too beautiful for earth {surviving infant loss}

Surviving Infant Loss -- my story as I grieve the loss of my son born prematurely at 27 weeks

It has been three days.  Three days since our son, Laughton, made his appearance much sooner than expected.  Three days since he left us to be with God far too early.

Today is the first day waking up since getting out of the hospital and when I did wake up, I quickly realized I didn’t know what to do.  Today a nurse wouldn’t be checking on my vitals every so often and a doctor wouldn’t be stopping in during rounds.  Instead, I am now just looking around my living room wondering if this is really my life and if the last four years has really just come to this point.

So I started typing.  I knew eventually I would share this story.  I just didn’t know when.  And maybe I do not finish this post today, but for now, I need to “speak” and get my thoughts out.  I have said many times how therapeutic sharing my story is.  I do not share my story because I want someone to read it and give me sympathy, I write so that I will never forget.  I write as it is a way for me to begin to heal my wounds.  I write for those that someday may be struggling with a similar situation and be provided some level of comfort while coping with their own outcome.  And today, I also write for Laughton.  We shared this story together.

Laughton Joseph was born on Mother’s Day, May 11th, 2014 at 8:30 pm.  He arrived early, at only 27 weeks, 6 days {almost made it to 28 weeks!} and therefore weighed just 2 lbs, 2.5 oz and was 14 inches long.  We were able to have him baptized before he was sent to be one of God’s angels at 10:50 later that evening.

But let me go back to the real beginning of this story….when I went into preterm labor, when I spent four days in the hospital before his birth, and before we knew any of this was going to happen.

27 weeks, 3 days along {Thursday}

Leading up to this day, we had already learned about Laughton’s conditions {with arthrogyposis and hydrocephalus} and also that I was carrying excessive amniotic fluid by week 24.  I knew I was at a high risk for a preterm labor due to all of these conditions present, so I had buckled down and came up with a speedy plan to get all of my Invites by Jen orders done in hopes that they would be off my plate long before Laughton decided to make his arrival.  It was a hefty goal, to try and get all that needed to be done with my orders no later than Friday {which I thought would have been PLENTY of time to be done, but now we know it would have been too late}, but with a lot of help from Graham and a lot of long days, I packaged up my last order into its pickup bag even earlier than my goal and adhered the bride’s name to the bag at one in the afternoon on Thursday.

My water broke at 4:30 pm.  I know God was working his magic when he pushed me to get all of my work done that day.  But seriously, only a 3 1/2 hour gap?  One may have considered that a bit of a close call.  But again, it is not like I woke up knowing my water was going to break that day!  So, in looking back, I am more just thankful I got everything done {and my friends and loved ones are helping me get the finished orders to my brides so that it really all is completely off my plate and I can just grieve}.

Luckily for me, my water broke while I was at home.  Again, I had excessive amniotic fluid present, which meant A LOT of water breakage!  I didn’t really realize what was happening right away as it did just start as a trickle.  It was enough for me, however, to go out to the garage and get Graham as I had been having some lower back and abdomen cramping all morning…..all I said to him was, “You need to come inside, right now.”  He was on the phone at the time and to the poor man talking to him, I apologize for the fact that he literally just hung up on you without saying a word.

By the time I got inside and got the number to my OB’s office dialed, the water was already leaking onto the floor, so the trickle had turned into a full on waterfall really quickly.  And once I realized it was going to be a lost cause trying to get to the hospital without soaked pants, we got into the car {me sitting on top of a towel, of course} and headed out.  Keep in mind that we were not at all prepared for this to happen.  We had nothing packed {it was on my to-do list for that weekend actually} and I literally had only my wallet, soaked pants, and underwear when I arrived at the hospital.

