Stillborn Still Loved- Chapter One
Like most mothers, I was beyond excited about becoming pregnant. I had a son, and he was two years old. He was the light of my life and I remember when I found out I was expecting another child I couldn’t help but smile every single day. When I found out it was a little girl I was glowing and not just because of the pregnancy glow. I was glowing because I had always dreamed of having a little girl. Hell, I even knew what I was going to name her. Laurelai Antoinette. As soon I found out it was a girl, I scurried off to every store I could think of. If it was pink, it was in my basket and I had no regrets as I walked into my apartment with a million bags. I was on cloud nine and nothing could bring me down. Except the nausea.I was so sick. I was like that with my son as well but the morning sickness with my daughter was so much worse. I couldn’t keep anything down and was in and out of the hospital for IV fluids because I was always getting dehydrated. Once my second trimester was half over it was better. The nausea was completely gone, and I felt amazing. At the time I was married to a narcissist and his family showed zero excitement for our coming child. They were the same with our son so it was no surprise but still nothing could bring me down. I had an amazing little boy and was about to have a beautiful little girl. We were prepared early for Laurelai’s arrival. We pretty much had everything we needed, and we had a ridiculous amount of clothing to last her through her first two years. Once my third trimester finally came, I was getting huge and increasingly exhausted. I was so swollen that my feet went from a size 7 to a size 8.5. It was unpleasant to say the least. I was so happy that she was coming and I felt so prepared. My family was excited, my best friend was ecstatic,but as my pregnancy progressed I became a little down hearted that my husband’s family didn’t care. They hated it. They hated it so much that they wouldn’t even come to her baby shower. Which once again, was no surprise because they didn’t come to our son’s either. Still, there was something in the air when I was around them that felt suffocating. How could they possibly not be excited? I was so excited that I couldn’t stop smiling and even though I felt like I looked like Shrekfrom being so swollen I was the happiest I had ever been. Even though my marriage was terrible, and his family was horrible, I still was happy. I was happy because I lived for my children. It didn’t really matter at that point to me, but it did still hurt sometimes. I had to be strong for my son and now my daughter and that’s exactly what I was going to do.
The time came to pack my hospital bag and to get ready to go into labor. I was a month out from my due date and every day felt like an eternity. I felt so impatient. I just wanted to meet my little girl!
On January 19th, 2012 I had not been feeling right. I was dizzy and seeing little black specks off and on. I called my doctor and she told me to come on in. When we went in they did the usual; urine test, blood test and an ultrasound. When they checked her heart rate it was at 132 and I remember thinking that it was low. Every time they had checked her heart rate before it was in the 150’s but the doctor didn’t seem worried, so the feeling of worry was fleeting. She told me that my blood pressure was just a little low, so I just needed to eat and rest. We went home relieved, and I did as I was told. When I woke up the next morning, I went about my day as normal. Nothing felt off or out of the ordinary. Until that evening. I drew myself a warm bath and can remember closing my eyes for just a second and then realizing that I hadn’t felt her move in while. “When was the last time I felt her move?”, I thought to myself. I sat there reeling the day over and over in my head and I couldn’t remember. I called for my husband and expressed my worry and he assured me that maybe it was just a sleepy day for her. I smiled but thought to myself, “sleepy day?”. Laurelai was so active. She would flip all around and as mothers know from experience that doesn’t always feel the greatest, but it still makes us smile. I told him to bring me a drink that was sugary totry to jolt her awake so I could just be sure. Just to ease my mind. He brought me some fruit juice and I chugged it like my life depended on it. I got out of the bath and sat up in my bed waiting. Just waiting to feel anything.Any movement at all. Thirty minutes later, there was still nothing. Not even a single flutter. I started to panic because I knew something wasn’t quite right but kept telling myself to stay calm. That panicking wasn’t good for me or Laurelai. I told my husband that we needed to go to the hospital and so off we went. The entire car ride I kept thinking,“Just move. Just move so we can turn around and go home.”By the time we got to the hospital, I was in a complete panic. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew something was. When we walked in the front desk girl must have seen my worry because her question was,“Is everything okay?”I told her I hadn’t felt my baby move all day and I couldn’t remember the last time that she did move. They immediately brought me back and the nurse was talking about how sometimes babies at this stage just don’t have active days. That maybe I just wasn’t paying as much attention that day. As she spoke, she ran the fetal doppler across my bellylistening for any sign of a heartbeat. “Sometimes the heartbeat is hard to find at this stage because they move around so much”, she said.I gave her a look of pure confusion as she just said that sometimes babies don’t have active days. Certainly, if she was moving too much to find on a fetal doppler I would be feeling the movement.
