I canâ€™t start. Where does the story even begin? Before time existed. Before the fabric of the Universe was woven to completionâ€¦.
Does the story begin with my birth 32 years ago? With my daughterâ€™s birth almost 5 years ago- a planned homebirth turned induction for postdates turned emergency cesarean under general anesthesia? Does it begin with my dismemberment ceremony 1 year ago after everything in my life began falling apart in my hands? With the newborn baby who made her way to our doorstep a year agoâ€¦ whose two week presence here prompted us to open our hearts and home and family to a new being of our own?
Does it begin with the conception of Trace? Or does it begin with the contractions that kept me up all night Tuesday before this tragedy unfolded? Maybe with the cake I baked with Ariah that morning for Traceâ€™s birthdayâ€¦
Ah, gods, I donâ€™t know where the thread that begins all this agony and raw beauty beginsâ€¦ I also donâ€™t know where it endsâ€¦ or even if it does end.
On Tuesday the 24th of October, I did some last minute shopping- trying mostly to keep myself occupied as I was quite â€śoverdueâ€ť and fighting the crazy feelings of waiting for a baby that just kept waiting and waiting to come. But I felt a few contractions that seemed different than the literally 8 weeks of constant contractions that had proceeded. Whatever, I thought. But that night, as I slept alone with dd (dh slept in the other room as I was always keeping him up all night at this point in pregnancy) I had constant crampy contractions. I thought about filling the tub- a 5 hour fill at best- but decided that I was only going to give this as much attention as it demanded, and so I instead stayed in bed and tried to sleep. I figured Iâ€™d wait and see what happened in the morning.
Morning came (Wednesday the 25th)â€¦ I told Scott before he left for work that I would probably be calling him that day. We had been waiting for this our entire lives. I couldnâ€™t wait for what it would feel like to push my baby outâ€¦ and to meet him/her.
Ariah woke, and I told her we would probably be having a birthday this day! She had been so excited this whole 10 monthsâ€¦ practicing diapering, nursing her baby dolls, reading up on birth, getting in the birth tub with me, making so many pictures for the baby. Everyday she would kiss â€śAll of meâ€ťâ€¦ my lips first, then each one of my â€śnursiesâ€ť then the baby. â€śI love you, baby, I canâ€™t wait to meet you. We hope you come out soon,â€ť sheâ€™d say. She massaged the baby in my belly, sang to him, felt his parts, listened to his heartbeat.
So we got to cleaning up quickly, filling the tub, and baking the cake she had been asking to bake when the baby was on its way. Contractions were picking up, but not too intense for me.
Upstairs while filling the birthtub, I decided to try the Doppler for some reason. I had never used it through pregnancy as I wanted to avoid u/s and the stethoscope worked just fine. But I had one for the birth since I planned to birth in the tub, and thought it would be good to have for hard laborâ€¦ I listened. 140â€™s. But then it started going down. Down more down more. I decided that â€śtechnology sucksâ€ť and I threw the thing back into my birth supplies. I figured it was the battery, but then a bit later I got scared. I wasnâ€™t sure if the fear was from this happening last birth with Ariah or if there was something real hereâ€¦ but I listened again a bit later with the stethoscope and heard the same thing. Very slow and taking a long time to recover. But then normal when it did recover. There would be whole stretches where it would remain normal. I knew I needed to birth now in the hospital- and it would likely be a cesareanâ€¦ but I didnâ€™t think it was emergent at the time. I was 3-4 cm and I had a lot more labor to go. With these deep decels, this birth could not continue at home.
I thought about calling 911â€¦ but again decided it wasnâ€™t life or death emergency, just that we needed to transfer. Instead, I called my husband home immediately, and called my dear friend, neighbor and second mother to Ariah over. Still I listened to heart tones, and for the most part, they were okay and stable.