Speaking of arriving at the hospital, that was an experience in itself.  Graham was so proud {and relieved} to have just made it there with me safe and without getting lost.  What he didn’t realize was that he had just parked halfway across the parking lot {which was almost empty by this time of day, so there were plenty of open stalls closer to the building} and that he was going to make his pregnant {and seemingly in labor wife} waddle all the way across the parking lot and into the lobby with water running into her shoes.  Luckily I wasn’t really having any pains at this point, it was more just awkward walking in a public place looking like you missed the last bathroom stop.  So I chuckled as I gave him a hard time and asked why he couldn’t have dropped me off at the entrance!

Once I got up to the labor area, they got me into a robe and onto a bed so that they could take a look at things.  From what they say, I wasn’t dilated, my cervix was still closed and thick, and therefore technically I wasn’t in labor.  I had just experienced a preterm membrane rupture.  I didn’t even know that it was possible to have your water break and NOT go into labor, but I quickly learned that preterm, it was absolutely possible.  However, they followed that up by telling me I would not leave the hospital until the baby was born, whether that was in the next day, the next week, or the next month {yes, labor could have held off until as long as 34 weeks}.

So, the next step was to get me down to the high risk hospital in Madison {especially given the fact that I would indeed be having a preemie as the longest they would let me go with a ruptured membrane is 34 weeks and Laughton would be in need of a NICU}.  I had planned on delivering there anyways with the anomalies we already knew Laughton had, but that would have been a PLANNED labor day and time.  Since I was sitting at the hospital in Beaver Dam with a ruptured membrane, I had to be transported by ambulance.  It was going to take about an hour for the ambulance to even arrive once they confirmed accepting my arrival with the hospital in Madison, and Graham knew he had to drive down separately {so that we had some mode of transportation down there}, so I sent him home to pack clothes and things.  It was hard not knowing how long we would actually be in the hospital, so it needed to be more than throw a few things in a duffle bag.  I got down to Madison and was checked in and had heart rate monitors {for the baby} on me by about 8:30 that night.  Thanks to some construction {and the need for finding an alternate route to the hospital}, along with his wife asking him to stop and get her dinner, Graham got there at about 10 pm.

I *think* I got about an hour of sleep that night.  Since Laughton was so small and still able to move around rather freely in the amniotic fluid that was still present, the heart rate monitor was having a hard time staying on his heart beat consistently {if I coughed it moved the thing enough to lose the trace}.  Luckily, when we were tracing the heart beat, it was a strong one, usually in the 150s, so Graham and I were somewhat able to calm down and see that it wasn’t a weak heartbeat, it was just going to be a challenge to keep it monitored consistently.  So, the nurse was in my room almost every 15 minutes trying to adjust it.  Plus, I was still having the cramping {which even though I wasn’t in labor, were technically contractions, I was told}, so between the bit of pain and high anxiety with the situation, sleep was obviously impossible.

27 weeks, 4 days along {Friday}

After a rough night, I was anxious for the doctors to make their rounds for the morning and find out what they thought about all of this.  However, I had to wait for those doctors before I could eat breakfast.  You cannot eat or drink anything while on this magnesium and since it would be really important to get on it if I was in labor {it can help slow the labor, but more importantly, would help provide some protection to the underdeveloped brain during labor}, I was not allowed to eat breakfast.  Finally, at 2pm in the afternoon, after it appeared I was not going to be delivering the baby anytime soon, I got to eat!  But, I was very hangry by that point.

As the day progressed and things had remained stable all day, there were now talks about moving me up to the “boring room”.  Up until this point, I was on the labor and delivery floor and by being moved to the recovery floor, it was a very good sign that the doctors thought I would be holding onto Laughton for quite some while.  They wanted to give me one more night having Laughton’s heart rate monitored consistently, though, just to be sure.  He was having some decelerations in the rates since I arrived {which potentially indicated he was pinching his umbilical cord with less fluid to move around in}, so they just wanted to make sure that those stopped before moving me upstairs.  Even if I wasn’t in labor, if his umbilical cord was consistently being pinched closed, they would have had to take him out.

