Losing Jackson

The morning of September 20th started like any other day, except that today was Leeann’s bachlorette party. My good friend Mindy was coming home today to. She lived in Vancouver and today was the first time I had seen her in a while…though we talked all the time on the phone.

We went to a dance class where we learned how to “dance on a bar”, appropriate for a bachlorette party. At the end of the class you had to go out into the main lobby and show what you had learned. There was a group of girls there waiting for their class and we had to dance in front of them. I had this little belly and I remember saying, don’t judge, I am 5 ½ months pregnant! Little did I know how this day would change that.

Later that night we got all dressed up and went out to a club. We took a limo and had a blast on the way there. I obviously wasn’t drinking, but encouraged the others to have a great time, especially Leeann. I kept making frequent trips to the bathroom, which was normal, but on the last trip I felt a gush. I thought, did I just pee myself? But it was followed by another gush. My heart sank to my stomach because I knew my water had broken. I rushed back to the table to tell the girls I had to go. I think I told Mindy and she want to get Leeann. Tears were already pouring down my face as I rushed to a taxi. Thankfully, our Limo was there waiting for us. Someone explained to him what happened and told him that we needed to get to the hospital right away.

I called Brian and tried to explain what was happening through my tears, but he had been with the boys drinking all day. The ironic thing about him being drunk was that we had a deal, he wasn’t going to drink after New years just in case I went into early labour and he had to come to the hospital. It is always so annoying when people come into the hospital and their husband is drunk…and I didn’t want that to be us. No such luck. Knowing that Brian wasn’t in any shape to get to the hospital Lee called her parents (who were kind of like surrogate parents to me when I first moved away from home. They even came to our wedding in Cuba.) They were still awake and Lee’s dad Scott went to pick up Brian and Doug (Mindy’s boyfriend)

As we drove to the hospital I looked at Leeann in the eyes and we both knew what was happening. Leeann is a Labour and Delivery nurse too. We both knew that if my water did just break, I was going to lose my baby. I tried to stop my mind from thinking those thoughts, but when you know as much as I did about the situation I started to loose all hope. There were times where I forgot to breathe because I was in such a panic and my friend Julie just kept rubbing my arm and reminding me to breathe. Leeann even smelled my pants to see if it was amniotic fluid or just urine. Amniotic fluid has this sweeter smell to it, and most L&D nurses can recognize the smell of it.

We got to the hospital quickly, though it felt like the longest ride of my life. With every second that went by I felt my hopes and dreams for this baby slowly leaking away. We pulled up the hospital and made our way up to the fourth floor. The girls knew I was coming because Lee called and told them. Being stubborn and trying to pretend this wasn’t happening I insisted walking instead of taking a wheelchair. As I walked the fluid just soaked my jeans. As soon as I saw Lori and Saskia I started to sob. They brought me into triage and Saskia said to me “You know what we have to do”. In triage we have amino sticks, which are a swab that detects amniotic fluid. If they turn black, it is amniotic fluid. I took my pants off and fluid was just dripping down my legs and tears were just pouring down my face. Lee was right there beside me and Mindy and Julie were on the other side of the curtain. I took the swab in my hand swabbed myself and it automatically turned black. My body just collapsed on the bed and I cried harder that I have ever in my life. Lee and Saskia and Lori were just holding me. I heard Mindy and Julie crying on the other side of the curtain. I felt my whole world fall apart at that very moment. Saskia then checked for a fetal heart beat and there still was one, it felt so good and hurt so much to hear his little heart beating because I knew it wasn’t going to be beating for very much longer.

Brian came into triage and saw me and looked so scared. One thing about this whole situation is that I know so much about it all because it is my job, but for someone without a background in it all, it can be hard for them to fully understand the situation. I looked at him and tired to explain what happened through my tears and saw his heart breaking. His eyes started to well up and we just hugged each other. Everyone gave us a few minutes by ourselves and we talked about it. Brian kept asking what does this mean, and I tired to explain it but when you are explaining this awful situation to your husband about your baby, it is so much harder. Dr. Joutsi came in and tried to be hopeful. He said we would have an ultrasound in the morning and hope there was another layer of fluid there. In rare cases you can have a small leak in your amniotic sac and it can sometimes seal over or you can have multiple layers in your amniotic sac and one can break and one can stay intact. I tired to be optimistic, but I kept thinking about the amount of fluid I was loosing and in my heart I knew that there wasn’t another layer.