Trying to decide where to go was tough. The local hospital (30 minutes away) has a horrible reputation not just for obstetrics, but for everything. The better hospital was an hour away. I couldnâ€™t decide. I called to see who was on-call (working in the birth field, I am pretty familiar with eth docs), and when I spoke with the nurse at the local hospital, I had NO DOUBT that we were heading there. There was no magic in her voice, just calm clarity I could sense, and I knew.
So we swiftly packed and tied things up with Ariah. I had the Doppler on constantly, and heard no more decals. Ariah was so sad that our private birth plans were going awry, but she knew we would be bringing the baby home soonâ€¦ We left her decorating the cake and singingâ€¦ she waving and waving, smiling, so expectant and full of joy and loveâ€¦waving from the porch as we pulled away in agony and tears. Diane standing behind Ariah, falling apart crying tooâ€¦ Already we had lost so much, and it was painful to be sure. We had spent years, months, readying for our sacred birth all together. And now we were driving out of itâ€¦
The car ride was tough- contractions are no good belted in.
The nurse met us in L&D- the one we talked to on the phone. I had told her we thought we were hearing late decels, and asked immediately to get a strip before anything else happened. What I heard her say was that they werenâ€™t late decals, but variable decals and that could be a good thing. Could mean babe was tugging on cord, etc. I told them I thought I was 42-43 weeks and had no prenatal care. Babe was okay at that time when I was in the hospital. Doctor got there, read me the riot act only AFTER learning I was a VBAC. â€śBabe could be too big to fit through your pelvisâ€ťâ€¦ â€śIâ€™m afraid you are rupturing,â€ť etc. But the rupture thing was mentioned only in the context of all the other things we hear OBS say without reason all the time. I felt no pain, my blood pressure was good, etc, so I didnâ€™t think I was rupturing. She gave me no info to support her fear, other than say that she was afraid of rupture.
Bottom line: she wanted to do a RCS. She offered to call the far away hospital and tell them we were transferring there. She also stepped out to allow us to make a decision. I do not know how long we were there before everything happened, but it had to have been at least 1.5 hours total. My point is, that they didnâ€™t indicate an emergency. Honestly, I donâ€™t think anyone thought it was until suddenly it was.
When she came back in, we consented to surgery . We began the proceedings for that- telling her what we wanted on our birth plan: Scott present, lower screen, blah, blah, blahâ€¦ we talked about anesthesia, and she informed me that it would be a spinal- and she began telling me the prep for a spinal, etc. We signed forms. They then told me they were going to place a catheter right then. I asked if they could do it after the spinal, they gave some answer which I think meant they didnâ€™t want my bladder full cause I would piss on them during the spinalâ€¦ so I offered to hop up and go pee myself. Everyone got out of my way, and no sooner had I sat on the throne then I was yelling thru what I thought at the time was a contractionâ€¦ And swearing â€śWhy the FUCK do people give birth naturally? They are crazy.â€ť I was wondering what the heck I was doing teaching natural childbirth, encouraging homebirth, and being a doula if this was the real torture women were experiencing. But before this I didnâ€™t wince at any contractionsâ€¦
I hopped back in bed, anesthesiologist comes in the room, and gets over me saying something about generalâ€¦ Oh gods, no! This is what happened last time! I ask what he is talking aboutâ€¦ we were just all prepping for the spinal. He says â€śThere is no timeâ€ť. Apparently, he saw no heart tones, which no one had mentioned or noticed since I peed. I was confused, I consent to GA if there is reason, and we are being wheeled offâ€¦ the nurse mentions to me â€śListen.. there are tones.. here is your babyâ€™s heartbeat.â€ť I take it to mean he is fine at the moment, but Scott later tells me that she heard tones, but really really low ones. At this point, things get foggy.