I got a little more sleep on Friday night, probably about three hours, but that was because by Saturday morning {I am talking like three in the morning}, the contractions were starting to become more consistent and more painful.

27 weeks, 5 days along {Saturday}

Even though the contractions were starting to pick up, because I had no other signs of a labor starting, the contractions were chalked up to the fact that my uterus was getting used to the big change that occurred when my water broke.  They gave me meds that actually lowered my blood pressure which, in effect, helped decrease the frequency and severity of the contractions.  Since the meds worked {the painfulness decreased and I had a contraction maybe only once an hour}, they decided I still got to move to the recovery floor on Saturday and {hopefully} be waiting for weeks before seeing the labor and delivery floor again.

Along with Graham making a trip back to Beaver Dam in the morning to get a few things we needed still {assuming we were now in for a long hospital stay} Saturday was spent moving.  We moved to an initial room on the recovery floor, but our wonderful nurse got us in line for one of the big comfy corner rooms since it looked like I would be spending some good time there.  Once the patient in this bigger room was discharged, I was moved again.  But during this process I was also allowed to shower {I was on strict bed rest with minimal bathroom privileges}, so that was quite the highlight of my day.

Although Saturday involved a lot of moving around, it wasn’t until after bedtime that night {when I THOUGHT I would finally be getting some sleep} that our world started to change.

27 weeks, 6 days along {Sunday – Laughton’s Birthday}

By 4 am this morning, the contractions were about 10 minutes apart again and were increasing pain wise.  The resident on shift was brought in to do an exam.  She found that my cervix was still closed and there were still no signs of labor.  They gave me more of the meds to try and make the contractions bearable.  A little later that morning, the perinatologist came in for rounds and said that until I get to having 10 contractions an hour, we needed to just try to manage them as best we could.  We needed to limit the number of cervical checks because with my water breaking, I had lost the barrier between baby and the outside world and there was a chance for infection.

She said I wouldn’t be having this baby today based on what they currently knew.

Okay, fine.  I could grit my teeth and bear through the pain.

I thought that until about 4 pm that afternoon.  And my nurse could really sense that something wasn’t right.  Although I was only up to 7 contractions an hour {not quite 10 like we had been told to watch for}, she asked the resident to come and take a look at me as the contractions were becoming pretty severe.

The resident on staff came in and took one look at my face while having a contraction and said we needed to do an exam.  Both Graham and I were apprehensive about it.  Just that morning we were told these needed to be limited and since I wasn’t having quite 10 contractions an hour, we didn’t want to be doing these so continuously.  He assured us the exam was sterile, and safe, and necessary.

He found I was 1-2cm dilated and my cervix was thinning.  As he put it, “okay, we are going to take you back downstairs and put on the full court press to try and stall this pregnancy from progressing.”

I was back down in a labor and delivery room by 5 pm with my {amazing} labor and delivery nurse getting me hooked up to the magnesium and other monitors.  At the same time, the NICU team and neonatologists were getting things set up.  The anesthesiologist was also called as I said I would like an epidural if it got to that point.

It got to that point….quickly.

By 7:30, I was at 5cm and since Laughton was so small, 5cm meant he was coming, and coming fast.  I almost didn’t get an epidural in time because of this.  The anesthesiologist was able to do a side spinal {versus the regular one where you sit up as I was now too far along to allow for this}.  The epidural was in, but not even taking effect before the next contraction where I needed to start pushing.  I started pushing at 8 pm and Laughton was born at 8:30 pm.

Before the NICU team whisked him away, I was able to sit up enough {which with the combination of the epidural AND pain meds I was given earlier, was no easy task} and Laughton looked right at me and blinked a couple of times.  We was wiggling around, but not yet crying {we were prepared for that, though}.  I wasn’t able to remember a whole lot from the night, but I will never forget that moment I got to share with Laughton.