I was admitted and went to room 4616. Everyone came in to get me settled. Mindy’s boyfriend added some comic relief to the situation by stumbling into the room with a half eaten sandwich and a bizarre story of how he got it. He had been drinking with Brian, but hadn’t sobered up like Brian had. Apparently Doug, who is a police officer from B.C, who doesn’t know Newmarket or Southlake hospital at all traveled the hallways for a sandwich for Brian because he thought it would sober him up. When he didn’t find it in the hospital he left and roamed the streets. He came upon a Pizza Pizza which was closed because by this time it was like, 3am. He them came back to the hospital and couldn’t get in because the doors were all locked. He went to the ER and flashed his badge and demanded they let him in. I guess there was a vending machine there and this is where he got the sandwich. He managed to find his way back up the Birthing dept, which is hard for people to do when they are sober because they hospital is like a maze. The funniest part was by the time he got back up my room half the sandwich was gone and he swore he didn’t know where it went.

I didn’t want to call everyone at 3am to tell them what happened, but we have a dog at home who would need to go out. Brian decided to call his mom, Joan and ask her to go and get the dog…and then hung up. The thing you need to know about this is Brian’s mom was out the door in like, 30 seconds. I said to Brian, don’t you think you should call her back and explain to her why? Plus I asked him if the house was locked. He said no, he thought he left it open. Well, of course it was locked, so when Joan tried to get the dog she couldn’t. She looked in the house and saw empty beer bottle from Brian and Doug’s little party and just assumed he was drunk calling her for no real reason. Brian called her back a few minutes later and she was home again. He explained the situation properly this time and she met him at the hospital to get the house key to get the dog.

Once everyone had left and things were quiet I couldn’t sleep. I just laid there watching the clock with silent tears running down my face. I still felt the baby moving inside me, and with every movement I cried harder. I was still leaking so much, I kept getting up and going to the bathroom to change my towel. On one trip back from the bathroom I heard my room door open. When I came out I saw Andrea and Sarah. I work with them both on a daily basis and we had become close friends. We looked at each other and all started to cry. They helped my untangle my IV and got me back into bed. They just sat with me for a bit and I explained what happened. They couldn’t believe and really, neither could I. I had spent most of my pregnancy thinking about how I didn’t want to be overdue, never did it cross my mind that this was a possibility.

On another trip back from the bathroom I heard my room door again. This time is was my OB, Dr. Dervaitis. She just looked at me as I cried and gave me a huge hug. I could see her eyes getting teary to. The first thing she said to me was “You know this wasn’t because you were out dancing you know that right”. I just cried even harder. She came over and sat down on the bed with Brian and I and we talked for a long time. About statistics, and chances. We talked about what to do and where to go from here. First things first was the ultrasound, once we had that done we would go from there.

My nurse for day one was Nicole. Like Andrea and Sarah I worked with Nicole all the time, so it was comforting to have her taking care of me. An non-emergent ultrasound can take all day at the hospital, so I knew we were in for a wait. It was about 8am by the time and I wanted to call my family. I called my parents first because it was Sunday morning and I wanted to talk to my dad before he left for work. I knew my mom would be sleeping, but I called anyway. My dad answered and I just started to cry. I told him what happened and he told me how sorry he was. We talked about it for a bit, and I asked him to call my sister and let her know. I told him not to wake up my mom, but have her call me when she did. Within 5 minutes my sister called me back. I could hear the sadness and fear in her voice, she asked if I wanted her to come up here, and within a few hours she was giving me a hug.

That morning was a blur of faces and information. Dr.Jousti said goodbye, and Dr. Mantay said hello. She sat down with Brian and I we talked. Everyone was so great at making sure we had the time to talk about what was happening, how we were feeling and answering any questions that we had. We weren’t going to make any decisions until we did the ultrasound. Nicole came back in and did her morning assessment. She asked me if I wanted to hear the baby’s heart beat - I said yes. I needed to hear it and know he was okay. His little heart was still beating strong.

I wanted people to know where we were, but at the same time I didn’t, because if they didn’t know it was like I could be in denial for a bit longer. Our baseball team was supposed to play in the playoff that morning, and for obvious reasons Brian wasn’t going to be able to be there. He sent hid friend Dan a text message saying that I was in the hospital and that we couldn’t be there. Dan messaged him back and asked what was going on. I think the exact message was something like “You can’t just say that and nothing else, is everything okay?” The thing you need to know about our group of friends is that we are all close knit, if something is going on everyone knows about it, not because they are nosy, but because they genuinely care. Sarah, who is one of my close friends, and Dan’s girlfriend called me to find out if I was okay. I told her what was happening but made it sound more hopeful than I really knew it was. I didn’t want everyone to worry, plus deep down inside I was hanging onto that last thread of hope.

