March 29, 2022

Keanu Alexander

I do not know how to begin this entry, and I imagine my recollection of the past week's events are quite blurry. But I feel some desire to try to put them down to paper. To come back and remember one day.

My baby died. My sweet, poor son passed away in utero between his last two NST. He was fine on Thursday. Brilliant even. We were in and out of the office in record time. He was so good. He was healthy. He was doing all the things he was supposed to be doing. Breathing, moving, heartbeat. I was so proud of him. And I think he was fine over the weekend. How could he not be? He was just such a good strong baby. I keep trying to remember the last time I felt him move and now I'm not sure. Because I thought I felt him all the time. And besides that, I was having Braxton Hicks contractions, which I've always felt a little difficult to distinguish from his movements. As far as I was aware, he was doing well. I even listened to his heart over the weekend.

One of the things that kills me is I remember running errands Sunday night. We (Keanu and I) were in the car of the Target parking lot and I just felt so right about everything. The next day we were going to go to Charlottesville to settle in. Brian and I were going to have a nice date night before crashing into parenthood. Everything was coming together and I was so excited for Keanu join us. So in the parking lot I wrote him a little letter about how proud I was of him for possessing so much life. For making it this far. For being a survivor. I was so happy to meet him and be his mother and learn from him and teach him. And now I'm so scared that he had already been gone. But didn't I feel him? Isn't that in part what prompted me to write the note? Now I'm not sure. And it feels like the universe in that moment decided to be cruel and take him from me.

He was mine. Sometimes I feel bad when I think that. Because I know he was ours. That he was Brian and that he was me. But also he was mine. And I will never get over that because he was taken form me.

Monday was had our next NST before we were going to hit the road for Charlottesville. I packed up the car and left Brian at home to finish up some things while I went to the hospital for our test. I was a little worried that the baby would fail the test and our journey would be delayed. Sometimes when we would go he would be sleeping so they would have to rouse him. Other times he just liked to dodge the nurses and they would chase him around my belly until he would sit still for them. I loved him for it. He was already so full of personality and independence. I loved loved loved him. Maybe I didn't really understand the purpose of the NSTs or how they worked. Maybe I didn't take them seriously enough because my baby had always been so active and was always applauded. Maybe I thought because he was a large baby there was nothing to worry about. But then on Monday they couldn't find his heartbeat. It wasn't like before where he was just swimming around and they couldn't hold a steady monitor. Even in those times they could find him. But this time there was nothing. So they took me in for an ultrasound. Again, no heartbeat. No movement. But I could still feel the weight of him. It seemed like it took the medical staff a long time to finally say the words. I don't even know if they said them directly to me. I remember crying in anticipation, but also thinking that somehow everything was okay and it was just a scare. Nothing more than a scare. And then they told me to call Brian. And I just didn't have words. I told him he needed to come now and then I just started sobbing so the nurse took the phone and gave him instructions. I remember at some point she said the baby passed away but I don't know if that was on the phone or after Brian already arrived. When Brian came, they took us up to Labor & Delivery.

From this point things start to get fuzzy for me. I tried really hard to mark each even on the clock, but now I don't remember precise details. I know the doctors came in to do another ultrasound to make sure the previous assessment was correct. And I remember being terrified of giving birth to a dead baby. That's all I could think about. My baby was dead and now he had to come out. It was absolutely the worst, most incomprehensible thing to wrap my mind around. It was the impossible thing. The thing I feared. The thing I didn't think to fear. Something I never imagined could happen to me. Not this late. Not when he was ready to come out. He was going to be born in two days. How could he be dead. Like, I could feel him, my heavy 10 lb baby. He was right there with me.

Even though I had been scheduled for a c-section, at this point the doctors recommended a vaginal birth instead. Cesareans, they said, were rarely done for the health of the mother. Since we were no longer worried for Keanu, their medical recommendation was for me to deliver vaginally. Which sounded like a recipe for emotional trauma. Both my mom and Brian's dad suggested that I move forward with the c-section as not to suffer through the emotional trials of vaginally delivering a stillborn. But Brian and I, ever concerned for my health, decided to follow what the doctors suggested and do the vaginal delivery. Again, my sense of time is skewed. I no longer know how late it was at this point. Dad and Dawn came to see us. My mom made it up eventually. I don't remember if Brian's parents came that day or the next.

They induced me by sticking a little pill into my cervix. I was also on a number of IVs, including magnesium, because I had developed preeclampsia. Due to the magnesium, I was bedridden and they would not let me get up because I was at risk of falling. Which was difficult. I had hoped to at least move around while laboring. I wasn't allowed to use the bathroom either so every hour or so the nurse had to help me use the bedpan. I'd like to crack a joke about how dignified that was, but honestly, there is a moment where you just stop caring about those things. I didn't care that people were seeing me naked. I didn't care that they wiped me. It just was what it was at the time. I wonder if I'll carry this attitude with me moving forward. Having the pill placed into my cervix was uncomfortable. Later, because I still wasn't dilating, they inserted a balloon into my cervix along with another pill to help open things up.

