Told by: Hope
~Zoe Elizabeth ~ no heartbeat at 19 wks 5 days (March 21, 2007); born still 20 wks 5 days (March 28, 2007).
Zoe is Greek for “abundant life.” Elizabeth is the name of her paternal great grandmother. ~
My 2nd pregnancy was planned. We had heard it was best to space babies out by 2-3 years so we thought our plan was working when we got pregnant with our 2nd child and she would be born 23 months apart from our firstborn daughter. Life was extraordinarily beautiful and happy all the way around. I felt ridiculously horrible during this pregnancy, but I had felt this way during my first pregnancy and Abigail, our firstborn, was delivered safe and sound and I believed this baby would be too. I just assumed it was normal to feel this awful, and I knew that pregnancy just didn’t sit well with some women, and I just happened to be one of those women. I suffered from extreme fatigue, nausea all pregnancy long, and terrible debilitating headaches. But overall, life was really good and so exciting. Abigail was 14 months old when we got pregnant again and we were just blessed beyond measure. I had been married a little over 2yrs at that point. We conceived our firstborn just a couple weeks after getting married and it had been a stupendous rollercoaster of a life ever since! I was so unconcerned that I stopped trying to get my hubby to take time off work to go with me to all my OB appointments. I had previously been a nurse and the OB visits didn’t really freak me out. He (Phillip) went with me some and stayed at work other visits.
Baby was growing fine according to the OB and the ultrasounds. At 17 weeks we found out we were having a girl and we really began trying to decide on a name.
One day while at home (where we were living with extended family while slowly moving along in the process of building a home of our own), there was quite a bit of extended family tension and stress was at a maximum. I won’t go into detail but suffice it to say that for whatever reason I was feeling particularly stressed out on this day and there had been extended family arguing etc. I remember this one moment when I felt like I was literally about to lose it and that I could not handle anymore stress. I suddenly felt like I needed to go to the bathroom and it was then that I had some minimal spotting. I called the OB and they said it was probably nothing, to keep an eye on things and if I began experiencing any pain or more bleeding to let them know asap. We were in the 19th week of pregnancy. A couple of days later (on a Tuesday) I went to the bathroom and experience what I call a huge “rush” of blood. There was so much blood that I called the OB again. It was around 10pm and the doc said that the baby most likely was still okay, and that he thought it sounded like the placenta might have started pulling away from the uterine wall. He said that I could come in to the ER for an ultrasound but that he was at a different hospital that evening and not where they have the best US equipment (where I normally saw him). I could choose to go into the local ER (we live in a small town), the ER where he was (1 1/2 hrs away), the ER next to the building where I did my normal OB visits (an hour away), or wait and come to his office 1st thing in the morning for an US. We were almost right at 20 weeks pregnant and ready for the anatomy US soon. Up until these few days we had no out of the ordinary reason to believe anything was wrong or that anything would go wrong. I called a best friend who was a nurse and ask her what she thought. I was having no pain and the bleeding wasn’t continuing. I prayed and asked God for guidance. I felt this tremendous sense of peace and we decided to try to get some rest and go on into the office the following morning. Of course we were supposed to rush to the ER if there was any more bleeding at all or I developed new symptoms. We stupidly decided for my husband not to take a day off work to accompany me to the US. Instead I asked a cousin to go with me and Abigail (now 19 months old) to the appointment. I have no idea why we made that decision.
We got up early the next morning (Wednesday) and got to the doc soon after going to pick up the cousin that was tagging along to keep an eye on Abigail. I went back to the US alone. The OB said he wanted to check the placenta because his main concern was if the placenta was beginning to separate from the uterine wall. He was busy doing the US and looking closely at the placenta and telling me the placenta looked good, all the while I was wondering why I wasn’t hearing a heartbeat and hoping that maybe he just had the volume turned down or something. I remember glancing over at the face of the nurse standing just inside the door and she had a blank expression on her face. I asked if the baby was okay. Finally after a long pause, he said, “I am so sorry, there is no heartbeat, I am so sorry.” I was in shock and I couldn’t believe I was there alone experiencing this nightmare without my husband. The doctor had been so busy checking out my placenta at first during the US that he didn’t notice there was no heartbeat…he even said, “Well, placenta looks good!” And then silence….. :*(
They (the OB and a nurse who was standing over near the door observing and whom I don’t remember being overly friendly) told me to go ahead and get dressed and that I needed to come next door to talk more with the doctor. I knew as I laid there on that table after learning there was no heartbeat that our baby’s name was Zoe. Zoe was one of the names we had narrowed it down to but I hadn’t picked one for sure until that moment, I just knew that was her name. Zoe is Greek for “Abundant Life”.
