I Gave Birth To A Child I Never Brought Home: A Story Of Infant Loss And Redemption
How did you first find out that you were pregnant?
Laughs. I was in college. I was at IU Bloomington and I was with a friend of mine and she was like, 'Erin, I haven't gotten my period yet!' And I was like 'Ha ha! Let's go get a test.' Well then I realized, I hadn't had mine either. I called another friend and she took me to Kroger's and I got one of those 99 cent tests and sure enough, there it was plain as day. I took two of them and then I popped some pink Starbursts in my mouth, looked at my stomach and said 'Welcome.'
Did you feel any anxiety about telling your family?
Oh my goodness, yes. I literally could not sleep. I was so nervous about telling my mom and dad. I had told my cousin Christine, who was down there with me at the same time. I told her and of course, I told my, now-husband. But telling my mom and dad was terrifying.
I called and told another cousin of mine and then when I told my mom that I had told my cousin, she was like 'I got to hurry up and tell your dad, Erin because if he finds out from your uncle, you may not be able to come home.
How did your parents react?
My mom said they were in Barnes and Noble. And when she found out, she said that she walked away from my dad because of course when I called her, I was crying. The minute I told her I was pregnant, she said she had to stop in her tracks and the whole world started spinning because she felt like she was in the "Twilight Zone."
My mom told my dad and he called me a couple of days later and he was livid. He was like, 'How could you do this? What are you going to do about school?' 'Where are you going to live?' Like most dads, out of anger, he was like, 'You can't stay here. I don't know where you're going to go but you can't come back.' Then he said, 'I don't mean that. I'm just angry right now.' He said, 'Erin, this is a lot to take in. You had plans. We had plans for you.' So, he was upset.
At what point do you think they started coming around?
I think they started coming around once they saw my stomach starting to grow. I found out in April and then I came home in May for summer break. July is when I found out I was having a boy and that's when they really started coming around.
I was ecstatic. Most girls want a girl but I wanted a boy because I think I'm too rough and tough and I'm just...I don't think I could do a girl. Sometimes girls can be too dramatic. And I just be looking at them like, 'I need you to toughen up and grow some.' So when I found out I was having a boy, I was excited because I was like, 'I'm going to have the first boy in the family.'
After the summer, I stayed in Fort Wayne. I transferred from Bloomington to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) here in Fort Wayne and I took classes part-time. Because I knew that with the baby being born in December, I was going to either have to take the spring semester off or I would have to do all online classes. So what I opted to do was stay in school and do the online classes.
How was your pregnancy for you?
Healthwise, it was perfect. I didn't have any morning sickness, thank goodness. The only thing I did have was gestational diabetes. And when I found out about that, it was hard. Because I had been--I wouldn't say working out-- but I would say I was trying to be more healthy than I usually am. I was drinking water, I was drinking milk. My mom was in a workout class at our church, so I would go with her. And even though I couldn't do the workout, I would still kind of walk around the church. You know, just kind of keep my legs moving, trying to keep my heart rate up and burn some calories while I was pregnant.
It was a regular 28-week appointment where they do the sugar test. People say that the drink is disgusting, no it's not. It tastes like the little barrel juices from back in the day.
One thing that they didn't do at that appointment is when they checked my A1C after I had that drink, they didn't tell me what my A1C was. That's the testing where they gauge whether or not you're going to be a diabetic. For us, it's 5.7 to 6.1. With this pregnancy, the endocrinologist, who is a diabetes specialist, told me that my A1C was 7.6 but they didn't tell me that. What they did was prescribe me a little pill that I had to take twice a day and that was it.
When they told you had gestational diabetes, how did you feel?
I was angry and I was scared. I was angry because I was like, 'I did all this walking at this beginning of this pregnancy, only for me to still have gestational diabetes.'
And sad because I had done research on gestational diabetes and one of the things that it said is that for one out of a million women, a stillbirth can happen. So when I read that, that just automatically scared me.
Any other complications before your delivery?
Nope, none. I was on target. They said the baby was growing just fine. They told me that even though the baby was gaining weight, I myself was losing weight. So I started the pregnancy at 240 something pounds. And when I delivered him, I was 241. So I gained a pound but he was huge! He was 10 pounds, 2 ounces.