That little thread of hope came in the form of a pocket of amniotic fluid the size of a finger nail. I finally had my ultrasound later Sunday afternoon, and when the results came back I was told that there was a small pocket of fluid. All my medical knowledge went out the window and my motherly instincts took over. I thought, okay, maybe just maybe, there is a chance. Maybe the leak has sealed over and maybe the baby was producing fluid. Maybe things were going to be okay. For the first time since my water broke I had a glimmer of hope. Brian and I talked about this with Dr. Mantay. We made a plan to do another ultrasound on Wednesday or Friday and go from there. If there was no fluid then we would know that the leak was not sealed and that the baby had no chance, then we would have to induce labour because the chance of infection for me were so high, and there really wasn’t a chance of the baby surviving. But if there was fluid then maybe things were going to be okay.

After Dr. Mantay left I tried to get some sleep, but I still couldn’t shut off my brain. Silent tears were rolling down my face as I thought of the chance of losing my baby. I had just started to feel him kick, I would never see his first steps or hear his first giggle. It hurt my heart so badly I didn’t know what to do. I looked over to Brian and knew we had to have a really difficult discussion. What were we going to do? If there wasn’t anymore fluid - what then? Did we both have the strength to make the decision that would need to me made?

When I graduated and first started Nursing I worked on a High Risk Pregnancy unit, and it was the hardest place I have ever had to work. I remember working with people in the same situation as I was now. Medically speaking, when a baby is born before 24 weeks gestation the baby is not considered viable, meaning that our little guy, who was only 21 weeks had no real chance. We talked about all the “what if’s” possible. What if I made it to 24 weeks with no fluid, and with fluid. And even then the chances of his survival we not that great. From what I remember 50% of all babies who are born at 24 weeks will die, and of the 50% those who survived a high percentage rate would be severely handicapped.

I was so angry because I felt like our little guy never got the chance to be who he was supposed to be. What was his quality of life going to be like? And how would it change out lives? As I looked at Brian tears just poured down my face. His too. I looked into Brian’s eyes and saw how long his eyelashes were and thought, I wonder if our baby would have long eyelashes too. It was all so painful.

After lots of talking and many tears later we decided that we would wait for another ultrasound and hope for the best, but we both know that if there was no fluid that we would do an induction. We both knew that that was not the way that our baby’s life was meant to be lived. Now all we had to do was wait, and hope.

The support form our friends and family continued over the next week. It was amazing how people dropped everything as soon as they heard. Phone calls, visits, flowers and gifts were overwhelming. It was so nice to see that we were so loved, but at the same time I wished we anywhere but where we were. At the end of that first day I asked for something to help me sleep, since I knew my brain wouldn’t shut off without some much needed help. My nurse, Louise, who is fabulous by the way, drugged me up with 2 sleeping pills. In retrospect I really only needed one, because when I got up to try and go the bathroom that night I felt drunk. I couldn’t even get to the bathroom without stumbling all over like a drunken fool. The next night I only took one pill.

Dr. Dervaitis was amazing, she came in every day to see us. She was back in on Friday so we decided that if it came down to it, we would do the induction then. What was so hard about Friday was that was Leeann’s wedding. I was supposed to be a bridesmaid. When Lee came into see me I told her that she was going to need to replace me. She said there was no one who could replace me. We both cried. I wanted to badly to be there to see her get married, but we both knew I couldn’t.

Nicole mentioned to us that floor was really busy, but they would do there best to keep me on this side. Because I was not in “active labour” I could have been monitored on the postpartum unit, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave the comforting care of my co-workers, so I kind of begged Nicole to keep me there. At the end of the day I was able to stay on the unit, but I had to switch rooms. I moved down the hall to 4623, the room where things were about to change.

On Wednesday morning Nicole asked if we wanted to have the ultrasound that day. Part of me really wanted to know if there was more fluid, but at the same time I wasn’t really sure I wanted to know. After some discussion we decided to go ahead and do it. I remember the ultrasound technician taking a really long time looking at my belly. I hoped that was a good sign. I went back to the room with Brian and waited for the results. My sister Michelle was in visiting, she had been there everyday that week since she heard. Everytime Nicole came in to check on me I would ask her if she knew anything yet, but the results weren’t back yet. Looking back, I wonder now if she really did know, but was too heartbroken to tell me. How do you tell your friend that she is going to lose her baby?