I came out of the room and went to talk with the OB. I’m not sure why I didn’t go call my husband then, I know it all felt very rushed. He sat across from me and looked dumbfounded. He said he was sorry again and said that this NEVER happened with his patients, that he had never had a baby die in his practice at 5 months gestation, and that he had no idea what went wrong. He immediately said they were calling upstairs to the high risk OB to see if they could see me that very day and he told me I needed to have a D & E as soon as possible. He was very firm in this and told me that this is what the high risk doctor would recommend as well. I remember awkwardly standing at the checkout while they called the OB office upstairs. The high risk office had no appointments that day and so I scheduled to come back the next morning first thing. I couldn’t believe they couldn’t work me in that day but at the same time I was ready to get to my husband. I walked into the waiting room and my cousin looked at me and asked if everything was okay and all I could do was nod my head “no”. I couldn’t even say the words to her. I was completely numb. I remember another mom saw me nod my head “no”, and she saw the look on my face–she just stared at me. We walked out and I told my cousin I had to call Phillip. I went out to the hallway and stood looking out the long horizontal windows overlooking the main road and called my husband at work (which I never do). My cousin was down the hall from me watching Abigail as she toddled everywhere all happy and giggly. When he answered the phone in his classroom (he is a high school teacher) I said, “Hey honey, it’s me.” He asked me if everything was okay and I said “No, it’s not. The baby died.” He was taken aback and I had to repeat it, we were both in shock. He asked me what he needed to do, if he needed to come there immediately. I told him what the doctor said and that we had to come back tomorrow to see the high risk doctor. We decided he would take off work immediately and go home to meet me (he offered to come and get me but I said no). I don’t really remember the drive home or much even of that evening. …I remember laying on my bed as Phillip held me and just placing my hand on my stomach and weeping, feeling so shattered and torn to pieces…..as though I had just walked into a nightmare I would not wake up from.
The next day Phillip & I went to high-risk doc (Thursday). We had to walk in the office and wait in the waiting room with all these happy pregnant ladies and I remember hearing one say that she was going to find out today if she was having a boy or a girl and that she thinks it’s a girl. It was sheer mental torture to sit there. I finally went and asked if we could please be taken to a different room to wait, or maybe my husband went to ask, I don’t know, but I do know that they sent us on back to a room that had posters of angel babies on the walls. Yay. Then they took us back for the confirmation US and saw indeed that there was no life left in our little one. The image on the US monitor of Zoe’s lifeless form was almost unbearable. Then they took measurements and said she was measuring smaller than 20 weeks etc. I don’t remember the order of events but we spoke with 2 different OBs separately and the genetics counselor, and lab work was done. One of the doctors was very adamant that we should have a D & C (why he called it a d & c and the regular OB called it a d & e I’m not sure, they both mean the same thing though). This doc is Greek and as a very overwhelming personality, very strong willed. Finally, we talked the 2nd doc and he was not as adamant on the d & c, in fact he talked to us about induction. Then when we spoke with the genetics counselor (who was so kind and compassionate) she talked to us about both options, as well as blood tests they wanted to do to try and see what went wrong. We spoke with the Greek doc again and he was telling us that women are more emotionally traumatized with induction at this gestation and I told him that there was psychological benefits to getting to see your baby and hold your baby and that I could not do the d & c, period. I had this overwhelming sense that induction was the right choice for us and for Zoe. They said that b/c they only induce over a weekend for medical emergencies that I would need to come back on Monday to begin in-office procedures to ripen my cervix and begin induction slowly. What I was experiencing was not considered a medical emergency. They did give me a NILMDTS pamphlet and when we got home I called the first photographer on the list. Lori was a Godsend, to say the least! She spoke with me several times before Zoe was delivered and really helped give me the support I needed. We had no church family at the time and few local friends upon whom to lean on, as well as the reality that things with extended family near and far were quite tenuous at that time.
It was surreal and horrific–yet I cherished every last second I had her inside me even as I felt like a walking tomb. Carrying her for a week after knowing she was dead was just horrible yet my last chance to “keep” her with me in a sense. It was strange how I cherished that week and was mortified all at the same time. I would lay with my hand on my tummy and pray fervently that God would prove the doctors wrong even now and that when we went to the office Monday she would actually be okay.
