Ariane Audet

Janine, Chester MD (USA)

Ariane Audet
Janine, Chester MD (USA)

The first baby we lost was named Maria. We found out at 13 weeks. We went to different specialists, did an amniocentesis, and tested for different genetic diseases, which was kind of scary. Everything came back normal and fine, but she wasn’t growing the way she was supposed to. Finally, ten weeks later, we went to Children’s National. They figured out that there were issues with the cord and the placenta. Those tens weeks were hard. And they basically told us that there was very low chance that she would make it. They recommended that we terminate, which I just couldn’t do. I went on blood thinners and bed rest. The specialists said we had to get her to a pound and then maybe it would be ok. Around 26 weeks I started swelling up. One morning I had really bad heartburn and there was blood, so I checked in at my doctor’s. They did the usual urine tests and as they were getting ready to draw blood, the specialist came in and said I needed to go to the ER right now, that it was no longer safe for me to be pregnant. I had HELLP syndrome. When I got to the hospital, they tried to induce labor with Pitocin because it was too dangerous to do a C-section; my platelets were too low and I could bleed out. But I wasn’t progressing. After a couple of hours, I was running out of time so they rushed me in the OR to do an emergency C-section and try to do a platelet transfusion at the same time. The doctor told me that I was going to die if they didn’t take her out of there. And if I died, she was going to die too. So they put me under, and when I woke up, she had passed. I stayed at the hospital for a while. We were able to hold her. Then we called a funeral home. We decided to cremate her. She stayed with us the whole time until they came to get her. You know, stuff that you don’t expect to go through after having a baby. Like filling out a death certificate.

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Pretty much right away we knew we wanted to try again. But coming back from the hospital was hard. I didn’t really know what to do. It was kind of a blur. I ended up going back to work three weeks later. Just kind of trying to push through it, to move on. I also had two friends who had lost a baby at 20 and 23 weeks. I could talk to them. They understood, which helped. Then we got pregnant nine months later, which felt like a long time. I was obviously scared, but they sent me right away to a specialist whom I saw every two weeks. They did a bunch of testing and couldn’t find any kind of disorder; they seemed to think Maria was a pretty isolated incident, that it would be ok. We found out it was a boy this time, which was hard for me at first. I think there was a part of me that thought, somehow, that I would get pregnant with her again. That it was going to be her. Being a boy, it kind of forced me to have closure. To recognize that she was gone. But everything went perfectly with Jonah. He was growing and all the tests all came back perfect. He was actually a big boy! So we decided to be… excited! This was it. We did all the stuff that we were too afraid to do the first time: have a baby shower, build a nursery, announce it on social media. We were so nervous, but we let ourselves be excited. They decided to deliver him early at 36 weeks as a precaution. A week before, I felt like I was having contractions. I’d been really nervous so I texted the specialist and he was like, "You know, let’s not take any chances, go to the hospital and deliver. A week is not going to make a big difference." So I got there and they were like "It’s Braxton Hicks, we can hear the heart, he’s moving, everything is good." But I don’t know. For whatever reason, I felt like I wanted them to deliver. Maybe it was instinct or… But my OB said she’d prefer to wait for the day we’d already scheduled, which was exactly a week from that day. So I went home.

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Two days before his due date, I noticed I hadn’t really felt him move, which was weird. But I paid attention the next day, I think I felt him move some, and I used the heart scope on my phone. I didn’t want to bother them at the hospital again. I also think there’s a part of me that thought, "Everything has been so perfect, there’s no way, after what we went through the first time, that anything could go wrong." So we got to the hospital the next day and they started to hook me up with the heart monitor. The nurses couldn’t find a heartbeat so they asked the on-call doctor to do a sonogram. At that point, I’m obviously thinking about the past week, but again, there’s no way... The doctor came in and she did the sonogram. She found the heart. And it wasn’t beating. She turned to me and asked, "Do you know what this means?" I said "I think so..." But we were just in shock. Immediately the nurses grabbed me. I don’t even think I initially cried. It only started to sink in when I realized they weren’t rushing me to deliver. Not even an emergency C-section. I knew that it was done, that it was too late. And then my parents walked in the room. They had no idea and they were all smiles and excited. We had to tell them. From then, we had to wait for a long time. Even though I was scheduled, they didn’t want me in the delivery room where other moms were because then, well, I’d have to hear other babies being born. So I sat there for hours. Waiting. That part was really hard. I knew he was there and he wasn’t alive. It was really uncomfortable. They finally did a normal C-section. I was awake and the doctor handed him to us. And he was… perfect. Perfect, but not alive.

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We went through the same process as with Maria, but this time, we knew what to do. It was harder because he was fully developed. Exactly what I would have hoped. He looked just like me, which I liked. After getting back home, everybody was really great. They didn’t leave me alone for a second for two weeks after he was born. It helped and it made me feel really good to see how many people cared and were heartbroken for us. Then we took a trip for three weeks to Europe, just to get away and be kind of normal. But it doesn’t really work like that. We decided to do therapy this time. Which helps. We went to support group. It’s just one of those situations you never thought you'd be in, mostly because you don’t hear about it. You don’t know people who went though it until you go through it yourself. I’d like for people to realize that we exist. To make sure another mom out there who’s in the same situation as mine doesn’t think she’s alone. We’re still hopeful though, even if the doctors have never been able to tell us what happened. I’m scared. I just can’t imagine going through this again. I’ve been pretty much pregnant for two years straight now so I’m exhausted physically and mentally. But I also feel like I don’t have time. At least not enough. Somebody told us that, usually, when you’re dealing with death, you lose your past, but when you lose a baby, you lose your future. It’s so true. I just wish that is something people knew happened more and felt more confortable to talk about. To be there for each other, instead of feeling like it’s something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Also maybe if it’s out there, there will be more research and trust: I wasn’t feeling him move as much, but I was embarrassed to go back to the hospital. I didn't want to be 'another mom with Braxton Hicks' who keeps coming back for nothing. I felt silly. Maybe there was some motherly instinct, but I let people talk me out of it. As a mom, you always feel guilt, and this is one of those moments: I let my son down. I was supposed to protect him, but I let him down. You don’t want to have to live with regrets like that.