After lunch Nicole came back in and told me the results were back. I thought that we would have to wait for the Dr. to tell us, but she told us instead. There was no fluid. It felt like my heart stopped beating and the whole world came to a standstill. I knew, without doubt at that very moment, that it was over. Brian and I just held each other crying. My poor sister was in the room when we found out and I saw her heart break too. Our entire world had just fallen apart and we couldn’t even begin to pick up the pieces because the hardest part was still to come.

I knew we had to call our parents and tell them what we had just found out, but I couldn’t face that just then. I had to get out of the hospital, even just for a few hours. We got permission to leave for a little while and we went to see our puppy at Brian’s moms. As soon as we pulled up I could see her jumping up at the door. We went in and I wanted to sit outside. I had been cooped up inside for almost a week, it felt nice to breathe in the fresh air. I sat on back deck and just cried. Riley, our puppy came out and licked the tears from my face. Dogs just have a way of knowing when you are sad and try to make things better. Brian’s mom Joan came out and sat with me and I just cried and cried. It was all so unfair. Why was our baby being taken from us. What did I do to deserve this? I just kept crying Why, why why? It hurt so much and there was nothing that was going to make it better. When we called my parents and Brian’s dad and step mom it was the same thing again - I could hear the pain in their voices. They all wanted to come up and be there for us but we asked them not to. This was something that Brian and I had to do on our own, we didn’t want everyone there at the hospital, but we said we would love to see them after.

As I told my friends the news I lied a bit and said that we still going to have an ultrasound on Friday and hope for the best. I knew that they were all going to Leeann’s wedding and I hoped that that would distract them. Only a few people know the truth. Friday, we were going to have to do the hardest thing of our lives.

Thursday was bitter sweet. It was the Survivor-Grey’s Anatomy-ER premiere night, it was also the might before Leeann’s wedding. Mindy, Leeann, Sarah and Michelle all joined me for a hospital movie premiere. I made all the girls promise that they wouldn’t tell Lee want was happening tomorrow because I wanted her to be able to focus on her wedding. Brian has some time with his guy friends that night too. It was really nice to see how the guys all came together to help him through this too. It wasn’t just me losing my baby, it was his baby too. Cheryl, a terrific nurse came into see us. We talked for a bit and she mentioned that she was in tomorrow, and asked if she could be my nurse tomorrow. Without thinking about it I said of course she could, and then I realized what tomorrow was. I said that to Cheryl, and she said that she did. It was really nice to know that someone was willing to go through this with us, step by step.

I had a really hard time sleeping that night, despite the sleeping pill. K.C, another amazing nurse on my unit sat down with me while I cried. She talked about her life experiences and how her daughter had been through something similar, and that she knew how hard it was. I just remember thinking how unfair life was, and if there was a God - what was he thinking?

Friday morning arrived. We didn’t have another ultrasound, we didn’t even listen to his heart beat that day. Part of me had hoped that he had already passed, so it wouldn’t be so hard when he was born. Dr. Dervaitis came in asked if we had any questions about what was going to happen. I asked, through tears if it was going to hurt. It was different for everyone, she explained. Some people just feel cramping, others feel full contractions and need something for pain relief. Everything was available for pain relief, I just need to ask. The induction was going to be done through Misoprotal tabs, placed vaginally. They were meant to ripen the cervix and start labour, given 4 hours apart. After all our questions were answered and there was nothing else to do Cheryl handed me the tablets to insert myself. I went into the bathroom and cried some more. Was this really happening, was I really going to experience labour and birth today, all to lose my son? I inserted the tablets and went back out to my bed.

Nothing much happened for the first hour, but then I started to cramp. I have a nervous bowels, and when I am stressed out things happen if you know what I mean. I had the sensation like I had to go to the bathroom, but at the same time when in labour and you are fully dilated and ready to push you sometimes have the sensation like you need to go to the bathroom so I called Cheryl in to check my cervix. I was only 1cm, and the pressure was just my nervous bowels. I wouldn’t be so lucky to have this over and done with so soon.

