As told by his mother, Katie.
I woke up on May 26 to a normal Tuesday morning. I was 32w6d, nearing the halfway point of my third trimester, and going in every two weeks for routine appointments. My doctor had categorized it as a perfect pregnancy: the 20 week sonogram was exactly as it should be, there was always a strong heartbeat, he was an active little guy and I felt great throughout.
After my 28 week appointment, I remember someone saying that we were “in the clear” because if anything were to go wrong, the survival likelihood was so much higher due to the baby’s stage of development. I never took that into consideration. All along, I just thought you were “in the clear” after the first trimester. I went home and read that only 1 in 200 pregnancies end with fetal death in the third trimester. Around this time I also told Max he didn’t need to take off work to come to appointments with me until we were closer to delivery. Since the glucose test at 24 weeks, the appointments have consisted of waiting upwards of 45 minutes and then spending maybe 5 minutes with our doctor as she measured my belly and we listened to the heartbeat. These next few would be quick and he didn’t need to miss work. After all, we were in the clear.
I arrived at my doctor’s office and it was the first time throughout the whole pregnancy I didn’t have to wait. She was ready for me and there wasn’t anyone else in her back waiting area. I was about to text Max to say it was my lucky day!
My doctor, the resident and I made small chat. We talked about the symptoms I had been having and how I was generally starting to feel very pregnant. In my 8th month, I was in waddle mode, I had two pairs of shoes (flip flops) that still fit comfortably, sleeping was getting more difficult, that past week I had to relinquish the wedding band because my fingers were getting a little puffy, leg cramps were heinous and Tums were carried everywhere to help with the constant heartburn. She took the routine measurements of my belly and then brought out the Doppler heart monitor to listen to his heartbeat. The small talk continued as she gelled the belly and started to glide around. In anticipation, I couldn’t wait to hear the quick-paced “thud, thud, thud, thud” that ended every appointment – which in my head I would think “Hud-Bud, Hud-Bud” over and over because that was one of our nicknames for him.
Except, we didn’t hear it.
She suggested that maybe he had moved and had me lay on my side because that could help locate him. After what felt like a lifetime of searching she calmly asked the resident to go get the ultrasound machine so we could see where he was, to see if he was breached. I was thinking how Max would be disappointed that he was missing this, he wanted to be there for the sonogram if we were to have another. Somehow, the thought that there was something really wrong still had not entered my mind, whatsoever. I was oblivious. This wasn’t going to happen to me. I was not going to be in the 5% of women that lose their baby in the third trimester.
When he came up on the screen, it was different than before. I could see a faint outline mainly of his spine, but saw the resident’s face drop. That flicker – the heartbeat – that we had seen at the other two sonograms was not flickering. My doctor, still staying very calm as to not alarm me, asked her to please go get one of the other doctors to come in. It was then that she held my hand and gravely told me she was not seeing a heartbeat, and if it was there, it was very faint and she wanted someone else to come in and take a look. I was numb. I shook my head and said “but he was moving last night, we watched my belly move and felt him kicking.” Everything had to be fine, this was not happening. The other doctor confirmed there was not a heartbeat, that my baby had passed away. My doctor told me we needed to go downstairs to admit me to Labor and Delivery.
I felt my entire body sink. An icy feeling started in my gut and ran throughout my body. I just started saying “No, no, no. Not my baby. Not Hudson” They asked if I would like someone to call my husband for me or if I wanted to. How in the world was I supposed to call my husband to let him know that our baby was gone. I felt sick that he would be alone on the other side of the phone to hear the words that no father ever should. Dazed, I took my phone out of my purse and handed it to them, I couldn’t form words and my mind was racing. This isn’t real, this can’t be happening, you have to check it again. The nurse was leaving him a message when the reception on my phone cut out. As he called back, the tears started. I grabbed my phone and just blurted out –“honey, he’s gone. There’s no heartbeat, Hudson is gone, I’ve lost him, we’ve lost him, there’s no heartbeat…” and then the sobs grew louder and I was shaking because I had said the words out loud and it was setting in that this was real. Max’s voice was tight, he told me he loved me and that he would be right there.
All that could run through my head was:
- Is this my fault?
- Did I do something wrong?
- I forgot to take my prenatal vitamins that Saturday night, is that what could have caused it?
- Did I spend too long peeking in at the new kitchen, did I breathe in the paint fumes and were they harmful after all? [We were in the middle of a huge renovation project at home]
- Had I pushed myself too hard at work and done something to jeopardize his health?
- Did I eat something I shouldn’t have by mistake?
- How could I not have known something was wrong? The apps all said the movements would be less by this point. I didn’t think anything of it because at least I still felt him. How could I not have known. What if I had the earlier appointment, could we have saved him?
All these questions, my head spinning, and it all came back to what did I do wrong?
The womb was supposed to be a safe place. I am his mommy and I couldn’t protect him in what should have been the safest place.
