Up until this point I’ve been sharing with you tips and ideas for frugal living and thrifty momming. One of my greatest enjoyments is helping others learn to live fully on less. While that mantra does have a lot to do with the material side of things it also goes beyond tangible items. I’ve had to learn to live fully with less after the experiencing infant loss with my daughter Rena. If you’ve read my about me page you may have noticed I said I’m a mom to 1 son and 3 daughters. What I didn’t share is that one of my girls is not here, she’s in heaven, which make me a bereaved parent.
Over the next few weeks I would like to share my journey about losing Rena in the hopes of helping others with their loss. Even though I knew other families that had to say good-bye to their baby too soon I was surprised at how taboo this subject was after I went through with it myself. It’s difficult to talk about. When you think of a baby you think of warm fuzzies and new life, not tragedy and death. For the bereaved parent it can be a very lonely place. We want to talk about our babies, we want to say their names, we want to share our grief. Yet for many reasons we shy away from saying anything.
For Bereaved Mothers And Everyone Else
This series is for you loss mama. I hope some of the things I share will resonate with you so you know you are not alone. The grieving mom’s club is is a mutually exclusive place that no one wants to be a part of yet it’s a place we know exactly what the other person is feeling because we’ve been there ourselves.
This series is also for everyone to get a better understanding of what a bereaved parent goes through. Many people have been touched by infant loss in some capacity. Whether you had a family member, co-worker or friend that’s gone through a miscarriage or death, I hope this helps you know what to say or do, and not do. I think one of the reason’s people don’t talk about this is because they want to do something but don’t want to do the wrong thing.
I also want to share my story because of the reasons behind my daughter’s death. I had a difficult pregnancy with her and there was not much information out there about my condition. Doctor’s varied with how to treat me and it was difficult to know what to do. In some ways there wasn’t anything that could be done but I still felt helpless. Can you imagine wanting to do whatever it takes to save your baby but not getting sound advice from your doctors. This journey taught me two things, how to advocate for myself and to rely and trust God.
Without getting too far ahead of myself I do want to say that in the end of this whole difficult situation there came beauty from ashes. For now today’s post will start at the beginning of Rena’s life with my pregnancy.
I carried Rena for 21 weeks plus 1 day. Her life inside of me started off different than my other two pregnancies. With Lorenzo, my oldest and Baela, my youngest at the time, I knew I was pregnant right away because I felt different even before I took a pregnancy test. My symptoms just kicked in from day 1. With Rena, I didn’t even know I was pregnant until about 6-7 weeks along because I felt like my usual self. I took a test later than I had with my other two and that was the only way knew I was expecting. To be honest even after getting positive test results there were times I forgot I was pregnant because just didn’t feel it.
It wasn’t until about 8 weeks in that I finally felt like I had a bun in the oven, and when the symptoms came, they came with a vengeance. I had typical fatigue and nausea with Lorenzo and Baela, but this time I was knocked off my feet. Normally I enjoyed being pregnant, but not so much with this one. I lost almost 10 pounds because of extreme nausea and just wanted to sleep all day. I guessed I was having a girl though because, even though I didn’t have it this bad with Baela, there were some similarities between those 2 pregnancies.
At about 12 weeks I learned I had a subchorionic hematoma/hemorrhage after I started to have light bleeding. I thought I was having a miscarriage and called my midwife. They brought me in for an ultrasound and found the culprit to my bleeding. I never had heard of this before but SCH or Subchorionic Hematoma is a gathering of blood between the membranes of the placenta and the uterus. Most doctors call it a blood clot. It occurs in only 1% of pregnancies, yet is one of the most common ultrasound abnormalities.
Doctors believe it can happen in more women though because blood clots form quite often in pregnancy and a mother may have it without realizing it. Actual diagnosis only occurs if a woman shows signs of an sch, which is typically bleeding, or if they have an ultrasound for other reasons. An sch can either bleed out, not bleed out, can shrink and go away or grow in size. It basically has a mind of it’s own and every woman’s experience can differ. There is not much medical research on this condition and doctors vary on their opinions for treatment. Some prescribe bed rest, others say “take it easy.” Most doctors take a wait and see approach because usually the sch goes away by 20 weeks, don’t increase risk of miscarriage, and do not harm the baby. However there is a 1-3% chance of pregnancy loss. Comforting statistic when one is first diagnosed, not so comforting when you’re on the wrong side of that stat.
