Here is the story of my third birth, a fetal demise. In stark contrast to first two peaceful home births, this birth takes place in the hospital and it does not end happily. Names for this type of birth (as best I have gathered) are stillborn, stillbirth, fetal demise, and late-term miscarriage.
What is Fetal Demise?
Pregnancy loss before 20 weeks is usually called a miscarriage while pregnancy loss after 20 weeks is called a fetal demise. I had never heard the term before the doctor looked me in the eyes and said to me, “You’ve had a fetal demise.” Miscarriage is the more common type of pregnancy loss.
Pregnancy Loss- Fetal Demise At 26 Weeks
Out of nowhere, at 26 weeks, and at 7:30 in the morning I went to the bathroom and looked down to see blood. Not a terrible lot, maybe a tablespoon at most but it concerned me because it had never happened to me before. When I peed a 8:30 there was only a couple of drops of blood. I thought that was a good sign. Then at 9:30 I was standing in the kitchen when I felt blood run out. Again just a tiny bit but I knew this was wrong.
I laid down in bed and beeped my midwife. I read my folder with general information about pre-labor and miscarriage. My uterus felt uncomfortable, like when I have my period coming. My midwife called me back. She said that if I was going to miscarry at this stage there was not a lot that could be done to prevent it but that there would probably be more blood and pain. She asked if I wad having contractions. I was unsure. I got off the phone and took note of my body. My “uncomfortable feeling was coming about every four minutes. I called her back. To the hospital she said as I knew she would. I felt scared. I didn’t want to go the hospital. All I wanted was a nice calm home birth and I didn’t want any birth yet.
I wondered what they could do for me. Drugs to stop the contractions I thought. Bedrest. I didn’t want drugs but I guessed I needed them. As we drove in the car the contractions became stronger and every three minutes. It dawned on me that they might not be able to stop the labor. My baby might be born today. I pictured it with tubes in an incubator and I wanted to cry. But I thought to myself, this is when you want the hospital, this is when you need them. Then I thought I hadn’t even brought my camera to take a picture of the baby we would probably have today. My emotions were high. I was concerned about the baby.
I went in the hospital and my midwife met me there. The nurse was super nice. It was going OK. Then she couldn’t find the heart beat. Slight concern from me. This had happened before but they always ended up finding it. I was not alarmed. She tried again with a Doppler. Still no heartbeat. Now I was worried. The doctor came with the ultrasound machine, I waited as he looked and asked questions. Then he stopped and he said, “I hate to tell you this, but your baby is no longer alive.”
Time stopped as I listened to him. I felt like I was in a movie and everyone was looking at me waiting for my reaction. This couldn’t be real. He kept talking and I was hating him. I was wanting him to go away. I wanted to wake up from this. Surely, he was mistaken. I kept waiting for him to say that it would all somehow be OK. That is wasn’t really a “fetal demise”. But he didn’t and finally I began to cry. My husband came over to me. The doctor kept talking. Now I had to deliver the baby he said. What news! The thought had not yet crossed my mind. Really? I had to deliver a dead baby? Wasn’t this too cruel to be true?
Delivering A Dead Baby
It was true. He suggested “augmenting” the delivery and having an epidural to avoid “adding injury to insult.” There was too much irony. Not only must I be in the hospital I had reconciled myself to as necessary for a healthy baby at this point, but now I wasn’t going to get that baby and I was going to have every intervention that I had always avoided. Strange. But I wanted it over. I wanted to get out of that place and I wanted the dead baby out too. It was 10 AM and I said OK to induction.
They transferred me to another floor where healthy babies were not being born. I waited for the drugs to induce me and my contractions grew stronger. The lady came to tell me about the epidural and I couldn’t really listen to her as my contractions were so strong. I felt like I was about to have the baby. Then the nurse brought me a pain drug-nubane. I felt like I stalled out for the hour it worked.
A doctor came in and talked to me. She suggested amniosentisis. She said it might help determine the cause of death. Oh and did I want an autopsy? She kept talking. And talking. I could hardly listen. She said I had to choose something to do with the baby. What? I asked. I had to choose a funeral home. Are you kidding? Again another reality I was not prepared for. Then she was going on about DNA testing. No, I didn’t want the amniosentisis I told her. OK, but what about the DNA testing she asked. How much was this going to cost me? She had no answers to that but she kept pressing me, looking at me expectantly. No, I said. How could I say yes when it wouldn’t bring my baby back and she didn’t know how much it was going to be? She looked at me like I was deranged and said she would have someone check into it.
Finally the doctor was gone. My pain med was wearing off and the contractions were getting strong again. Finally they came with the meds to augment my labor but as soon as I took them, I was ready to have the baby. I went to the bathroom and I realized the baby was coming right there.
To the bed, my nurse said. Could I stand? No, my nurse said. Could I squat? No, I had to be on the bed. Could I do all fours? No she said again. So I sat squatted on the bed and she made do. The baby came and they took it away. Did I want to see it, I had been asked before. My husband didn’t want to, as it had been dead they suggested for possibly a couple of weeks. I asked the nurse to make the call when she saw my baby. She said no to me and you could tell she had been crying. So I didn’t see it either.
And that is the sad story of the birth of my third child. The strange nightmarish day that I can hardly recall with any clarity and yet that I remember moments so vividly from.
I hope that others who have suffered such a loss are able to feel a little less alone after reading this.
Update: I just ran across an article called The Tears Still Come at Mothering. Just thought it may be a good resource to share.