A Mom's Story of Stillbirth and Those who Helped her Through
The morning started off early for me. Even though I was a mom with two kids, they generally slept in until at least 8 am. Seeing 6 am on my phone when I woke up was a surprise. The next surprise was realizing I was having a contraction, a full blown stomach tight and round contraction. Being nearly 29 weeks I wasn’t terribly worried, third baby and I had my fair share of experience with warm up contractions. I actually snapped a picture of my belly, it looked like the Death Star, so round and perfect.
My brain was going a mile a minute and I really hoped this was nothing. Just a fluke. It had to just be some silly thing right? I got out of bed, grabbed my water bottle and laid on my left side on my couch. About 30 minutes into seeing what was going on I decided to call labor and delivery. The phone call was quick, they wanted to see me. I was conflicted and battling multiple emotions. I worked out a sitter for my two older children and I headed to the hospital. The whole while I tried to focus on my contractions and see if I could work out some kind of timing, I couldn’t seem to get on top of them, they were bombarding my system and I was in some pain.
Once I arrived at the hospital I walked the halls as I had done with my previous two children. This time was different, this time I was scared. There was no elation with me, only hope that this was some crazy fluke thing and I just needed something to fix it. I was moved into triage to see what was going on. Patty walked in my room, a nurse who would become my lifeline during my darkest hour. She got me on the machines, hooked me up, and right away, the baby was on the monitor. We didn’t know the sex, we were waiting to find out and Patty was excited to hear that. I was so relieved to get the baby on the monitor that I snapped a picture of the readings. I even snapped a belly picture. That would be the last picture I’d have of my baby alive.
They immediately thought I had a UTI, I was having contractions but that could have been due to irritability. We were so relieved. A UTI was easily resolved and we wouldn’t have to face a newborn nearly 10 weeks early. By 10 am we were waiting for confirmation that it was just a UTI, so I sent my husband off to get my kids and arranged for my sister to come and take me home.
Signs Of Trouble
Patty was with me the majority of the time. So far, we’d had an ultrasound and saw that the baby doing fine. She brought me water to hydrate and made sure I was comfortable. I was lying alone in the room when something happened, the pain intensified. It was so intense my entire body was shaking. It was shaking so badly and was in so much pain that I thought I was in transition.
At this point, I was crying and alone. I flicked the phone cord to get it in my hands because the pain was so intense. Patty answered immediately, hearing me cry into the phone that something was wrong and that I needed her. She came to me right away, and promised we’d figure it out. We still thought it was a UTI just needing confirmation. Unfortunately, my first sample was contaminated so we waited for the next results. The baby couldn’t be monitored at this time. It was too hard with the amount that I was shaking.
I would like to say I completely knew something bad was coming my way. I didn’t. I had no idea. I knew I couldn’t produce urine. I begged them to cath me to relieve what I wasn’t able to get out, thinking that would ebb some of the pain. That didn’t work, and I still wasn’t able to get any output. They worried that I was just horribly dehydrated, I was sure that wasn't the case. I am generally very healthy and track my consumption, drinking at least 100 oz of water daily.
Unable to monitor the baby and worried about the new developments with my pain, Patty went to find my doctor. She went all the way into the OR and spoke to her while she was doing a C-section. They were trying to figure out what was happening and I was having an extremely hard time dealing with it. Internal checks showed that I wasn’t dilating, the ultrasound showed that I still had a long cervix. Another nurse came in and tried to put the baby on the monitor. I was shaking so much and couldn’t stop, and she couldn't seem to find the baby. I chalked this up to all of my activity. I quickly called my sister and begged her to come to the hospital. I needed someone with me and she was the closest. Shortly after she showed up, I rolled on my side and she massaged my back. I finally fell asleep. I woke up feeling so much better. The pain was all but gone. The shaking was gone too.
Patty came into check on me, she explained my test results were all fine. It wasn’t a UTI, so we still had to figure out what was happening. She told me the doctor would be in shortly to do an ultrasound. When she arrived, we wanted to pop the baby back on the monitor to see where that kiddo was hanging out. Patty told me to look away so I wouldn't accidentally see the sex of the baby.
The doctor was taking a long time, and kept putting the monitor on my belly. It wasn’t picking up the tell tale sign. There was no galloping heartbeat filling my ears. She looked at me and I realized something was really wrong. I shot my face to the screen. It was the baby’s ribs, there was no movement. Not even a flicker. I’m pretty good at looking at ultrasounds. This… this was not normal. This was not how a baby should look in there. She played around a second more and just looked at me. I knew. I knew somewhere deep inside of me before that. Something was terribly wrong, but I had hoped it was just mom anxiety.
“There’s… nothing. You can see right here, I should see something. The baby is gone.” Her words echoed in my ears as she turned off the machine and I just nodded. I understood, and she felt awful. I could tell by the look on her face. She left to get someone to confirm as tears spilled down my cheeks. My first task was to call and tell my husband. He was an hour away with my babies and he needed to find a place for them in order to get to my side.
