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Real Baby and Birth Stories from Real Women

Di’s Second Birth – July 2011

This is the story of the stillbirth of my son, Sebastian. It was a memorable experience, if not a happy one. I have written it without really softening the edges.

When Sebastian was born, we already knew he wasn’t alive. Just before noon on July 8th, we found out the results of that morning’s ultrasound, which showed that our son had died unexpectedly earlier that day. He was at almost 35 weeks gestation.

The only warning had been two days before, at an extra ultrasound to follow up on an echogenic bowel found at 20 weeks. This test showed that Sebastian was measuring much smaller than he should have been, and that there was zero amniotic fluid, even though blood flow was fine, and the baby seemed normal-size on palpation. We knew he was breech, but not in danger at that point. We then had a non-stress test at the hospital, which showed that he was not in distress. The evidence, taken all together, didn’t make sense.

And then his heartbeat was gone.

We were still in shock as the doctor and midwives explained our next steps to us. We would be given a prescription to begin induction, doses to be taken twelve hours apart, and started whenever I was ready. The pharmacist said to take one dose before bed and the next one in the morning… and that’s what I did, because I didn’t know how else to know I was ready. Finding out your baby is dead makes you afraid to keep him inside, but also unwilling to let him go. We had started to feel the grief, but beyond that, we hadn’t yet started to process anything.

We were told induction might take a long time, because my body wasn’t already preparing to go into labour at that stage. Also, my first labour with my son E was a very long one. Still, I had an odd feeling that I might not need to take a second dose of the prescription – and I was right.

I took the first dose (that is, my husband helped me with it, since it had to be inserted) before going to bed, at about 10 p.m., and I started feeling the first twinges very soon after that. I tried to ignore it, figuring it couldn’t be that quick. At around 11:30 or so, I came out to the kitchen, thinking I might do what the midwives say to do when you want to slow things down and get some sleep: have a glass of wine and some Tylenol. (The one time you’re supposed to mix, I guess?) We didn’t have wine, but I started by sharing a beer with my sister, who was staying with us just in case we had to leave in the middle of the night. We chatted (about what I have no idea) as I got increasingly uncomfortable. I decided the beer wasn’t working and took some acetaminophen… and almost immediately, I started feeling truly bizarre: my palms itched and I began to shiver uncontrollably. It was surreal – I was freaked-out, but kind of fascinated at the same time.

I got into bed with my robe still on, and my husband woke up and put his arms around me until I warmed up and stopped shivering. I tried to sleep, with no success; the discomfort was quickly becoming pain. Apparently the induction drug they prescribed me would just keep on truckin’, other substances notwithstanding.

It was around 1:30 a.m. when we paged our midwife (B). I felt bad to be waking her up, thinking I should have waited until morning to take the drugs, but I couldn’t have known this would happen so much faster than predicted. Also, the doctor and midwives had all said I could have whatever pain management would ease this, since there was no danger to the baby. No reason to deal with a lot of physical pain, in addition to the emotional pain. We agreed to meet B at the hospital for a shot. I was glad to be going now instead of later, since I clearly remembered how agonizing the car trips were during my first labour, when the contractions were further along. As it was, I still had trouble getting up to the Birthing Unit, and had to pause a few times to hang onto Sean and wait out a bad one.

I was really looking forward to that shot. I remembered how with E, a dose of Nubain totally took the edge off the contractions, and made me so drowsy that I could doze in between them. So I gritted my teeth and crouched by the bed in Triage – there was nobody there but us – until B was ready to inject some Demerol into my thigh. After the shot, she asked if I’d like her to check my cervix, though she didn’t seem to think it was necessary. I thought it might be a good idea. To her surprise, I was already at 2 centimetres’ dilation – she figured it would only be about 6 or 7 hours before he was born.

Here commences the most intense experience of my life so far. We headed out to go home and get a bit of sleep. The drugs had already started to hit me: I was definitely feeling dizzy. But as we got in the car, I remember saying, “I’m not impressed with this Demerol,” because for some reason, it was not taking the edge off the contractions. I was waiting for that beautiful relief, but the pain was actually getting worse. I wondered what was going on: why wasn’t it working? and how could I be expected to get any sleep if Demerol doesn’t actually kill pain?

I cringed and breathed all the way home. We were talking about whether I should crash on the couch or whether we should try to get ourselves back into the bedroom, where E and his auntie would both (we hoped) be sleeping… but it became increasingly clear that it was a moot point, because being “comfortable” was out of the question.

I got as far as our front doorstep before a huge contraction hit me. I tried squatting down to see if it would ease the pain a bit, but instead, I was suddenly in what I can only describe as agony – as if I were breaking apart from the inside. It seemed to go on and on. Finally, Sean was able to help me through the door and into the living room, where I rested my head on E’s little table and held on for dear life, paralyzed by pain. I remember asking Sean to get me a bowl, because I thought I might throw up – and I haven’t thrown up, for any reason, for – literally – 17 years. Thankfully, I did not ruin my streak that night, but it was a close one. I was trying to remain calm, but my brain was frantically thinking, How can I escape this? How can I possibly get back to the hospital when I can’t even move? Please can I just leave my body now??