My SCH was actually detected at my first ultrasound but I was never told about it because it was so small. I ended up leaving my midwife because it didn’t sit well with me that I wasn’t told about the SCH from the beginning. I found a new doctor I trusted and she was much more supportive and informative about my diagnosis. In the end there wasn’t much that could be done to treat the clot though. I was told since I was just spotting I didn’t have to do anything special. I continued to take care of my 2 and 4 year old as normal, along with exercising, and lifting heavy things.
The bleeding went away after a day or two and I moved on with the pregnancy. I was finally out of the first trimester slump by week 14 and was looking forward to the 2nd trimester joy. The weather was getting nicer, I was feeling better, life was good and busy. As it may be with being pregnant with a 3rd child, often times I felt taking care of Lorenzo and Baela overshadowed this pregnancy. I really hadn’t taken time to absorb and enjoy being pregnant. Perhaps it was the sickness, perhaps it was because I lost so much weight and wasn’t looking pregnant. Eventually the sch robbed me of enjoying being pregnant.
At week 16 I had my first “big bleed,” a term many sch mama’s use. Panic and fear set in and so began the roller coaster ride. Week 16-21 were the hardest weeks. I thought the first trimester was rough, but this was far worse. Bleeding gradually increased during these weeks, along with sleepless nights with calls to the doctor, pain, fatigue, and ultrasounds. There were days where it felt like the bleeding was getting less, and then there were times it got worse. I dreaded going to the bathroom because that is when I’d see the blood. I was emotionally spent and felt so weak. This whole time it was Rena who was strong with her heart beat.
My doctors continued to say there wasn’t much that could be done however because studies showed there was no benefit to bed rest. There was nothing I could take to get rid of the blood clot. All I could do was pray and put my hope and trust in God. At times I felt solid in my faith, but other times I felt unstable. But I thanked Him with every bump-bump I heard on the doppler and little flutter I felt.
Since I was getting little direction from my doctor I took it upon myself to get educated from others who have dealt with an SCH. I found a great online SCH support group on Baby Center. We shared our struggles of this whole ordeal and also shared tips from our doctors. Some ladies had doctors who told them to go on bedrest, while others did not. Some doctors seemed more informed about what an SCH was while others didn’t. I also learned that drinking tons of water, eating kale and taking Vitamin C helped. Around week 19, after 3 weeks of bleeding and learning from other women, I took it upon myself to go on bed rest, drink as much water as possible and just take it easy.
Vince stepped in to play triple duty of being dad, mom, and full-time worker. My parents filled in, along with friends, to watch the kids, grocery shop, clean, provide meals and do laundry. I pretty much moved from my bed, to couch, to recliner. It hurt to stand and ached to sit. I drank tons of water to stay hydrated but that caused me to frequent the bathroom, which I dreaded because that’s when I saw all the blood.
I desperately missed taking care of and playing with Lorenzo and Baela. I had to miss Lorenzo’s 4k graduation due to an emergency trip to the hospital. The children, understandably so, had a hard time having an out of commission mommy. This blood clot basically was effecting many facets of our lives. And oh yeah, I had to remind myself I was pregnant with a baby and not an sch, though I spent more time reading up on an sch than picking out baby names. Yet through it all Rena was alive and well. Her heartbeat was strong and she swam around in me as if she had no idea of what was going on around her. At the same time, because of all of the things going on with the bleeding, her movements did not feel the same as a baby normally does. I sometimes felt those magic flutters, but most of the time baby movement was infrequent or it hurt.
Right before my 20th week and the day before my big gender reveal scan I had a very rough night, but finally it felt like I passed a large clot. Many women with an SCH reported this happening. I was on cloud 9 thinking the stupid thing was out of me. The next day at my ultra sound it was confirmed my SCH was gone. We also found out we were indeed having a girl and she was healthy. We were praising the Lord and I thought my struggles were done. Time to move on and enjoy the rest of the pregnancy.
We were warned that because of the heavy bleeding my amniotic sac may be weakened and I was at risk for my water breaking early. I chose to ignore that possibility however. I didn’t think it could really happen because that statistics were pretty low of it actually occuring.
It turned out though my womb was quite sick. The day before my 21st week I had another big bleed and even more pain. Since we thought the sch had finally resolved I was very surprised that this was happening. We went to the hospital and were saddened by what the doctors found, my amniotic sac had ruptured and my fluid was at a level of 1.5, on a scale of 1-12 where 12 is the highest.
