This isn’t your typical parenting blog. If you’re looking for something about the usual ups and downs of parenting this probably isn’t the place for you. This is a story about love, loss, grief, and all of the emotions in between.
So here I am, the mother of an angel, writing my first blog entry. Exactly twelve weeks and three days ago Ben and I were listening to our baby’s heartbeat. The very next day, our lives changed in ways that we never thought possible. In the midst of my pain, I somehow managed to write our story.
April 9, 2015
As most of you know by now, we lost our sweet baby Elliot while she was still in my womb. I had a great pregnancy. All of our ultrasounds, non-stress tests, and regular OB appointments went well. We were always told Elliot looked perfect. Her growth was on target. Both baby and I were in excellent health. I was due on March 20, 2015. That day came and went. We had another ultrasound on March 23rd, everything looked good. There was no reason to rush an induction. Together, with our doctors, we decided to schedule a non-stress test at 41 weeks, hoping Elliot would come before then. On March 27th we went in for a non-stress test. Elliot’s heartbeat was strong and she was very active. She was active all day long. I was so happy knowing Elliot was doing so well at 41 weeks. We scheduled another ultrasound for the following Monday. If Elliot had not arrived by then, we would schedule an induction for Tuesday. That felt like a great plan. Elliot was doing so well, the placenta was still functioning well, and the amniotic fluid level was normal.
The next day I noticed Elliot wasn’t as active as the day before. Sometimes she had quiet days. I figured this was one of them. I was feeling a little more tired too. I thought we were both gearing up for labor. As the day went on I started to worry and decided to sit quietly and really focus on kick counts. I counted 5 movements in 2 hours. There should be 10 movements in 2 hours. Ben and I decided to try again. But quickly changed our minds and called the doctor. We ended up going to the hospital at around 4:00am, bags in hand just in case. We figured we were just being cautious and our fears would be erased once we were hooked up to the monitor.
We arrived at the hospital and were quickly placed in a room. The first nurse was unable to find the heartbeat. I thought that was strange since it was so easy to find at all of our other appointments. But maybe Elliot was in a funny position. The next nurse tried but was unable to find the heartbeat. They called a midwife in with an ultrasound machine. She was also unable to detect the heartbeat. Finally the OB came and confirmed our worst fear. Elliot’s heart had stopped beating.
She likely passed at 41 weeks, 1 day. How could that be? We saw and heard her heartbeat the day before, at 41 weeks. It was strong, she was strong. As difficult as it is to think about, we believe Elliot passed peacefully. She likely fell asleep one last time. I felt no struggle. It is comforting to know she did not suffer. She quietly slipped away.
Ben and I decided to go home for a few hours. We cried, called our families to tell them we lost Elliot, and prepared ourselves to endure the most difficult thing we will ever have to go through. We returned to the hospital on Sunday morning to start the induction. I spent the next day and a half in labor. As difficult as it was, it gave Ben and me time to come to terms with the reality of our awful situation. It also gave me more time to bond with Elliot. I was able to deliver Elliot as I would have if she were still alive. I was able to have that one last physical bonding moment with her, as I gave those final pushes. I am so thankful to have gone through that with Elliot. Delivering naturally also allowed Ben to be there with me the entire time and witness the birth of his first daughter. Elliot Kathryn Davis was born on March 30, 2015 at 9:11pm. She was 7 pounds, 11 ounces and 21 inches long.
We spent our first hour with Elliot just staring at her in amazement. She was so beautiful, the most beautiful thing we’ve ever seen. We held her and told her over and over how much we love her. We then invited our parents and siblings in to meet Elliot. They all held her and cried the same tears of sorrow. That same evening a priest came to our room to baptize her. Shortly after the baptism, Ben and I were left to spend our final moments with Elliot. We spent the next several hours holding her, reading to her, and taking pictures. Those moments were the most painful, yet most beautiful time of our lives. We will never forget the time spent with Elliot. We were so blessed to have her in our lives, even it was for a very short time. At around 3:30am we said our final goodbye.
As difficult as it is to share our story, we feel it is necessary. We were aware of the many other risks and complications of pregnancy, as well as birth defects. But stillbirth was not even on our radar. We never once thought having a stillborn baby was a possibility. Stillbirth is not as rare as one might think. About 1 in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth. The cause of many of these deaths is unknown. Right now, we don’t know why Elliot died. The pregnancy was normal. There wasn’t a cord accident and there weren’t any obvious issues with the placenta. There also wasn’t any obvious defect with Elliot. We are waiting on pathology and genetic test results. But there is a 50% chance the cause of a death will remain unknown. With these types of statistics, why isn’t stillbirth discussed more openly? We feel our doctors should have talked to us about the possibility. Someone should have talked to us about it along the way. Maybe the genetic counselor we met with when went in for our 18 week ultrasound to test for chromosomal abnormalities should have mentioned the possibility. Someone, anyone!
We can’t blame anyone for what happened. Not ourselves, not the doctors. No one did anything wrong. We just happened to be that 1 in 160. As difficult as that is to accept, it is true. There is nothing we can do to bring Elliot back. What we can do is honor Elliot by helping other people to get through their grief. We are a long way from being able to do that. We still struggle to get through each day. It hasn’t even been two weeks since we said hello and then goodbye to Elliot. So for now, we can share our story and make people aware that stillbirth is a real risk. In many cases, nothing can be done to prevent it. I hope our friends and family never have to go through the pain of losing a baby. They are already grieving the loss of Elliot. There may come a time when someone you know or love experiences this type of loss. You may be called upon for support. It helps to understand what stillbirth is and how to support your loved one.
Ben and I are very fortunate to have an amazing support system. Our family and friends have helped us tremendously, even as they grieve the loss of Elliot. Not only is she our daughter, she is a granddaughter, great-granddaughter, niece, and cousin. She is loved by so many and touched so many lives during her short life. She is a great loss to the world. Having a good support system doesn’t take away the pain, but it does help to ease it.
I miss carrying Elliot in my womb. Feeling her move always brought me so much joy. Some of our happiest moments were talking, reading, and singing to Elliot in utero. Ben played his guitar and sang to her a lot. She loved her daddy’s music so much. There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when I wanted nothing more than a baby. Now, I want nothing more than my sweet baby Elliot. Even though she isn’t physically with us, we know she is present in one form or another. She is our little angel.
Several weeks after sharing our story with the world, we received the genetic and pathology test results. The genetic tests results were in our favor. There wasn’t anything wrong with Elliot. She was healthy. There were several issues with the placenta that contributed to Elliot’s death. I won’t go into too many details, mainly because it is complicated. Basically, the placenta stopped working at around 40 weeks and blood clots were present in the placenta. Sadly, these issues went undetected and could not be diagnosed until after birth. We have the knowledge now and know what to do moving forward.
But how do we move forward when our future seems to be gone? I guess that is why I have this blog now, to try to help us to continue moving forward. I also want to be clear that moving forward is not the same thing as moving on. A parent never “moves on” from the death of their child. There is never any closure. One day at a time. That is what it is. One day at a time.
Elliot may not be in our arms, but she’s with us every day, all the time. She gives us our strength to put one foot in front of the other. Elliot keeps us moving in this new life of ours.
To my love, my darling Elliot, Mommy and Daddy love you. Happy 12 week birthday.