Elijah's Story

January 8, 2017

By Sanda Rathamone (10+ min. read)

From gender reveal to a spontaneous delivery.

We're Having A... 
Our 20 week scan and gender reveal was scheduled on Monday, June 13, 2016. A day prior to the scan, we had a family graduation barbecue at a lake. It was a special day in not only celebrating three graduates (one of them myself), but to finally expose my five month pregnant belly. I kept it hidden, since the first trimester - it looked more like bloat than baby.

Everyone asked what we were having. We told them that we were going to find out the next day. I strongly felt it was a boy and said that I had hoped for one, whereas my husband was convinced it was a girl.

On Monday morning, it was required that I had 32 oz. of water before the scan; this would enable a clear picture of the uterus. By the time we made it to our appointment, I couldn't hold it. My bladder was so full that it had built an unbearable pressure. I crossed my legs, trying to pinch my bladder shut throughout the entire car ride. By the time we parked the car, I quickly hopped out of the passenger side, pulled down my pants, and released myself without a care in the world. My 32 oz. of hard work was gone in a matter of seconds.

Once we checked in, I had to pee - again. This is certainly going to be a difficult procedure, I thought. I asked the woman at the front desk if I could use the restroom. She said that I couldn't because a full bladder was necessary for the scan. My face and crossed legs must have been very convincing because she looked down, sighed, and said that I could use the restroom - only that afterwards I would have to go to the back hallway and refill that 32 oz. back into my bladder.

When we were settled into our room, the ultrasound technician saw on the screen that I definitely had a full bladder. After some clicks and measurements of my cervix, she said that I could go and empty myself. I was so relieved, as if peeing was a godsend. Getting an ultrasound done while laying flat on my back with a full bladder was extremely uncomfortable.

After coming back from a very long and satisfying toilet break, we finally got to see our baby. There were some more clicks and measurements, then a heartbeat. She asked if we wanted to know what "it" was. My request was that should write it down on a piece of paper and slip it into an envelope, so that my husband and I could read it on a date night. She unsympathetically claimed that she or the doctor might "slip" and say the gender anyway, so it was "better" that I knew now rather than later. With disappointment, we agreed.

There on the screen appeared this thing that looked like a little nub. I knew what it was.

"It's a Boy," she said, with a monotonous tone. As if she had done this for years and was tired of it. It got quiet for a second, but I swear, we both had this smile on our faces that were loud and clear for the world to hear.

"Are you sure it's a boy? And what is that?" asked my husband. He wanted to make sure that it was indeed a boy; he wasn't entirely convinced.


"That's a penis," the tech and I said in unison. 

I searched up boy ultrasounds before our appointment, just in case I didn't know what I was looking at either. 

We held each others hand throughout the rest of the scan and were so happy that we were having a boy, most importantly, that he was in perfect health and condition. Everything was fine and his due date was updated from October 30th to November 1st. We had hoped that he would be a November baby, since we were both born in November. 

After our scan, we went shopping for all things boy and blue, and temporarily decided that this little boy was going to be "Elijah." I also peed so much that day that I thought I would never stop peeing every 10 minutes or so - it was crazy!

Is this an orgasm or something else?
That night of the 20 week scan, I made a gender announcement. I went to sleep so excited that I was having the baby boy I had always wanted.

It was mid afternoon the next day and we were "doing the do." All of a sudden, we felt this *plop* and out came this huge gush of water. It was like popping a huge balloon, filled with water. My husband quickly grabbed a towel and was now freaked out, unsure of what was happening or what this was. For a minute, I really thought this was a sexual thing, but as this water kept on flowing out of me and wouldn't stop, we were beginning to worry. I had no sense of control. We couldn't figure out if this fluid was urine or from the amniotic sac, but it certainly didn't smell like urine - it smelled faintly of bleach water.

It had taken two body sized towels to soak up this fluid.

My husband now thinks that this is his fault, cursed sex, and said that "we should have never done it or that he shouldn't have rolled or pushed me around  too hard."