“One moment. I’m going to go get the doctor.”She walked quickly out of the room,and I laid there with a quivering lip and heavy eyes. I looked up at my husband…“Everything is gonna be okay.” I whispered. The doctor came in with a big smile. “Let’s take a look at your baby, okay?” She said it so confidently like she was certain that everything was okay. I softly smiled at her putting all my hope into hers. She ran the ultrasound machine across my belly this time. If she couldn’t hear the heartbeat, she was going to find it on there. I watched her as she looked eagerly at the monitor. I could see her eyes searching. Searching for a sign of life.It felt like an eternity and every second that passed my heart became heavier and heavier.
She looked down at me with a somber expression. “I am so sorry, “she said, “sometimes these things just happen.”I looked at her like “What the hell are saying?”I couldn’t seem to form words. “There isn’t a heartbeat, sweetie. She’s gone.” She said. Tears welled up in my eyes. My throat burning. My chest pounding. My heart breaking.I was dying. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
“I’ll give you a moment.” She said sadly, as she walked out with eyes full of tears herself. I looked at my husband and we spoke no words for what seemed a lifetime. This couldn’t be happening. Why? Why did this happen? What did I do wrong? Did she feel any pain? Was she suffering? My heart broke into millions ofpieces in just a single moment and I thought to myself how this one moment would change my entire life.I looked around the room frantically trying to figure out what just happened and what to do next. I took my phone out of my purse and looked at it. I was about to have to make a phone call that I never thought I would have to make. I dialed my mom’s number. It rang and rang.No answer. I was almost relieved because that gave me more time to process what was going on. The phoneimmediately started ringing and it was her calling me back. I took a deep breath as if I could gainany kind of strength at that moment and answered. “Mom…” I whispered. My voice cracked. “Hailey, what’s wrong?” she said. I was silent as she kept saying my name. Asking if I was still there. “Laurelai is dead”. I saidMy blunt response shocked me, and I immediately felt like I was going to vomit. My mom starting crying and saying, “Were on our way. Were on our way”. I hung up the phone and looked down at my belly with eyes full of tears and an inability to breathe.
“Wake up”, I whispered, softly, “please…”I could feel the tears pouring down my face with a numbness that baffled me. After a moment or two I made a phone call to Kelly, my best friend.She worked right across the street from the hospital and so I knew she would be there any second. “I have to be strong,” I thought. “Oh god, what do I say?” I felt this heavy weight of guilt as if I had done something wrong. I should have known. I should have sensed that something was wrong before it was too late. The doctor came back into the room and looked at me speechless. She didn’t seem to know how to react herself.
“Hailey, I’m so sorry for your loss. We are going to do a c-section for her birth if that’s okay with you.”Her birth? Her freaking birth?!I couldn’t look at it that way anymore. She was gone. She’s not being born…. she’s dead. I felt a fleeting feeling of rage towards my doctor for using the words that she did. “It’s going to be a couple of hours though”, she continued. “We just had two mothers come into the hospital in labor.”“A couple of hours?”, I stammered my words. I was going to have to lay in a hospital bed with my dead baby for a couple of hours? I felt numb, anger and sadness all at once. It didn’t feel real. It felt like a cruel joke played by my doctor, the nurses…maybe even God.
Shortly after, Kelly and my parents arrived. Then my mother and father-in-law. My husband seemed shut off and cold. No tears had been shed yet and I wondered why. At that time, I was judging everything around me. I was doing anything and everything to ignore what was happening and looking back I know that I was in denial. My mind knew what was happening, but my heart didn’t want to believe it. I remember feeling flutters in my belly and calling in my doctor. “I just felt her move.” I said, with a hopeful voice. You could tell my doctor was heartbroken for me. She took my hand, squeezing it with a gentle but firm hold. “Sweetie, she’s gone. You are feeling her float.”I got an overwhelming feeling to vomit. It was too much. This was all too much. How was I going to go on?
They finally moved me to a private room to await my c-section and when they rolled me in everyone was already in there. My mom and dad were in tears. It was the only time I had ever seen my dad cry. Kelly was holding back tears. My little sister at the time was only 14 and she was in shock like me. My husband was sitting with his family talking amongst themselves. And there I was. Feeling like a shell. Not sure what to say or do. Not sure if I should cry or tell everyone how I was feeling. So, I just laid there staring at my belly completely lost. I could hear everyone around me almost like I was experiencing selective hearing but with everyone in the room. The world felt like it was passing me by in fast motion and I stood still. I was still in the maternity unit so I could hear babies crying and announcements every time a new baby was born. It was gut wrenching knowing that other women were having their babies and mine was gone.I wondered what was worse; the pain of what happened or the pain of what never could.I knew that I was never going to be the same. I knew that part of me died. I could feel it. I just didn’t know how to explain my anguish and I couldn’t make sense of why Laurelai had to die.