December 2 was my last doctor's appointment for him. It happened to be a Thursday. I went in to do a routine checkup and at that point, she was going to tell me that they were going to schedule me for a c-section or we're going to go ahead and induce you. But what ended up happening was I had to be hooked up to this heart rate monitor. And it was always hard finding his heart rate because he was always so hyper and everything. They ended up hooking me up to do an ultrasound that day. And the minute she put him on the screen, I already saw it. I was like, 'There's no heartbeat.' That's the first thing that came to my mind.
Before the ultrasound tech said anything, she just said, 'I'll be right back.' She went and she got a doctor. And I immediately called my dad. I was like, 'Dad, there's no heartbeat.' And my dad was like, 'What are you talking about?' I was like, 'There's no heartbeat on the monitor, I'm looking at it right now. There's no heartbeat.'
The ultrasound tech came back in and the doctor said, 'Ma'am there's no heartbeat. Somehow your baby lost his heartbeat and we don't know how right now. We won't know until we get an autopsy.'
At that point, my entire world kind of stopped and I felt like I couldn't talk. I felt like I couldn't make any sounds. I just sat there, looking at the screen, at my son, like 'I can't believe this is happening to me!'
Were you there by yourself?
Yeah. Normally, Sean he would have been there but since it was a later appointment, he wasn't able to come, he had to go to work. So I told him, 'It's fine. I'll call you after the doctor's appointment to let you know when they're going to induce me, what time and stuff.' So, he just said, 'Ok, let me know.'
Because I was still by myself when the doctor told me, I needed comfort somehow, so I just grabbed the doctor and pulled her into a hug. And I said, 'Why is this happening to me?' Then I said, 'I'm sorry I don't usually do this.I just need comforting.' She said, 'You're fine. You're absolutely fine,' She hugged me back.
Then once my mom and dad got there, my mom pulled me into her arms and my dad pulled me into his arms and they walked me to the bathroom because they said that they needed to get me out of earshot, away from everybody out there. Because I'm in an office full of pregnant women and if they hear about it, they're going to go into distress and everything. So they moved me into the bathroom and from there, I just dropped to my knees and just started praying.
I asked the Lord to help me understand why this was happening to me. I said, 'Lord, I know there's a lesson. I just don't know it right now but please reveal it to me eventually. And then I asked him to take away my pain and to take care of my family and to take care of Sean at this time and his family and just be with me during this process because, at this point, I was terrified. I was like, 'How are they going to get this baby out of me?' Then I was afraid that something was going to happen and then I was going to die. It was a billion things were going through me. Then, after I stopped worrying and being a hypochondriac, I said, 'You know what Lord, if it is your will, be done. Obviously, you needed my child for some reason. There was something that could have happened to him, something that could have happened to me, something that could have happened to Sean. So I know there's a reason you took my son. You know I'm not happy about it but there's nothing we can do about it. So I just ask you to please be with me and comfort me in my time of need. And I went down all my needs, in the bathroom. I put the toilet seat down and I just prayed.
They told me that I was to go directly to the hospital that I had chosen to do delivery at and that everything was ready for me and I was going to be induced that day and go from there.
So, you delivered him vaginally?
They wanted me to try and do it vaginally because they said that in the future I could have as many babies as I wanted to. But because he was not alive, I wasn't getting any help from him with trying to push him out. With him being so big, it was just impossible. First, we tried pushing. Then they tried the forceps, basically, it was like two big ole salad tongs. They tried the vacuum and that didn't work. And when that didn't work, the doctor said, 'Ok, that's it. We're not putting her through anything else. We are going to put her to sleep and we're going to do an emergency c-section.
They broke my water at about 6-6:30, the following day. Because what they found with the Pitocin, which is the drug that they give to induce labor, is that I wasn't dilating any. And usually by the end of your pregnancy, you will have dilated, I want to say at least 5 centimeters. I hadn't dilated any, like nothing. It was as if I wasn't toward the end of my pregnancy at all. So that's why the doctor said (at the appointment before December 2) at your next appointment we're going to decide if we were going to try to do natural, let the baby come on its own or induce.
I was having contractions but because the baby wasn't moving or anything, they kind of drugged me up so that I was asleep for most of my labor. And then once I woke up towards the end when they were getting ready to break my water, that's when I felt all of the contractions until they gave me the epidural.