We called an emergency number listed from his health insurance, while I called my clinic. My clinic said that they would call back, but was taking too long. The emergency number said that she would dispatch an ambulance, but I really didn't want to cause a big scene. We decided on going to the hospital ourselves, only which one? I remembered that this prenatal educator had written down on a pamphlet of where to go in case of emergencies, however, my husband thought we should go to the ER.

Then he got confused and now we were both confused, so I hastily decided on the ER, even though he had changed his mind to go to the other hospital.

Before we quietly made our way out the house, I went into the bathroom to clean up a little and saw that there was a bit of bleeding. I put on a small pantyliner and went out the door, weary of what was going to happen next. I held onto my belly the entire drive there, silently praying to God that everything was okay. 

The Wait
The Emergency Room is a terrible place for a pregnant woman in an emergency. Once we got there, we didn't have to wait long to be called into the triage and given a room. Before entering my room, I went into the restroom to check on the bleeding and saw that I was now full on bleeding, like a heavy period. My heart raced with fear as I saw that the pantyliner was soaked with blood. I mentioned this to the nurse - hoping that it would greatly concern her - and asked for a new pad. I was then putting on my gown and had a nurse put an IV in my arm. 

It took hours just to have a doctor to finally check up on us. 

When the doctor knocked on our door, it was now around 9 p.m. He didn't do much, but said that he would be right back with an ultrasound machine. It took him an eternity to get it from the top floor, just to come back and tell us that he couldn't see anything on the screen. Since my much of my waters had broken, the ultrasound machine couldn't detect any movement or pick up our baby on screen.

Since the ER didn't have the right equipment to handle my situation, I had to be transferred to the maternity hospital (the one we were supposed to go to). That Tuesday night, we waited for another long hour in the ER for an ambulance; an ambulance that I didn't want in the first place.

Arriving at the maternity hospital, we were put into this temporary room that looked like an emergency station with curtains separating each bed. We couldn't get a room just yet. I also had to provide a urine sample, but the bleeding had tinted my sample with bits of clots. I didn't know why I was bleeding... I settled into my bed and we were both already so tired. This was going to be a long, long night. No one knew that we were in the hospital and the car was left behind at the ER.

A nurse checked my vitals and brought in an ultrasound machine. I was getting hungry, but all I could have at the time was a sad cup of ice chips and water. She called in another nurse to look at the ultrasound and then both of them stepped outside the room to talk. I knew that something had gone wrong; they wouldn't have had a private conversation, unless something was bad.

She came back in, reluctant to tell me what was (or wasn't) on the screen. Like the doctor from the ER, the nurse said that she couldn't see the baby, that I must have lost all of the amniotic fluid. She then called for an on-call doctor, who happened to be a woman who performed my 8 week ultrasound at the clinic. When the on-call doctor arrived, she automatically gave us her condolences, had me on stirrups, completed a quick, very uncomfortable pap smear, and told me that it was less likely that I was able to have a viable pregnancy after losing so much fluid.

It was less likely that they could do anything about the fluid loss. 

Since I was showing no signs of early labor or any pain, the on-call doctor sent me to Antepartum and told me that my primary doctor from the clinic would be seeing me in the morning. That night, my husband reluctantly called his brother to help bring the car over to the hospital, which had spread the news about our situation.

Antepartum means "occurring not long before childbirth" and little did I know that I would be giving birth just a couple of days later.

Overwhelming Decisions
That first night in Antepartum was terrible. I didn't sleep very much and was overwhelmed with worry about what could happen.

Since we could not see him on ultrasound, nurses and doctors kept track of his heartbeat every few hours or so. Those moments were the best moments, even though I knew that this was one of the worst situations to be in to hear his heartbeat. It was because hearing his fervently beating heart meant that it was an assurance of his life, that he was still alive.

The sad thing was, it was so difficult to find his heartbeat. The nurses had to rummage around for an old heart monitor that the hospital hadn't really used anymore. The newer gadgets couldn't track his heartbeat. I realized that every time they checked, he was always in this one particular spot, so if anyone had difficulties trying to locate him, I knew exactly where he was.

