Stillbirth is Still Birth and Birth Still Has Choices

“I keep waiting for him to wiggle,” I said to Ryan, whose hand was outstretched on my belly.

“Me, too.”

Inside me was desperately quiet. A quiet that had not been there for many weeks. I cried the whole night, grieving the loss of a baby that hadn’t even left my body yet. He was in the safest place he could possibly be and he died anyway. I slept fitfully for about two hours. Morning came. Once I heard my oldest was waking, I opened his door and climbed into his bed, curling up next to him with my belly between us.

“Dane, something happened to your baby brother. He died while he was still in my belly. Daddy and I need to go to the hospital today to get him out but we won’t be bringing him home.”

“He died?”

“Yes, Baby Reece died. So he will not be in my belly anymore but he won’t be coming home with us, either.”

“Oh. So I won’t have a Baby Brother?”

“No, sweetie, you won’t. I’m so sorry.”

“And there won’t be a baby in your belly so we can wrestle now?”

“Yup, we can wrestle again,” I said, wiping away my tears and looking at the clock. It was time to go. But I didn’t want to go. If I didn’t go, it meant I could keep Reece with me. Leaving towards the hospital meant the beginning of the end. And the end meant saying goodbye and putting him down and never picking him up again. Never again. How could I let him go before he had even arrived? It was a long quiet drive to Bellevue. All the thoughts and anxieties I had surrounding making the drive while in labor melted into the realization that I’d prefer a roadside delivery to this hell. A highly controlled medical birth with a horrifically sad ending was my worst nightmare. I had worried about a freak C section. That pales in comparison. Just about everything does. Going into labor and birth knowing there is no prize, all that work and pain for no delicious baby squish, no gurgle cry, is just cruel.

We arrived at 9 AM and were greeted by a stack of intake forms. I insisted on laboring in my own clothes. My midwife explained how it all works. A tablet of cytotech next to my cervix. Progression. An exam, then an oral dose. Higher than normal since there is no risk to the baby. My body was already contracting spontaneously and it was the cruelest of things. Every tightening of muscles felt like Reece was just shifting his weight and pushing his butt up like he’d done many many times before. But it was just my body.

As we walked the halls, the contractions picked up ever so slightly but they were the early labor variety. Normally those contractions are done at home with distractions and comfort spaces. By 3PM I was due for the next dose. Goodbye was coming. Hours past and the sun sunk down outside my window. I was only 6 centimeters dilated and slowly progressing. When the next dose was due, I asked for a break. Operating on two hours of sleep and knowing a long night was ahead, I was looking to prolong my time with Reece. I requested a sleeping pill and climbed in the warm tub. The white christmas lights my working doula had strung against the wall hummed with warmth. My doula from my previous births arrived and we cried together. Her tears dripped into my water in a golden ring that expanded until it crashed into my full belly.

“He is still your son. You are still his mom. He was alive in you. He lived.”

We talked until the water went cold. I thought maybe I could sleep. I laid down on my couch bed but couldn’t get comfortable. Time passed. The nurses checked me at a 6, but I had the wild urge to throw down. I pushed with the contraction. His head crowned. I did horse lips through my tears. He was leaving my body and this was the end. Another push delivered the shoulders and belly. He was here, Reece Michael, my last baby. My third son.

Reece Michael Carlson was born on November 8th, 2015, at 11:36pm at Bellevue Medical Center. He weighed 4pounds 15 ounces and was 18 1/2 inches long. His lips were dark red, his eyes sleeping. He looked just like his oldest brother Dane. He had reddish brown hair like the way my husband’s beard grows in. He had really big feet. His little hands were wrinkly. He was tiny and perfect. When he was moved up to my stomach, my husband broke down into the most heart wrenching sobs. I caressed and inspected my baby as any mother of any baby would. He didn’t have that wonderful new baby smell.

Every day, I grieve the loss of my baby. But given the circumstances, I will never have to grieve the loss of choice some moms experience when they lose a baby and then have a C section. Mothers who lose their babies can still choose a vaginal delivery. I was able to work with my body as the cytotech took effect. I was able to move freely as needed. All of my scars are emotional and psychological, and to be able to confine them there is relieving.  I can never thank my midwife enough for sparing me that one piece of grief.




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