The rest is a blur. By 10:40 AM, Max had arrived. My mom shortly after, then my dad along with one of my brothers. The doctor and her team were making calls to prep the L&D team ready to meet us downstairs and be admitted. They walked us down and checked me in, I was in a fog.
By 12:30 PM, we were settled into a room. The nursing staff gave me a hospital gown and told me to take my time, they’d come back in to prep the IV as soon as I was ready. I had just ordered a monogrammed hospital dress with side buttons for nursing and back buttons for an epidural. It was a beautiful teal color with pink flowers, with a teal cap for him. I was supposed to wear that gown as I gave birth to my baby. Just a few months ago we had been in a replica of this room while taking a hospital tour, anxiously anticipating when we would be there for the “real thing” and here we were, but it was not under the circumstances we had planned. Max helped peel my clothes off and I placed my hands on my stomach, looking at my round, pregnant belly for the last time, sobbing.
We did everything right.
We couldn’t wait to be parents.
We were in the homestretch.
This was not supposed to happen.
Once I was changed and in the hospital bed, Max made the call to his family in Wisconsin to let them know what was going on. He stepped into the bathroom to make that phone call and my heart shattered all over again listening to my husband in agony as he told his mom that Hudson was gone and I was being prepped to deliver.
We were in a world of pain, yet the reality had not yet fully crept in. There was a knock on the door and a doctor came in, I realized I knew that face. It was the sister of one of my friends and she was going to be taking care of me. I was immediately comforted – as much as I could be given the situation – and knew that God had us in his hands. She conducted another sonogram to look for possible cause (placenta abruption, cord accident, amniotic fluid level, etc.) and get exact positioning. I stared at the screen seeing my lifeless baby. I so desperately hoped for something to change, to see the active little guy that we had last seen 13 weeks prior at the 20 week sonogram, that little flicker flickering again, but nothing.
At 2:00 PM they induced labor. They planned to give me the Cytotec every 4 hours as needed until my body was ready. I had cried all I could for the time being and just felt numb. I was terrified of what was going to happen. I wasn’t ready or prepared for labor, we hadn’t attended our birthing class yet. What I struggled with the most is that once it happened, the result would be so finite – he would really be gone.
Around 7:00 PM I could feel the contractions more and more. There had been a shift change and we were introduced to our new nurse, Katie, who became our life support throughout the duration of this process. She was from Wisconsin as well, close to where Max’s family was, and immediately worked on that bond with us to help put us at ease and connect with us. Around that time, I told her that my pain level was starting to surpass normal cramping and I wanted to go ahead and request the epidural. The first shift nurses told me that because we were inducing when my body is not yet ready, the process could be lengthy, it could take up to 48 hours until I delivered. Once I got the epidural, I would be confined to the bed. I was afraid to get it too fast so I wasn’t stuck in a bed for that long, but I also did not want to be in any pain because I was already enduring too much emotionally.
At 7:30 PM, the anesthesiologist arrived to administer the epidural. The lower half of my body took on the same numbness as I was feeling in my heart and head.
Around 8:15 PM our pastor had arrived and came in with my dad to talk with us. We cried, he listened and he told us that as Christians, we do not believe that this was “God’s plan,” that we have a merciful God who is crying right along with us. He gave us the option of a baptism if that was something we were interested in doing. We each took turns praying out loud, asking for strength and peace.
By 9:00 PM, I was growing very uncomfortable. I had full feeling in my legs and could feel the cramping aches in my lower back and abdomen. They gave me more pain medicine and I went numb again for maybe 30 minutes but then could feel the contractions again in full force. I felt heavy, painful pressure above my pubic bone and the nurse explained that Hudson had dropped and was in position, but my water had not broken yet. They did not need to administer any additional Cytotec, my body had responded and I was going to be ready for delivery sooner than they planned. By 10:00 pm, the anesthesiologist was back into my room, removed the current epidural and ran a second one that was effective.
Around this time, Max and I were alone in the room. We knew as soon as Hudson came, we would be deep in emotional pain we had never known before. There were some important things we needed to think about and discuss before that happened while we were having a moment of calm and acceptance. Earlier the nurse asked me to think about what I wanted to do when he arrived – if I wanted to hold him right away, or allow them to clean him first, or if I wanted to opt not to see him at all. She also let me know that we had photography options if we wanted. Our initial thoughts were that we had no idea what he would look like when he came. If it was a cord issue like they were anticipating based on the sonogram, I didn’t know what that looked like. At that point in time, I wanted to just have a perfect image of him in my mind and thought that would be better.