Finally, after four long hours of waiting, the doctor came in and said they were ready for me. As I was wheeled out of the room, my mom, dad and sister kissed my head and I somehow mustered up, “I’m gonna be okay.”
As they wheeled me into the surgery room, I had an overwhelming desire to die during the c-section. I remember thinking that my daughter had died and so had I. There was no point in going on. The anesthesiologist stood behind me prepping me for surgery and my doctor stood directly in front of me holding both hands. She gently rubbed them and was forcing a soft smile as to comfort me. “Okay,’ the anesthesiologist said, “You are about to feel a big stick but try not to move, okay? I nodded, looking into my doctor’seyes like I was pleading her to let me die.
“Big prick in 1, 2,…”That’s all I remember. I woke up in a recovery room. Apparently, I fainted when the anesthesiologist injected me. My doctor later told me it was a normal response for people in trauma. When I opened my eyes, I saw my doctor standing there. “The surgery went okay.” She said. I remember feeling disappointed that it did. I wished I hadn’t woken up at all because now I had to live with this unbearable pain, and I didn’t know how I was going to.
My husband came in shortly after and sat down as the doctor explained that Laurelai had the cord wrapped around her neck several times and pretty tightly. She said that was the most likely cause of her death, but that we could do an autopsy to see if there was another issue.
I couldn’t bare to think of my daughter being dissected. I did want answers. Just not that way. So, I came to the decision to bypass the autopsyand just take it as it probably was. She was strangled in the womb by her cord. It made sense to me. She was so active, and she would toss and turn and flip all around. To this day, I am glad that I made that decision. I knew in my heart that it was cord strangulation. That is why her heart rate was lower than normal the day before. And that was when the real guilt started. I kept telling myself that I should have forced the doctor to look more into her heart rate being lower. I should have known as Laurelai’s mother that something wasn’t right. That maybe…just maybe if I would have spoken up despite feeling like maybe I was coming across as paranoid…that she would still alive. I had resentment for the doctor. She should have known too. She tracked Laurelai’s heart rate every single month. She knew damn well that her heart rate was always in the 150’s and that 132 was just too low. My baby was slowly dying, and it could have been avoided.
Those thoughts…that guilt was excruciating. At some point, they brought me back into my private room where people patiently awaited my return. I did notknow what was next. Then, here come my brother and sister-in-lawlaughing and joking as they enteredthe room. “You guys, let’s not forget why we’re here.” My mother-in-law said. That was the only time that she had ever said anything somewhat kind onmy behalf or stood up for me in anyway. Everyone got quiet and I felt like everyone was looking at me expecting me to say something. Anything.But I couldn’t. I could barely breathe.I knew that I was going to have to stay in the hospital for a couple of days as a normal c-section surgery requires and honestly, I was relieved in a way. I didn’t want to go home yet. I cried myself to sleep that night; waking up every hour or so and feeling this weird sensation of maybe I was just dreaming. Every time I awoke, I relived the realization that Laurelai’s was gone and I would cry myself back to sleep. It happened over and over again. I can still remember waking up that morning. My first day without her and I knew I would never be the same again.
That day, my family went to our apartment to clean out the nursery. Everything we had bought for her put away into boxes that held memories of something that never even happened. I don’t know what was worse. Putting everything away myself or coming home like she never existed at all. And these decisions are ones that I couldn’t make. People were making them for me. It was what it was, and I knew that. I was grateful for not having to think about that stuff really but also sort of angry about it. Did I want to put everything away myself? Did I want to repaint the pink walls white? I don’t know and to this day I still don’t. I don’t think there was a right or wrong way to do things. We all did the best we could given the circumstances. That second day was filled with chaos and tears. Between deciding on who was going to clean the nursery out and who was going to pay for the funeral. We had to pick out a casket and a quote for her stone. We had so much to do and all I wanted to do was sleep. And then shit became real. The doctor came and asked me if I wanted to hold her. She encouraged me to do so and said that it would help with the healing. I didn’t want to hold her just yet. I knew that it was something that I needed to do but I wasn’t ready. My mom and dad went and held her at some point coming back and telling me that she was beautiful. In my mind, I knew what was coming but like I said there was so much to do. I also had to pick out an outfit for her to wear when she was buried. I knew just the one too. A little pink vintage style gown with white trim.