Four hours came and went and I needed another dose. This dose did the trick and I started to cramp almost immediately. I asked for something for pan relief and Cheryl gave me Demerol. This seemed to take a little bit of the edge off, and things settled down. While I was having these contractions Cheryl stayed right by my side talking me through each one. Poor Brian looked helpless, like all men do when their wife is in labour, but my heat was aching for him too. The contractions seemed to get worse and worse so Cheryl gave me even more Demerol - which wasn’t enough. I tried using the Entonox, which worked only for a few minutes. I remember rocking back in forth in the bed thinking I can’t handle this for much longer. I asked for an epidural. I learned something as a nurse that day - it doesn’t matter the size of your baby, it is the intensity of your contractions that makes it all so painful. And let me tell you, it was painful.

By 5:30 I got the epidural and things were much more comfortable from there. Brian and I talked about everything and we decided to name our little guy Jackson. We had talked a little bit about names before, but hadn’t decided on anything because we thought we had a lot more time. As time passed I really hoped that I would be able to deliver Jackson before Cheryl went home, but she said she had planned on staying anyway. One thing I would like to point out is that as a Nurse who works 12 hour shifts from 7:30 to 7:30, it is such a pain when there are change of shift deliveries.

All of a sudden out of nowhere I felt that unmistakable rectal pressure that I was talking about before. I called to the nursing station for Cheryl. She came and checked my cervix and I was fully dilated. She called for help, and Donna and Dr. Dervaitis came in. Three small pushes later Jackson Brian was brought into the world at 7:29pm. Dr. Dervaitis asked if I wanted to hold him and I said yes. She put him into my arms and I just looked at him in awe. He was just so perfect. His little eyes were still fused shut because he was so premature, and he was bruised because he was born breech - but he was perfect. I looked at Brian we both had looks of love and sadness on our faces. After a few minutes I asked Brian if he wanted to hold him, and he said yes. As soon as I passed him to Brian, Jackson took a breath and moved. This made me so happy because I was so sad that Brian didn’t get to feel him move inside of me. And until that moment I wasn’t sure that he was even alive. Watching Brian hold his son in his arms gave me a whole new level of respect and admiration for the man I married. At that moment Brian and I had become parents, and even though we were going to lose Jackson, we were both forever changed.

It was a good thing that I got that epidural because my placenta didn’t want to come out, which is common with early losses. It is like your body knows it is too soon for the baby to be born and it doesn’t want to let the placenta go. Dr. Dervaitis had to do a manual removal of the placenta, and without being too graphic it involved a lot of uncomfortable digging, pulling and pushing. Thankfully it looked like she got it all out, because if she hadn’t been able to I would have had to have gone for a D&C and would have missed holding Jackson for the few minutes he was alive.

After getting cleaned up Brian passed Jackson back to me and I just looked at him. I felt so much sadness and wanted to cry but couldn’t. It was the oddest feeling not being able to cry. I wasn’t sure if I had just cried so much in the week prior that I had no tears left or if it was a defense mechanism by my body to just go numb. I had so many things I wanted to say to Jackson, how sorry I was and how sad I was that I didn’t get to know him, but all I could do was look at him and think why? Jackson lived until 8:55, and we held him until his heart took it’s last beat.

Cheryl was so great, she took pictures of us holding him for a memory book. After all that she said goodbye to us and went home long after her shift ended. I am not sure she will ever know how much it meant to us to have her there.. It was a horrible situation, but she made it so much better. They way she just sat and talked to us and they way she drugged me up because as much as I was out of it, it made it easier. She was also there for Brian too, because he needed the support too.

We were both really tired and I was pretty drugged. After we called our families to tell them about Jackson we both got some much needed sleep. I asked the girls to keep him on the floor because I couldn’t stand the thought of him being by himself in a dark cold morgue. They kept him in a empty room for us because it was too hard to keep him right there with us. By 6am I had "sobered" up enough from all the medications and went down to hold him and had a really good cry. I got to say all the things I wanted to say to him, which really helped. I told him about all the hopes and dreams I had for him, and how I was so sad that they weren’t going to happen. I told him how he was so loved, from the minute we knew about him. I told him that that love would never leave. I told him how sorry I was that he never had a the chance to become the person he was supposed to.

I wasn’t really able to get back to sleep that morning so I lied awake thinking about what we had lost. I wondered how I was going to be able to go on. I felt so much sadness it was overwhelming, I literally felt like my heart was broken and it was never going to heal.

We had to arrange things with the funeral home for Jackson’s cremation. We waited until they came to pick him up and then we got ready to go home. Saskia and Lori were back on that day. It felt like we had gone full circle, from coming in with ruptured membranes with some hope to going home after losing our baby - and they were both there for the beginning and the end.