Sean was there the entire time.
Then they did the forceps. I can't remember the amount of time they tried with the forceps. I felt like it was forever.
Was it painful?
Not really because I at that point, the epidural was in full effect so I couldn't feel anything down there but the contractions in my back. I was so drugged up, I just don't even know what was going on. One thing I do remember is that I pooted in the doctor's face. And when I did it, I kind of looked up at Sean and Sean just kind of looked down at me and I was like, 'I farted.' I was so high on those drugs, I didn't know what was going on. They had literally given me every kind of painkiller under the sun. In my mind, what they were thinking is, it can't harm the baby because the baby's not living anymore. So she doesn't have to deal with the pain of losing a child as well as the physical pain. Let's give her as many painkillers as we can that won't overdose her. I was high as a kite throughout that entire process.
Were you awake for the c-section?
I was completely under.
When I woke up, the first thing I said was, 'Where is he? Where is he? I want to see him.' Because that's the one thing I had been wondering about the entire time throughout my pregnancy. I was like 'What does he look like? Does he look like me? Does he look like Sean?'
They wouldn't give him to me right away. I said, 'Where is he?' They said, 'Erin, we need to explain something to you. We've kept him warm but just know that when you get him, he might be a little cold by the time we give him to you.' Because I asked them how long was I out and I was out for a good 2-3 hours after the c-section. I was like, 'I understand but I want to see him. Give him to me now. I want to see him.'
So, they finally bring him to you. How did that go?
It was love at first sight for me. Even though, he was dead, it was still love at first sight. I remember thinking, he's so beautiful but the thing that I noticed was that his nose was crooked. His lips were black and his skin looked like it had been peeling.
How did your husband react?
From what my parents told me, they said when he first saw the baby, he ran out of the room. Because he was in the room with me when they did the c-section. They said he ran out of the room and he collapsed on the ground and he was crying. And then they also told me that he was not only crying because of the fact that our baby had died but he told them that it looked like I was dead on the table. So he was afraid that he had lost both of us at the same time.
So did you think your baby looked like either one of you?
I think he looked just like me and my dad.
Did you have a name picked out for him?
We had had a name picked out for him. His name was going to be Jordan Michael. And then when they asked us the name for the death certificate, we changed the middle name to Quentin, after Sean. Because Sean's middle name is Quentin.
How long did you hold him?
When I first woke up, I held him for about 30-45 minutes. And then I went to sleep because I was tired and my arms couldn't hold him up anymore. At that point, it was probably about 10:30, going on 11.
So my mom said she let me sleep for a little bit. Then the nurses came in and said, 'We've got to take the baby to the morgue so we can get it ready for the cemetery to come get him tomorrow.'
So my mom woke me up and she said it was one of the hardest things she had to do is to tell me 'You got to wake up and get your last few moments with your baby.' So she woke me up, and I literally only got to hold him for like another 15-20 minutes and that's when they came and got him.
That was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do so far. I hadn't heard about it until later but you hear about some people whose babies pass away, stillbirth and they get to spend hours and hours with their babies. I literally felt like I didn't get that. They even say that some mothers get to bathe their babies, they get to dress them, they get to take pictures with them and everything.
I did get to get pictures done but it was still hard because I didn't want to give him away. I wanted to keep him forever. And then the fact that I was still kind of under the influence of all of the drugs they gave me, sometimes I feel like I'm missing something.
I stayed in the hospital for about four days after that. And that was hard because they moved me to a completely different part of the hospital because they said they didn't want me to hear the newborn babies crying or hear anybody say, 'Congratulations on the new baby!' and stuff. So they moved me to a regular wing in the hospital, all the way down at the end of the hall, away from everybody because they knew that it was going to be hard, recovery wise and emotionally.
How was it emotionally, recovering?
Oh it was horrible. It was really hard because even though I was never alone by myself in my room, because it would always be my mom, my dad, Sean and other visitors but I felt alone. Even though people are here with me, nobody knows what I'm going through. So, it's no one I can talk to. I did a lot of crying, a lot of praying. I would wake up in the middle of the night for no reason, just crying. I slept in the hospital but I didn't get a good sleep. It was hard while I was in the hospital. It was horrible.
