Infant loss through Stillbirth is probably one of the most devastating losses to a woman. We do not hear about it much, but it is unfortunately widespread. It was a typical day for me, a Wednesday, January 4th, 2017.
I was off from my Family Nurse Practitioner job at the hospital, so I was on the move. I went to the gym, as usual, laundry, shopped and looked for shutters for the baby’s room...we were getting so close; it was becoming more real.
Well into the third trimester, baby Magrone was extremely active, continuously moving, especially at night. However, that night was different. Little did I know, that night would change our lives forever. After a long day, I took a shower and went to bed. I remember thinking to myself; I have been on the go all day. I cannot recall if I felt the baby move. So I sat with my hands on my stomach. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes later, maybe I am imagining this? Perhaps he was too big, and there was not enough room for him to move so much? It was my first pregnancy, and although I am in healthcare, I thought, “what do I know"? I just sat there, making up every excuse. My gut feeling was, something was just not right.
I went to sleep that night (well not really, I stayed up all night in panic mode). In the morning I never wanted to arrive at work so quickly. The 35 minutes it took me to get there felt like days. During the commute, I planned what I was going to do. I would get to the office, grab the Doppler that we usually used to check pulses on patients with peripheral vascular disease and hopefully everything would fine from there. I was the first person at work, it was so quiet...I remember holding the Doppler to my stomach for minutes. Is that my heartbeat, or my baby's? Is this Doppler even reliable? Again, my mind making up excuses for what I wasn't ready to come to terms with.
I went about my day, still not feeling any movement. After seeing each patient, I thought to myself, “should I go upstairs to L&D now?” But I hate to be that neurotic patient, so I proceeded on with my day. Lunchtime came. I grabbed the Doppler again and rehashed the same story in my head. “Is that my heartbeat or the baby’s?” I kept telling myself "Calm down Francine, you are driving yourself crazy.”
4 pm came. We were done with patients, and I no longer had an excuse. I grabbed one of my co-workers and explained what was going on. We slipped out of the unit quietly, not uttering a word to anyone, as I am a very private person. As we got to the elevator, the only thing I could think of was how could this be happening right now? I had so many thoughts going through my head. I honestly felt like I was going crazy. As we approached the L&D unit, my coworker saw a nurse she knew at the front desk and explained my situation. She took me into an empty exam room right away. Once I was up on the table I remember telling the nurse, “please do not think I’m crazy, it’s my first pregnancy.”
She assured me that many pregnant hospital employees came to L&D for reassurance throughout their workday whenever something was troubling them. I probably heard a quarter of what she told me. As she was talking, she had the Doppler on my belly. I could remember her going back & forth with it for what seemed like a dozen times. I hear something, but is that my heartbeat or my baby’s? Please, someone tell me I’m just crazy and that everything is fine. She went and grabbed an ultrasound machine. “We can hear a heartbeat better with this,” she said. My heart sank. I knew what was about to go down. We have now come to the reality of what was about to happen. An ultrasound machine was brought in, along with another nurse and resident OB/GYN. The panic I felt inside was an understatement.
I have seen numerous ultrasounds before this, probably a hundred too many and was fully aware of what it should look like. On every ultrasound we had throughout the pregnancy, my son's face was always hidden by his hands. The technicians would tease me and say he was camera shy. For the very first time in all those weeks, there it was, clear as day, the face of our son. There was no movement or sound indicated. My worst nightmare confirmed; there was no heartbeat.
I looked over at my friend who sat there motionless with tears in her eyes and muttered through my own tears, “Tell me this is not happening right now, please.” My friend was dialing my husband frantically, hanging up & redialing, until he picked up. I knew it would take him a little while to get from New Jersey to Staten Island, in the middle of rush hour. While waiting, multiple people came inside my room and offered their condolences, speaking about my options. I could deliver in the hospital that I worked in, which I had no intention of doing or go back to New Jersey where my OB/GYN was and deliver there. We decided to do just that as originally planned.
I hoped they had made a mistake all the way up to that point. I wished I would hear him cry. But he was silent. On January 6th, 2017, 10:20 pm, in a completely quiet delivery room, you could have heard a pin drop; Joseph Louis was born. It’s an incredibly unique loss. Nothing the way I had ever imagined I was going to give birth. I never got the chance to hear my baby laugh, cry or see him smile.
After what seemed like an eternity, they brought Joseph to us, tightly wrapped up. So many emotions went through my head. He was so peaceful and beautiful, even more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. You go from thoughts of, can I even bear to see him? to I never want to let him go. Little did I know, the worst was yet to come. Leaving the hospital was a pure nightmare; walking in, bearing a child, giving birth to a little boy and then walking out empty handed. It felt as if I left a huge piece of my heart & soul behind. The feeling can rip you to shreds. It is a feeling that brands you for life & will never be forgotten.
Statistics show that 50 percent of Stillbirths have no known cause. We fall into that category. What I know is that a child dying will change your life. I will never be the person I was before the birth of our son Joseph and I believe no one should expect me to be. Another thing I know is that Lou & I are not alone; there are people just like us out there.