. I could see the screen at a bit of an angle, and my heart sank when I couldn’t see a heartbeat. Again, I thought it was all in my head, and prepared myself to hear that beautiful, familiar whooshing of my baby’s heartbeat. The doctor looked at me and said, “I just want to be absolutely sure.” I had a death grip on my shirt, bunched up above my belly. Then, the doctor put down the wand, tears began to well up in his eyes, and he said, “I am so sorry.” I instantly began to sob. It was 2:20 AM. I was 33 weeks and 5 days along. My husband sent me a text message asking if I was okay. I called him in tears and asked him to come to the hospital, but I didn’t say why — I couldn’t say it out loud, yet. His dad came to stay at the house with our daughter, and my husband arrived 20 minutes later. That whole time I rocked back and forth, clutching my abdomen and saying “I’m so sorry” over and over again.
The doctor came back in shortly after my husband arrived, and he performed another ultrasound. “I promise I’m not trying to torture you guys,” he said with tears still in his eyes, “but this is the doctor in me wanting to be 100% sure. I couldn’t live with myself otherwise.” He traced across my abdomen again, and put the wand back down. “I’m so, so sorry,” he said. He went on to share that he, too, had lost a baby a decade before. He said that we did nothing wrong, and begged us not to turn the hurt and anger inward, thinking that we somehow caused this to happen. He discussed our options, and we decided to have a C-section as soon as we could be placed on the OR schedule. I had to see my baby’s face...and hold him. My husband held my hand after the doctor left and asked me, “What are we going to call him?” We decided at that moment that his name would be Ezra.
I was wheeled into the OR at about 6:15 AM and saw my hard chart in the corner of the room. It had a giant butterfly on it. I had been crying nonstop for several hours, but began to sob again. My son was born asleep in a silent OR at 6:42 AM on June 1st, 2020. I knew the moment he was born, despite the fact that he would never cry — I just felt so suddenly...empty. I heard a nurse begin to cry. She said, “He’s beautiful!” My husband said that he looked just like his sister. Ezra was swaddled, and my husband brought him over to me. His cheek was so warm against mine that I could’ve been fooled into thinking he was alive. My attending OB came into the OR shortly after Ezra was born. He said he was so sorry, and that we were going to figure out what had happened. My husband left the OR with Ezra to go to the recovery room.
The doctor dropped the drape. He had been crying through the whole surgery. He said it wasn’t a cord accident, and that the placenta looked fine. We sent the placenta to pathology for testing, and every lab value was within normal limits. We elected not to have an autopsy done since his physical assessment was also normal. We still have no idea why we lost Ezra that day, just a couple of hypotheses.
My husband was holding Ezra as I was wheeled into the recovery room. He said that he’d heard another baby being born as he walked into our room a little earlier. I began to cry again, and my husband said that it was okay. He was just so happy that everything had worked out for them...that their baby was okay. We got to hold Ezra for almost nine hours, and the hospital graciously allowed all four of our parents, my brother, and my sister-in-law to meet him...and say goodbye. I felt peaceful for the very first time that morning while holding our baby. I didn’t want to let him go, and I didn’t want to fall asleep. His skin was so fragile that it eventually began to shear. My husband and I knew it didn’t hurt him, but we felt wrong keeping him for much longer. We sang to him, told him about his sister, said how much we love him over and over, and gently traced the lines of his face with our fingers so we would never forget how beautiful he is. Our nurses were amazingly kind, and promised that he’d never be unswaddled or left alone. Letting him go was the most painful, difficult part of the whole experience for me. That pain will forever be ingrained in my memory.
I will forever be grateful for, and absolutely never take for granted, the fact that I can have children. Despite the occasional discomfort, and this incredibly profound heartache, it is the most magical thing I have ever experienced, and my children are, by far, my greatest achievements in my lifetime.
Welcome to Share. I am so very sorry for the loss of your baby boy. Thank you for sharing your Ezra with us. I had tears as I read your story. There are some details that mirror my own. Eleven years later, they are still just as fresh in my mind. The pain is so raw right now and last weekend must have been a difficult one. Hold onto your husband, your daughter, the weeks you carried him, the time you spent with him, and those precious photos. This site has played a tremendous role in my healing. I hope that it can offer the same comfort and support for you.
Sending you so many hugs,
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