Our 19-week son lived only minutes after birth, but has touched millions (PHOTOS)
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July 2, 2013 (F2Photography) - Friday June 14th did not turn out as I expected.
I started the day enjoying a pedicure with the bride to be and very good friend Megan along with her mom Cathy and all of her bridesmaids. We had an enjoyable lunch and ran a few errands and then were headed home to start preparing for the rehearsal. Starting on the Tuesday before I had some mild spotting. It was never anything much and dark brown, a normal pregnancy occurence. I never had any pain at any point. On Friday I noticed that the spotting started to turn a little more pink. When I returned home to gather all of my camera equipment for the rehearsal I decided to call my midwife to see what she thought of the spotting just for my own peace of mind. I knew I was going to be on my feet a lot the next day, probably about 12 hours. She decided it would be best to head to the ER to be checked, again more for my own peace of mind then anything else. I did have a complete placenta previa with Michayla, so we were both a little concerned that it could be a placenta issue again. I called Josh who had just gotten to the park with the girls and he grabbed the girls and headed back to the house.
We left Flora around three and headed to a recommended hospital in Kokomo, which was about 45 minutes away. On the way we called our parents just to give them a heads up. We arrived at the ER and checked in. I could tell that the nurse really wanted me to be over 20 weeks. The policy is that anyone under 20 weeks of pregnancy stays in the ER, otherwise they head straight to OB. I was 19 weeks and 3 days. As we sat in the waiting area there were several pregnant women that came and went because they were over 20 weeks, and there I sat, waiting. We were finally taken back around five and after I changed we found a heartbeat right away. I believe it was in the high 160′s. Hearing the heartbeat immediately put me at ease and I just sat waiting on the doctor to show up. Finally a PA or NP, I can’t remember what she was, showed up and said that the doctor would be back and do a vaginal exam and send me for an ultrasound. Then we sat and waited some more… finally the doctor showed up and said he wasn’t doing a vaginal exam and I would be going to ultrasound, then he left. At this point, it was past 5:30 and Josh had to leave to run the rehearsal since he was officiating the wedding the next day. We were both a little excited that there was going to be an ultrasound and hoping we could find out what we were having. We were scheduled for our 20 week ultrasound when we returned home on Wednesday.
At 6 PM, a new nurse came in and gave me three glasses of water and told me to drink up for the ultrasound and then she left. I put on the tv and started watching 'House Hunters.' I was assuming I wouldn’t be able to finish the 30 minute episode because they would come get me for my ultrasound, but I was very wrong. A few minutes after six I started to feel a few twinges of pain. By the end of the half hour show I knew I was in labor. There was no doubt in my mind, I’ve been through it before.
I couldn’t sit in the bed anymore because the pain was too intense. I called for my nurse and she didn’t come. Ten minutes later I called again and she finally showed up. I was bawling my eyes out at this point because of the pain and all of the emotions streaming though me. I was not mentally prepared to go through labor and everything in me was fighting it every step of the way. I did not want this labor to happen yet. When she finally showed up she didn’t seem to believe that I was in labor and said she’d let the doctor know, then left. I have no idea how long until he came back, but all he said was that he would push the ultrasound up and left. I felt like I was put in the back corner of the ER and left to my own. No help, no sympathy, nothing. I was not able to call my mom because there was no cell reception. I could text Joshua because we are both on iphones and I had a wireless signal, but I didn’t want to worry him because I knew he had to get through the rehearsal.
A little after seven Josh left the church, which was about 20 minutes away. I was taken to ultrasound at around the same time. The ultrasound technician was the first person that I felt actually cared about me and was nice to me. Not that the others were mean, but they didn’t give me any more time than they had to. Right away she found the heartbeat for me, which was encouraging. She wasn’t able to tell me anything else. She was very quick with her ultrasound and when she left to talk to the radiologist, she found another lady to come sit with me. We didn’t talk, but it was comforting to know someone else was there. When I went to the bathroom to clean myself up from the ultrasound there was a lot more blood and I completely fell apart at that point. Joshua arrived just as they were wheeling me back to my room. They had someone waiting for him so that he could be brought to me right away. The ultrasound technician made sure he could find me. When we got back to the ER room I had to use the restroom again and when I went in the technician turned to Josh and said, “I’m sorry, and I don’t want her to see me crying, but I will be praying for you” and she gave him a hug and left. It was about 7:20 when I got back to my room.
At this point there was no break between the contractions. They were so intense and just as one finished another would start. I’ve been through labor and I grew up hearing a lot about it from my mother who helped with home births and is now a L&D nurse. I’ve also been in a few births for my photography, so I knew listening to myself that I was at the end. I wouldn’t give up hope yet, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that I was losing my baby. At some point the PA or whatever she was came in and said “your fetus is still viable.” I seriously wanted to slap her. She was at least a little more sympathetic than the doctor who I never saw again. They told me that they were going to send me upstairs and do a cervical cerclage which did raise my hopes some.
At this point everything started becoming a blur, I was finally taken upstairs to OB around 8 PM. I was in so much pain I couldn’t tell what was going on around me. Anyone that knows me knows how much I hate needles and have a tendency to pass out. It took them three tries and a lot of blood on my arms before they finally got an IV in. I didn’t care one bit. The doctor checked me and then sat down beside me on the bed and told me that we were going to be delivering our baby. This was the first that anyone had called him a baby.
