I just submitted a short story about Ansley and HELLP Syndrome to She Writes Press. They are putting together a book entitled Three Minus One. It will be a collection of stories, art and poetry all based around the unpleasant topic of stillbirth and neonatal death. Please keep your fingers crossed that Ansley’s Story is one of 80 submissions selected.
In the days following my first trip out of the house, I decided to try to catch up on some emails. I was reading emails in small doses as sympathy can be hard to deal with. I saw a message titled “So sorry”. I opened the message and read the first line. My name is Christy and we have some mutual friends. Although I had never met Christy, I knew exactly who she was.
October 29, 2010… Chris and I went to our friends Matt and Robyn’s new house for a Halloween party. It was there that I first heard Christy’s story.
She was only a few days away from her due date, when she woke in the middle of the night with a fever. As she sat in bed, it dawned on her that she had only felt contractions not the baby moving. She woke her parents, whom she had move in with mid-pregnancy, and told them they needed to go to the hospital. It was there that she received the news that her daughter had passed away. The doctors induced Christy and her daughter, Evelyn Marie was born the next day. They later learned she most likely died from a cord injury; the umbilical cord had wrapped around her neck. (www.babyevie.com)
I stood in the kitchen blinking back tears. I had known several people who had miscarried, but Christy was well past the 12 week danger zone, she was full term. My heart broke for her. Little did I know, at that very moment I was pregnant with Ansley. We would find out I was expecting 5 days later!
The time had come to deliver Ansley. My contractions were almost constant. In an instant, my hospital room transformed into a delivery room. On one of my final pushes, I realized Chris was no longer by my side. I looked around the dimly lit room, my eyes focusing through the tears, and see him in the far corner of the room facing the wall. Within seconds he fell to his knees overcome with grief and although it didn’t seem possible, my heart broke even more.
A few minutes later Ansley was born. She was so small; much smaller than anyone anticipated. After all, it was just a month earlier that she was measuring big. She was about the size a baby should be at 22 weeks. Apparently, HELLP syndrome had been manifesting in my body for a few weeks. Intrauterine Growth restriction (IUGR) is yet another complication caused by HELLP Syndrome. Had we been able to have the c-section in time, based on Ansley’s size, her survival rate would have been less than 1%.
I asked the doctor why she died. It was likely the perfect storm. She was tangled up in her umbilical cord, although my doctor didn’t think that had much to do with it. There was also a true knot in her cord; this combined with having a hard time getting blood, nutrients and oxygen from me was likely the reason. She wasn’t going to order an autopsy. At the end of the day, HELLP Syndrome was the cause of death. She said they would send my placenta off for testing; that would provide more helpful information than an autopsy.
By the time the nurse had cleaned Ansley up and handed her to us, the sun had come up. We studied our daughter memorizing every detail. She had my lips, my nose, and the same little fold in her ear as I have. But, she had her daddy’s long torso, and her face was the same shape as his. She was a perfect blend of both of us.
As we looked at our daughter, I managed to convince myself that she was breathing. And for just a minute I thought they were wrong that she wasn’t dead. Chris assured me she was not breathing, but then I heard it again. As it turns out, what I was hearing was the inflatable wraps they put on your feet and legs. I had heard the wraps inflate and deflate for the last several days, but between all my medicines, the lack of sleep and the pure desire to have my daughter live I had forgotten all about them.
The nurse returned with the smallest little outfit I had ever seen. We dressed Ansley and laid her in the bassinet. She had many visitors waiting to meet her. My parents were already in the waiting room and Chris’ parents were on their way. Later that afternoon his grandparents and my friend Maren stopped by to meet Ansley.
Ansley spent the day in my hospital room. It would be the only time Chris and I would have to spend with our daughter. The hardest part of the day came that evening- when we were told we had to say goodbye. I held my daughter for what would be the last time.
Just when I thought I was done for the day, emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted. I was presented with paperwork. The paperwork recorded Chris and I as her parents, her birth name and date and decisions like what funeral home she would be taken to and if we wanted her buried or cremated. Decisions nobody should have to make on their child’s “birth” day.