Grace's Birth Story

I wrote this in the first two days I was home from the hospital.  Please forgive any typos, misspellings or medical inaccuracies.  

February 10, 2012

It was a long day at work. I felt Grace move in the morning when getting ready for work, but had not noticed much movement since then. I was so busy working in between appointments with a dystocia. I was diligent about eating all my snacks and staying hydrated, but with never more than a few minutes to stop and eat I could never really focus on her moving. By the end of the day I was starting to get concerned because that was when it dawned on me how long it had been since I could remember her moving. I drove home distracted and thinking that I was being a little paranoid. I rubbed my abdomen which would often stimulate her to move, but it had no effect. I came home upset. Mark got me a large glass of grape juice and I laid down to focus on feeling any movement. I kept rubbing my abdomen hoping for a response. There were some odd feelings, but nothing like how she normally moved. At night was always when she was most active, with big rolling movements that would make my whole abdomen move. I read our baby book and then called the hospital, I spoke with a OB triage nurse named Tara. She advised drinking juice and laying down and when I told her that we had already tried that she advised it was likely nothing, but she recommended coming in and being checked out.

Mark and I quickly hurried to the hospital, we discussed what we be the best route to use when it was time for delivery since this was just a quick going to get checked out. We arrived at the Infants and Maternity entrance and had to answer a ton of questions with the admissions desk. I was starting to feel more and more worried and I had noticed a humming feeling in my vagina. After about 5-10 minutes of questions about insurance etc we were taken to the triage area and nurse Kasey put the fetal heart monitor on my belly. It took her a long time to find a signal, but it seemed too slow at 115 beats per minute. I asked her if it was the baby and she said maybe, but when she told me the rate I said “that could be my heart rate.” She put a pulse ox on my finger and said that the rates were close, but not exactly the same. She had nurse Tara come in and she repositioned the fetal monitor and said that they needed to get an ultrasound. An ultrasound nurse came in and could not see Grace's heart beating. She said that we needed an official ultrasound with a doctor, to confirm. By now I was shaking and crying and Mark was holding me so tight.

Dr Beck was at the hospital attending a birth for one of his patients. He scanned my baby again and then said that he was so sorry, but that Grace was gone. I just started screaming and screaming. No, no, no god no. It was wrong, it was wrong. I asked what I had done wrong? He said nothing, nothing at all. I asked if I should have come in sooner, he said that we were there way before most couples. Dr Beck then continued to ultrasound to see if he could find out why this had happened to our beautiful baby. He said that all of her measurements were normal. He told us how sorry he was, and how he had lost a child when they were 11 and knew about the pain we were feeling. He said that he would call Dr Tutt and let him know. I told everyone that I wanted to hold my baby. They said that I would as soon as possible. Mark started to make the hard phone calls to my parents, his Dad and my work. It was so helpful that he could do this, I was numb with shock and could never have made these essential calls. I was admitted since the next step was to induce labor to deliver Grace.

Kasey was crying and told us how sorry she was, then she introduced us to nurse Mary Kay who took me into a labor and delivery room. I was sobbing. This was not how it was supposed to be, our baby wasn't supposed to be dead, this was a precautionary visit. Mary Kay drew my blood for a large panel Dr Beck ordered to look for answers and set an IV catheter. Dr Beck said that he had spoken to Dr Tutt who was at an event and not on call, but would come in to see us later that night. Mark and I held each other while lying in the small hospital bed and sobbed. He kept telling me we had done everything perfectly and that I was not to blame. I kept telling him I was sorry, so sorry.