I sat there telling my mom which outfit to bring back for her.“Oh, and a baby pink hat.” I said, as if she was going to get cold in the grave.I still felt like I had to protect her from getting cold. This is the morbidity of it all. A situation so unbelievable that you don’t know what’s normal anymore, but she was still my child. That was the only thing that I knew for certain. I wondered if this is how it was going to be from now on. People tip toeing around me with unsaid words to spare any more heartache. It was amazing to me how agonizingly slow the day went. The only thing I could think about was that my Laurelai was goneand she wasn’t coming back no matter how much I begged or prayed to a God that I wasn’t even sure I believed in anymore.
And I wondered…did God really exist? If he did, why would he let this happen? I was raised religious and up to until that point, I actually didbelieve in God. Why wouldn’t I? I saw all the beauty in the world and all of the wonderful creations, but this loss had me questioning his existence. If he did exist, I was angry at him for allowing this to happen to my innocent child. To be honest, I quickly shut out any thoughts of God, heaven or resurrection. I simply could not handle it. That second night was the same as the first. I woke up reliving the realization that my daughter was dead. I was in pain from my surgery but the pain in my heart seemed to make the physical pain disappear. On the third day, I woke up with the decision to finally hold Laurelai. I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was what my parents had told me. That she was perfect and beautiful. That she looked like my son when he was born. When I told the nurse that I was ready to see my baby, I wasn’t convinced that I was,but I knew I needed to. She deserved at least that much, and I didn’t want to live with the regret of not doing it.
When the time came there was a largegroup of people in the room. When I look back, I wish that I would have told them all to leave so I could be alone with her. I guess at the end of day it wouldn’t have changed anything, but it is something that lingers in my mind when I think about that day.
The door to my room opened and the nurse walked in. It was a strange feeling that I had. I remember thinking that I wasn’t ready but also thinking that I couldn’t wait to see her. The nurse handed her to me and as I held my daughter wrapped tightly in a pink blanket I couldn’t help but smile a little. She was so beautiful. She was perfect. She even looked like she was smiling. As I looked down at her sweet face, I had tears streaming down my cheeks and a quivering lip. I held her tiny hand in mine and my heart somehow shattered into even more pieces than before. She looked like she was just sleeping but I knew she wasn’t going to wake up. I realized that I would never know what color her eyes were,and that thought was agonizing. I knew that she was feisty because she would kick at me when I would poke my belly.I knew that she loved music because when it came on, she would move like crazy, and I always felt like she was dancing. I remembered calming her down by softly singing to her and gently rubbing my belly until she fell back asleep. I did know her. I was connected to her in a way that only a mother would understand.
But I was never going to know what color her eyes were and that thought lingered in my mind for years.
I took her tiny pink hat off of her head and looked at the little bit of hair that she did have. I slowly moved my finger across her face…trying to trace the outline of every feature so I would never forget.
My baby was gone. She was really gone and there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it. As a mother, that is one of the worst feelings. I could not protect her because I no longer needed to and that feeling conflicted with my motherly nature. I made the decision in that moment to protect her memory. She was still my daughter. I was still a mother to two children…not just one and that thought brought me a tiny amount of comfort. I continued looking down at her and thought to myself, “I’m sorry that I couldn’t save you,” and finally when I was ready to let go I whispered, “I love you so much”, kissed her forehead and handed her back to the nurse. I had just kissed my baby goodbye…and that was excruciating because I knew I would never kiss her goodnight like I was supposed to.Laurelai was passed around the room. People taking turns looking at her or holding her and I just watched as this was only memory I would have of her outside of my womb. I knew that from now on time would be defined by this moment; before and after. It would forever be ‘before I lost my daughter’ or ‘after I lost her’. I did not hold her again and I knew I never would. The fourth day, I finally got to go home. I remember being wheeled out with everything except my baby. A mother should never have to leave a hospital without her child. Instead, I left with a folder of resources for mothers that experienced a loss and a prescription for sleeping pills. I spent my whole pregnancy dreaming about the day I would be able to bring her home and instead was hit with the cruel reality that I was now living a nightmare. I was not ready to go home. I was notready to face my new reality. I was not ready bury my baby.
Written and copyrighted by Hailey Ricks.
You can get your copy of my book here: https://www.amazon.com/Stillborn-Still-Loved-Hailey-Ricks/dp/1312537175/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?crid=WCFVW6OMVQ4L&keywords=stillborn+book&qid=1687533619&sprefix=%2Caps%2C108&sr=8-2