I started life off as an adult the hardest way possible. 18, with a newborn. My ex husband and I had an ugly, miserable relationship, but out of that bitterness I got my two sweet kiddos Sterling (10) and Colin (9).
Years go by, life happens and my marriage to my kids dad fell apart, life goes on, I dated a few, and knew that one day I wanted to expand my family. Without getting into the ugly details, I found myself a newly single mom once again, on my own with my two beautiful kiddos. A brand new nurse, with ambition and dreams of a perfect life for myself and my kids.
In November of 2020 I met my now husband, Joey. He was unlike the men of my past relationships, donning polos and a clean shaven face. He was not an oilfield mechanic, or working in a machine shop. He was a successful property manager who had made his way up the company ladder with blood sweat and tears. Joey opened me up to a whole different world. The small town I had lived in had no opportunity for growth. Joey lulled me with horse -drawn carriage rides, and nice dinners with gentle conversation and grace. We flew to Denver Colorado for one of our first dates, I knew in that moment he was something special, unlike any man I had known before, I knew I wanted to spend my life with this guy. Joey was a man who had been single most of his adult life, trying to find his way in his career and figure out who he was before devoting himself to a family life. He had no experience with kids, like, absolutely none. He was thrown into my world of McDonald’s nuggets, homemade slime, and the ever lingering trauma of my children who were abandoned by their father.
Joey took it. And I was terrified. I was horrified this would be another negative experience for my kids to tell about their moms dating life. But he stood by me, and loved my babies as if they were his. He’s taken emotional beatings from my children who were confused, and angry why this man had come in and changed their world. He promised to be there, and love them, even when it wasn’t desired from them. I was scared shitless. He never waivered, even when I would have waved my flag and said screw this, he stood. And he still does.
3 months into dating I randomly found out I was pregnant. It had been 8 years since I was pregnant, and I forgot the flood of emotions that had come with it. I saw those two pink lines and the world stood still. I stood in the bathroom of Joeys house staring at my then, thin stomach full of excitement and fear, because I had a new life inside of me. Something I had wanted so badly all these years.
Joey was shocked, to say the least. This was the first experience of pregnancy he had EVER had, and went into full blown planning mode. He made phone calls to realtors, began researching the best vehicles, trying to figure out daycare. The fear was well shown on his face, but for the first time, I saw a man who shown a desire to be a father.
With that pregnancy, whom I named Melody, I felt uneasy after the first test. Something didn’t feel right, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. My mom (who was non-admittedly thrilled about the idea of a new grand baby from a man who wasn’t oilfield trash) reassured me no one in our family had ever miscarried and it was pretty rare. I knew, I knew this baby wasn’t going to make it. On March 25, 2021 I miscarried my baby “Melody” in my bathroom. I was only 5 weeks 4 days. Every trip to the bathroom felt like a funeral. It was traumatizing. I felt like a failure. I never thought it would happen to ME. I was 25, why was this happening??
It took a few months to emotionally recover, every week was a reminder of the gestational age our first child should have been, but would never be.
Joey and I were later engaged in May 2021. He proposed on my favorite beach, with my kids standing behind me.
We came home from our family vacation with a future in mind. We began looking for a home in a new town, a new car, because family planning was already in the back of our minds.
Then, on July 8th 2021, Joey and I had a wedding to go to, when I had an absolute meltdown about a dress. It was uncharacteristic of me. Sobbing in the floor of the closet disgusted with every option I tried on. I thought I was losing my mind, and I’m pretty sure Joey did too.
That meltdown caused by that dress prompted me to take a pregnancy test later that afternoon. I sat the test on the counter and waited the 3 minutes for the line to show.
Little did we know our Cooper Allen Dunlap would be making his arrival, shaking our whole worlds on March 6, 2022.
Coopers pregnancy wasn’t easy. I hear horror stories of moms who have severe preeclampsia, pupps syndrome, chromosomial abnormalities, and I was thankful nothing like that was ever in our cards, but minor road blocks came up every few weeks with his pregnancy. I was sick for 20 weeks, extremely depressed, I had been diagnosed with placenta previa which scared the shit out of me because I wanted a natural birth and labor. C section was the WORST THING EVER TO HAPPEN. I could slap the woman I was before. I was so naive.
