Our son Oliver was born in March 2017 after, by all accounts, an uneventful, easy pregnancy.
Flash forward 3 years to March 2020, my husband Tom and I had been trying to conceive a sibling for Oliver to no avail for nearly 2 years and were referred to a fertility specialist. On March 13th, as Covid shut the world down, we were notified that our appointment was cancelled. It felt like a sibling for Oliver was a distant dream, something that would not be realized.
On June 2nd, 2020 after noticing some nausea inducing smells, I had the inkling I may be pregnant and a pregnancy test confirmed it.
We later learned we were expecting a baby boy, Owen, due February 11, 2021.
Right at the start, Covid made this pregnancy more difficult than Oliver’s. Tom was unable to attend any appointments with me. I isolated from family and friends, fearful of getting covid myself. At 27 weeks pregnant, both Tom and Oliver contracted Covid forcing me to isolate from them for 2 weeks. Luckily I did not get covid. My exposure to them, however, pushed back my screening for gestational diabetes.
At nearly 32 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and 2 weeks later, with polyhydramnios. This led to insulin injections, monitoring 3 times per week and ultimately, for my delivery date to be moved up. My delivery date was scheduled for February 1, 2021 with a doctor I was less familiar with. I was stressed and I was scared.
Saturday, January 30, 2021 started off mundane, with the discussion of dinner and small projects left to complete around the house and Owen’s nursery.
We then got busy, hanging pictures in Owen’s room. Going through Oliver’s old baby books and shelving them to read to Owen later. Folding and putting away freshly washed, tiny onesies. Filling the diaper caddy with essentials. A last minute call to the hospital to discuss pre-surgery prep for Monday’s c-section.
I remember that day vividly.
I play that day over and over in my mind. I re-live it in my dreams.
Although I can remember the simplest of details from that day I cannot, however, remember the last time I felt his kicks.
I didn’t pause, like I normally would have, to feel him. To give him a little nudge of love.
It wasn’t until later afternoon when I finally sat down that I had an inkling of something being wrong.
I remember sitting on the couch, touching my belly. Giving it a little poke and feeling his tiny foot, in its usual spot under my ribs. He didn’t respond like he normally would. I remember thinking, “that was strange, but maybe he is sleeping?”
From that point on I was hyper aware. Preoccupied with trying to feel him move.
Then came dinner. Surely a meal would wake him up and get him moving again. He was always especially busy after I ate.
But it did not.
At that point, I was frantic with worry, telling Tom we needed to go to the hospital. I remember Ollie crying at our sudden departure. I remember the snow falling hard, the slick roads as we drove. I remember knowing deep down something was wrong.
At the hospital, they hooked me up to the monitor and tried unsuccessfully to find his heartbeat. Then came the OB, wheeling the ultrasound machine in.
The shake of his head and sigh as he pointed to Owen’s ribcage and said he did not have a heartbeat. Tom’s screams, my disbelief. “Can you check again?”
Then came the unbelievable thought of delivering Owen. I was to be induced that night. I remember the terror. I had a C-section with Ollie (he was breech), I had never experienced labor and now I had to labor and deliver my dead son?
The labor was difficult. The epidural dropped my blood pressure and caused me to throw up many times.
Late afternoon on January 31st, I began to feel searing pain in my abdomen despite the epidural. We rang for the nurse and my doctor came in to check me to find I had started hemorrhaging. My uterus had ruptured and I was rushed into the OR for an emergency c-section. I required multiple blood transfusions and extensive surgery to repair the damage from the rupture.
At 5:38 PM, nearly 24 hours after learning of his death, Owen was born. 7 lbs 8 ounces and 20 inches of absolute perfection. He was so beautiful. We spent the next three days bathing, cuddling and marveling at his perfect little fingers and toes. How much he resembled his brother.
Thankfully, his brother was allowed to come to the hospital and meet him. We took family photos. It was heartbreaking and beautiful to see how much Ollie loved his little brother. A precious memory we will carry with us forever.
5 months after Owen’s death, we received the autopsy report and learned that Owen had died after a concealed placental abruption. Concealed, meaning that I did not have any of the telltale symptoms of placental abruption; bleeding, pain. These results hit me like a ton of bricks. How could this have been happening to my baby, in my body and I had absolutely no idea? This is something I grapple with daily.
Over the next few months, we slowly began to discuss trying to conceive again in the future as the doctor who repaired my uterus told us that should we choose to, it was a possibility for me to carry another child. 6 months after Owen’s death, we met with a maternal fetal medicine specialist who outlined the serious risks of pregnancy after rupture. After much discussion, she recommended testing to check how my uterus was healing, and if everything came back normal she would treat a future pregnancy.
A pelvic MRI came back normal, however they were unable to view my uterus via SHG or HSG due to scar tissue in my cervix. The doctor recommended surgery to remove the scar tissue, noting pregnancy would be unlikely to happen without it.
A surgery consultation was scheduled, however 9 months after Owen’s death, we learned to our shock and disbelief, that I was pregnant.
The emotions after seeing the positive test and knowing what was ahead are difficult to describe.
I decided that no matter the outcome, I would celebrate this pregnancy, thus leading me to Journey for Jasmine. This baby is loved and wanted, just like Oliver and Owen. So here I am, still pregnant, still scared, still hopeful and still missing Owen.
And still somehow, carrying on.
Photos taken by Tiffany Brownley.
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