I later asked a nurse about the bleeding. She didn't know why I was bleeding either, but told me that every time I wiped, to not throw away the tissues. The nurses would continue to monitor the bleeding in this way.

It was now the next day, Wednesday, that I was transferred into a new room; a smaller one with a bed and convertible sofa chair. We also had so many visitors, coming in and out of our room to say this and that and stuff that I couldn't keep up with; it was like a blur of people standing over my bed, having hospital conversations with hospital terminology through a pillow. There were heaps of doctors, nurses, and specialists; it seemed as if I had people from all kinds of departments come at me with their "specialties." I was now considered a "high risk" patient with a high risk pregnancy.

My doctors had a concern that I could contract infections from low amniotic fluid. Yet, while I could become ill, my baby was in a vulnerable state, struggling to move and "breathe." Amniotic fluid protects both the mother and baby. The fluid also allows lung development to practice "breathing" and body movements, which my baby was now lacking. This "lacking" considered him at a very low rate of survival. 

All I could remember are discussions on so many things that I was not prepared to hear. Everything and everyone was gnawing at me to make a decision. I just wanted to die. 

Each decision, each question I was being asked had its own weight and sat on my shoulders:
  • Should we try to continue or terminate the pregnancy?
  • What would happen to him and the kinds of health complications would he have if he were to survive? 
  • What were his survival rates? 
  • What infections could he and I contract from low amniotic fluid? 
  • What antibiotics should I take? And when should I start them?
  • How many blood tests needed to be done? 
  • Are there any other specialists I could speak to?
  • When should I be induced?
  • Is it too soon to discuss a death certificate and funeral arrangements?
I couldn't decide on anything, wanted to shutdown, and put off any decisions. This was too much for one day. Yet, one of the doctors tried to give me this small glimmer of hope that he could survive and be this miracle baby that some had the opportunity to keep. I was hoping that I had the option to keep the pregnancy going until at least 24 weeks because any time before then meant that survival rates were way lower and rare. 

I had decided to do nothing at all and wait. Wait it out and let nature decide the rest of my life. 

Preparing For Labor
Among the so many doctors that were assigned to our room, there was this one doctor who was a very kind man. He was the doctor who I had hoped would stay and never leave me to another doctor. He started my antibiotics through IV. As time passed, I was susceptible to any and all kinds of infections, especially vaginal and uterine infections.

On Wednesday evening, I was given hospital food for dinner, but had completely lost my appetite. But it wasn't because of the food. There was this weight over my shoulders and a realization beginning to settle in the pit of my stomach. My husband and sister were there to keep me company, but things were starting to take a turn. I was beginning to feel a sort of pressure, building in my mid section. I couldn't eat, look at, or talk to anyone. My mood began to dip into the beginnings of despair.

I yearned for something to keep me calm. I asked my husband to help me hop into the shower, not knowing that I would need a nurse to get my bra untangled from my gown and all of the tubes and wires attached to my arm. I could no longer move as I had wanted and relied on my husband to help me shower. In the warmth of the steam and shower, my breathing slowed. I began to breathe through the pressure that was building in my belly.

After my shower, my husband brush my hair, while I was sulking and feeling exhausted. That night, we had visitors from family and I was no longer in the mood to greet or smile at anyone.

That kind doctor came back and told me that I was feeling early labor pains, not yet contractions. He waited there for a moment, observing me with a nurse as these early labor pains hit me in slow, but shallow waves. He left so that nurses could do some blood drawing. The problem though, they couldn't find a vein (I have always had this difficulty during blood tests). They poked all over my hands, wrists, and arms, and it was now beginning to hurt. They even called in a "blood-drawing specialist." She pinched patches of my skin as hard as she could and stabbed me so carelessly, that I began to wail in pain. They tried searching for a vein on my foot and that didn't do much of anything either.

