This sad post comes on the heels of such a great day, Mother’s Day, when we acknowledge our own mothers and feel great about being the mother that we have come to be. I was going to be a mother of two children, two girls to be exact, but that all changed about a month ago. April 13, 2014 is a day that I will never forget, the day that I lost my Baby Strawberry.
I was five and a half months pregnant (almost 23 weeks), and things were going well. I admit that I was the busiest that I have ever been, with a full time job, looking after my daughter, and working on a part time Masters, but I didn’t see it coming. I was really nervous this time. I know so many friends and family members who suffered miscarriages during their second pregnancy. I waited until around 3 1/2 months to start telling people, and then after five months, I thought I was safe. I didn’t see it happening any other way. I had already started to plan for her arrival. I was working on making a toddler room for Cubby. I had prepped Cubby so that she knew what to expect and she was excited about becoming a big sister. I had started thinking about the date that I would put in for my maternity leave at work. I had gotten all of my previous maternity clothes out of our garage and borrowed some new ones from friends. Everything was going as planned. Baby Strawberry was due August 15 (during the only month that I had a break from school).
As they say, life throws you curve balls just when you think that you have it all planned and organized. I remember waking up on that Sunday morning with a sharp cramp in my abdomen. I had bought tickets to take Cubby to Dora live on stage in downtown Toronto. She was so excited that we were going to see Dora. I felt the cramps, but thought that it was something I had eaten the previous night. During the Dora show, the cramps became sharp and I went to the bathroom and noticed some light blood. I started to worry and realized that I didn’t have my midwife’s phone number or pager number with me. I spoke to my husband and wondered if I should go to the ER. We decided that it was better if I went home and paged the midwife first.
We got home and I immediately paged the midwife. I explained what was happening and she said that she wanted me on bed rest. My husband took Cubby to his parents’ house and I laid down to rest. Within an hour, I had severe cramps and when I went to the bathroom, there was bright red blood. I knew something was not right. I paged the midwife and she told me to meet her immediately at the hospital. My husband had gone to work and was far so I called him in a panic as I could not drive myself to the hospital. He rushed home and we were at the hospital within half an hour.
When we arrived at the hospital, the midwife was waiting for us. She hooked up the fetal monitoring and I was happy to hear a strong heart beat, but still nervous about the intense cramping. Luckily, the OB/GYN on-call was the chief of obstetrics. He came to check me and as soon as I saw his gloved hand dripping with blood, I knew that this story would not end well. There was still a part of me that hoped for the best and thought that because I was in a hospital, they could do anything to save the baby.
The doctor called in a team to consult about my case and within minutes, I was surrounded by residents and other doctors. They were whispering back and forth and I could see the urgency on their faces. He informed me that for some reason I was already 2 cm dilated and that Baby Strawberry was coming. I was in shock. It was like someone hit me over the head with a brick. What the heck is he saying? How was the baby coming when it wasn’t her time to come? I still had 3 1/2 months left! Again, some rational side of me thought that they could do something to stop the contractions or that I could somehow keep the baby in for another 3 or 4 weeks when she would be more developed.
The doctors discussed transferring me to another downtown hospital. They explained the possibilities to my husband and I, none of which sounded like a positive outcome. I could have an emergency C-section, where they would have to make a vertical cut and I could risk the chance of not being able to conceive again; because the baby was only between 22 and 23 weeks, the chances of survival were slim; the baby could have developmental delays or defects as it was too early. My head was spinning from the brutal options. All the while, my contractions were getting more intense and closer together. The doctor informed me that I was in active labour and that Baby Strawberry was coming.
I was moved to a delivery room where the doctor checked the monitor and the baby’s heart beat was still there. Thank God I thought. The doctor explained to my husband and I that the outcome may not be good and that even if they performed extreme measures on the baby, she may not live. My contractions were becoming agonizing and it was hard to absorb what the doctor was saying. I wasn’t going to get the epidural, but with the stress of the situation and the extreme pain, I decided to get it. By the time the anaesthesiologist arrived, I was dying of pain. The nurse had to lift me to the side of the bed. I sat as still as I could while I felt the cold needle going into my back. When I returned to supine, the doctor checked the monitor and the heartbeat was gone. I was stunned, in a state of shock. He explained that the stress of labour was too much and Baby Strawberry was gone. I held onto my husband’s hands and we both broke down and sobbed tears of frustration and sorrow. Within a minute, all of my hopes and dreams for my family and for Baby Strawberry has disintegrated. There was not going to be a Baby Strawberry. Cubby would not be a big sister. All of it was too overwhelming. I begged the doctor to take the baby out, but he said that since I was in active labour, I had to deliver the baby.
