After almost 6 years of marriage, my husband and I decided we were ready to start our family. On Valentines Day, 2013 I found out I was pregnant. We were so excited, thrilled, nervous, scared, but already in love with this tiny little baby.
When I called to make my first prenatal appointment, the receptionist asked if I wanted a specific doctor, I told her no and she scheduled me with one of the providers who was accepting new patients. My pregnancy progressed perfectly. I felt movement, I was cravings for pork tenderloins and pickles and spaghetti. In late early June we found out we were having a boy. I was beyond thrilled and started imagining my husband and our son watching football, playing catch in the backyard, yelling at the TV during college basketball games, etc. I knew he was going to be all boy- just like his daddy.
On a trip to Ireland we heard his name, just in passing- Cael. It sounded strong, unique and just perfect. As Cael got bigger, his movements became more and more pronounced. It wasn't uncommon to be sitting at work and little foot just stick out of my stomach, or a forceful jab to my ribs. So we started calling him Cael the Whale. We amassed everything we thought we would need for him, crib, bedding, stuffed animals, swings, car seat, bottles, etc.
At the start of my third trimester I couldn't help but notice the swelling in my feet. I brought it up to my doctor at each appointment but it was brushed off as "all pregnant women swell" and I trusted the doctor. But it kept getting worse to the point my feet were as big as my calves and my calves were as big as my thighs. My tongue had even swollen to a point where it was difficult to say certain words. I slept with my feet elevated, even had my legs wrapped each night to control the swelling. His movements weren't as forceful as before but at each appointment I was told the same things, "it's just first time mom anxiety" and "everything is fine and there's nothing to worry about." My doctor made me feel like any questions I had were a big inconvenience and she needed to move on to the next patient. As a result, I stopped asking questions when I was given the sighs. However, I knew something wasn't right.
On Tuesday, October 8th, I was at a work conference with my husband when he asked if I felt okay. I had gotten really pale when I had this sickening feeling in my heart. I brushed it off as "first time mom anxiety" as I had been previously told by my doctor. No one ever explained to me the importance of kick counts or how to count them. I hadn't felt him move as much but I think I felt something and assumed it was him. Looking back it was probably indigestion.
On the evening of Thursday, October 10th, my sister and I went to Mercy hospital to tour the labor and delivery floor. As we were leaving I had mentioned that I hadn't felt him move for a while. Within 5 minutes, I was hooked up to a monitor and watching nurses struggle to find a heartbeat. My husband raced down to the hospital after a frantic call from my sister in time for the doctor to come in with the ultrasound machine. She had confirmed what my heart already knew, there was no heartbeat. My mind was in complete shock. How could this happen? It's the 21st century, healthy babies can't just die in utero. I was reeling and being thrown into a situation that I had no clue could happen. My baby was dead. I was going to have to give birth to death.
Then came the other blow- I had severe pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure was extremely high, my kidneys were in failure and my liver was starting to shut down. They had to take over immediately so I too wouldn't die.
I have no memory of the next 16 hours. I was so heavily medicated or my brain shielded me from reality that I have no memory of laboring with Cael. I only remember being told it was time to start pushing. I asked the nurse ever so calmly "is there even a minuet chance that he could still be alive?" After her tearful response of "no" my mind slipped into blackness. After 4 pushes he was born. In total silence. The only noise was the metal utensils and the soft talking between the nurse and doctors. He was born on October 11, 2013 at 1:58 pm; at 37 weeks 6 days gestation.
Sadly my trauma was not over. I started hemorrhaging and I was getting really hot. I refused to tell anyone how hot I felt because I wanted to just slip away too. Finally my sister (who is a nurse and was with me and my husband the entire time) noticed and said something. They tried giving me strong antibiotics but I pushed it away, I refused care. My husband whispered in my ear "I can't lose you too." I then realized that my sister had taken over my care directive as I was not in a sound state to make medical decisions of my own. After what seemed like forever, they got me stable and to a point where I could see my son for the first time.
He was so beautiful. A head full of dark hair, the cutest little nose, a little rosebud mouth and the perfect combination of his mom and dad in his hands. My long fingers and his dad's wide palms. My husband said he would have made a great quarterback.
He was too delicate to do much of anything other than hold him. We couldn't remove his little clothes to see his body or help bathe him. Because he had been gone for a while, he had significant discoloration and skin slippage. His autopsy report had no known cause of death, however all the signs pointed to pre-eclampsia: inter-uterine growth restriction, small amount of amniotic fluid, and extremely long umbilical cord.
We spent what time we could with him. How can you fit a lifetime of love and kisses into a 24 hour period of time? We left the hospital with only a box of keepsakes and an SD card of the pictures the nurses took; and went back to our house with all his baby things quickly hidden in a closet.
I immediately got involved with a support group and continued to go for many years. But it wasn't really enough-there was something missing and lacking. Then I found No Foot Too Small and Facebook stalked them for too long. I finally got the courage to go to my first Mom's Group and I cried like it had all happened just yesterday. But afterwards I left something else, true peace. Peace in knowing that it's okay to feel joy and sadness at the same time, peace from letting others hold you up when you don't have the strength and being the one to hold others up when they can't. Peace in my heart from being unashamed of Cael's death; to include him in the "how many kids do you have" answers. And joyful experiences remembering Cael.
I am passionate about No Foot Too Small because they provide peace and joy in Cael's memory and existence. And I honestly, I never thought I could say that until now.
The Black Family
IN HONOR AND CELEBRATION OF CAEL, DONATIONS CAN BE MADE HERE. ON BEHALF OF THE BLACK FAMILY, THANK YOU FOR YOUR GIFT.