This post contains photos that may be disturbing, view at own discretion.
On July 27th 2006, I lost a baby girl so tiny she fit in my palm with her legs dangling over. She was 15 weeks with delicate features complete in formation; simply needed time to plump up. She had the beginnings of eyelashes, fingernails, a cleft in her chin.
She fluttered inside me the first time the day before I miscarried. The severe morning sickness I experienced throughout pregnancy had lifted a week prior. I was on the up and up, looking pregnant and feeling a bit more normal, ready to welcome the next phase of pregnancy.
One Minute There, One Minute Gone
The doctors said it was group A strep infection that traveled to my uterus, causing baby to overheat and her brain to hemorrhage. Only took a second and she was gone. One minute the nurse said “your baby’s fine, she has a steady heartbeat”, next minute my fever spiked and baby’s heart stopped. Within hours my body was in labor birthing on its own accord. I just hung on feeling shocked.
Baby girl weighed 2 1/2 ounces and was 6 inches in length. I held and kissed her. I wanted to swallow her whole, take her back inside me where she belonged. Everything about the moment was wrong, this shouldn’t be happening. This is wrong. Yet, there she was to see and touch and kiss and lick. I swear I would’ve eaten her then and there had I been alone, a feeling so primal I wonder if in Nature, animal mothers eat their offspring.
You may think this weird to hear, this desire to put her back in my body, back in my belly. All these years later, I go back to the moment, sitting on toilet, feeling her slip out effortlessly. Inspecting her from head to perfect toe. We had an hour together before a nurse carefully wrapped her in cloth and took her away, took her little footprints and put them in a blue box for me to take home. Me alone in a metal bed so cold I wanted to die.
Maybe the infection came from an under-cooked hamburger I’d eaten at a barbecue lunch earlier that day. I shouldn’t have eaten it. It was made with poor quality meat and still red in the middle. I was starving. I ate it. I ate it quick. I’d grown up eating raw hamburger rolled into balls; my dad would sprinkle them with salt ‘n pepper (to my mom’s chagrin) and we’d pop them in our mouths in one bite. I love my meat raw. Yet, I know during pregnancy this is a no-no, especially if the meat is not pasture-raised and super fresh. I know that.
I was 15 weeks pregnant and recovering from a serious prenatal condition. I was malnourished and STARVING. Eating that under-cooked burger put myself, and my baby, in jeopardy. Absolutely. This is the guilt I live with, be with. I should’ve been more considerate. My older sister, also pregnant at the time, was the one that discarded that burger aside as she didn’t feel comfortable eating it. I took it from her. Such a rebel I am. I should have said no. Instead I ate it and that evening I awoke in a sweat with incredible stomach pains.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)
I was dehydrated, weak from the vomiting and nausea that comes with having Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). The doctors explained that my weak state likely caused the strep infection to take hold and cause a miscarriage. Had I been stronger, everything might have been fine, just a small bellyache maybe. I had HG from the time I was 1 week pregnant, vomiting 24/7, unable to drink more than a teaspoon of liquid at once. I’d go days without eating, because it’d take that long for me to think of what to eat. If I couldn’t imagine and taste it to the fullest, then I couldn’t stomach it. I was put on a drug for patients undergoing chemotherapy, an immuno-suppressant that suppressed my immune system and made me feel out of sorts and barely made a dent in how bad I felt.
I lost my baby 1 week after my HG had lifted, 7 days to the day. What a shit is that? Like fog, one day it just disappeared. I was elated. I was also vulnerable after weeks of undernourishment. This is where I was when I ate that burger; physically exhausted with a weak immune system and so happy to feel well again. I probably couldn’t of fought a fly, let alone an infection. Once the cramps, vomiting, and fever hit there was no stopping. Hours later, my baby was gone.
The doctors never did say if my miscarriage was from one thing or another; maybe they didn’t want me to feel guilty. I do. My heart will forever go out to those who lose a child at any age.
The weeks after were a blur, I wavered between wanting to die to be closer to my baby and wanting to be with my oldest boy who was too young to register such depth of emotion. Is anyone able to? My body needed to integrate one heartbeat where there’d once been two. I wanted out. I wanted nothing to do with this emotionally trying process. I was empty, still felt pregnant. I was sad for a long time.
A mother’s grief turned inside out. I didn’t want to shower, move, eat, do anything that supported the very body that failed my baby. When I told my 4 year old that the baby wasn’t in my tummy anymore, he asked if she died because all the pizza I ate during pregnancy. I smiled, hugged him, and let that one be.
Within 2 hours of giving birth, my fever spiked very high from a systemic blood infection. I lost consciousness and received 2 rounds of blood transfusions. When I woke, doctors and specialists surrounded me with concern. I’d nearly died from sepsis. They were glad I was alive. I felt less then thrilled at being alive, I felt empty, empty, empty. A week later I went home with 3 months worth of antibiotics and an endless ache in my body.
It’s been 13 years since I lost my baby girl. I miss her and apologize every time I feel her fill my belly with her presence because a mother’s love never dies.
Sunflower, sunflower, yellow, and tall …. you were the prettiest sunflower of all.
May all bellies be happy!