Monday and Tuesday I went back into the office to have laminara sticks (seaweed) inserted into my cervix to help it ripen and get ready for delivery. They gave us several prescriptions as well to make labor progress. We decided to stay close by the hospital Tuesday in a hotel. The NILMDTS photographer’s husband is a minister and God softened their hearts towards us as they found out we had no current church home and very little in the way of local friend support. They paid for our hotel room near the hospital since we lived an hour away, and brought us food. The one friend I did have locally came with her husband to the hotel and brought pizza (more food!) and they visited and prayed with us. We spoke to extended family and friends by phone. I was taking all these prescription medicines to move labor along, all the while afraid I would labor and deliver so fast I couldn’t get to the hospital on time. Contractions began hard and fast Tuesday about 10pm…I called the perinatal office and as it turned out the Greek doctor was on call. I remember my husband dropping me off at the ER entrance and me waiting there with my large belly waiting for him to park the car and come to meet me. I was about to enter that hospital without him by my side. I still felt like I was in a bad dream and that maybe I would wake up and this really wasn’t happening. My mom was on her way to the hospital. Our 19 month old, Abigail, was staying with my sister Joy, we chose not to have her come to the hospital. I have often regretted that decision in the years since Zoe was born. We were put at the end of the hall on the L& D floor. We only saw like 2 nurses & 1 doc while we were there. No social worker, no chaplain, no nothing else. The main nurse acted all happy and laissez faire, I wanted to slap the cheezy grin off her face and scream at her that she couldn’t be so happy, not right now!!! My baby had died, why was she grinning like her cheeks were stuck in place??? She never even said, “I’m sorry” or anything. I know this was her way of coping but it was just awful, and we already felt banished to No Man’s Land at the end of the hall like we were all sick with the plague. My labor progressed very very fast, and it was so phenomenally painful. Dr. Rouissis said that I was progressing so fast they really didn’t think they even had time to do an epidural like we had planned. I thought I was going to pass out from the tenacity of the pain I was feeling–I seriously was scared I might not survive the pain was so terrible–I screamed and asked my husband, “It hurts so bad! What do I do??”…and then she was born….. Looking back the pain must also have been emotional as well…And that my previous child had been delivered by C-Section, so this was my first vaginal delivery. I just had no idea what to expect…..It all happened so fast…and she was delivered just after midnight (making it Wednesday again) after a horribly painful delivery (that was mercifully not long lasting).
I felt so empty when she finally came out and I wanted her to be back inside of me. The pain of delivering her was almost overwhelming. I was dying to meet her face to face, yet I was also dreading the reality that she really was not alive, that our prayers of her coming back from the grip of death to show a powerful and amazing God through a miracle of life were not answered as we had hoped. She came out so fast and furiously, and it was all silent. I asked, “Did she come out?” Dr. Roussis told me she had. The cheezy grinned nurse told me they wanted to take her and clean her up a bit and that they would be right back. I wanted to see her right then and there! How dare they take her away immediately, didn’t they know my longing for my child? Because she was dead they had to take her away immediately? The pain in the eyes of my husband was almost unbearable. How could this have happened? Why did this happen? Is this really happening?
Then, at some point, they brought me these pictures the nurses took–and don’t get me wrong I am glad this is offered for people who don’t have NILMDTS etc–but these pictures were just hideous since they were unedited and just so cold in how she was positioned, no compassion evident in the pictures, she was just laying on her side–they were just awful, and her coloring was already off and these pics were so so bad. Thankfully, NILMDTS did come–now they don’t do pics below 24 weeks gestation but they did then and I am so grateful. We were given a paper mache heart-shaped memory box and a crocheted tiny blanket and shirt, plus Zoe had on a tiny crocheted hat when they brought her to us, although in those awful pictures the nurses took she didn’t have the hat on. We really appreciated what they did give us with the crocheted items and the box (although the box is not holding up well). Also, because she had stayed inside the womb after death for a week there were skin issues and coloration issues etc and they said footprints couldn’t be done . I still cannot help but think they could have tried again and gotten SOMETHING….what about handprints? It just felt like they really didn’t try hard enough. And the nurse kept rushing us to give Zoe back to her or acting like it had been enough time etc…turns out we only had her for like an hour and I so so regret this!!!!!! It was all over way too quickly….
They brought her back to us wrapped up in a blanket with a little crocheted hat on. We held her, talked to her, sang to her, prayed over her……none of it was enough…..I did sense her spirit in the room with us after we delivered her though…I believe she was there and heard our voices and our songs…and saw our tears too. She was so tiny, so delicate, so fragile. Her skin had begun to break down after her death in utero and she just really looked pitiful–but she was still my precious and beautiful baby girl. What would she have looked like as a more developed newborn? Did she have her daddy’s eyes, my nose? Her Daddy’s cute toes? It was all just so surreal, I couldn’t believe fully that this was all really happening, yet I knew it was at the same time–my heart and my mind were in conflict. I knew her spirit was no longer in her body, that her body was just a shell. I knew her spirit had come to visit us in those moments, I knew my precious 2nd sweet girl had already been ushered into the presence of God. God’s presence was so thick with us in those moments it is truly impossible to put into words. I couldn’t understand why He allowed her to die, yet I also knew He was with us, He was carrying her now, and that He would be the way we would survive this, the way we would somehow be able to go on without her. My Mom was there as well for her delivery and also got to hold her.