At 22 weeks I was in a car wreck involving a deer after being called out to a hospice call in the middle of the night. I totaled my car and the fear of my baby being hurt was in the forefront of my mind. We were checked out, and luckily, everything was okay.
At 25 weeks I had a second ultrasound to check my placenta. It had moved JUST ENOUGH that I didn’t have to worry about a c-section. All was well in my world. My c section fears were gone so I could focus on enjoying the end of my pregnancy.
Cooper was a bigger sized baby through the first part of my pregnancy, constantly in the 93rd-98th percentile. These were just estimates of course, but I took so much pride in that chunky grumpy boy in my ultrasounds. We couldn’t wait.
At 32 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with covid, and it kicked my ass. It took a week just to be able to function enough to care for my kids. We had an ultrasound at 33 weeks to check my placenta, because covid was known to cause calcification to placentas. During that 33 week scan, Joey and I asked my sonographer if he was still a big boy. She paused, and said, well, actually he’s in the 33rd% for his weight, but he looks okay! We left the ultrasound with pictures of our beautiful boy, who we would meet in less than 2 months.
I got home from our appointment and as I typically did, I opened my patient portal and read Coopers ultrasound report. “Nuchal cord x1 present.”
I’m a nurse. I knew what a nuchal cord was. It sent chills down my body, but I immediately googled “nuchal cord” and the search results calmed my mind. 35% are born with nuchal cords and they’re fine.
At my 35 week appointment Joey and I mentioned the cord to my doctor, she acted puzzled as if she didn’t even know what we were talking about, and then proceeded to tell me “we don’t like to even tell moms about nuchal cords in ultrasound, it freaks parents out, it is typically fine.”
My doctor wasn’t worried. I wasn’t worried. I trusted her. I trusted she would tell me if there was something wrong. I’ll never forgive myself for not listening to my instinct. The next few weeks Coopers movements were slower, however, he was making his kick counts. “10 kicks in 2 hours.” Well, he would make those kick counts with a little effort from me. I would shine a light on my belly, play music, poke him, whatever I needed to do to get him to move, and he would. “My lazy bab” I thought.
The nurse would ask me at every routine visit, “how’s baby moving.” I would hesitate, and say “well I mean he’s moving.” No further questioning was done so I figured okay, it’s fine. I’m just being anxious.
I was offered a 39 week induction, and for the rest of my life I will live with the guilt and torment of declining that induction.I wanted to be “crunchy” “my body knows what to do” “baby will come when he wants”
That was a death sentence for our Cooper.
The night before my 40 week scheduled induction, I had extreme anxiety. I chalked it Up to normal new mom fears and anxiety. His movements were slow, but hey, I was 40 weeks, “he ran out of room.” I fell asleep staring at the empty bassinet next to my bed, with the final thought of “what if he doesn’t come home.” I scolded myself for such a thought and drifted asleep anxious for the next day I got to meet my baby.
I woke up the next morning, without coopers normal wake up routine with his foot in my fractured ribs (covid cough fractured both sets of ribs)
Weird, I thought. I packed my bag for our induction, joey and I making arrangements for my kids to be picked Up by my mom. An hour passes and I lay down, realizing I still had not felt Cooper move. I press, I play music, I shine the light on him, nothing.
I grabbed my at home Doppler and placed it in the normal position he was always at. Radio silence. Silence that chilled me to my core. I frantically moved the Doppler, thinking maybe he dropped! Nothing. Nothing but the static sound of the machine with nothing to pick up on.
Joey came in and tried to reassure me, it’s just a silly machine it’s wrong.
But I knew. I knew my baby was dead. The next 24 hours were a blur. I remember walking into OBED explaining I had decreased fetal movement. I had to go alone, covid rules, my husband had to stay back with the kids. I remember the nurse placing the monitor on my belly. Silence.
Panic ensued in my nurse. That poor nurse. I wish I remember who she was. She was an Angel. I don’t remember anything I said, or did. All I remember is hearing this blood curling awful screeching noise and I was looking around wondering what the hell that could be, and I realized, it was my cries of agony, holding desperately to the nurse who was there in my worst moment. It was the only out of body experience I had ever experienced. I saw my broken body below me, and I thought I had died too. I begged god to take me. I begged him to fuck off and give me my baby back. I begged him to let me suffer. I hated myself. I hated my body. I wanted to die.