Dr Tutt came around 11 pm and just held me while I sobbed. I asked him what I had done wrong, what had I done so that my baby had died? He said nothing, I had done nothing wrong. I asked what could have happened, he said that usually it was a problem with the umbilical cord or the placenta and that nothing could have been done. He described what would happen next. They would place a wafer of medication on my cervix to get it to soften and dilate, sometimes this medication would even start my contractions, other times they would need to use pitocin. He warned us that this was a long process, but once it started it generally went quickly. I asked if there was a chance that I would need a C-Section, he said that it was unlikely he had only had to perform 2 of those on women in my position in his career: one women had a previous C-section, the other had a breech baby. He wrote orders for the night and said that he would call in the morning for an update, and that the nurses could call him if anything changed in the night.

Mark called our friend Sally, she had a key to our house and could let out dogs out in the morning and feed our cats. Mary Kay came in to place the medication wafer on my cervix. It was so painful I started to scream, she brought in nurse Kasey who had smaller hands to place the medication while she and Mark held my legs down. I screamed again, I felt so bad that I was not cooperative, but it felt like torture. Mary Kay brought us blankets and water and said that Dr Tutt had ordered anxiety medication and sleeping pills for me. I took the anxiety medication, but not the sleeping pills. Mark was not feeling well, he was dizzy and nauseated he laid down on the couch that they had in the room. I laid with him crying for a long time, then he moved to the hospital bed. Neither one of us slept. Mary Kay checked in on us every few hours and brought me more medicine. I was so afraid that I would fall asleep and when I woke up then I would know that this was not just a bad dream, but that this was my reality.

Morning came, but the room was dark since the window had the shades drawn. Mark was feeling worse and worse, Mary Kay could not bring him any medication since he was not a patient and if he got admitted they would send him upstairs to a regular room and he could not be with me. He called Sally again and had her bring us some items from home and medications (xanax, ambien, zofran and Excedrin.) She and Jake brought them and hugged and kissed me, but I just sobbed.

The morning dragged on as Mark called more friends and let them know our tragic news. He drew comfort from their kind words and I was so grateful that I did not have to make any of these calls. It still felt unreal to me, that there was a mistake I would deliver Grace and she would be fine. I think that my head knew the truth, but my heart could just not accept it. We were introduced to nurse Lesley who would be taking care of me that day. She specialized in bereavement cases. She provided so much information about our options, how we could not only see Grace, but they had outfits for us to dress her in and we could bathe her, and how they had a photographer that could come and take photos of her. She provided information about child loss groups and arranged to have the chaplain come pray with us. We met Dr Huish who was on call this weekend and if Dr Tutt could not be reached would be helping us. He said that they would give me any medications I needed so I did not have to feel any physical pain. We told him that we were going to have a natural childbirth. The staff seemed skeptical, but respected our wishes. At noon Dr Tutt came in and checked my cervix, this exam was also very painful, but was mercifully brief. My cervix was softer, but not dilated. He ordered a different medication to be placed on my cervix. This was a small pill that would be checked every 8 hours. Lesley placed it and we waited.

Family started to arrive and we cried together. Poor Mark was feeling worse and worse, the emotions were making him sick and then he felt so bad that he could not support me the way he wanted it made the grief complicated by guilt. We would just cry and cry. He told me that I was so perfect and the best person he knew that I did not deserve to have this happen to me. I told him that he was an amazing, wonderful person and that he did not deserve this either. Lesley brought us a bear, she said that this was our Grace Bear, it was donated by a couple who lost their baby and had someone give them a bear to hold and it helped them immensely. Mark and I took turns holding the bear. The pill had started my labor and I was having mild, but reasonably regular contractions.

Mary Kay requested to be our night nurse again. It was comforting to have someone who knew us and knew Grace. Lesley hugged us goodbye and said that she would be calling to check on us. Mary Kay checked my cervix again, it was still thinning, but not dilated. Another pill was placed. These exams were so painful and emotionally exhausting. I was so tired and finally slept in little spurts. Mark was so sick he could barely stand. Mary Kay checked my uterine monitor since I was having regular contractions Dr Tutt said that we did not have to use another pill. Unfortunately 30 minutes later my contractions slowed again and another pill had to be placed. Mary Kay's shift ended and we were introduced to our new nurse Tracey. We tried to eat and were sleeping in spurts. Tracey checked my cervix again, she was not able to reach it, and explained that since I was only 32 weeks my cervix was pointed towards my spine making it very difficult to feel and that was one of the reasons it was so painful for me. She did not feel that I was any more dilated then previously. However since the contractions were strong and regular they were waiting on another pill.