By 11:30 PM, I was in tears again as my mind started to break down the reality. I knew labor was intensifying and progressing, we’d be prepping for birth soon. I cried to Max and to Nurse Katie that I was so scared and wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t ready for my pregnancy to end and to say goodbye to our child. Nurse Katie told me that we were on my time, nothing needed to happen that I wasn’t yet ready for and they could slow things down if needed. Half of me felt like I could lay there for days, just knowing I still had him as part of me. The other half of me knew I needed to do right by Hudson and though he would never breath outside my womb, I needed to honor him and give him a birth that he deserved to have. We prayed and I closed my swollen eyes in sheer exhaustion which allowed me to get about 45 min of sleep before waking up to intense pressure.
It was time.
By 1:35 AM, the room was prepped, my doctor was there, everyone was in place, and it was time to push. Emotions I didn’t know were pouring over me in waves. This was it. I was giving birth to our baby, our baby that would not be alive.
At 1:47 AM, our Hudson was born a sleeping angel. We never told the nurse one way or the other what we wanted once he came, but instinctively, my arms shot out, my doctor laid him on my chest and we saw our sweet boy. We sobbed the sobs he would never make.
Looking down at our sweet baby, he was beautiful. He had thick dark hair with curl to it, matted against his head. He had my nose and my cheeks, Max’s lips and chin, big feet and the sweetest little ears and fingers. We shared the same birth mark on the middle toe of our left foot. He looked perfect and we couldn’t get enough of him. We held him, trying to soak up everything we could, as though we were trying to create a lifetime’s worth of memories we wanted to have with him, but never would. We kept waiting for him to cry, to move, to show some small hope and sign of life, that just maybe this was all a bad dream that we would all wake up from.
They asked Max if he would like to cut the cord, bathe him and help put on the diaper. All things they let the dad do for the first time, he still got to do them. Though we already believed he was with his Father in Heaven, we decided we wanted to do a baptism, we wanted that memory with our son as a family. The L&D staff told us we could be with him as long as we wanted. Once he was with us, I never wanted to say goodbye.
By 3:00 AM, my parents and brothers were with us in our room. Tearfully I told them, “this is Hudson John, your grandson and nephew.” My mom held Hudson first, rocking him and loving him. Then my dad, followed by both brothers.
At 3:40 AM, our pastor had arrived, he came up to pray with us and to baptize Hudson. As I lay in bed holding our baby, with Max holding me, everyone circled around joining hands together. Our incredible nurse, Katie, joined hands with us as well and participated in his baptism.
The medication and emotions of the past 17 hours were starting to wear on me, and both Max and I finally fell asleep around 4:00 AM. While we slept, Nurse Katie took Hudson’s foot prints and “newborn” photos of him. The hospital’s end of life photographer would not be in until later that morning and it was best to do the pictures sooner, rather than later. Katie, having a photography business in addition to being a nurse, wanted us to have those photos and grabbed her camera so that we could.
Around 8 AM, we were told Max’s parents had been able to get on an earlier flight and would be in Dallas by 10:00 AM. The nurses explained that they would be needing to move us up to the postpartum floor and it was up to me if I wanted to stay a night, but I that I had been released to go home if I was ready to. When we moved upstairs and said goodbye to Katie, the person who had guided us through our darkest hours with such poise and grace, I broke down.
Max’s parents arrived at the hospital around 10:30 AM. They met and held sweet Hudson, while we all wept together. Finally around noon, Max and I felt it was time to say goodbye. I thought I had encountered the absolute worst moments in my life up until I had to let go of my son and then watch the door close, knowing I would never hold him in this life again. This pain was the heaviest. Our baby was gone.
We didn’t need an autopsy. I was the 5% that lost a baby in the third trimester. And now I was in the 2% of that 5% that lost a baby due to a cord accident in utero, which my doctor was able to confirm once he was delivered. In the weeks following his death, all tests they had sent off have come back negative for any other cause as well. In a way, this gave us so much comfort to know there was nothing we could have done to prevent it, but it also crushed our hearts because we don’t understand why this had to happen to our Hudson and to our family.
Today marks one month since our loss. Some days are strong days, some days are sad days. Sometimes, I just need the chance to release the emotions and then I feel strong again. I allow myself to sit in his rocker daily, clutching the stuffed lamb we were given before leaving the hospital as something to hold when we thought of Hudson. This is one way I can allow myself to grieve. I look at our pictures of him, they make me smile to see him again in any way I can. We continue to get stronger but our hearts will always ache for the lost life of our first baby. We celebrate the life he experienced with us for 8 months but mourn everything we never had.
I long to hear him cry for us, to have him tightly grasp my finger, to see a first smile and the sound of gurgles and giggles. Hell, I would give anything to have the sleepless nights, tiring days, painful feeding experiences, the messy diapers, spit up on my clothes and in my hair. I would take Hudson’s place in a heartbeat just to be able to watch my husband be a father to his son.
Someday we will have those things. Someday we will rejoice the moment a screaming baby is placed in our arms for the first time. Hudson was the start to our family and he will know his siblings before we do, and will always be their big brother, a protector, our guardian angel baby.
This post originally appeared on Katie’s blog, DomestiKated.