I later heard someone saying that I needed a break, since now all I could do was cry and scream every time the needle had stabbed me. Not only were the needles painful, but I began to have more waves of early labor pains. I also couldn't open my eyes and had this terrible headache. All I could remember was having a wet rag on my forehead, feeling hot in my face and cold in my feet, and that it was possible that I could end up having a fever.

The needles left tiny bullet holes all over my hands and wrist for days.

After a new doctor came by to check on me, she said that I was now dilated at 1 cm. and that if this didn't progress that I would need to be induced.

Some time later, my body told me that it was time.

Labor And Delivery
Put on a wheelchair and wheeled to the labor and delivery room, I was really unprepared to give birth to my son. Realizing that "this is it," whether he would be alive or dead, I didn't know and couldn't think of it.

I had a new nurse, Nurse Lee, who was one of the kinder nurses of a large bunch. After that horrible needle experience, I asked her if I still had to take another blood draw and she said yes. I felt like a kid and wanted to cry. But she did it as quickly as she could and it didn't hurt. Nurse Lee then hooked me up onto the monitors and tended to her duties. The baby monitor strapped on my belly was so big, it kept slipping. I wanted to take it off; I felt teased and belittled by it. My belly was barely a belly at 5 months pregnant. 

I was also hoping for that kind doctor to come back; he said that he would be in labor and delivery, but wasn't there. The other doctor was - the one who checked on my dilation earlier. She wasn't a nice one. She didn't just "checked me," she had carelessly shoved and dug her whole hand in me and it hurt like hell. When she checked me for a second time, I was still at 1 cm. and was told that I was going to be induced.

After induction, the contractions had no sense of order or progression. My contractions were all over the place. And they were painful. Most of the pain was in my back and felt like I was being drilled from under me.

I never had time to prepare for birth or contractions; I still had yet to take a birthing class.

That same mean doctor came back and kept pressuring me to get an epidural, saying that I wouldn't be able to get through the pain without it. It was never in my birth plan to get an epidural or use any medications. I wanted a natural birth. I couldn't even say no, just shook my head sideways that I didn't want it because I couldn't talk through the contractions. Through the doctor's persistent pressure on the epidural, my sister had to be my advocate.

I later wrote about this problem on a questionnaire mailed to me about my experience at the hospital. 

However, the contractions were so bad that I had difficulty breathing.

Nurse Lee suggested that there was another option called Fentanyl, a narcotic to treat pain. It wasn't like an epidural in that it would completely numb me or tapped into my spine, but that it was temporary relief and is easily transferred into the IV. I would only be given three doses every two hours and that it could make me a little "high." I went for it. Nurse Lee put it into my IV and for a time, I couldn't feel it working. But when I did, I felt that I was given little breaks from the contractions here and there. I could even feel it working through some contractions, as if the pain was there, but wasn't there - kind of strange.

It wasn't like I was numb, it was more like I was floating through some of the waves of contractions, yet, I was still getting hits from the biggest, most painful ones.

When the dose was up, oh boy, I remember asking for another, but had to wait for another two whole hours. My husband laughed at that.

Surprisingly, that kind doctor came back to check on me and asked what we were going to name our baby. It was only just days ago that we had chosen Elijah.

Although, we did have a moment back in the ER and thinking of changing it to "Kaiden" (the very first name I loved) because our room there was named in the letter "K" and we thought it was a "sign." We decided on staying with Elijah and added our last names; we never had the time to consider a middle name. Although, it was nice seeing his name written out by hand for the first time, gleaming on the whiteboard as if we were going to welcome Elijah to the world.

Birth and Death
My husband, mother-in-law, and sister stayed throughout the labor, but by 5 a.m., my sister decided to head to work. Just an hour after she left, I felt this natural urge to push.

I could feel that the umbilical cord was hanging out of me. I didn't touch it, just felt it outside of me. I thought that this might not be a good thing, yet, for my situation, cord first didn't matter. That mean doctor was called back in. I wanted to ask about the other doctor, that kind man who said he would deliver Elijah. But everything was happening so quickly and before I knew it, my legs were being put onto the stirrups and I was getting ready to push. I still couldn't open my eyes. I remember a nurse telling me to hold my legs and push.