I held off on the epidural as long as possible, instead taking IV meds for pain management. It's not that I felt pain, but a deep pressure that made it uncomfortable to sit or lay down in any position. Maybe it was the balloon. Maybe it was the baby. I just know that I found the pressure to be worse than the contractions. I was drowsy most of the time because of the magnesium and Benadryl. I applaud Brian for staying with me every single second because I was really out of it and spent most of the time sleeping. My water broke Tuesday at midnight. I'm glad I was in the hospital bed when this happened. They have special pads to soak up the fluid. It was such a gush! I can't imagine that happening at home or out in public somewhere. Even the nurse was surprised by how much I released. Yet still, I was only dilated 4 cm. With the shift change in the morning I decided to go ahead and get the epidural. The pain was still manageable, but I didn't want to reach a point where it wasn't and then we'd have to chase the pain. The epidural wasn't too bad. And I wasn't completely immobilized like I had imagined. It was weird, though, to feel my feet and legs go all tingly. And initially it didn't really help with the contractions, but certainly kicked in later.

By noon, I was still only 4 cm dilated. I also had a low grade fever and developed a c-section. All the hormones rushing through my body also sent me into a shaking fit. Apparently this is normal, but no one told me about the shakes. It was absolutely horrible because it feels like you aren't in control of your body. Because you aren't. It's not a mind over body thing, either. You shake uncontrollably and there's nothing you can do except relax into them until they cease. But it's hard to relax. It really freaked me out. Because my water had been broken for 12 hours, they decided it was time to move toward the c-section. I think the baby was too high up so wasn't descending into my pelvis. Despite this, it took awhile for them to finally get me to the OR. My slot kept getting bumped, which made me anxious.

I think they finally took me back around 7pm. I really don't know. Maybe it was closer to 8pm. They gave me more epidural and I remember being terrified that I would still be able to feel things. Which you can feel things. Sort of. You can feel pressure and tugging and movement. You can't feel pain. Not sharp pain at least. Just pressure pain. I honestly don't remember a lot of the experience even though I was awake for it. They gave me some drugs that made m pretty loopy. I remember Brian being there. I remember at some point I could smell that they had cut me open. I remember a very unpleasant and maybe loud pushing sensation from the top of my abdomen where I assume they were trying to move the baby down. Brian told me there were moments when I would say I didn't like how something felt. Again, I don't remember it too well. Overall, I definitely preferred laboring over the c-section. I did not in actuality deliver vaginally, but I preferred the controlled contractions over the pushing and pressing of the c-section, and over my current ordeal of trying to recover.

Keanu Alexander was born at 8:44pm. He weighed 10 lbs 10 oz and measured 23 1/4 inches long. He was my big baby and I love every single piece of him. I don't remember his actual birth, which makes me very very sad. And I didn't get to see him until 2 hours later. I think my surgery went longer than expected. I don't know why. I have been told that everything went well, so that's good. When we were back in the room, Brian and I decided to see him without family present. He was such a beautiful baby. I imagine all parents must think this. But I've seen ugly babies and mine was gorgeous. He had a head full of dark hair. So much hair! I was so happy about it. And he had the cutest little button nose which was the size of Brian's fingernail. His cheeks were so soft. And he had this serious look on his face with a furrowed brow. He was my precious precious baby. So beautiful. So perfect.

But he was dead. And it was obvious that he was dead. His lips were dark for it and parts of him were blue. And these things made me scared to hold him too long. Or to smell him. Or to kiss him. Ans In regret that fear. I wish I had pushed through those hesitations. I wish I had held him longer. I wish I had taken more photos. I'm glad I took photos. I like the ones better than the ones the hospital took. I regret letting the hospital take photos. My photos at least look more like a baby. Their photos look like a dead baby. And after they took him, I feel like they brought him back...wrong. They dressed and posed him, which tore away at his poor delicate skin. I thought they were just going to swaddle him and take a few snapshots. If I had known any better, I would much rather of spent more time with him while he was relatively fresh. And then I could have taken more of my own photos.

They set him up in our room in a cold cart. At first, I didn't want him right next to the bed, but eventually I had the nurse roll him over to me. I couldn't reach him, but could kind of see him. I didn't sleep at all that night and just spent time with him. But now I wish I could have reached him and held him through the night. I have so many regrets of what I did and did not do, but in the moment they seemed like good decisions. I was trying to protect myself from heartbreak. And some things just felt wrong to do.

We spent a week in t he hospital. They had to monitor me for 24 hours after taking me off the magnesium. Then they monitored me for another 24 hours to watch my blood sugars. My blood pressure was elevated so they kept me for that, too. They released me Sunday evening, by which point both Brian and I were tired of our hospital room and very much ready to go home where we could grieve together.

Everything reminds me of Keanu, of being pregnant, of no longer being pregnant. My milk is coming in, which I find to be so intriguing and cool yet incredibly depressing. I can't stop looking at the photos I took of him. I am completely obsessed with my baby, who I think is so beautiful and precious, and it's the most heartbreaking thing to keep doing. I want to look at him, but it makes me sob. But I can't stop, don't want to stop. But I don't want to sob. I just can't comprehend that this has happened. It does not make sense. He was here and he was lively and healthy and then suddenly he was gone. The doctors think something happened with the placenta and it stopped giving him oxygen. They have assured me that I've done everything right throughout the pregnancy. That I was a good mom and Keanu always felt loved and didn't suffer for a second. But I still feel like my body betrayed us. How could the placenta do this so far into the pregnancy. He was supposed to be born in two days. He should be almost a week old now, here in my arms, learning to be a little human.

I am so angry. And I am so sad. I am heartbroken and overflowing with anguish. I'll never hear what he sounds like. I'll never see what his eyes look like. I'll never see him smile or smell him.

But he was beautiful. And he was mine. He looked like me. He looked like Brian, too, but he was definitely my son. It is surprising to look at him and see myself reflected back at me. I wonder if that makes this hurt all the more.

There's so much more to say.

scullerymaid at 11:46 a.m.

pots | pans