Within three hours, I felt a rush and Baby Strawberry was out. The doctor asked me if I wanted to hold her. I refused. I couldn’t even bear to look. I wanted to remember what she had looked like on the ultrasound and what she could have looked like; not remember this tiny baby that only weighed 450 grams. I broke down again and sobbed tears of exhaustion and utter disappointment. Baby Strawberry was gone. I would never get to hold her, I would never get to see her as a toddler, I would never get to take pictures of her and Cubby together holding hands and doing sisterly things together. Why was life so unfair? Why had God taken her so soon?
I stayed overnight at the hospital and the nurse came to check on me every hour. The staff was so nice and supportive. The social worker came to see me in the morning and sat with me and gave me a box filled with the baby hospital bracelet, a journal, a poem about losing a baby, and Baby Strawberry’s actual footprints stamped onto a piece of paper. Again my husband and I broke down and sobbed thinking of what could have been. All of our hopes and dreams for Baby Strawberry had been crushed. I felt like my heart had broken into a thousand pieces. I asked the doctor if it was something that I had done. Maybe if I had rested more? Maybe if I had gone to the hospital early in the morning instead of taking Cubby to see Dora? A million “maybes” went through my mind. The doctor said that it was nothing that I had done.
As my husband and I tried to process what had happened we both came to the conclusion that this was life and it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t Baby Strawberry’s time to come. She had chosen me for 5 1/2 months and had formed a bond with me through her movements in my tummy, but it just wasn’t her time. I started to be at peace knowing that she was in a better place, in Heaven playing with Caesar (my Maltese who we had lost over a year ago).
We were informed that we had to arrange a funeral for Baby Strawberry as she was over 20 weeks gestation and was considered a stillborn baby, not a fetus. My husband and I made the necessary arrangements and had a small funeral the following Thursday with immediate family. It was a beautiful sunny day and the service was perfect. I had found a poem about the loss of a baby and had planned to read it, but knew that I wouldn’t have been able to even read the second line without breaking down so I had the funeral director read it. My family said their good bye’s to Baby Strawberry and my husband and I had one final goodbye. Then she was cremated.
It’s been a month, but it feels like yesterday. It was such a difficult adjustment. One minute you are 5 1/2 months pregnant feeling the baby move, planning for the future, and the next minute, you are empty and bruised and in pain emotionally and physically. It took a while to process. There were a lot of tears and questions as to why this had happened. I tried not to be sad when Cubby was home. I didn’t want her to feel stressed or see me crying. We worked with the social worker at the hospital who told us to talk to Cubby and tell her what had happened. She said that children were very smart and it would be better to be honest with her. We told Cubby that Baby Strawberry was sick and that God needed her in Heaven. We told her that she was gone and that mommy was no longer having a baby. She took the news well and seemed to process it. Over the next week, she constantly asked me: “do you have another baby yet?” Each day, I told her “no” and that I would inform her when I did.
She still asks about Baby Strawberry. She asked me to draw a picture of our family with mom, dad, Cubby and her baby sister with God. It was touching to see how smart she is and that she is still referring to Baby Strawberry as her baby sister. As for me, I’m doing better now. We just returned from a five day family vacation to Jamaica that we had planned from before. It was a much needed vacation and a great time to spend uninterrupted time as a family. This experience has taught me not to take anything for granted, your life can literally change and turn upside down in one day. It has also given me a new appreciation for my little Cubby, including being more patient with her. Ironically, since I am off of work for a while, it has given me unlimited time to spend with Cubby and my husband. It has also taught me that no matter how much you try to plan out your life, God has a bigger plan.
Hopefully one day Cubby will be blessed with a sibling and will get the chance to be the big sister that she wanted to be. I’m sure I will heal and return to work. I will not forget Baby Strawberry and know in my heart that I will meet her one day. This event was another chapter in this story called life.
TO THE CHILD IN MY HEART
O precious, tiny, sweet little one
You will always be to me
So perfect, pure, and innocent
Just as you were meant to be.
We dreamed of you and of your life
And all that it would be
We waited and longed for you to come
And join our family.
We never had the chance to play,
To laugh, to rock, to wiggle.
We long to hold you, touch you now
And listen to you giggle.
I’ll always be your mother.
He’ll always be your dad.
You will always be our child,
The child that we had.
But now you’re gone…but yet you’re here.
We sense you everywhere.
You are our sorrow and our joy.
There’s love in every tear.
Just know our love goes deep and strong.
We’ll forget you never–
The child we had, but never had,
And yet will have forever.