Within three pushes, out came our baby boy on Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 6:51 a.m. He weighed 9.9 ounces and measured 10 inches.

All I could remember was this shuffling of bodies and never hearing anyone asking if my husband had wanted to cut the cord. Another thing I didn't hear was the sound of a baby's cry. I didn't know if he was dead or alive...

All I could do was lay there in my bed and rest, I was exhausted. My husband was so worried that I could bleed out and die and told me a few times not to go to sleep. I knew that I wasn't going to die and that he was just being overly worried. I exhausted from all of the contractions.

I could finally breathe.

I was induced for a second time for the afterbirth. That mean doctor unnecessarily went tugging on the umbilical cord that was left inside of me. I felt like it was hinged to my insides, like it was an arm that she was carelessly jerking away from my body.

Since I was induced for the birth, she said that "the placenta might not be able to naturally expel on its own, so it was best that I was induced to get it out before the possibility of infections or more bleeding." I had no time to think about it, she had already placed the second induction after tugging on the cord. Again, the contracting started. It wasn't long before I had felt something huge and smooth making its way down and then I had this urge to push. Out came the afterbirth in one swift motion.

I could remember hearing a nurse asking me if I had wanted a mold. I was a little out of it and was confused. A mold? What mold? The nurses had made a mold of Elijah's prints and got us a memory box. The box was in this silky mint-green color, tied closed with a silk ribbon. We never had the chance to say goodbye to Nurse Lee, however, she signed the card in the memory box. 

Meeting Elijah
After the birth and asking for some assistance, I needed to pee. I had a new nurse who was also very kind, her name was Tenzin. She helped me up and onto the toilet and after I peed, she went down and used her hand to grab something right from under me. I was a bit startled and asked what she was doing. She said that after birth, there is this "clot" that comes out and she was helping to get it out of me. 

I definitely learned that during childbirth, modesty wasn't necessary and that nurses are more comfortable with our bodies and excretions than we are.  

Walking slowly, back to my bed, I couldn't find the courage to ask for Elijah. I was, however, curious to peak at the placenta. It was a fascinating sight. I had a new doctor come in (from my clinic) who showed me the entire sac and where the rupture had happened. She showed me where Elijah had lived and the placenta inside of it. It was amazing to imagine that he was in this huge, red bubble of a sac inside of me. 

But I was afraid to see Elijah. 

Questions like: What would he look like? and Would I have liked what I saw? haunted my mind for nearly two hours. This wasn't the typical birthing of a baby. My baby was dead, laying cold and naked in the bassinet, way in the corner. 

My husband and mother-in-law cried at the sight of him, yet, I barely had any tears left. I had cried so much during the days before, that I had no tears left for the day that I should be crying the most. I even had the energy to console my husband. 

It was two hours after his birth that I finally had the courage to ask for my baby. Once I saw him, I couldn't believe that he was this little human inside of me. His teensy tiny hands and feet, precious nose and lips. His face reminded me of my own and every now and then, a combination of us. I remember touching the softness of his nose and the bottoms of his feet. He was the size of my arm, only a bit smaller. I smiled and carried him beside me and told him how sorry I was. Sorry for what had happened.

I told him that he was just this beautiful and perfect little person. 

Mommy and Elijah

When taking our family photo, I didn't know whether to smile or cry, so I left my face bare and expressionless. I also wasn't sure if it was okay for family to view him because, well, he was dead. Would they all want to see my dead baby? I said that I didn't want him in the room when I was being transferred back to Antepartum (I was angry, ashamed, and embarrassed), but moments later, changed my mind. My husband was happy that I decided otherwise and was angry that I didn't want him in the other room. He was later called out to speak with the chaplain, who I had turned away after birth; I wasn't in the mood. 

