Our story really begins several years ago. My (then) boyfriend and I had been together for 3 years when I was involved in a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer. Even today, I thank my lucky stars to have only sustained orthopedic injuries. Yes, they were painful, even permanently disabling, but it could’ve been so much worse; after all, I’m still alive. It was during the many months of recovery that followed that I had my “epiphany.” Patrick stood by my side, unfailing in his loyalty, through it all. He was there to help me when I couldn’t help myself; he was there for me when I needed him the most. Prior to this point in our lives, I knew I loved him, but it wasn’t until I saw the sacrifices he made for me that I realized just how much I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Exactly one year after the accident, on June 3, 2006, I proudly walked down the aisle to marry my best friend.
Now, fast forward a few years. It was early January 2010 when I began to wonder. I hadn’t been feeling right since Christmas and thought I might be coming down with something. But then I realized I was a few days late. Believing I had miscalculated, I waited a few more days before finally decided to buy a home pregnancy test. Tears of joy streamed down my face when I saw the word “pregnant” in the window. I was undeniably happy and scared at the same time. I wanted so badly to call my husband and yell “I’m pregnant!” into the phone, but decided against it. I wanted to see his expression when I told him he was going to be a daddy, so I chose to wait until he got home from work. In the mean time, simply because I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I emailed one of my best friends. I don’t think I actually said the exact words, but she knew anyway. Finally someone knew my secret (keep in mind that all this has taken place in less than 30 minutes of getting the results)! What a relief! Now, what was I supposed to do for the next five hours? By the time Patrick got home, I had cleaned every inch of our house, all 3000+ square feet of it. But, I still didn’t tell him…I couldn’t find the right way to say it. Instead I tell him I have something for him and ask him if he wants it now. When he says yes, I hand him the test. His expression was priceless; his face was completely blank and then he flashed me a huge grin…even his eyes smiled. He was happy; he was going to be a dad.
Everything went as planned from the get go. We had our first ultrasound at 10 weeks to confirm the age of the pregnancy. Everything looked great, right on schedule. The only hiccup we experienced that early on was being told I had the “little c” antibody in my blood. This particular antibody, I would later learn, was most likely introduced when I had a blood transfusion after the accident. However, after testing my husband’s blood, the doctor told us we had nothing to worry about. Shortly before our planned “babymoon”, we went to our anatomy ultrasound. At this point, I was exactly halfway through my pregnancy and felt great! It had been pretty easy so far, thankfully. It wasn’t surprising that the baby didn’t want to cooperate. He or she was already very active. But, after finally getting the required measurements and pictures, the baby decided it was time to give us the money shot…we were having a girl. It was during our trip we decided to name her Addison Breann or Addie for short. We started to decide on colors and decorations for the nursery, and making lists of gear and other essentials, everything new parents do. We were so excited, so ready to meet her.
As time passed, I looked at her ultrasound pictures often, imagining what she would look like. Did she have my nose? Her daddy’s one dimple? His long fingers and toes? Oh, I couldn’t wait! It was driving me nuts! My wish was granted, in a way, when we chose to have a 4D ultrasound. I was 31 weeks pregnant and Addie was as active as ever. It took the tech a long time to get a good picture because she was squirming around so much. But, finally, there was her beautiful face on the screen. Addie had my nose and chubby cheeks; she had her daddy’s lips and chin. She was gorgeous! So perfect. She even had her hand curled under her chin, almost as if she was pondering something. Now I REALLY couldn’t wait to meet her! These last few weeks couldn’t go by fast enough!
But, instead they crawled by. I was getting very antsy. Not only was I ready to meet her, but I was also just plain miserable. The DC metro area was experiencing the hottest summer on record and here I was 8 ½ months pregnant. I lived in the air conditioning. And, when I wasn’t indoors, I was in some sort of water, be it a pool, lake or river. My husband and I were patiently waiting for Addie to make her arrival (well, I was TRYING to be patient). We had finished buying all the gear and clothing we thought we would need, took a child-birth education class, and cleaned the house top to bottom. We were ready. My weekly doctor appointments had become routine. Every week I waited eagerly to hear her fluttering heart and was happy when the doctor would say that everything was right on schedule and looking good. On August 20, 2010, I went to what would be my last prenatal appointment. I waited anxiously for the nurse practitioner to find Addie’s heartbeat. Lately, she had slowed down quite a bit, not moving or kicking as much. I mentioned this to the NP, who, in turn, asked if I was still getting good results for my kick counts, which I was. With the sound of her racing heartbeat (mingled with my sigh of relief) in the background the NP said it was normal for babies to slow down. After all, at almost 39 weeks, she was running out of room.