With further testing after her death, they found Zoe was genetically normal but that I had 2 blood clotting disorders that most likely caused a clot in the placenta or cord cutting of her oxygen supply and leading to her death. (Factor V Leiden & MTHFR Double Gene Mutation). An aspirin a day plus a shot of blood thinner daily in her pregnancy may have very well saved her life. I was shaken to the core that Abigail, my firstborn, somehow made it to us even as I had these conditions and didn’t know it. I always knew that children were miracles, but now I knew that I knew that I knew…
We scheduled the memorial service for 3 days after her delivery. Figuring everything out was very difficult. The funeral home had obviously not dealt with many babies, they acted like we were from Mars when we asked about cremating her. They wanted to charge us $200 for a little white casket. They charged $500 for the cremation and the graveside burial. They argued that “there would be nothing left” if they cremated. I just could not stand the thought of her tiny little body laying there underground in that wooden box…..so we knew cremation was the choice for us, but to “not have anything left to bury” was also not an option. I cried and asked them to reconsider. Finally, they called us and told us that they would give it their “best shot”. They then told me that a lady there did Zoe’s cremation individually and stood watch over it every second to make sure “she didn’t burn all the way up.” Ouch, what language, what words to use about my sweet baby girl. They just had no idea what to do with a family who had a baby die. We live in a smaller county but I was shocked at how they acted.
Zoe was cremated and we buried her ashes in a little handmade wooden chest we bought from a local artisan. We also put notes to her, and some toys, a bible from her Nana Jo, a picture her big sister had colored for her…..It all seemed so……”not enough”…..and that’s because it wasn’t enough…there is never “enough” when you are burying your child. Her burial plot is on the side of a hill facing a beautiful mountain range. I wish now I had kept some or all of her ashes with me….Although the decision to cremate was also a very difficult one..it was all so hard…there seemed to be no good option at that point, she was already gone and nothing we did could bring her back. So many decisions one after the other from the moment we knew her heart had stopped beating…decisions that no mom and dad should ever have to make about their children…so many moments and images frozen forever in my mind…moments I wanted to undo but now must learn to cherish as moments we had with Zoe and the ones we spent memorializing her.
The service ended up very beautiful. It was on a Saturday at the very end of March 2007. The NILMDTS photographer’s son had died and that day was the anniversary of his death (Jackson). She knew we did not have a church home at the time and her husband was a minister. He did the ceremony for us.
Throughout Isaiah’s pregnancy I was taking daily Lovenox shots. All of this made us realize even more of what a miracle our first pregnancy and delivery really was…
To explain the deep depression I was in for about 2 years after Zoe’s death is difficult. This type of grief is so isolating and suffocating. I did not experience much support or understanding, much less validation. Another loss for me was that one of my best friends of many years and I did not survive this difficult time in my life [long and complicated story w/ mistakes on both sides; I tried reconciling but it has not worked out]. Thank God I did have my husband right there with me every step of the way.
We experienced such love and grace from the NILMDTS photographer, Lori Anderson. Because we did not have a church family at the time of Zoe’s death, and Lori’s son Jackson had his 4th heavenly birthday on the day we planned to have our memorial service–Lori’s husband was willing to do our service and Lori took pictures for us at the service. They went above and beyond. Lori listened to me countless times by phone before and after the delivery. She was like a stream in the dry desert. Maybe someday she will really know the incredible impact she has had on my life.
It has been 5 yrs since her death at the time of the writing of her story. If it hadn’t been for God we would not have survived. Our support system has not been very good, it has been a very lonely and difficult road with grief upon grief through lost relationships, lack of church support, etc. I, (Hope), began blogging 3 1/2 years after Zoe’s death: www.hopesjourneyblog.blogpsot.com. I also began finding a creative outlet through photography: http://www.redbubble.com/people/anewlife2004 I co-created a faith-based grief site with discussion & support forums called Grief Journeys. We can be found on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/GriefJourneys, as well as online here: www.griefjourneys.org. ~Daughter of Phillip & Hope. Sister of Abigail, Isaiah (rainbow baby), & Addie (2nd rainbow, miscarried).
Zoe Elizabeth Wood, born to Phillip and Hope Wood, March 28, 2007 @ 12:56am, Weight 6.8 oz, length 8 inches, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center-Knoxville TN, Dr. Roussis. Cause of Fetal demise, blood clot in cord or placenta.
[You can view Phillip’s version of his daughter Zoe’s story here.]
[You can click here to view a photo of Zoe Elizabeth]
[You can read Zoe’s little sister’s, Addie Kate’s, story, here.]