A Shoulder To Cry On
Patty came in after it was confirmed. I could tell she had been crying too. She wrapped me in a hug and just cried with me. She was the first person to fully pull me in and just cry with me. I wasn’t just her patient. I was a mother that had gone through the absolute worst thing that could happen in her care. We talked through what had happened and she told me that she showed the medical team the report indicating the baby’s heart rate as well as mine, along with my contractions. She did this in case there was any doubt that my baby was alive when I came in and we had lost it at some point during my stay. Patty told me she was scheduled to come to work the next day. She was worried that seeing her the next day might force me to deal with something I wasn't ready to, so she offered to call in sick. As she wheeled my bed to labor and delivery I looked her in the eye. “If you’re not here tomorrow, I’m going to riot.” She smiled at me and nodded. She would be here.
Patty got me settled in my room, explained the rest of the process from there, and then hugged me again. We cried together and then left to find the nurse for the next stage in my recovery. Patty walked Christie in and told me she’d see me the next day. Before she slipped away she tried to take on some of the blame, hoping that would make me feel that it wasn’t my fault. I let her know, if I wasn’t allowed to blame myself, then she wasn’t allowed to blame herself. Accidents happen and we are all human. I wasn’t presenting any signs that the baby was in distress and according to everything I should have just needed some antibiotics.
The Next Phase
Christie was my nurse for the next phase of the weary journey. She was lovely, and we immediately seemed to understand each other. She said she was a step ahead of me and let me know there was a reason she was my nurse. Once my foley bulb was placed and my family came into the room, Christie was in and out. She not only took care of me, her patient, but she took care of my family. It wasn’t just popsicles for me, but for anyone else that needed anything. She let me know Patty was calling to check on me.
Before long, I had an epidural placed and I was just riding out the pitocin to hopefully get this to speed up. The nursing staff would change over one last time. Christie asked permission to check up on me through the night. If she called, were they permitted to give her information? I told her absolutely. These women, they weren’t just staff, they weren’t just people there. They were part of my process. They were point people for me. People I could be real and honest with. They were my people. There for me.
Time wore on, my room bustling with people to detract from the tragedy that was surrounding us. We told stories and at one point a nurse walked in. I knew they were very careful with who took care of me and as soon as I saw this nurse I lit up. He had a popsicle for me, but that wasn’t why I was excited. It was the nurse that was there when I delivered my second child, my son. That delivery had so much laughter surrounding it and I tell the story often, of my practice push delivery. We laughed together as I recounted and he asked how my son was and gave me his condolences.
These nurses were my first brush with people outside of family. They were my first time dealing with the fact that someone had condolences to give me. They taught me that I didn’t have to be politically correct and that I could just feel. As time wore on and my room dwindled due to the late hour my new nurse, Tricia, was a happy cheerful person. She continued the great care.
Before I knew it, it was 1 am and it was time to push. They told me I wouldn’t even need to push if I didn’t want to, the baby would just birth itself. At this point we still didn’t know the sex and the normal buzz that surrounded that excitement was squashed. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. None of it was supposed to go like this. I decided to push, I looked into Tricia’s face and told her I couldn’t tell when I was having a contraction and I needed some help. She put her hand on my belly and told me when. I pushed in silence. In a room filled with 4 people. The room was dim, there was no bustle. It was devoid of life already.
A Last Goodbye
Once the baby was born I pulled him to my chest. My husband shouted “It’s a boy!” and retreated to the corner of the room to compose himself. My son lay on my chest as I sobbed. I kissed his forehead, felt his warmth and just loved him immensely. My world was rocked, it was shaken to the core. He was perfect, and boy was he big. He had curly hair like his big brother, he was long and had plenty of fat on him for a baby so young. The last few family members came in to meet him. I had told everyone ahead of time, I wouldn’t be passing him around. I didn’t know how long I had with him and I was going to be selfish. I was selfish. I held him and held him.
The moment my placenta was delivered we knew what had happened. We knew for sure. The blood clot on the placenta was massive. I’d suffered an abruption. It was very odd that I didn’t present bleeding, if I had it would have made sense that that was what was happening. I had no risk factors for an abruption it was a fluke thing. We don't know why. My placenta was sent off to a specialist and it was given the go over. 95 percentile in size, and it was perfectly normal, it belonged to a completely healthy baby boy.
In the next 15 hours I had a photographer come out and shoot the only pictures I would have of my son. I covered him in kisses, I dressed him in clothes, I cried on him. Tricia took him from me at one point. She weighed him, measured everything. She did just like she would with a living baby. I noticed her doing hand and footprints as well. They ended up giving me a lovely memory box with his memories in it. The prints were inside of that.
My world was shaken so roughly, yet I took the time to ensure I had no regrets. I slept with him in my arms, against my chest for hours. I never put him down. As the sun rose and the new day started people poured back in. If I needed to use the restroom someone would hold him. I held him the rest of the day. But I was lucky that I didn’t have a section that would have made that difficult.