Dh is getting ready for surgery. The nurse, Elaine, decided that she was willing to lose her job over getting Scott in the OR for this. No partner had ever ever ever been present for surgery under GA, let alone GA administration. But she knew it was important, so she did it. I am on the bed. They are wheeling me into the OR, and suddenly I am a scene from a horrendous torture film. I am writhing in the most agony one could possibly ever be in, screaming (which is SO NOT MY STYLE) screaming, screaming. All I am is pain. Unbelievable, blinding pain. I look at the operating table and manage to mention â€śno, no, noâ€ť saying there is no way in hell I can move to the table in this much pain. They are all prepping me, I am only thinking of being put out, and suddenly I feel a burst. I say â€śMy waters,â€ť and look down to see pea soup meconium between my legs. Someone says â€śThatâ€™s not good,â€ť at the same time that suddenly my body begins a forceful and involuntary push. I say with a huge roar, â€śIâ€™m pushingâ€ť and I gasp in the air that they put over my face. Ah. Salvation.
Dh watches them intubate me. And cut me open. Then he watches them pull his baby totally limp from me. Apgars 0/0. No life. They move him to the table and go to work. 14 minutes they try to resuscitate him. Dh watches as if in a dream, standing between me and his dead baby. At some point, the OB yells â€śSheâ€™s rupturedâ€ť and there I am being worked on, the baby being worked on and Scott stuck paralyzed between us. At 14 minutes he has finally come to what is left of his senses, and asks them to stop efforts to breathe life into his boy. He suddenly and finally drops to his knees and wails on the OR floor in agony for who knows how long.
The next thing I know someone is calling my name in recovery. I immediately ask about the baby and no one will tell me anything. I say â€śYou arenâ€™t supposed to tell me, are you?â€ť And it is then after I ask again, that someone tells me what I already know. It isnâ€™t good, they say. I donâ€™t know howâ€¦ if they told me specifically or if I knewâ€¦ but when dh comes in to recovery prepared to tell me the news himself, I hold his hand and cry and cry patheticallyâ€¦â€ťI am sorry, Scott. I killed our baby. I killed your son, I am so sorry.â€ť
So then suddenly I am bleeding profusely. They are shooting me full of pitocin, then some clotting medicines, then some other big guns of stopping hemhorrage. My uterus is in overdrive, and Scott says he watched me writhing in pain for two hours. They are trying to get me to stop bleedingâ€¦ the doc is gone now and it is just nurses. I am unsure of time or sequence, but I recall them hanging bags and bags and bags of blood, one after the other. They are starting to panic a bit, and there is warm life gushing out from between my legs. They change chux after chux after chux while â€śmassagingâ€ť my uterus and injecting my buttocks with meds. Nothing. I am bleeding to death.
To anyone who has come close to death, they may understand when I say this:
There is fear of death, being scared you might dieâ€” and then there is knowing you are dying.
I knew I was dying.
At some point, I started telling Scott â€śI will not die. I have to be here for Ariah. I will not leave my little girl.â€ť Then â€śYou have to take my uterus out.â€ť The OB comes back in and tells the team, â€śDid you see the color of this blood? This is not okay.â€ť Whatever they were giving me through transfusion was pouring out immediately between my legs. I was dying. They gave me four times my total blood volume.
I sign gratefully for a hysterectomy. It couldnâ€™t happen soon enough at this point. I remember it taking forever before they took me in. I kept asking what was taking so longâ€¦ they kept saying they had to get the OR ready. Ready?!?!?! Are you fucking kidding me? I was just in thereâ€¦ they kept telling me it takes a little while to get things ready. Finally I ask them if they had gotten one of those floor polishers and had polished up the tileâ€¦ and by the wayâ€¦ how did the chrome look? Was it shiny and new?