At around 9 am I got up to use the bathroom, I urinated and then when I stood up to wipe darker fluid came gushing out. I asked Mark to page Tracey since I thought my water had broken. Tracey came and confirmed that was the case. She gave me some hospital underwear and a pad to absorb the additional fluid that would continue to leak out. My contractions were staying frequent every 2-3 minutes and were getting stronger. Tracey brought me a birthing ball to use. I would rub my back at the peak of the contractions. They were getting more and more painful. Mark was feeling bad, but he got up and started coaching me like we learned in birthing class. I had to get up to use the bathroom and felt like I needed to have a bowel movement. I had been getting dizzy using the ball so I tried a position on all fours, but that felt terrible. I started screaming at the peak of the contractions, but made it back into bed in my side lying position. The next contraction came so quickly and the peak was so intense, my labor was all in my back, I tried to breath through the contraction, but just ended up screaming again at the top of my lungs. Tracey and several other nurses came running. She said that she needed to check my cervix again after a scream like that. I told that I would be quieter next time. She checked anyway and I was fully effaced, but only 1 cm dilated.

The contractions were so painful and I had less and less time to recover and kept screaming at the peak. Mark was rubbing my back and telling me to breath and not tense up. He was also telling me what a great job I was doing. Tracey checked on us and offered an epidural again. I had so wanted to do this naturally as a tribute to Grace, but knew that I could not continue to have that intense pain for hours. I agreed to the epidural, but she said that I needed to have blood work some within 24 hours and mine was 36 hours old. She drew my blood and sent it to the lab. Mark and I labored together, the contractions were so bad and so close. Tracey said that my labs were back and had the nurse anesthetist come in, he needed me to sit up and hunch my back, he marked my spine and a huge contraction came, I screamed again. I told Tracey that I felt like I needed to push. She had me lay down again to check, she said that I was completely dilated and Grace's head was right there. She asked if I still wanted the epidural and I said no. She did give me the fentanyl that was supposed to go in my epidural IV. She called Dr Tutt and said that he would be there in 18 minutes. I asked if Dr Huish was there since I did not think that it would be that long. I pushed the the next contraction, I could feel her head at my vaginal opening, but it felt like it was too tight and so I was tentative. I bared down and really pushed the next contraction, but ended up screaming. The nurses said to grunt and hold my breath to push more effectively. I really bared down this time and felt her head come out. I thought that Mark would be squeamish about that part of the birth, but he was looking at Grace coming out of me. Another contraction came and I pushed again I felt her shoulders come out, I pushed again and felt the rest of her body come. I heard the nurses saying that there was a true knot in the cord. They said not to push again. Dr Huish was there and he cut the cord and they could finally have Mark place her on my chest and I could see her for the first time. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, she had dark brown wavy hair, this cupids bow mouth and this nose that was a perfect miniature version of Mark's. She was so small. I told her I loved her and kissed her. Mark was crying and saying how perfect she was and how amazing I was. It was the most perfect moment of my life holding that baby in my arms. I delivered Grace's placenta with a quick push. Dr Huish said that I had torn my vaginal opening and he would sew up the tear. They were prepping me when he found out that I had not had an epidural, he then gave me a local to numb the area before suturing.