I was heavily medicated the next 13 hours after they began my induction. I don’t remember anything, and I’m not sure if it’s a trauma response or from the cocktail of drugs they gave me. I wanted to suffer. I refused medication. I wanted to feel every ounce of agony because I deserved it. But my Angel of mom and husband advocated for me, and made sure the only pain I had was the emotional turmoil that would never be matched.
The waiting room filled with 50+ people who had heard the news. In the middle of the pandemic. All rules went out the window for us.
There were prayer chains all across the country, but it was too late. God took my baby. I would deliver him silent.
At 2300 I felt pressure. Tearing. Burning. Why isnt my epidural working?? Because head crowing, that’s why. My doctor came in, in a hurry. I begged her to make it stop, god please don’t make me do this. Don’t make me deliver him dead. She gently informed me I had no choice.
At 2322 Cooper Allen Dunlap was born still. He was 7 pounds 6.8 ounces and 19.5 inches long. The only noise in the room was my families wail of agony. The nurse took my precious baby and cleaned him with his daddy right behind, watching every move, getting him ready for me to meet my baby in a way I needed to see him.
Cooper was my only baby with hair. It was curly. Auburn tinted. HUGE hands. huge feet. He looked eerily like his big sister. He was perfect.
But the cord wrapped around his neck 4 times. “These things just happen unfortunately “ is the explanation I was given by my OB.
WHAT THE FUCK???
“You can try again.”
As I hold my cold lifeless baby..
Cooper met his siblings, family, close friends. Cooper was my missing piece, and he was gone.
I can’t tell you how the next few months went. A lot of sleep. Xanax (prescribed) Tears. Fast food. Friends and family caring for my families basic needs. so many times I had the thought of ending it all to be with my son.
Then, in August 2022, I found out I was pregnant. I lost that baby 2 weeks later. “Fuck you” said the universe. That hope, the smidge of hope I had, was ripped away.
September of 2022, another positive. Cautiously optimistic, I held my breath as my beta levels would go up, but not enough to be viable. I was afraid I was going to lose my tube. I was afraid I was going to lose another shred of hope for a future with a living baby.
3 weeks later that pregnancy ended at roughly 7 weeks. It traumatized me. It changed me. My heart Couldn’t handle anymore loss.
We searched for answers. The answers lay in my blood work, which showed an obvious problem, but what it was exactly, was unknown. I tried a slew of different hormones, blood thinners and fertility inducing medications. I had no hope, honestly. I was pissed with the world and my life.
On December 15th, I had yet another positive.
Not exciting anymore. It’s dread. It’s viles of expensive bloodwork. It’s HCG beta hell.
My blood work climbed. It climbed steadily, it tripled in fact. I had a glimmer of hope, but shut it down in fear of pain once again.
On January 10th Joey and I hesitantly made it to our first OB appointment with a new OB. The tech asked about my pregnancy history as I explained the trauma, her eyes were wide and explained this is just a dating scan and it’s normal not to see much at all.
She placed the cold gel and probe on my belly and flashbacks hit me of my final ultrasound with Cooper. I held my breath, closed my eyes and sobbed. The tech excitedly exclaimed “there’s a beautiful heartbeat! Momma, we have a baby with a heartbeat!!”
What a feeling. Joy. Fear. Excitement. Pure love. Pure dread.
I’m almost into my second trimester now. By the time this is published I’ll be almost 30 weeks.
Everything has been amazing so far. My mental health is struggling, but rightfully so.
We are surrounded with love and support, for the grief we are still enduring, and the hope we feel for our August 2023 rainbow baby.
I’m learning to live with a balance. A balance of fear, and joy. A balance of hope, and grief. It’s okay to wish Cooper was here instead, but it’s also okay to be grateful I get to carry his little sibling.
We have 25 weeks to go until I deliver this baby with an early term induction, and I’m trying to enjoy every milestone we make.
I love you more than every star in the galaxy Cooper Allen, please guide your baby sibling home safely into my arms…, and to my rainbow baby, I have waited for you. We love you, and we are patiently waiting for your arrival. There has never been a baby so wanted. We love you all the way to Cooper and back again.
written with love and honesty.
Lexi Riane Dunlap, 02/03/2023
Photos taken by Wilkins Photography, Jaclyn Wilkins.
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