I am in shock now, and recall nothing else. But dh says that at this point, he knew he may never see me alive again. None of them knew if Iâ€™d make it through the surgery. So he gets in my face and tells me we need to think of a word to focus onâ€¦ â€śWhat word, Jaya?â€ť he says to me. I say â€śLIFE. I choose Life.â€ť As they were wheeling me through the OR doors he was standing alone behind us. â€śRemember Jaya, LIFE. LIFE.â€ť I repeated the word back to him, â€śLIFE!â€ť
The surgery was over three hours long. (They reopened the horizontal incision and then cut a new vertical incision also. When they got in there, she found the main artery to my uterus had been completely severed. Under the general, my blood pressure was bottomed out. So when she tried to repair the rupture during the cesarean, she thought it looked good. But when my blood pressure came up after the general was finished, I began to bleed out. BTW; the rupture was vertical and on the left side, unrelated to the c/s scar. The placenta had abrupted 50%... we donâ€™t know if that was a result of the rupture or happened independently of it.)
Dh sat alone with Trace until finally 4 hours later the doc came and got him and brought him to see me in the ICU. He says that seeing me at that time was the most horrific sight of allâ€¦ I was still intubated since I was too swollen for them to extubate me. I had millions of tubes, sensors, etc everywhere. I was restrained tightly at the wrists to the bed railsâ€¦ so I wouldnâ€™t rip out the tube in my throat. I had a NG tube alsoâ€¦ and my eyes were the size of golfballs- totally swollen shut. I was gagging on the tube, using my tongue to try to push it outâ€¦
Apparently they sedated me to the point where usually people are comatose, but it didnâ€™t have the desired effect on me, and I was awake quite a bit that night. They had asked Scott to leave and I was alone. But I was also aware of everything and trying to figure out a way to loosen my restraints enough to reach a call button. There was no call button apparently- they said the next morning that usually people are so out of it that there is no need for a call buttonâ€¦ but ALL NIGHT LONG I was having body memories of my uncleâ€™s penis down my throat at the age of 6. It was, believe it or not, one of the worst parts of the entire experience.
The nurse who admitted us, the same one who got Scott into the OR, volunteered her time to come be with me in the ICU. I couldnâ€™t communicate, and so she just simply stood at my side and I placed my hand on her heart. Finally I was able to communicate with my hand that I wanted to write something down, and she advocated for me to be able to do so. The ICU nurses had said there was no way I could be coherent enough to write! They donâ€™t know me!!!! I was able to write â€śPenis. Choking.â€ť And she totally got it- I had told her the previous day that I had a history of sexual abuse, and so she recalled that and put 2 and 2 together. She immediately pulled out the humungous inflatable penis crammed down my throat- a thing used just to ensure that I wouldnâ€™t bite down on the tubesâ€¦ Finally, relief! I wrote notes all morning about various things- asking questions about my treatment, etc.
In the morning they tried to extubate me again. They prepped me for what I had to do- cough really hard while they took the tube out. But when they did their part, I couldnâ€™t cough to save my life. I kept trying. The clock ticked the seconds byâ€¦ I could gasp in, but get NOTHING out for air. I was suffocating, and beginning to flail in response. And there was no way to communicate this to the docsâ€¦ they just kept yelling at me to try and cough. â€śRelax. Try to relax, you have to cough.â€ť I was about to die from loss of air. Finally they realized there was a more serious situation than me being defiant. They stopped their attempts and I was breathing again through the tubes.
For a few hours they tried to figure out how and when to try again. It wasnâ€™t until later that day that they succeeded in getting the tube out.
Scott returned home to tell Ariah. Diane (the woman caring for her) knew the news, but had withheld it from Ariah this whole time. When Scott arrived, Ariah was kneeling on the couch facing the window, elbows in the window sill, so excited to hear about her new baby. Expectant. Innocent. Joyful. Anticipating baby. Scott came in crying, and Ariah just fell into his arms sobbing. The said she cried like an adult- he had never ever heard her cry that way before- for 2 hours, then fell asleep on his chest.
I still hadnâ€™t seen the baby who was in the hospital morgue, and told Scott Thursday that I wanted him to name our son. At some point, he came to me with his name. Trace Oak. I had had a double dream during pregnancy and received what I thought was a girlâ€™s name. I had assumed as a result that we were carrying a girl. After the death, I thought the dream was wrong. But just recently, I got a strong hit of the name I received. It literally means Grace of the Heavens. And Trace is just that.