My family had come to visit when I was getting prepped for the epidural and were not allowed in the room, they had heard me screaming and were worried. One of the nurses asked what she could tell them. I said to tell them that Grace had been born and that she was perfect and that there was a knot in the cord and that was why she died. Mark and I kissed Grace and each other. Once Dr Huish had finished the sutures my family could come in and meet Grace. My Dad held her, my Mom said that she looked just like I did as a baby. My brother and Kim cried. The photographer came and started to take pictures for us. We looked at her tiny hands and feet, so perfect with little toenails and fingernails. She was so amazing I kept kissing her face and smelling her. Mark wanted to take her outside so she could be in the sun and the fresh air. Tracey asked if we wanted to bathe her and dress her first and I said yes. First she got me up and cleaned my incision and had me use the bathroom. Then I walked over to the Panda warmer and we bathed our baby. Her skin was very fragile and torn in a few areas, we were told this could happen since she had died and her body was starting to break down. We were very gentle and used diluted baby wash to remove the dried blood from her body, and patted her dry and then used a dab of baby lotion. We dressed her in one of the outfits the hospital provided and swaddled her in a blanket. I wanted to walk outside with her, but they made me use a wheelchair. I held her as I was wheeled down the hall. When we got outside I was allowed to walk with her. Mark and I held her in the sun in the maternity garden and had some photos taken. A gentle breeze blew and the weather was perfect. She looked so peaceful just like she was sleeping. We took her back inside and had Kim and my brother hold her. We took some pictures of her with the Grace bear. I tried to imagine her life force and spirit entering the bear so that I could take that with me even though I could not have her body. Then the chaplain came and blessed her with oil and prayed with us. The last hour I had her on my chest and I tried to imprint that feeling on my mind and body so that I could have it with me forever. I was so afraid that I would forget how it felt to hold her and be with her. Mark laid in bed with us and I drifted in and out of a light sleep I would look at my family watching us and I felt great peace. Then the man from the mortuary came to take her. I covered her with my body and said no. I cried and wailed and screamed. Mark was so sad, but he knew that she needed to go, her body was breaking down and we knew that we did not want her in the hospital morgue. I asked when we would see her again and Mark said that we wouldn't she was going to be cremated. I wailed, it was like they were cutting a part of me out. I could not give her to the man from the mortuary, I could not let him take her from my arms. Mark said that he would do that for me. I handed her to her father and he took her to the man who had to take her away from us. Mark came back to me and we held each other and sobbed. He was so afraid that he had done the wrong thing, but I told him he was right it just hurt.

We asked Tracey when we could go home, she got my discharge papers in order went over instructions and we left the hospital an hour after Grace did.

I know that this story is hard to read, it was difficult to write, but I needed people to know about Grace and I needed to commit my memories to paper to solidify them in my mind. I had to love her a lifetimes worth in less than 4 hours.

Mark and I feel so blessed to have had Grace. Her death has been the most painful thing I have ever experienced, but my pregnancy and the short time I had with her in my arms was the greatest joy I have ever experienced. Had I known before being pregnant that I would lose her this way and feel this gut wrenching pain, but have gotten to feel her grow and know her inside my body I would still have wanted to be her mother. I would not trade a minute of my time with her to avoid that pain that I am feeling now. She made me a mother and Mark a father and us a family. Her death does not change that one bit.

Mark and I don't know if we believe in an afterlife. I take great comfort in the idea that I will get to see Grace again and hold her in my arms and watch her grow into the amazing person I know that she would have been. However I know intellectually that this may not be the case. Mark says that the afterlife is the people that we know holding memories of us in their hearts. He says that his tribute to Grace is to wake up every morning and think of her and dedicate one good deed to her every day. Today his Grace tribute was too hug and kiss me and care for me. Mine was to tell him how much I loved him and the great gift he gave me in being Grace's father.

We have so much healing to do, there are scars on our soul from this, but there are divine imprints of her beauty on our souls as well. She is and will always be my beloved angel, my heart's desire, my daughter. I am proud to be her mother. I am proud to tell her story.

I love you Grace Ellen Manno and I know that you loved me. I wish we had more time together, but in the time we had you made me a complete human being. I will always love and cherish you.   

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