Olivia’s Story

My husband, Matthew and I met in college. We got married fairly young in 2012, I was 24 and he was 25. We knew from early on in our relationship that we both wanted several children. 

We rented an apartment for the first few years of our marriage and were not actively trying or preventing pregnancy. It was not until we purchased our first home that we decided it would be a good place to raise children. After 18 months we were finally pregnant with our first child. We had a healthy, beautiful son named Maxwell in November 2016. 

Shortly after Max’s first birthday we decided we would try for another baby. 26 months passed and no positive test. In hindsight I should have sought help sooner than I did. I was diagnosed with PCOS (with non-traditional markers) and was set to start clomid the following month.

November 2019 we got a positive test right before starting ovulation induction medication! We were so incredibly happy. As for much of the world, in March of  2020 everything came to a screeching halt due to Covid-19. Our anatomy scan was the Friday in March 2020, right before the Monday that the world shut down. The hospital personnel most likely knew that things were about to change and were concentrating on preparing for that transition. Because of this we do not feel that our scan was done with as much scrutiny as it should have been. Things were missed, crucial things that ultimately should have been followed more closely and were not. After our tragic loss, we learned that our baby’s umbilical cord insertion was misdiagnosed as normal, when in reality it was marginally inserted and should have been followed with subsequent ultrasounds. Our baby’s umbilical cord was also extremely short which comes with its own list of issues and dangers. We found out too late that the cord was only 17cm long. The ultrasound technician had even made the comment “I am having trouble finding baby’s cord.” But there was never any follow-up ordered. 

My subsequent doctor’s appointments were rushed in and out due to Covid-19 and several concerns I had were brushed aside, since it was known that I already had one healthy child at home. Max, our first child, had been a super active baby in utero, and this baby’s movements were much more subtle.  The baby also had hiccups CONSTANTLY (which can indicate a problem after 32 weeks) multiple times a day for extended periods of time up until birth. I had called after hours lines, and asked several doctors about possible cord compression and was brushed off and told “not to google”. I also had strange frantic, jerky movements that only happened when I laid down which were out of character for my sedentary baby- these were also brushed aside. 

On July 24, 2020 I was 38 weeks 6 days pregnant. I woke up with terrible back pain and one constant contraction. We headed to the hospital to finally meet our beautiful baby. When we arrived the nurse tried to find the heartbeat on doppler. I will NEVER forget the horrible, empty echo that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Doctors were called in, ultrasound machines were brought in, and we were told “I am sorry there is no heartbeat.” How could this be? We were hours from meeting and holding our child, only to hear that our baby was no longer alive. 

Our beautiful Isla Pearl was born only a few hours later. Perfect, still, and silent.  We tried to make enough memories with her to last an entire lifetime in mere hours. Saying goodbye to our beautiful girl and walking away from the hospital carrying just a box of keepsakes was by far the hardest thing we have ever had to do. 

We were not really given a reason for her death. “Maybe an abruption, or sometimes these things just happen. As a mother, these “answers” were not good enough for me. “We sent her placental slides to a Placental Pathology expert, Dr. Harvey Kliman at Yale University. He was able to tell us what happened to our beautiful Isla. She passed away from multiple episodes of cord compression throughout pregnancy that created a buildup of blood clots in her umbilical cord. The final straw was an umbilical cord vessel rupture at the site of insertion. Isla’s marginally inserted cord and short cord set her up for constant compression inside the womb. Her lack of movement, constant hiccups, and jerky movements were all signs of cord compression and lack of oxygen that led to her death. Would she still be here if my concerns were considered valid? We will never know. As far as we are concerned our daughter was one of the many who died albeit indirectly from Covid-19 because of decreased medical surveillance. 

Most people do not understand, and cannot possibly fathom the loss of a child. Someone who loses a spouse is a widow, children who lose parents are orphans. There is no term for parents who have lost children, it is unnatural and goes against the grain of life. Isla will never run after her big brother, Max will never get to protect this little sister.  We will never see the color of Isla’s eyes. We will never hear her giggle, or hear her say “mama and daddy.” The secondary losses are all around, seeing children the age she would be now, missing milestone after milestone. The loss will be with us for the rest of our lives. 

Planning for our third pregnancy was an emotional decision. We wanted the joy of growing our family but were still and are still grieving for Isla. We mustered the courage and decided to reach once again for joy. Knowing that we had issues with secondary infertility and that I have PCOS, we were proactive this time around and sought the help of a Reproductive Endocrinologist. We started ovulation induction medications 8 months after Isla’s death. After 6 rounds of clomid, and 2 rounds of letrozole we were blessed to finally find out that we were pregnant again November 2021! 

Pregnancy after loss is the second hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It is punctuated with unrest and worry. I am currently almost 31 weeks pregnant as I write this. Even with increased monitoring, extra ultrasounds, NSTS and BPPs it is terrifying. The timeline of this pregnancy also makes it bittersweet. We hold onto hope that this little one will join us here, Earthside, July 23, 2022 via c-section – just one day before her big sister, Isla’s 2nd birthday.

This baby needed an extra special name to honor her big sister. Maxwell and Isla are both Scottish names and involve nature. (I love Scotland so much!) Maxwell means “great stream” and Isla means “island”. To honor Isla, this baby is named Skye, after the gorgeous Isle of Skye in Scotland. The sky is also where I look to talk to my beautiful Isla. We did not know that Isla was going to be a girl before her birth, so we are preparing for Skye’s arrival by getting her nursery together and buying her clothes with intention. In our hearts we are doing this for both of our girls. Hope propels us forward as we pray that Skye will be here, safe and sound. Skye: Our Rainbow Baby.  

Photos taken Deb Roberts, Becky Aynardi, and Alex Salamon.

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