Something that was discussed nearly right away were some weird coincidences. I had just picked the theme for the nursery the week before. It was Neverland. It would be a Neverland themed room with pirates, fairies and so much love. I was full force into decorating. Then we lost him. Lost. He became a lost boy. The boy that would never grow up. It was an odd moment when it all clicked. The theme took on a whole new meaning to us and it was very special.
I had decided almost immediately after finding out that he was gone that I would pump and donate milk. I did just that, and it started in the hospital. I pumped and pumped with him in my lap. Tucker was such a sweet baby, he was 3 lbs 4 oz and 15.5 inches long. I was a day shy of 29 weeks and he was huge.
One of the first people I saw bright and early that next morning was Brenna, she came into my room. She wanted to meet my son. She cooed over him, made comments that anyone would make when you have a baby. She commented on his size and again, she cried with me. We actually took a picture together because I knew she’d forever be part of his story, Brenna who held my hand in the darkest hour.
I kept him with me and planned that when I was released I would hand him over. I wouldn’t sit in this room made for mothers and babies empty handed. I would leave empty handed and that was bad enough, but I would not sit alone and let my baby be put in the dark. I cuddled him and carried him to the spot they told me to tuck him into. I bent over him and cried over his body one last time. I kissed him all over and knew the next time I’d see him would be after he was cremated. I put my sunglasses on and I sat in my wheelchair and I was wheeled out by a nurse. Fitting, they escort me out. I sat and wheeled passed rooms filled with life, with babies. I cried my way out of the hospital and I climbed in my SUV. My SUV filled with life, filled with my kids. My babies that were confused why I was gone. That understood they had a brother and that knew he’d died.
It was not an option to fall into a pit and never crawl out. That’s not really my style anyways. I’m a doer, a mover and a goer. I had lost 140 lbs through sheer hard work and healthy eating before getting pregnant with Tucker. My life was about fitness and health. It was fitting, my friends began promoting a 5k in my sons honor. It was a virtual 5k. Anyone, anywhere could get up and move for my son. This was something I thought was amazingly touching and beautiful. In the weeks after his death, before I even received his remains from the mortuary I was pushing the 5k with friends support. I needed to find a charity, a place that would benefit from this tragedy.
I was pumping and donating milk to a baby who was formula intolerant due to intestinal issues. I looked into milk banks for that reason. I hoped that I could get ahold of someone and see if we could sponsor some parents that couldn’t afford to pay the high prices milk banks charge. I stumbled upon something called a CuddleCot.
This was something new, I’d never even heard of it. It is a cooling unit that goes into the parent’s room and can be put in an isolette or in a Moses type basket. The unit itself will chill the baby to slow the decomposition process. For those of us that only get this tiny window with our babies this can mean the world. If partners are out of town, or mothers have c-sections they have a different recovery process that extra time allows them the benefit of not losing out on time with their child.
About three weeks after Tucker’s death, we spread his ashes. We spread them with just my daughter, my son and my husband in attendance. My daughter asked if we could bring some pumped milk to put in the ocean with him, so he’d never be hungry. We dropped ashes, milk and pedals. We cried. We said see you soon and we told him how much we loved him. After that emotional morning we wrapped the day up with a meeting with the hospital.
Due to the fact that there were so many questions with Tucker’s death they offered to meet with me. Patty was there, she took time out of her day to meet with us. My husband and I were able to ask questions. They told me I lost a quarter of my blood. There was a clot that was 650 mls on the placenta. That level of blood loss they would have transfused me if they knew. That explains the shaking and pain I was in, my body was fighting hard.
They gave us full reports printed out regarding the analysis of my placenta. This was when I began to discuss the cuddle cot. I knew I was going to be able to fund at least one. I wanted them to be the first hospital to receive one.
Patty spoke with me alone after our meeting. She asked me how I was doing, she noticed a new tattoo that I had done in honor of Tucker. She saw a necklace that was also new, she picked up on every detail. She was so amazing, I will never forget everything she did for me, and I hope with everything I have that with my next baby she is there. I hope she happens to be on shift and we get to cycle this moment. Where she was with me in the most tragic moment of my life, I hope that she can be part of one of the best moments. I would love to give that to her.
“You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”
This quote is something I have on the Cuddle Cot that will be donated in Tucker’s name. It’s a quote from Peter Pan and it’s something that has stuck with me this whole time. Something that has driven me more than i realized it would was knowing that my children would see me. Knowing they’d be watching and realizing I needed to do what I could to encourage them to process this healthily. My life has been altered, it will never be the same, the very fabric of my being has changed. I look to the future and have a hope for a rainbow baby, not to replace the one I lost but to join our family. Turning three kids into four and not being afraid to hope, especially after tragedy, is very important to us.
To donate directly to the CuddleCot fund. You can PayPal them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org (in the note please write Tucker Makris fund) or you can mail checks (in the memo be sure to write Tucker Makris fund) to:
PO BOX 8761
Lakeland, Florida 33806
For more about nurses who change lives, read about the 5 most important nurses in history here .