Did you get to have a funeral?
The funeral home, Lindenwood Cemetery, here in Fort Wayne, told me, "Unfortunately, we do these more than we really want to.' So we didn't have to pay for a casket or anything. They said, 'We can either do something really small, where we just have the casket sitting out and you guys bring a picture in and you guys just sit for a couple of hours and then you bury him or you can have an actual little ceremony.
So what I did was, I asked my pastor and my godfather if he could do the ceremony and he willingly did it for me. And we just had my parents, Sean's parents and the pastor there and the pastor's wife, she came.
Did the ceremony help you with closure?
It gave me a little bit closure that day. Up until the funeral, I was doing a lot of praying, I did a lot of crying. And I just said, 'If I gotta cry, I'ma cry.' So that was the hard part. Having to do that...and I was only like 21, going on 22-years-old. That was a pretty hard experience for me at that time.
How long did you take a break from everything, after the funeral?
I actually didn't take a break. After the funeral, I finished three of the four online classes that I had for the fall semester. Because at that point, they had just given me incompletes. My mom and dad went to IPFW and spoke with each one of my teachers and explained the situation. And they told them that I had already explained that the baby was due on December 5 and that she was working toward the incomplete, so that when I finished my maternity leave, I would finish my classes.
So, I kind of dove into that. And I agreed to move to Gary, Indiana to help my grandma and my aunt with their breast cancer because both of them were going through breast cancer at the same time. My aunt had stage 4 and my grandma had stage one. Then my aunt gave me a job at her daycare. That was probably going to the extreme but she gave me a job in the infant room. That just tells you, I just said, 'I don't need a break. I need to keep going. I need to get up.' I hated to kind of have this mentality but it was the truth. Unfortunately, things like this happen and if you stay stuck in this, you're never going to get up and move forward. So I told myself, 'Erin, you're going to transfer. You're going to do your classes up here. You're going to work and you're going to work on getting yourself better so that you can go back to enjoying life. Even though it won't be the same way you were enjoying it before, you still deserve to enjoy life. That's why I moved to Gary and did the extreme by going to school, helping with two people who you're really close to, with breast cancer and working in the infant room.
I isolated myself a lot during that time when I felt alone and angry. I felt like that because I'd be on Facebook and I'd see my friends' babies. A lot of us were pregnant at the same time. It was a good 10-11 of us from my graduating class alone. We were stair step. So I saw all of them having their babies and I would get so mad because I was like, 'She smoked weed her entire pregnancy. She smoked cigarettes her entire pregnancy. She was at the club her entire pregnancy.' And here I am, wasn't doing nothing. I was going to church every Sunday, going to Bible study every Wednesday, I was participating in church. I was trying to be healthy and here these women were, doing everything under the sun and they got to have their healthy, happy baby, And I lost mine and I thought I did everything by the book.
So those days where I was mad, confused and sad, that was why. I probably shouldn't have been on Facebook. But really, just seeing that kind of just tipped me off. Because it's like, 'Lord, here's somebody who doesn't do anything that would let them deserve to have their healthy baby and I'm trying and I lose mine. I'm like it's not fair.
Looking back do you feel like you should have given yourself more time?
For me, I felt like it was the right decision because of my mentality. I can't. If I stay stuck on something, I'll never move past it and move forward and try to do things better for myself. So, with that I still cried, I still grieved in my own way but what I told myself--I don't know if any other woman does this but this is what I did-- I said, 'Erin, you have a year. You have a year to cry. You have a year to stay stuck in this. You have a year to get all of your anger and frustration out. But in that year's time, while you're getting all of this out, you need to grow in your faith. You need to ask the Lord why.
And I actually believe He did it so that when December 3, 2011, came around, that was the time I really felt closure. You've grown in your faith, you've grown as a woman, not only as a woman but also as a person. You see things from different perspectives. You see things from different sides now, more than you did before.
I just felt it. You ever have that feeling where something happened and you're like, 'You know what, 'I accept it.' and you kind of have this weight lifted off you? That's what I felt on his birthday, one year later. I said, 'You know what? I feel different. I don't feel sad. I don't feel mad. I don't feel confused or anything. I felt the closure to the point where I could think about him and I thought about what happened back in the hospital that day, and how I felt when they finally took him away and I realized I was never ever going to see him again, in person. I would only have pictures. Once I realized that and thought about that a year later, I don't feel the need to cry. I don't feel the need to lash out at anybody. I don't feel the need to be angry. I don't feel the need to be confused. I'm finally ok. For so long I felt not ok and I finally was like, 'Erin, you're good. You're ok now.'
