Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cora's Story

I was more than ecstatic when the pregnancy test came up positive. I'd wanted my own baby since my youngest brother was born when I was seven. I had been sick for two weeks already, and but all tests until then had been negative. And my period was 2 days late. So I decided that when I took Matt to work that day (at Wally World), I'd pick up a test. I tested at the bathroom there in the store, since I wanted to tell Matt the results before anyone else, and I couldn't call him while he was working. So I tested before I left, so I could tell him in person.

And then I called my mother on the way home. I was so excited.

Like I said, I had already been sick for 2 weeks before I even tested positive for pregnancy. It only got worse from there. At 10 weeks I ended up going to the emergency room because I had been throwing up once and hour for a full 24 hours and had started throwing up blood. They gave me an IV of fluid with anti emetics in it. 4 days later I would have my first OB appointment, and I was to have an ultrasound. I was terrified because I had been so sick that they would find that the baby hadn't survived and that my body just hadn't realized it yet.

But she was not only alive but perfect. They told me my due date was May 14th...Mother's Day. It couldn't have been more perfect. And then I was put on oral nausea medication because I was still very very very sick. Unfortunately it never did go away for the entire course of my pregnancy.

In January, at about 23 weeks, we had our "big" ultrasound. I was so excited. I wanted to know the gender so badly. I had myself convinced the baby was a boy because I always thought I'd have a boy first. But at about 13 weeks I started having strong feelings it was in fact a girl. Would she be my Cora Rei? I couldn't wait, but still had a feeling of dread. What would I do if the technician told me that something was wrong? What if the baby didn't have kidneys? ((I have no idea why, but this thought seriously did go through my head))

But the baby was perfect. And sitting with the rump down in my pelvis and the cord between the legs so that the technician could not for anything see the gender. And the baby wouldn't move for anything (well, little arm and leg movements, but not the big shift in position we needed).

I remember saying to Matt, "Oh she's totally a girl, and obviously a redhead too! She's too stubborn not to be a redhead!" I'd wanted and dreamed of a little redheaded girl all my life, and was convinced that she really was, though I had no way of knowing. 3 weeks later at my next OB appointment, my doctor snuck me in to the older machine and "took a quick peek." The baby had not only turned head down, but had spread-eagled as well. Sure enough, we were having a baby girl!

Everything went well from there. The last week of April I was having some fairly significant pain, so at my appointment on the 26th (Wed.) I had my doctor check me. I was 1.5cm dilated and he could feel her head, but she "bounced back up" when he touched her. But he was convinced I'd be going into labor before my appointment the next week. On Friday I started having cervical pains worse than I'd ever had in my life. I thought I was going to go into labor that night but didn't. I didn't on Saturday either. On Sunday morning (Apr. 30) when I woke up it was obvious that Cora had dropped. My hips hurt a lot but I wasn't really having any contractions or anything. I had to work that evening, and went, hoping that several hours on my feet would get things going.

While at work I kept feeling like something was wrong, but couldn't pinpoint it. Cora was still moving a bit, so I pushed it away. A coworker came in at one point and asked if I was okay after I had rushed to the bathroom. I had been having a "dripping" sensation all night, and told her I thought I may be leaking amniotic fluid. She offered to finish out my shift for me so that I could go to the hospital, but after fifteen minutes of talking about it I decided that I would go home and go to bed and "see what happened in the morning." I fully expected to wake up in the early morning hours in labor.

I was astounded when I woke up at nearly 11 am. I got up, called my sister and left her a message wishing her a happy birthday and telling her that I wasn't in labor, so her neice probably wouldn't share her birthday. And then I took a shower.

It was in the shower that I realized it. Cora didn't move when I turned my belly to the water. She always became active in warm water. But there was nothing. I started poking my belly an bruised myself, but there was nothing.

I got out of the shower, and told Matt that I thought something was wrong because I couldn't get her to move. He tried to reassure me, but got nervous when I had him listen to my belly for her heartbeat and he couldn't hear anything. I decided to eat/drink something and see if that helped. It didn't. So I called my OB, and they were out to lunch and simply had a message.

We went to do some errands while I waited a torturous hour until my doctor's office opened again. We went into one of the offices at the University to file some paperwork for Matt that needed to be filed. The secretaries asked when I was due and thought it was so exciting that I was so close. "Not much longer now!" one of them said, "Walking around campus should get things started! Maybe you'll have a baby tomorrow!" I just smiled and agreed. I didn't say a word about how deep down I knew I wouldn't get to take her home. I was clinging to the hope that I was wrong.

When I finally got a nurse on the line, I had to argue with her for 15 minutes. YES I had tried all of that to try to get her to "wake up." NO, she hadn't just "slowed down." I could not get her to move at all. Maybe she finally realized my urgency was more than just a freaked out first-time mother. Maybe she could hear in my voice that my hands were shaking and I had tears in my eyes. She told me to come in and they'd check things out.

But I wasn't scheduled and OB offices are perpetually behind schedule, so they couldn't get me back right away. I'm glad that I didn't have to explain to the receptionist why I was there though. She was expecting me, and with a grim smile (I think she was trying to be reassuring but was really worried when I told her, no, there hadn't been any movement yet), told me she'd get me back as soon as possible.

