Note to the reader: On August 27th, 2017, we arrived at the hospital to have our full-term baby boy only to find out his heart was no longer beating. From that time on, I’ve been writing. Writing has been my release. October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month, so it seems as good a time to share as any. I’m posting this today with the full intention of sharing everything I’ve written and what my husband and I have been through so far. It is my hope that the Lord will do something wonderful amidst this tragedy and I believe knowing our story better sheds light on where and how He’s been moving. I don’t do this with any desire for attention–only the desire to process this process. To let other parents that have experienced this loss know I now see, hear, and feel them. And, ultimately, to glorify the Great Comforter who has been with me through this even before I knew I needed Him to the extent I would. This story is written (to the best of my ability) in the voices of my husband, Leslee, and I–because fathers are so often looked over in this loss. So, here’s our story and it will continue on this blog as I am able to post.
We pulled into the hospital parking lot after stopping by Panera to get some breakfast. Neither one of us had eaten breakfast and Breauna was only moderately uncomfortable every 9 minutes, so a little breakfast was necessary for energy to bring our son into the world. It was just a couple minutes from the hospital and when we arrived there, Breauna said, “Don’t worry about pulling under the covered drop-off area. I’m ok right now. I’ll finish my bagel and we can just walk in together.” We were happy. Jubilant, really. Breauna was nervous about the pain she knew was involved, but her anticipation overshadowed it. I always tend to be more high strung about everything than she is, but it was excited anxiety.
We had left our house that morning uncertain whether this was the real deal or not. The doctors had told us our son’s due date was August 30th based on where he was measuring at his 21-week ultrasound, but by our account, he was due September 7th. Today was Sunday, August 27th, so we were definitely full-term and ready to welcome our son, Leif, to our lives. We had two wonderful little girls already and this boy was icing on the cake. Our family was complete.
Breauna was having to breathe through the contractions when they came, but they only lasted for a minute and then she could resume whatever she was doing. The closer we got to the hospital, the less anxiety I felt. We arrived with time to spare, ( more than I could say for our second daughter’s birth) walked into the hospital, and made our way to Labor & Delivery. Breauna greeted the desk attendant with a smile and said, “We’re here to have a baby.”
I grabbed the gown I was instructed to put on and made my way into the bathroom to change. While in there, I breathed through another contraction and talked to God. I was feeling anxious and fearful about labor. I had decided I was going to do this naturally long beforehand and Leslee was on board. I had done it with Luxe—but not by choice. This time…I knew what was coming. I whispered a quick prayer, “Father, I’m feeling nervous. Be with me as I do this. Calm my nerves. Eliminate my fear. Give me strength and endurance. I’d be so grateful if this labor could be quick.” I asked Him for strength…not knowing I would need so much of another kind.
I laid down on the bed and prepared to have the nurse do the routine heartbeat monitoring. She squeezed the green gel on the monitor and started on my right side. Nothing. I wasn’t worried, though. Nurses had found Leif a little uncooperative before. She moved to my left side. Nothing… Maybe this nurse didn’t know what she was doing. I glanced at Leslee, aware that this kind of thing always freaked him out, but couldn’t get him to return my gaze. We had just heard his heartbeat—good and strong—on Monday. Everything had to be fine.
Without any look of alarm on her face, the nurse said, “I’m going to go grab a different machine. I’ll be right back.”
She returned with an ultrasound machine and another nurse. The two of them brought our son into view on the ultrasound screen and the first thing I noticed was the lack of that little pulsing, rhythmic beat you see when a baby comes into view. The nurses exchanged several glances as they looked with us at the screen, but said nothing. I continued to glance at Leslee, but he was boring holes into the monitor. Our eyes searched frantically for the one thing we weren’t finding.
“I’m going to go get the OB on call and have him take a look at this,” the nurse said to me. Leslee still wouldn’t look at me.
I couldn’t look at her. One look and I would have fallen apart. I knew. And she wasn’t there yet. I had prayed so hard for this baby. Harder and more consistently than I’ve ever prayed for anything before. I prayed he would be born healthy and that Breauna would labor quickly. That they both would make it through Leif’s arrival in the world. Our oldest daughter, Taegan, never left him out of her prayers, either. Oh, God, I thought, please give us a miracle. Please don’t let this be. If not for me, than for that little girl who thinks she’s going to meet her baby brother today. Father, please! I’ve been down this road. You gave me Breauna and she helped me pick up the pieces. Please don’t make her travel it, Lord. Don’t let her suffer. I’m begging, Father! Please let him be ok. My mind ran crazy. All I wanted someone to do was come in here and tell us we were scared for no reason.