During this time, what messages did you hear from God that helped you with your healing?
The thing that helped me the most was this book that we were using during our women's meeting classes at church. In it was a section about infant loss, miscarriages anger and things like that. And I was studying that one day and I just looked at it and one of the scriptures was saying something to the effect of all babies, when they're lost in the womb, the Lord just comes and reaches down and takes them to heaven. That was something that kind of helped me. Because I thought if something happened on earth that I wouldn't have been able to protect him from...So I feel like the Lord grabbed him because he was saving me from that in some way. Even though he's not physically here with you, he's going to be with you to some degree because one, he's a part of you and two, because of your faith, you know that Lord willing if you make it into heaven, you'll get to see him again.
When women go through things like this, the people around them don't know what to say or do. What were some of the things that people did that helped you during your healing process?
The one thing that people did that helped me with this process was they didn't ask me how I was doing. That was the best thing they did for me. A lot of people don't realize that when you ask that question to somebody who had a major loss, it hurts them worse because they have to relive it all over again in their lives. And even though they may say, 'Oh I'm fine,' they're really not. So people not saying, 'Oh my goodness Erin! How are you after your loss?' or 'How have you been? Is everything ok? Do you need anything?' They just greeted me like, 'Hey Erin, so what's up? When are you going to go see this show or this movie?' Instead of making me go back and think about what happened, they made me just live in the moment. Nobody said, 'If you need me, call me.' Because at the end of the day, you say that to people but they're not going to call you. Because they're like, 'This is my loss. I'm not going to put this on anybody.' Of course, people would call and check on me but they would just call my mom or my dad, they didn't directly ask me.
I know you shared pictures of your son on Facebook, can you talk to me about your decision to do that?
I think it was kind of spur of the moment for me. I hadn't really thought it through. I guess the reason why I did it was because it was like everybody was always posting pictures of their babies and I was like it wasn't fair. I absolutely had a baby so therefore, I want to post his picture. I only kept it up for one day. I didn't leave it up longer than that.
Did you read the comments people left? Did it help or did it take you back to feelings you didn't necessarily want to deal with?
They helped. Everybody told me how beautiful he was. Everybody told me how wonderful of an angel that the Lord gained up there in heaven. A lot of people told me he looked like my dad. Even though a lot of people commented on the actual picture, I got a lot of private messages saying 'Erin, he's beautiful.' 'You had one beautiful baby Erin.' 'Despite your loss, we're happy that you experienced true love.' So those comments helped. Because you never understand how a mom says it was true love at first sight. When you look at his face or her face, that's when you truly understand that saying.
How did your now-husband help you through this process? Because a lot of couples who lose babies, if their partner is not supportive, it can really threaten the relationship.
We talked a lot. He was there still. He comforted me as best he could, considering what had happened. It was hard for him in the beginning because, like most people, we blamed ourselves for what happened. He was like, 'You know Erin, I should have done this. I should have stayed on you about this and then this wouldn't have happened.' And I was like, 'I should have done this or I should have said this or opened up about this sooner.' The one thing we did for each other is we never blamed each other for what happened. We became closer, we communicated better.
So then tell me about the second time you learned you were pregnant?
I was pregnant before I got married. He jumped the gun but that's alright. The second time, Sean had just moved into our now apartment and I met him here for lunch and he was just joking around with me. 'Erin, have you had your period?' I was like, 'Nah, it usually comes around the 18th or the 19th.' He looked at me and said, 'Erin, it's the 22nd.' I said 'Are you sure?' He said, 'I think you should go get a test.' So I went to Walgreen's, that lovely store, bought a test and sure enough, it was positive.
I said, 'You know prayer works.' Sean said, 'What do you mean?' I said 'I asked the Lord to make it so I wouldn't be pregnant on my wedding day.I just didn't realize he was going to answer my prayer this way.' You gotta be more specific when you pray sometimes.
I found out in August I was pregnant and the wedding was in October.