Mr. J and I found old we were pregnant Mother’s Day 2016. I laugh when I think about that day. For some reason, several people that day had texted me wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day. I politely responded thank you but told them I was not a mother (little did they know). Many responded telling me I was a puppy mom to our two dogs and one even responded saying that I felt like I mother to her. We told our families on Father’s Day. Everyone’s reactions were so big and filled with excitement. I videotaped most of the reactions and enjoy watching them on particularly low days.
Unfortunately, the beginning of my pregnancy wasn’t so easily. I had intense nausea all day that didn’t allow me to eat and at times to function. Later I learned that this was a symptom of the complications I had. Even with a growing belly I lost weight due to my lack of eating and didn’t begin to feel relief from nausea until about 20 weeks. I remember feeling her kick for the first time at about 18 weeks. Her kicks were very strong and at times caused me to jump up out of my chair. I even noticed a pattern to her kicking. Her kicks brought me comfort when I was feeling nauseous and assured me that it would all be worth it. I couldn’t wait to share these kicks with Mr. J!
I had scheduled our 20-week ultrasound for September 1st, the day of Mr. J and I’s 8-year dating anniversary. I thought it would be a wonderful present to both of us. I was 21 weeks pregnant on September 1st. We went in for our ultrasound super excited to see pictures of our baby. We had decided ahead of time we didn’t want to find out if it was a boy or a girl. The ultrasound technician had an amazing poker face. She pointed out our baby’s head, heart, and feet. I remember that she had difficulties trying to get a good picture of her because she was flipping around during the entire ultrasound. At one point, she even showed us how our baby seemed to be waving at us. At no point, did we ever suspect anything was wrong. We then moved to the patient room to wait for the doctor. The doctor came in after what felt like a century. He began telling us that they saw some abnormalities in the ultrasound. He told us that our baby had a club foot and that its intestines were outside of its body. He explained that this was beyond their scope of practice and that they had a nurse in the other room making us an appointment at Mayo in Rochester. He told me he didn’t want to alarm us because sometimes these types of complications could be fixed. I remember sitting there thinking, “don’t cry, don’t cry;” but I couldn’t hold it in.
Mayo had scheduled our appointment in Rochester for the following Tuesday, September 6th. I was scared. I thought this must be serious if they want me there so soon. I spent the weekend with family who assured me everything would be ok, and that they would love the baby regardless of its condition. Monday I went to work to tell my boss and to make plans. Mr. J came to campus with me to gets his books and provide me with support if I needed it. He sat on the couches right outside my department most of the day just in case I needed him. My supervisor was and has been completely amazing through this whole process. Anything I needed she helped me with. I am beyond grateful for her support. Later that evening I decided to read my doctor’s notes online to prepare for our appointment. There were more complications in my notes that the doctor didn’t discuss with us. In addition to the baby’s clubfoot, and intestines outside its body it noted that the baby has cysts/fluid on its brain and heart abnormalities. I was so mad. How could the doctor not tell us about this? I began to hope that they were wrong. That the ultrasound technician must have been completely wrong. How could a baby who kicks were this strong be so sick? How could we, two young people, with no family history of birth defects have a baby with so many abnormalities?
Tuesday, September 6th, 2016. Mr. J and I got up early and my mom met us at our house for the 2-hour drive to Rochester. On our way there we ran into 4 different detours and I was car sick for the last hour. We made it there with plenty of time for lunch. We checked in early and to my surprise, they pulled us into ultrasound right away. Like all the staff at Rochester, the ultrasound technician was amazing. She explained to me that she would discuss all the abnormalities she saw with us during the ultrasound and took tons of pictures. She was so compassionate and even became emotional at times. One thing I noticed at Rochester was they never left us alone. It was comforting and scary at the same time. It made me think, “something must really be wrong.” The ultrasound technician confirmed everything I had read in the doctor’s note. The baby did indeed have all those abnormalities and now we would need to discuss this with the doctor. Again, we were in a patient room. This time with a nurse and my mother, waiting on the doctor. For the most part, the nurse was quiet but did ask us if our doctor at home discussed Trisomy 18 with us. You mean the doctor who didn’t even tell us all the complications? Um no, he did not discuss this Trisomy nonsense you speak of. Very briefly my mom had left the room and the nurse went to check on the doctor. I immediately grabbed my phone and Googled Trisomy 18. I began to read the description out loud to Mr. J when I came across “lethal condition.” I simply pointed and began to cry. I couldn’t say those words out loud. Mom, nurse, and doctor came back in the room, probably wondering what they had missed. The doctor began to explain to me that our baby showed signs of Trisomy 18 and that our baby would not be able to live outside of my body. He continued to explain that this was a considered a lethal condition and that we would need to decide whether we wanted to induce labor. That’s when mom started crying. He said that we would complete an amniocentesis to confirm the diagnose right now and we would have the results in 24 hours. I knew I had to get an authorization from my insurance company before they would cover an amino. So, while the doctor was in the other room preparing for the amniocentesis I was on the phone with my insurance company trying to get an authorization. Let me just tell you, talking to an insurance company in that state of mind is the worst. The woman on the phone began to tell me that authorizations take 2 weeks to go through and that I wouldn’t be able to have the amino today. I screamed at her, (poor lady) “MY BABY ISN’T GOING TO LIVE AND I NEED TO HAVE THIS AUTHORIZATION NOW!” She said she would speak to her supervisor. It wasn’t over yet. She then needed to talk to my doctor and get codes from him and of course, he had no idea what these codes were. It was all so dramatic and just didn’t help the situation.
