The Birth of Avelyn Joy

Told by: Kate

On January 20th, 2012, I went in to my regular monthly check up with my OB. A month earlier I had had my first visit- I was 9 weeks along at that time with our second child. They had not been able to get a heartbeat by doppler, and because I had had some spotting a few weeks earlier I asked them to do a quick ultrasound just to make sure all was o.k. The nurse agreed, and we had seen our sweet second baby, heart beating strongly! So it was without any fear or concern that I was heading into my second appointment. I was just a day shy of 14 weeks pregnant. I had noticed I had lost a few pounds that week, but I had lost weight during my first trimester with my first baby as well, and thought nothing of it. The doctor spent the first part of our appointment answering my questions, and then brought out the doppler to find a heartbeat. When he couldn’t find it, he said that at just shy of 14 weeks, my uterus might still be toward the back, and we would do an ultrasound just to make sure. I wasn’t nervous at all- and we were talking away as they set me up on the table and got the gel on my stomach. But as he pulled up the image of my baby, I knew something was wrong. She wasn’t moving at all, and the flicker of a heartbeat was nowhere to be seen. The doctor called in the nurse practitioner to confirm that he was not making a mistake. He wasn’t. There was the placenta and my womb, all brightly colored with blood flow. Even the cord to my baby still had blood flowing through it. But when it got to my baby’s body, everything was dark and lifeless. She was still at 13 weeks gestational age, 11 weeks embryonic age. She had just passed. I was in total shock and disbelief. The doctor handed me a tissue box and gave me a hug. He told me I could go call my husband from his office and then take as much time as I needed. I didn’t know a whole lot about miscarriage, but I did know that I had a choice to either go home and wait for my body to catch up with itself, or I could request a D&C and have them “clean me out” right away. I was still having morning sickness, and knew my body just needed some time to sort things out. I am a big believer in the natural processes of the body, and did not want to have a D&C. I also wanted to preserve the sanctity of that little life inside of me, and wanted to be able to birth her myself if it was possible. Not a choice that might be for everyone in this circumstance, but it was the right choice for me. My sweet doctor fully supported my decision to go home and wait it out. He told me it could take weeks, even months, and to keep in contact with him and let him know if I needed to come in again, even just to ask more questions. That Sunday, I lost my mucous plug (a sign I recognized from my first pregnancy). A week went by. I started spotting slightly, but not much. Another week passed, and the bleeding stopped. I was getting a little anxious to know what what was going on, so I called my doctor and he got me in that afternoon. We took another look on the ultrasound, and there she was. Perfectly formed- I could see her little spine. Still no heartbeat. I went home, feeling sad but feeling relieved to have seen her one more time and know she was still intact, inside my body, and we were still waiting for the birth. The bleeding resumed that week. By then it was the middle of February- 3 weeks after that horrible appointment, and probably more like 4 weeks since the actual fetal death. The bleeding remained light and spotty, with a lot of fluidy mucous mixed in (I was told by the nurse that this was very normal). On February 15th, I started having regular contractions. They came every 10 minutes. Then every 8. Then 5 minutes. I hardly slept that night, feeling glad that something might finally be happening! But after 12 hours, the contractions vanished again. On February 17th, I went to wipe and found some grayish tissue, about 2.5 inches or so in diameter. I called the nurse, who said that it was most likely the fetal tissue and placenta. “Really? I haven’t had hardly any bleeding and just a little bit of on and off again ache in my uterus?” She said absolutely. I was relieved- the hardest part seemed over, and I had hardly had any issues! So many people had talked about crazy bleeding or pain, and I had had hardly any bleeding or pain! But part of me also wondered- how did that perfectly formed baby turn into… a piece of tissue? I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for February 29th. I wanted to give myself just one more week to let my body flush out and hormones get back to normal, and then let them check to see that normal fertility was returning. I never did make it to that appointment. On February 27th, 2012 at 7:40am, I was standing at the door holding my daughter and waving goodbye to my husband as he went off to work. Almost 6 weeks since the baby had passed. Almost 2 weeks since the nurse told me she thought the miscarriage might be over. I felt something slide out of me. I knew. In the bathroom I found my daughter. Fully formed at 11 weeks embryonic age. 3 inches long. Her umbilical cord still attached to something inside. Her eyes fused shut. Her mouth filled with tiny teeth buds (amazing!). Two arms, two legs. Ten fingers, ten toes. And a severely disfigured back. I was beyond shock. Absolutely beyond it. I felt like someone had just punched me in the gut. Somehow I called my husband who came home immediately. We called the doctor who brought me in first thing. We brought our baby- Avelyn Joy. As the doctor laid her out on his little examining table, he started to choke up. “I’m sorry,” he said. “This still gets me…” He confirmed for us two things- the age, and that she had died of a chromosomal abnormality. Probably Trisomy 16, which is the most common cause of miscarriage. That was why her back was so disfigured. Because she had still been attached to her umbilical cord which was still attached to something inside me, I knew that the placenta was still inside. Since the baby was out, I wanted to schedule a D&C. No more waiting. The doctor agreed. It’s the passage of the placenta that causes the really heavy bleeding in a miscarriage, and now that I had had my baby peacefully at home as I had hoped, there was no reason in my mind to risk waiting. And the doctor said it could take weeks on end for the placenta to come- they can be very stubborn. The doctor kindly agreed to take me after-hours that evening at the hospital for the D&C. He would leave the office and meet me right away at 5pm. No more waiting… not even another day. The nurses and doctors at the hospital were so sweet and kind to me. I was incredibly nervous, especially about going under general anesthesia, but they did a good job putting me at ease and making sure I understood what was going on. And afterwards, the doctor told my husband that there had been a lot of tissue inside. It was a good thing I did the procedure- who knows how much longer I would have waited otherwise. I am so so grateful that I was able to have my baby gently, the way I wanted to, at home. We were able to bury her in a handmade wooden box in our own backyard, and had small gathering of friends for a small service. I was grateful to have had the chance to say goodbye, and for the peace of knowing with 100% confidence that I did everything I could possibly do for my child. I am also grateful for the medical procedure that was there, waiting for when I was ready, to give me the added 100% confidence that this whole ordeal is over. It’s in the past now. I am on the road to recovery, renewed fertility, and hopefully baby #3 very, very soon! The postpartum blues are very real- I am struggling with grief and depression. But it has been through the support of friends and family, through sharing my story, sharing my feelings, being open and honest about my grief, that I am finding strength and peace. The Lord is good to us!

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2 Responses to The Birth of Avelyn Joy

  1. Angie says:

    Oh, Kate… Thank you for sharing Avelyn’s story with us! I am so grateful you were able to have the peaceful meeting with your sweet baby the way you’d hoped… I know your baby girl knew how much you loved and wanted her.

    I’ve had two losses- 8 & 7 years ago. This kind of grief makes us different people- our children change us. You won’t *get over* Avelyn’s death so much as find a new normal… You’ll have good and bad days… and eventually, you’ll have more good days than bad… but you won’t ever forget.

    Blessings to you and your family as you find your way forward…

    –Angie

  2. Allison says:

    You are so encouraging and so full of the Lord. Love you all,
    Allison

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