The next few days are a haze. I was medicated in ICU with fentanyl or however you spell it. But it didnâ€™t help much, and seemed not to make me too loopy. In fact, all it did was give me body memoriesâ€¦ but soon I was off that, and I got totally fixated on making progress so I could see my little girl. I would figure out what I needed to do to discharge the NG tube, and then do it right then, regardless of how impractical it was or how much it hurt. I refused any mind altering drugs, because I needed to be clear during these days. I couldnâ€™t afford to be foggy when I saw my cold dead boy, or when I began making plans for his cremation and the rituals we needed to do prior to it. So one by one, I got rid of the tubes and IVs. They told me I could maybe go home Tuesdayâ€¦ But I sprung myself from ICU Friday afternoon, then ultimately from the hospital Sunday amâ€¦ everyone was amazed at my recovery. Apparently they had not been certain I would make it thru the first night in ICU, and in addition, everyone was in awe that I did not get brain damaged at the least. And now, I was going home 2 days sooner than they had imagined!
I saw Trace for the first time Friday evening. It was unbelievably painful. He was soooo beautiful and perfectâ€¦ but cold and stiff and dead. I just kept wishing he would open his eyes. Ariah held him and rubbed his head, undressed him and touchĂ© all his skin all overâ€¦ I just cried and cried, refusing to hold him. I thought I could never let him go if someone put him in my arms.
But Saturday Diane came and wanted to see him. It was at that time that I did hold him. And two pictures were taken. No one should ever have to hold their baby cold and stiff. The two of us sat with him, holding him, rocking him, and howling with pain and grief. As painful as it was, it was also beautiful.
On Saturday night a friend stayed up all night long making a casket from oak. It was lined with beautiful blue material, and we began plans for ritual. So Sunday the hospital offered to bring the body to the back door where we could transfer Trace to our casket in the back of our car. I told them, no, we would be doing sacred ritual in the hospital, and at that point be putting Trace in the casket. The hospital said we would have to think about the other people thereâ€¦ it would be hard for them to see a body being moved. I asked gently â€śthis is a hospital, donâ€™t people die here?â€ť â€śArenâ€™t you all used to seeing death?â€ť The nurse told us, â€śYes. People die. But none of them have ever gone out the front door.â€ť We all looked at eachother, and she smiled. â€śLetâ€™s do it!â€ť
So we had a very beautiful ritual in the Chapel at the hospital, and then we all walked out through the front door.
Our family drove home all together. Only Trace wasnâ€™t in his car seat, he was dead in a beautiful oak box.
Jaya- unschooling mama to Ariah Ray1/02 Â Rukundo Pacifique11/08 Â
missing Trace OakÂ Â 10/25/06
As usual, words escape me. To say that I am sorry about the death of your son is, obviously, an understatement, and not indicitave of all the myriad of feelings that I have for you, Scott, Ariah and Trace in my heart.
I am holding you, as you have held me so many times before.
I love you Jaya.
Mama to 9 so far:Mother of Joey (20), Dominick (13), Abigail (11), Angelo (8), Mylee (6), Delainey (3), Colton (2) and Baby 8 and Baby 9 coming sometime in July 2013. Â If evolution were true, mothers would have three arms!
â™Ą blogger astrologer mom to three cool kiddos, and trying to figure out this divorce thing--Â Blossom and GlowÂ â™Ą
I can only extend my deepest sympathy to you and your husband and your daughter.
Midwifery Student and Mama to 2 daughters and 3 sons.Â Â Â Â Â
Â I have given birth a variety of ways and I am thankful for what each one has taught me.
I am so so sad that your Trace did not survive. You are such a strong mama, and I am so very glad that Ariah did not lose her mama as well as her baby brother.
Thank you for sharing your story. I am holding you and yours in my thoughts and prayers.