Once that was sorted, we went into the other room for the amniocentesis. If you don’t know what this is, consider yourself lucky. I don’t know if everyone’s experience is as traumatizing as mine but seriously, if you don’t need to get one, don’t. They take a very long needle and push it through your stomach, into your uterus to collect amniotic fluid. There were two doctors, Mr. J, and the same ultrasound technician in the room. The ultrasound technician was there to make sure they didn’t hit the baby with the needle in the process. The first doctor put the needle in very slowly. I could feel every inch of it. Once the needle was in, he began to wiggle it because fluid was not coming out as expected, beyond painful. So the second doctor stepped in, removed the first needle, and then inserted the second needle so forcefully I literally heard a pop. I had bruising on my stomach for weeks and I still, 3 months post-partum, have scars from the needles. Then we went home to wait for a phone call and to think about our options.
I went to work to next day mostly to tell my boss that I would be needing some time off soon but wasn’t sure when. Again Mr. J sat on the couches outside my office just in case I needed him. I ended up leaving work early anyways because I was exhausted. It was Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 when the doctor called us with the results of the amniocentesis. Unfortunately, the news wasn’t good. Our baby didn’t have Trisomy 18, it had Triploidy, which is worst. He explained that I had what is called a partial molar pregnancy. A partial molar pregnancy is a rare complication. It happens when an egg and a sperm meet at fertilization, but the cells do not grow in a way that can support a pregnancy. In a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg has 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 from the father, making a total of 46. In a molar pregnancy, the wrong number of chromosomes come together, causing the baby to have 69 chromosomes instead of 46. He explained to us that like Trisomy 18 Triploidy is a legal condition and that the baby wouldnt be able to live outside of my body, and could cause me to develop cancer. He told me how important it was for me to consider being induced because the longer I carried this baby the higher chance I had of developing cancer. It was a no brainer for Mr. J. To him induction was our only option. I, on the other hand, was still in stock and trying to absorb what the doctor just said. “So, you mean to tell me that not only is my baby going to die but it may also give me cancer?” How can this be? They did not mention this in the baby book, apps, or millions of articles I’ve been reading on the internet for the past 5 months. So right there, sitting in the parking lot of Green Mill picking up our dinner I consented to terminate my pregnancy and scheduled it for Friday, September 9th, 2016.
Just so we are all clear, this is technically considered a late term abortion. That word makes my skin crawl. Being a person who practices the Catholic faith this decision wasn’t sitting well with me. Suddenly those kicks weren’t so comforting anymore and became a constant reminder that our baby was very much alive and we just made a decision that would end its life. This is the part where I get mad. This was not fair. Why me? Mr. J and I had tried and prayed for a baby for two years, and when we finally became pregnant this happens. All I could think was, “This is complete bullshit!” Then I got scared. I wasn’t ready. Birthing class wasn’t until next week. I don’t know how to labor. What if something happens? It would be just our luck at this point for something to go terribly wrong. I suddenly only had 2 days instead of 4 months to prepare myself for labor. I called our priest, who by the way is beyond amazing. He gave me his personal cell phone number and told me to call anytime. I called him very early Thursday morning and had clearly woken him up. He agreed to meet with me later that morning. We talked about what was going to happen. He blessed me and the baby and taught me how to baptize the baby if it was born alive. He even gave me some holy water from our church. We briefly discussed having a service for the baby once we came home.
Suddenly not only did I need to think about preparing myself for labor but how and where I was going to bury my baby. What? Do we cremate? Bury? Bury where? All these questions swarmed my thoughts and I had not a clue how to begin to tackle them. And a name! We needed a name for the baby. Mr. J and I had been going round and round on baby names since May and now we suddenly needed to pick a boy and a girl name in 2 days. Surprisingly that was the easiest part. We started looking up religious names and names with meanings. First, we picked the boy’s name, Patrick David. I was convinced we were having a boy so I knew this would be the name but as cheesy as it sounds when we picked the girl name, Mia Delilah, my heart skipped a beat. Not to mention when I suggested Mia Delilah, Paul immediately agreed, which never happens. Mia means- wished for child, and Delilah means- small.
Our families and friends came together to help us during this difficult time. From babysitting our difficult dogs to bringing us food, and much-needed company. The day before my grandma came to pick up one of our dogs to babysit while we were gone and gave us the wonderful idea to bury our baby on top of my grandma. My grandma Davis is buried in a cemetery literally across the street from my cousin’s, grandpa, and aunt’s houses. This was a beautiful idea and I love my grandma for bringing it to our attention. Our baby would be buried with her great-grandma, so she would never be alone. The last thing I did the day before was have Mr. J take pictures of my growing belly. The day before my induction marked 22 weeks of pregnancy. I was finally relieved of my nausea, and I had this cute little belly to show off. So, we took some beautiful pictures to celebrate.