I immediately started bawling and asking if there was any other option. She was so very kind and very upset that the ER had told me they were going to perform a cerclage. In order for a cerclage to be performed you cannot be in active labor, which I was at that point. I was also fully dilated and my water was bulging. There was no other option at this point. She apologized over and over and was so kind as were all of the nurses. I can’t even tell you how many people were in our room and doing things to me, but I was never left alone and always had someone with me. I was offered some pain medicine which I accepted and the pain started to ease some. It was still very strong during contractions but I was able to relax in between. Joshua left the room to deliver the horrible news to my parents and sisters who were all on vacation in the Outer Banks and his parents back in PA. Our friends Kip & Cathy came from the rehearsal to see if we needed anything and to be with us. Then sweet Megan who should have been focusing on her wedding the next day came to check on us. She was there talking and crying with me when my water broke.
Walter was breech so we were waiting on my water to break on it’s own and let nature progress at its own pace. I don’t remember what time I started pushing, but I was not feeling the contractions anymore after my water broke, so I did have to push several times to get his tiny body out. He was born at 9:42 PM and he was handed up to me as soon as his cord was clamped.
I was crying so hard at this point but he was perfect. He was fully formed and everything was there. I could see his heart beating in his tiny chest. Joshua and I both held him and cried over him and looked over our perfect, tiny son. The nurses and doctor left us to have some private time alone with him. Unfortunately, my IV alarm kept going off so my nurse had to keep coming in to check on that, but she was very gracious and apologetic the entire time. Cathy and my sister-in-law Rachel returned to the hospital to bring the items that I needed and were able to hold Walter. We were so thankful that Rachel was also there for the wedding since she took care of our girls so that Cathy and Megan did not need to worry about having two preschoolers on top of everything else that was going on. Sometime between midnight and 1, I had to be taken to the OR to have a D&C because the placenta would not release on its own. There were two ladies that came to be with me and were with me the entire time so I would never be alone. The first thing they did was pray with me, which was so amazing. The D&C went well and I was soon back in my room and sleeping from the medicines and anesthesia.
I cannot say enough good things about my doctor and the nurses that were there with me. They never once mentioned the word fetus. They prayed with me, cried with me and were there for my every need. Even in a time of so much pain I felt loved by them all. They took such absolute wonderful care of us. They contacted the local funeral home and were going to take care of all of the forms and make all of the calls for us to take him home to PA if we wanted. A gentleman from the funeral home came and talked with us about our options and he was so very kind. In the end we did decide to have him cremated. It was the easiest and best option for us. My doctor made every effort to make sure I had all of my questions answered. She even took the time to talk to my midwife personally and gave me her number in case my mom, an OB nurse, had any questions. She didn’t have to do any of that, and I truly appreciated it. We left the hospital with many books and trinkets to remember our son by. They made sure that the girls each had a few mementos to remember their brother by. Shortly after returning home we had a wonderful card that had notes from all of the nurses and doctor that took care of me during our stay. So while I felt abandoned and alone in the ER, the OB area was amazing. They encouraged us to hold and bond with our son. In fact he left our room while I had the D&C and then was back with us until the funeral home came to take him.
I’m heartbroken by the stories I’ve been hearing from people who weren’t allowed to see their child. That would be so absolutely devastating! I held him, cuddled him, while his heart was beating. I held him to my heart, I counted his toes and kissed his tiny head. I will always cherish those memories that I have of him.
The next morning, Rachel brought our daughters to the hospital. There wasn’t ever any doubt in my mind that I needed to have the girls in to see their brother. Michayla especially has been so excited about the baby and really wanting a brother. She knew something wasn’t right and kept asking Rachel and then her daddy as he brought them to our room about the baby. She kept asking if the baby was ok and if we could take him home. It took Emma a little bit to comprehend what I was telling her when I told her that Jesus took their baby to Heaven with Him, but she did understand as well. She has bounced back pretty quick though, and besides randomly telling people that our baby died, doesn’t talk about it too much. Michayla on the other hand is a completely different story. She was absolutely devastated and cried and cried. She has been asking so many questions and it’s hard for her when we have to tell her that we don’t know. Joshua still went and performed the ceremony. If I had been able to, I would have still done the photos. On top of everything that happened that was also hard for me, not fulfilling a commitment. I know I had no control and in no way are they upset with me, but it still bothers me.
We still do not know why or how this happened. My midwife has talked personally with the OB doctor that treated me in Indiana. We’ll be getting all of the records and reports as they finish up the dictations and receive pathology reports back. It could have been a cervix issue, maybe a result of some of the damage from Emma’s birth. It could be preterm labor or a world of other things and we may never know why or how. There will be extra precautions taken if we can ever get pregnant again. That is another area that is unknown. We went through so much and many trips to the specialist in Frederick to conceive Walter. So much still to think about…
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I am so very glad that Joshua went to our vehicle and got my camera. At first I did not want any photos, but they are the only thing I have to look back on now. I’m still in shock at how much his photos have been shared and commented on. In his short life of just a few minutes he has touched more lives then I ever could have imagined. I have gotten messages from people all around the country who have experienced a loss or were just touched by his story. I’ve even had a few people tell me that they were able to use his photos to reach out to a hurting woman who was contemplating an abortion. Just because the child within cannot be seen by us does not mean that he is a blob of cells. Walter was perfectly formed and very active in the womb. If he had just a few short more weeks he would have had a fighting chance at life. I don’t understand why the Lord took him home, but I have to trust in his perfect timing. I may never know why, but it is a comfort to know where he is and that I will see him again. For now, he’s with his heavenly father who loves him unmeasurably more than I, as his earthly mother ever could.
If you would like to see some more of Walter’s photos, please visit my website here.
Please feel free to share our photos. In all our hurt, I am glad that some good can come out of this. I pray that the Lord will continue to use Walter’s photos to impact many.
If anyone would like to contact me directly, you can find me on facebook or email me directly at [email protected]