February 19, 2023: We had just spent the weekend with our in-laws who were visiting us from four hours away. We had talked about the baby shower, baby names, and all of our other plans for preparing for our fourth child’s arrival.
It was so exciting finally being able to talk about it since we had just told our family and friends at the 12-week mark to be safe. I brought up some really girly Italian names I loved since I was thinking this time it would perhaps be a girl.
The next morning, I woke up with an achy belly like I maybe slept wrong or something. Then, it kept lingering most of the day and I figured it was round ligament pain since at that point I was 14.5 weeks pregnant. The in-laws ended up leaving to go back home to Maryland.
After they left, I went to the grocery store. Later in the evening, the achy belly turned more into cramping and got worse after we arrived home from the store. I went to the bathroom. I had to go so badly, but had just a little pee. I sat at the table to eat the sushi I had been craving all weekend and then I felt a gush in the chair and it went all over the floor. I realized it was my water that broke.
How did that just happen I just peed and emptied my bladder? So I clean up the mess and then go clean myself up in the bathroom. Then, I notice blood on the toilet paper. So, I go tell my husband that I should go to the emergency room to get checked, thinking maybe it was a placenta tear.
It was my kid's bedtime so I told my husband to stay home and I’d be right back. I started driving towards the closest hospital, which would be the quickest trip, but then the cramping starts feeling more like mild contractions that were radiating into my back.
So I listened to my gut, turned the car around, and started heading in the other direction to the bigger hospital with the delivery ward and all the extra important equipment, extra staff, and resources.
On my drive to the hospital I called some family members and let them know something is going on and to pray and that I thought it wasn’t good. I had two family members pray with me and they both prayed for peace that surpasses understanding, looking back I know that was the Holy Spirit speaking through them.
Then, I prayed to myself over the little life in my womb, that the baby would remain healthy and alive, and that maybe this was just a minor hiccup. I was even singing worship music to try to remain hopeful and calm.
I got to the hospital and I was so scared heading in thinking what in the world is going to happen. As I waited, I felt more bleeding and contracting happening, and I sat there looking so uncomfortable to the other patients waiting too.
I was called back and they took my vitals and then I was sent back to the waiting area. Then, I felt more blood and some pressure so I decided to use the bathroom. I ended up passing a fist-size clot in the toilet and quickly let the front desk know so I could be seen. I was so worried at that point and pretty much knew what was happening.
They brought me into a room on the emergency department side and hooked me up to monitors. They quickly scanned my belly with the ultrasound machine and all I could see on the screen was black, I didn't see my baby. My worries were confirmed, it was definitely happening, I was so shocked.
A while later I experienced some more mild contractions there in the room by myself. When the nurse came in, I told her I had to use the bathroom, but asked for a bedpan because I didn’t want to pass the baby into the toilet.
So she provided me with a plastic tub that I rested on the toilet and with a few small pushes I felt more pass out of my body and my baby drops into the tub. I remember screaming, “Nooo!” Because I knew deep down it was my baby, but I didn’t want to look because then it would be true. But I had to look, I had to see my baby. My baby that I delivered on the toilet. At that moment, my heart broke.
I walked back to my room and laid down and the nurse brought me my baby and the placenta in the plastic tub. I rolled my face-down baby over to see his/her face for the first time. My baby was so perfect and tiny and had perfectly formed fingers and toes. It was so crazy at that moment seeing my baby that had been growing inside of me that whole time.
What did my body fail to do or what did I do wrong? So many questions because it was so, so unexpected! My body had previously grown three perfectly healthy, full-term babies. I was looking for reasoning and who to stick the blame on and so curious as to why would God allow this? God formed that little one in my womb, why didn’t He keep it healthy and keep letting it develop? My thoughts were all over the place.
So, next, I called my husband to tell him I had just delivered our baby. That wasn’t in my plans either, I wasn’t planning on saying that so soon. Then, I contacted my family members I had spoke to that night to briefly tell them what just happened. I just sat there and cried and cried. No one could comfort me at all that night, although the nursing staff were all so compassionate.
The doctor came and did an exam on me to see if there was any leftover tissue in my womb. He said he saw some, so then told me they were going to have to do a surgical procedure called a D&C. He left with a slight hint of compassion and bedside manner, with a pat on the back. The nurse performed some blood tests and Covid swabbed me. Then, the doctor came back in and said, “More bad news, you’re Covid positive.” Then, he seals a sliding glass door to close me off as a precaution.
They rushed me in for the procedure which I was again alone for, and I hated that. I insisted that my baby doesn’t leave the surgery room while I’m under anesthesia. I also mentioned I wanted to bring my baby home with me and did not want my baby sent to the pathology lab to end up as hospital waste.
The nurses said goodbye to me and handed me, my newborn baby, in a floral gift box. I opened it and my baby was wrapped in a hand-knit cradle with a cross charm on it. It was so beautiful and comfy and the perfect size to wrap my little one. I was so thankful for how they prepared the baby box for me and the extra sentimental things I was sent home with.
I was wheeled out of the hospital still slightly out of it from the surgery and I was picked up. On the way home, I felt such pain and shame and was traumatized by what just happened.
We kept our baby for two days. Off and on, I would pull out the cold baby box and hold our baby. It probably sounds weird, but I rocked and sang to my baby just like I would’ve if he/she was alive in my arms. I couldn’t help but think of all of the life this little one was going to miss and everything I wouldn’t be able to do with him or her.
That following day, we dropped our baby off at the funeral home which was hard to do.
I carry some of my baby's ashes in my heart necklace and constantly think of my loss and the tiny baby in Heaven I now have.
I kept the knitted blanket from the cradle to have forever. My heart remains broken and still looking for answers and still trying to keep faith that I will see my child again in Heaven. I chose to name him or her River since my child passed us by like a flow down a river and the middle name is Haven because it is now in a safe, comfortable place.
Written by Cecilia Grapes, mother of River Haven, born on 2/19/2023 at 14 weeks.
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