Friday, September 9th, 2016, the day Mia was born. We woke up at 4 am to get to Rochester by 7 am. Of course, we didn’t leave on time and it happened to be pouring cats and dogs outside. The drive to Rochester is all winding country roads with little visibility that was worsened by the rain. I was trying to close my eyes in hopes of getting a little more sleep but sleep didn’t come. There was so much rain that there were frogs all over the road. I kept hearing Mr. J say, “oops, there goes another one” as he ran over frogs. As we neared Rochester, being 22 weeks pregnant I had to pee baaaad. Of course, the baby began kicking me hard. I thought for sure between this full bladder and baby kicks I was going to pee my pants. I never did but feeling baby kick like that was so emotional. It just reminded me that the baby was alive and I was choosing to end its life. We got to Rochester at 7:45 am and our parents were closely behind us. They put us in a quiet room away from other mom’s and began to explain the induction process. The entire time baby was kicking and reminding me how alive it was.
I received my first dose of Cytotec at 9 am. The nurse explained that I would receive a dose of Cytotec every 3 hours till the baby was born. She explained that because my body wasn’t ready to have a baby it could take a long time before we see progress. She said that we could expect to be in the hospital most of the weekend. From 9am-noon I was feeling pretty good. There was some mild cramping but nothing I couldn’t handle and I even ate lunch. I was checked at noon, no dilation, so I was given another dose of Cytotec. About 2 pm, I started to feel contractions. They came on fast and hard with no break between. I had learned that this type of induction medication was not safe for healthy babies and typically made contractions worst then your typical induction medication. That was the reason why I was experiencing so much pain without a break in contractions. I began pacing, moaning, and trying to breathe through contractions that were not giving me a break. Mr. J was amazing. Followed me around the room, replaced cold towels on my head, rubbed my lower back, and even found me a new gown when I claimed the one I had been wearing all morning was choking me. I was given a dose of pain medication (Fentanyl) that lasted maybe two minutes. I then decided I needed an epidural. Jen, our amazing nurse (Mr. J kept saying, “thank god for Jen”) ran out into the hallway and snagged the anesthesiologist while he was in route to another patient. I jumped when the anesthesiologist attempted to numb me. I ended up bumping my IV on my hand and spraying blood all over, but mostly on Mr. J.
Did I mention how amazing Mr. J was through all of this? That’s the thing about Mr. J. In a crisis, he’s your hero. Not only is he my hero, but I have watched him support many people over the years as they’re in a crisis. He never hesitates to do what is needed without asking. One of the many reasons why I knew I wanted to marry him.
Once the epidural was put in I was checked again, at 3:30 pm. I still had not progressed and given another dose of Cytotec. At this point, I was feeling defeated. All that pain and no dilation. I decided to turn on the Sex and the City movie, turned the lights down, and relax.
Just before 7 pm, I was given another dose of Cytotec. Jen began to tell me that her shift would be ending at 7 pm and another nurse would be taking her place. I then began to get what is called the “baby shakes.” Our nurse Jen, told us that the baby shakes were a good sign that my body was progressing. Then I felt baby. Jen checked me and told me she could see the baby and not to push so we could wait for the doctor. The doctor never came in time and without pushing, the baby was stillborn at 7:39 pm. It was then that we found out that we had a girl, and we named her Mia Delilah. Mia Delilah was 12.77oz and 9 ½ inches long.
I didn’t know what to expect when Mia was born. I was scared to see what she would look like. But honestly, she just looked like a baby. A very small baby. Mr. J and I began taking in all her features and looking for ourselves in her. She defiantly had Mr. J’s feet, which were the cutest feet we ever saw. We couldn’t get enough of them. Mr. J says she had my nose. We took pictures of her and gave her a bath. I think giving her a bath was one of the best things I did. It gave us an opportunity to take note of all her features, and really bond with her. We then wrapped in her the cutest, pink knitted outfit from the hospital. We learn that the mother of our nurse knitted this outfit, that’s just how amazing these nurses are. It got late so Mr. J and I decided to go to bed. The nurses told me they would take Mia while we sleeping to get her foots prints but would bring her back before we woke in the morning.
In the middle of the night, I woke up and needed more pain medications. I paged for the nurse, and to my surprise, Jen had returned. She told me that someone had called in so she decided to come back. Again, the nurses were beyond amazing. We woke up in the morning, ordered breakfast and spent some time holding Mia. The nurses brought in a box with mementos for Mia. Multiple footprints, hospital tags, and ceramic molds of her hands and feet that they had taken while we were sleeping. We saved Mia’s knitted outfit and wrapped her in a hospital blanket while we waited for them to come take Mia so she could be cremated and transported back to Wisconsin.
They took Mia at noon on September 10th. How I felt when I had to hand Mia over is somewhat indescribable. I just felt disgusting. We had to hand her over to this person we didn’t know, trust or at this point like. We didn’t know where she would be going, who she was with, or how they were treating her and there was nothing I could do about it. Then we went home, to rest, plan her funeral, and to grieve the loss of our daughter.
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