Hoping For the Best But Experienced The Worst
Rena still had a strong heartbeat. We were told about pprom, premature rupture of membranes, possible placenta abruption, that if I went into labor between now and 23 weeks nothing could be done, that I was at risk of infection. We were offered the option to induce labor to end the pregnancy or wait it out. I wasn’t going to end her life.
Feeling hopeful that I could stick it out another 2 weeks to reach viability, and because Rena was not under any stress we decided to wait it out. They kept me in the hospital until my bleeding stabilized. They put me on an IV to pump me full of fluids to help build up my amniotic levels. Looking back though seeing Rena swim around the week before to seeing her with very little fluid, I could tell things were not good.
The next evening, I asked for a sleeping pill and pain medication. Hearing newborn babies cry from down the hall saddened me and I wanted to get a good night’s sleep. I was just exhausted. During this time Vince read me scripture about God’s hope to help encourage me. I was not giving up on Rena though but I did cry out to God that I couldn’t do this anymore and asked Him to give me relief.
As we settled in for the night the pain increased. I was rather out of it, and Vince came to my side. A nurse quietly stayed in our room. I was in and out of sleep while I breathed through the pain. What I didn’t realized was that I was actually in labor. It turned out not only had my water broke but I also had another undetected SCH behind my placenta which caused that to rip away and as a result I gave birth to Rena. I didn’t even know it had happened until the doctor gently told us. We were shocked, sad, relieved, and unsure of what to do.
The nurses asked if we had a name. We had a name in mind but quickly decided we wanted something different. I told Vince to find a name that meant peace. As odd as it sounded I felt at peace. He read off a list and came across Rena. I had always liked that name so we selected that. My grandma’s name was Irene and thought it was close to her name. A nurse asked if we wanted to hold her and she brought out a perfect 14 ounce baby wrapped in a blanket. We each held her and gazed at her perfect peacefulness and realized her name was perfect for her. I don’t know how much time passed as we held her but her face, with the most intricate details, are forever etched in my mind.
There is more to Rena than the 21 weeks plus 1 day she lived in me. I didn’t want to lose her and would give anything to hold her like I did with my other children. The SCH overshadowed so much of this pregnancy. Ironically though the day she was born was the day my real love for her was born. I finally got to know her and her purpose and it just filled my heart. I love Jesus and do not need to see Him to know that my love for Him is alive in my heart. The same holds true for my baby Rena. It was this understanding that got me through those first few days and a realization that still rings true to me today.
The next day I wrote her memorium in the hospital. I never thought I’d have to write my child’s obituary, and I pray I won’t have to again, yet it’s one of my most favorite writings. To close this post I will share it here:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.–John 14:27
God’s creation perfectly cradled in peace. Baby Rena entered this world and straight into the arms of God on Thursday June 18th at 3:30 am. Around midnight I started to have mild cramping, but over time it became more and more intense. Vince and I assumed it was just another episode of blood clotting. A nurse stayed with us the entire time. She nor the doctor ever mentioned the fact that I was really in labor. I am thankful for that since I didn’t have to deal with the fear of losing her while I was working through the pain. I got up to get to use the bathroom and all of sudden she came. I still did not realize it had happened when the nurse brought me back to bed. A doctor came in and told us she was born. They cleaned her off, wrapped her in a blanket and looked like an angel sleeping peacefully. Her name means peace, she is at peace, and peace is the purpose that God had for her. I praise God for her purpose. She brought peace to our family as it gave us time to reflect on our relationships between between each other and our children,realizing that we have been falling short with our love, interactions and attitudes. She brought peace in sparing me from further complications I could have faced. She brought peace to Lorenzo and Baela in allowing me to get back to normal functioning so they can have their mommy back. She brought peace to our friends and family through the testimony God created through her. Losing her is hard but we are grieving with hope knowing that she left a beautiful legacy and that she is is up in heaven. And for all of these things we praise the Lord.
May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thes 3:16)
If I could spell out some take away messages from this would be, even in tragedy God poured out his tender mercies on us. He used Rena to build our faith and mend broken relationships and habits and reach others. That was her purpose in life which leads to the other message I hope you gleam from this. Every lost baby has a purpose and leaves behind a legacy. Knowing Rena’s purpose had greatly helped me mourn her loss because it helped me see her life. If you have not taken time, think about your baby and what he or she means to you and has taught you. It’s in those things their purpose lies. Reflect on those things and let their legacy and life bring you comfort.
As we move on in this journey I next want to share with you how we picked up the pieces from this whole mess. Please stay tuned.