Our little family

More of my husband's family came by just when I was going to be transferred. No one wanted to hold Elijah, everyone was nervous - so was I. 

I held him, hidden in his very large hospital blanket all the way back to Antepartum, without my husband. I happened to cross paths with a woman being pushed on a wheelchair with her live, normal sized baby, while unknowingly passing her by with my dead, little baby. You would think that there was a separate ward for mothers like myself... 

After everyone had seen and spent time with Elijah, I had hoped that everyone saw his beauty and how precious a life truly was. 

Facing A New Reality
Friday morning, I held him and cried tears of agony, loss, and defeat. I had just fully realized that I had given birth to my son who never had a chance at life. I cried a mother's cry for her child - I cried, I howled, and I couldn't stop. The tears that were absent on the day that he was born had returned with a storm, and a vengeance. 

Later that morning, the doctor who had showed me the placenta in labor and delivery came by to speak with me. She said that in no way did sex cause the rupture - people have sex during pregnancy all of the time and it does not cause stillbirth. She had to reassure us many times and repeated herself. The cause was something else, most likely unknown and still unknown.

We had people come in to pray and sing for us, and got the chance to see and hold him anytime we wanted. It was comforting being in bed with my little family, with our son in our arms in our hospital room, as if he were alive. We were supposed to go home that day, but couldn't. 

Instead, the next few days consisted of waiting for the blood work and the results. It was that Friday evening that I was moved onto the top floor in Isolation. I really hated this room since it was much smaller with barely any space to walk. It was such a claustrophobic space of a room, as if I was a prisoner with a disease. I couldn't leave my room until things were "cleared." 

My doctor had found a positive blood culture that looked like meningitis and they took very serious precautions. The hospital staff came into my room with masks and a yellow suit with gloves and told visitors to wear the same! They even gave my husband a pill, just in case he had caught something from me. 

We thought this was ridiculous. My husband and sister didn't care and wasn't afraid of me.

Later, they discovered that it wasn't meningitis. I was also not showing any signs or symptoms of illness, let alone symptoms of someone with meningitis. I was then on the clear late Saturday night and was able to leave my room. Being in Isolation made me had made me highly anxious and I wanted to go for a walk to stretch out my legs. My husband was exhausted, but decided to go on a walk with me. Unfortunately, my feet were swollen after the birth and couldn't fit into my shoes. I had to walk barefoot! 

We went down the elevator to the hospital's chapel, hoping to thank the chaplain who give us a few gifts for Elijah. We didn't see him there, probably because it was around 10 or 11 at night, but I remember how small and calming it was. My husband and I had an intimate conversation about everything that had happened; it was overwhelmingly upsetting. It was like everything was... gone.

Our life had completely changed in a matter of days. 

Walking around the hallways and being in the elevator was awkward and very uncomfortable. It was like what had happened to us was one huge secret. No one knew that we were now grieving parents. No one knew that we were pregnant just days ago. I had no baby or belly to show for it and I just wanted to go home.

On the afternoon of being discharged, one of the persons in the elevator was a pregnant staff member - it felt like a sucker punch to the my now un-pregnant belly.

We stayed in the hospital for six days because of one "positive blood culture." It was said that if there were "two positives" that it was most likely an infection. However, one culture was not enough to keep me any longer. I took all of the antibiotics through IV (as prescribed) and was sent home with antibiotics for another week to take by mouth, just in case I was really infected.

The positive blood culture was found to be a rare blood infection classified under the Neisseria family - which looks like and is related to meningitis - but didn't seem to be of any harm. It was not known if I had contracted it before or after starting antibiotics, if this was the cause of the rupture, or if it was just a contamination and nothing to worry about at all. 

A day after birth (in Isolation) my breasts were going through to a painful engorgement. They had to be wrapped tight and milk came in just a day after being discharged from the hospital. The last and final part was to decide funeral and cremation arrangements. 

It was concluded that my loss was a Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes (pPROM) and it is still unknown as to why it happened at 20 weeks (five months) of gestation. 

With love,

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