All Graham and I could do at this point was sit and watch the NICU team work.  It became clear very quickly that there was something wrong.  They couldn’t get the breathing tube in and working and his heartbeat wasn’t coming up.  Finally they got the tube in, but his lungs still weren’t expanding.  Because he was so tiny and had other developmental anomalies, they got an x-ray done to see if they actually had the tube in right or not.

The tube was in right, but the x-ray showed that his lungs hadn’t developed properly and that there was not going to be anything they could do.  He was still alive, still had a heartbeat, but he didn’t have long.  We decided the best way to spend the rest of the time we had with Laughton would be together and we asked the hospital chaplain to perform a baptism.

Along with that one moment I shared with Laughton, where we caught each other’s eyes, I will never forget the moment when the NICU team shut that machine off showing us that it really was over.

There was still one small problem, though.  With what small mental capacity I had {given all of the meds that had been quickly pumped through my system and the fact that I had just given birth}, I hadn’t been paying attention to the doctors and nurses still working on me.  I was hemorrhaging and it was clear they were not going to be able to stop it there.  They let me hold Laughton for just a bit before I gave him to Graham and they took me to the ER for an emergency procedure.  I remember asking if Laughton would still be alive when I got back and was assured he would be.

The last thing I remember was getting into the OR room, with the millions of bright lights, and large group of masked doctors and nurses getting everything prepped.  They gave me gas through a breathing tube in my nose, more anesthesia through my spine, and the next thing I remember was being woken up in the delivery room.  I was told that out of the six liters of blood your body has at one time, I had lost over a liter and that I had been gone about an hour.  But, they were able to stop the bleeding and I should be fine.

They put Laughton back in my arms so that we could quickly perform the baptism.  I do not really remember any of this.  Luckily the nurse took it upon herself {knowing I probably wouldn’t remember} and videotaped the baptism on my phone so that someday I could watch it.  I haven’t been able to watch it quite yet.  But, someday I will.

Shortly after the baptism, the doctor and the nurse confirmed that Laughton’s heart had stopped beating.  He was pronounced an angel of heaven, too beautiful for earth, at 10:50 pm, just two and a half short hours after birth.

Because of my blood loss, I was kept at the hospital for recovery and monitoring a bit more that I would have otherwise.  However, Graham and I are now at home trying to recover emotionally.  We have a long road ahead of us and I will be continuing to share my thoughts, experiences, and ways of surviving in hopes of helping myself and others going through a similar situation or grieving their own loss.  And I will survive.  I have to, because I know it is what Laughton would want for me.

Surviving Infant Loss -- my story as I grieve the loss of my son born prematurely at 27 weeks

Need to get caught up on the story?  Read all the posts that take you through our journey surviving the loss of our infant son, Laughton.

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Comments

  1. Cindi Krafve says

    Jen andGraham- My heart is so sad for you – have been lifting you in prayer and will continue for comfort, support and protection. You are loved – I hope you can feel the love surround you through this very difficult time.Peace and blessings Cindi w hugs!

  2. Jessica Hamilton-Gary says

    Jen I would first like to say I am extremely sorry for your loss. Mothers day on top of a loss my heart breaks for you.
    I was reading your story and realized our stories are very similar. I lost my daughter Christmas eve do to pprom and her lungs being collapsed. She was our first pregnancy after trying for four years. Who knew what pprom meant before it happens to you. Once again I am truly sorry for your loss and I can sympathize the heartache you are going through. Hugs to you and your family.

    Jessica

    • says

      Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing your story, Jessica. And until you have gone through it, you really cannot fully understand (and I would never want anyone to).

  3. Kylee says

    I just happened to come across this blog – I had an early miscarriage and am pregnant again. Struggling everyday to find excitement knowing things are never certain. Your story was beautiful. I can’t imagine what you are going through but it moved me beyond words. You are so strong and I hope you are truly blessed with another baby that is healthy and strong.

    Kylee

    • says

      I am glad that you found my blog and my story. Thank you so much for your kind words. I wish you the best during this pregnancy…I can certainly understand what you may be feeling! If I can be of any help, please let me know!

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