I sat down in one of the only chair that had an empty chair next to it. Next to another waiting patient. I went through the "when are you due? Oh that's so exciting!" litany again. I didn't tell her why I was there, and just let her chatter on about waiting for her big ultrasound. She was so happy, and I could hardly breathe. They called her back just before they did me. I have never been so glad that they had kept their old nearly obsolete ultrasound machine.

They took my blood pressure though I told the nurse that I was so stressed out it wouldn't be accurate anyway, and she nodded that it was pretty high.

The doctor came in and used the dopplar first, but couldn't find anything.

"Oh, you're making me want to cry!" I said, nearly hysterical. He made a comment that he'd be a miracle worker if he got it with the dopplar every time. I knew that was ridiculous. At 38 weeks, if you don't get a heartbeat on the dopplar it's because there isn't one. He seemed to be going in slow motion as he put the gel on my belly. He was really quiet.

And then he turned to me with tears in his eyes and turned the screen for me to see. "There's her heart, and it isn't beating. I'm so sorry." I have that image seared in my mind. So still.

I didn't have the breath to cry at first, and then it all came out in a rush. I accused him of joking and being so cruel as I watched the tear roll down his cheek. The rest of the day was a blur. He took us to his office to use his phone since our cell phones didn't get reception back there. He scheduled me for an induction the next morning (the soonest I could get in). I couldn't get ahold of my mother. Nobody was answering the phone. I called my best friend, who was in Las Vegas because her father who was fighting cancer had taken a turn for the worst. I was frantic and didn't know what else to do. She called them and then called me back and told me that she couldn't get ahold of them and I should try one more time, and if they didn't pick up again she'd drive by their house.

My mother picked up that time, and couldn't believe what I was saying. I asked for her and my dad to call everyone else and tell them so I wouldn't have to. More phone calls were made, to our bishop, to a local friend, both with instructions to spread the word.

My doctor gave me a prescription for Ambien, since we knew I'd probably be unable to sleep. I felt like my belly had tripled in size and every brush and bump made me want to vomit. We were silent as we drove to Walmart to have my prescription filled. While there we passed the woman I had sat next to in the waiting room. I could see the confusion in her face when she saw my red eyes and tear streaked face. I turned down another aisle to avoid her. I couldn't say it out loud. And definitely not to a stranger. Unfortunately Matt worked there and so we knew everyone who worked there. We spoke to Matt's manager so that he could get the rest of the week off, and got bereavement pay as well. Then we went to my workplace and spoke to my manager. The next day was supposed to be my last day before maternity leave started.

Our bishop came to our apartment and spoke to us. We talked about arrangements for funeral services. We decided on cremation since we were only in Idaho for school and I couldn't bear the thought of burying her there and then moving away. He made calls around to funeral homes in the area.

I woke the next morning after fitful sleep even with the ambien. I took a shower and grabbed my hospital bag. I left the bag I had packed for Cora in my empty nursery. We drove to the hospital in silence. Every step I took walking up to Labor and Delivery was like a stab in the heart. I walked up to the counter and the nurse was holding a new little baby and sweetly asked me how she could help me. When I told her I was there for the 7:30 induction all the color drained from her face and she turned as if to hide the baby in her arms. She offered a very flustered apology as she called to my attending nurse and then nearly ran back into the nursery and shut the door.

I don't remember much about the labor, actually. My friend Shauna told me that I was cheerful, in a wide-eyed, shocked, deer-in-the-headlights kind of way. It took 3 tries to get epidural in, and it was turned up so high that I couldn't feel any sort of thing at all from just below my breasts down. They turned it off when it came time to push. But it took two hours, so by the time she was actually born I could feel everything. It was that point that I finally broke down sobbing, when I realized that all that physical pain was for nothing at all.

The doctor finally decided to "help" with the suction cup because after two hours I wasn't any closer to delivering than when I had started. Her umbilical cord was what was keeping her from being born. It was wrapped so tightly around her neck that it wasn't letting her be born. It was very clear that that was what had taken her life.

After her cut her cord, he placed her still form on my chest. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My beautiful little girl with red curly hair. The little girl I had dreamed of all my life.

She was perfect in every way.


  1. (((HUGS))) I have never actually heard your story. It is good to know more specifics. I love the last line.

  2. Britt i cannot even imagine going through what you did. I'm bawling so hard right now. I can't even fathom the guilt, the anger, the overwhelming sorrow. I'm so sorry you had to go through this and live this every day for the rest of your life. Just know that I'm here hurting as well. We can do this together :)

  3. I'm so sorry. I can't imagine what it must have been like but I know she is so proud of you Britt. She has such a wonderful brave mother who loves her so much. You are such an inspiration to me. <3

  4. I don't even have words to say that are appropriate. I'm sorry doesn't even begin to touch the pain you have been through. I wish no one ever had to go through this. You are an inspiration to so many more people than you even realize. (((HUGS)))

  5. Your story, so different but so similiar. I am so sorry.

  6. It's so eerie to read such similar stories... My son Sky died due to a cord accident as well and I am terribly sorry you has to go through this too. I wish you had her by your side now...
    Sending a hug!

  7. I just wanted to let you know that I still think about you and Cora everyday. If nothing else, I'm so grateful to know that you will get to see Cora again and get to raise her and love her forever! This life will fly by and she will be in your arms before you know it. You've already formed a bond of friendship the whole time you carried her and she knows how much you still love her.