I was scared—but I still had hope. There was a mistake. There had to be. I had prayed too long and too hard over this little boy for something to be wrong. A doctor we didn’t know walked into the room and took over as the nurses stood alongside him. We couldn’t read his face. It was emotionless. Tears started to roll down my face. My body and my brain already knew, but my heart refused to believe.
He turned to look at the nurses, his mouth in a grim line, and quietly said, “Yeah, I’m not finding a heartbeat.” He turned to us with that same grim face and repeated it. Meanwhile, my heart raced. It wanted to beat out of my chest. I looked at him and said, “So, are you saying–are you saying he’s dead?” I needed him to say it. That was the only way this unbelievable, unimaginable situation was truly happening.
“I’m sorry. He’s passed.”
I couldn’t look at anyone. I could only stare at the white sheets on the bed, my eyes tethered to my feet while my soul felt like it left my body. Disbelief. Shock. In moments like this, the two take over and a person can’t even think. The brain goes numb, a form of protection, and you can’t even speak.
The medical staff stood in there and quietly discussed what the next step was while my world fell apart. “We’re going to have someone from radiology come down here,” the doctor said. “They’re going to take a look and maybe what they find can give us some answers.” All I could do was continue to stare off into space.
I looked at Leslee and his face mirrored mine.
“Can we have a moment?” he asked.
“Of course,” replied the nurse.
The door shut, he grabbed me, buried his face in my hair, and we wailed.
“This is not your fault. I want you to know that, baby. This is not your fault.” I cried into her hair and kept repeating that. All she could say was my name. She had told me last night in passing that she hadn’t remembered him moving during the day, but how could he move? There was no room. Plus, she’d been busy and distracted with the girls and grown so used to him moving that it simply became commonplace. She said all this last night to calm her worry wart of a husband down. I couldn’t bear for her to think in this moment that I blamed her for not being more aware. I didn’t. I didn’t at all. “I can’t do this! I can’t do this, Leslee. God, I can’t do this! I’m not this strong!!” I have no words for what my wife was going through, but I mustered up the strength to say, “Yes, you can. We can. We’ll do this together.”
They left us in there for a long time. Finally, the OB on call came in and it was time to talk about what we were going to do from here. By that time, we had called our parents and close family members to tell them our horrific news. The OB wanted to check to see how far along Breauna was and make a decision of whether to induce or let everything happen as it would. As he was about to check her, Breauna stopped him.
“I’m starting another contraction. Can we wait just a minute?” she calmly asked.
“Of course,” he replied.
As she came down off of it, she said, “I have questions. If we have to induce, does that make the contractions more intense? Do they hurt worse? I wanted to do this without an epidural, but—“ she started to cry—“I don’t know if I can without having something to look forward to.”
He nodded his head and said, “Yeah…well, a contraction is a contraction. Induction doesn’t make them worse. They’re as bad as they’re going to get on their own. So, no, it doesn’t make them more intense, it just brings active labor on more quickly. It’s like going 0-60 in 5 seconds rather than a slow acceleration.” I don’t know if that put her mind at ease at all, but she was processing the information.
He had to leave the room for a moment, which left us and the nurse in there. Breauna turned to the nurse with a pained look of dilemma on her tear-stained face. “I don’t know what to do. I can’t even think right now. And I’m scared! I mean, seriously, what does a man know about this?”
The nurses face was full of sympathy when she said, “Woman to woman, I would go with the epidural. There’s no pressure to endure the physical pain when you’re already suffering this emotional pain.” A tear rolled down her face. “We want to make this as easy as possible for you if that’s what you want.”
“Ok, I think I want the epidural.”
Immediately after she spoke, the doctor walked back in and proceeded to examine Breauna’s progress. He quickly looked at the nurse and said in a rush, “She’s 100 effaced and dilated to a 9.”
He looked at Breauna—who was calmly lying there– with a slightly dumbfounded look on his face. “You must be one very tough woman. I’d be screaming like a little girl right now.”