After spending some minutes (don’t have a clue how many) in that spot, I crawled over to the couch between contractions. Sean was asking me if he should call B back again, but I didn’t know what to tell him – and it was very hard to speak, anyway. I remember burying my face in the couch cushions to stifle whatever sounds I was making – something akin to crying, or maybe closer to keening. Then, the pain seemed to shift and change – and become more bearable. It gradually dawned on me that it had changed because it had moved lower, and that if I went along with the surges, it actually felt better… uh-oh. I was pushing. I managed to get out this news to Sean, who said, “That’s it. I’m calling her back.” Poor Sean – I can hardly imagine how scary this would have been for him, watching his normally calm wife freak out, trying to judge what to do when we were still supposed to have six hours to go.

I could vaguely hear Sean speaking on the phone, and then he asked me, “Can you breathe? Like, pant through it?” I didn’t know what this was testing for, but I tried. It came out as more of a whimper. Next thing I knew, he was out the door and back again – B had told him to get me lying down in the backseat of the car, so he’d gone out to remove E’s toddler seat with lightning speed. He said, “Let’s get you into the car,” and I couldn’t see how this could possibly be accomplished… but there was no choice. He half-carried me as I hobbled out to the car and lay down – it was not easy for him to close the doors because I barely fit back there, even curled up.

Even at the time, in the alternate world I was in, I was aware of how amazing my husband was. He drove us back to the hospital as fast as he dared, sounding very collected, telling me what landmarks we were passing, and reminding me to breathe – that’s when I figured out he was trying to help me not to push. And I did okay at calming down and breathing… partly because I could tell it was, in a way, too late. I had felt my baby move down, I had felt the “ring of fire” starting… and now I could feel that he was not even fully inside me anymore. Looking back, I can see that after E’s wacked-out labour and birth that didn’t follow any guidelines, Sebastian’s delivery was textbook: I was in early labour in the living room with my sister, active labour on the way home from the hospital, and transition on the doorstep. Except that you’re not really supposed to deliver in the car… or the street.

We pulled up across from the hospital, Sean practically leapt out of the car and called to a nurse who was on her smoke break, “Can I get some help over here?” I was only aware of voices and physical sensations: the nurse coming to check me, Sean’s “Oh my God -” as he saw the baby’s feet, the same nurse studiously keeping her cool as she said, “Okay! We’re having this baby right here.” Then I heard my midwife’s voice – and I was being asked to help get myself into a wheelchair. Sean told me later that this was when B had arrived (having just arrived at her house and then turned right back around again) and explained to the nurse that there was no danger of breech complications with this baby, because he was not alive. We had time.

It was like starring in a hospital drama as they raced me through the halls to the elevator and into a birthing room. By this time, I felt like I could choose when to push, so when they asked me to, I was ready. This part seemed easy, natural. I think it only took two pushes for him to arrive, and one more for the placenta. It was 2:45 a.m. on July 9th, 2011, less than five hours after taking the prescription, less than thirty minutes after I was checked at 2 centimetres.

There is something to be said for the combination of Demerol and a sudden release from acute pain. The result is a blissful calm approaching euphoria. Neither Sean nor I was euphoric, of course: being brokenhearted doesn’t allow for this. But relief and love were the more powerful feelings at that moment. I was able to look at Sebastian, gather him in my arms when the midwife handed him to me, and feel peace. He was beautiful, precious, and amazing. Just as he would have been if his heart had been beating.

{The last paragraph above is from my personal blog, itsdilovely.com. There is more information about the aftermath of this experience under the category called Sebastian.}

Shared by Dilovely from Ontario, Canada. To read Dilovely’s first birth story, please click here.

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Comments

5 Responses to “Di’s Second Birth – July 2011”

  1. Auntie CL says:

    Oh, Di, my Sunshine!
    somehow i missed that you had posted this, though i have read all the other posts about Sebastian on your blog.
    so i only read it just now.
    i cried all the way through. of course.
    even though i knew the whole story.
    i love you.
    CL

  2. diblog says:

    I actually posted it surreptitiously because I felt it might be more than my subscribers bargained for… but thank you for reading it. I love you too.

  3. tricia says:

    Oh, I just can’t imagine- I just can’t. This is my first time to your blog- and I’m glad I found it via the DailyBuzz Moms Top 9- MIne is the other childbirth story that’s more about a long ruck march that was much easier than childbirth- I aimed for humor- but I see that there is no room for that in yours. I’m sorry that you and your husband had to endure that.

  4. diblog says:

    Tricia, thank you for your comment and your sympathy. Your birth/march story is fascinating – and I think there is lots of room for humour in MOST birth stories (only after the fact, right?) Would you be willing for me to re-publish your story on MotherGather, with a link to your blog?

  5. […] that was my stillborn baby she’d heard about months ago – but there is no suppressing that birth in my mind. I’m so grateful for that experience, and how very real it […]

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