The weekend went by quickly, as did Monday and Tuesday. Between working and doing last-minute stuff to prepare for her arrival, I didn’t have a lot of time to stop, despite my lack of energy. Every once in a while I’d feel a nudge or squirm, usually combined with a contraction. I knew it was getting close. The last thing I remember before falling asleep Tuesday night was feeling Addie move just slightly. The morning of August 25, 2010 began as usual. I got up and showered, hoping to wake myself up. Nights weren’t very restful for me anymore, but I knew I had to get used to it. Since I was off, I had plans to give the house one last good scrub, if I had the energy. I was cleaning up after breakfast when I realized I hadn’t felt Addie move yet. She wasn’t normally active until mid afternoon, but I usually felt her move a few times, especially right after I ate. I waited an hour, hoping for something; jiggling my belly, poking and prodding her little bum trying to get her to move. Still, she wouldn’t budge. I was 9am when I got through to my doctor’s office. I explained to the nurse practitioner what was going on and answered all of her questions. She then told me she would call me right back after she spoke with my doctor. So, in the mean time, I call my husband. I’m trying not to freak out but I can’t help it. He tells me he is on his way back to his office and then will come home. I tell him I’m still waiting for instructions from the doctor and he says he’s coming home anyway and to text him with the info when I get it. 10 long minutes pass before the phone rings again. It’s the nurse practitioner and she tells me to go straight to Labor and Delivery at the hospital. Through my tears I send a text message to Patrick and walk out the door. On the way to the hospital, my mom calls to say she’ll meet me there but she’s still 25 minutes out. Patrick had called her and asked her to meet me since he was still 45 minutes from home. Alone, I walked into Labor and Delivery, more scared than I have ever been in my life. The nurse took my ID and insurance, weighed me and asked for a urine sample. After I was done, I was taken to a bed behind the nurse’s station and started to hook me up to monitors. The nurse was just beginning to look for a heartbeat when I was told that both my mom and husband had arrived. Patrick was brought back to where I was. They had found a heartbeat but weren’t sure if it was mine or Addie’s. So, they decided to do an ultrasound. The nurses led us to a different room and called the on duty doctor from my practice. In the meantime the charge nurse was starting the ultrasound. She wouldn’t let us see the screen. After what seemed like forever she said “Let’s wait for the doctor.” I begged her to tell me; pleaded with her not to make us wait. Finally, quietly, she said, “I don’t see a heartbeat.” Time just stopped. I sobbed. Patrick sobbed. We held on to each other so tightly I couldn’t breathe (or was it just the pain that made it hard to breathe?). We waited for the doctor. The doctor slipped into the room, asked me to lie down and squeezed more jelly on my stomach. He studied the screen for a long time. He confirmed our worst fears, using words I will never forget, “I see no cardiac activity,” and turns the machine off. My mother is brought in as the medical staff leaves. We can barely speak those terrible words. The charge nurse returns a few minutes (hours?) later to late us know the doctor wants to speak with us again. After expressing his condolences, he starts saying things like fetal demise, unknown causes, induction, drawing blood, pathology tests. I really can’t focus. The doctor leaves again to give us some time to make a decision (what decision?). Patrick then tells me that we have a choice; we can start the induction today, right now, or we can come back in the morning. Regardless of what we chose, the doctor had already ordered a battery of tests in hopes of finding out what happened. After deciding to go home and return in the morning, we were led to a private room in the Mother-Baby wing of the maternity ward to await the lab tech. I don’t remember much about being in that room. Someone handed me some papers and gave us instructions for the next day. I barely remember the lab tech coming in for the blood draw but was told later that she filled about 15 vials. The next thing I clearly remember is being in my driveway and nearly hitting my father in law as I opened my car door. We spent the rest of the day surrounded by our family, grieving the loss of a little girl we never got the chance to meet. That night I cried myself to sleep in the arms of my husband, knowing I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my daughter.
Addison Breann arrived in this world silently, never a chance to raise her voice. She was born shortly before midnight on August 27, 2010. After 30+ hours of labor and 2 ½ hours of pushing with no progress, I reluctantly agreed to a c-section. I was exhausted, both mentally and physically. Addie was a big girl, measuring 11 pounds and 22 inches long (her weight, we later found out, was partially due to fluid that had built up in her little body). She was beautiful, though, looked exactly like the 4D sonogram pictures we had of her. I never wanted to let her go.
I consider us lucky to know why she died; I know a lot of parents never find out unless the cause of death is blatantly obvious, like a cord accident. Although the autopsy and pathology reports aren’t conclusive, the doctors are 99% sure her death was caused by two factors: antibody isoimmunization (similar to Rh disease) and CVM. The day after we received these results, we held her memorial service in our backyard. On September 25, 2010, surrounded by family and friends, we said goodbye to our daughter, our first-born, our little butterfly.
It has taken me a long time to be able to sit down and write Addie’s story. I’ve realized that, although I wish I could go back and change the outcome, I don’t regret any part of my experience. I wouldn’t trade the time I had with my daughter for any amount of money in the world. I will always cherish the memories I have, like the first time I felt her move or how her daddy used to call her his little MMA champ when she would kick the crap out of me. I miss my daughter. Thankfully, though, future pregnancies aren’t out of the question. My doctor says we should try again, that what cause Addie’s death is treatable. Now we know what to look for. My husband and I have discussed it at length. We know we’re not ready to give up yet. We want to be parents no matter what it takes. We know the risks, we know this could happen again, but we just aren’t ready to quit. This isn’t the first time our strength and relationship has been tested and it probably won’t be the last. In tragedy, we have grown closer. If we can survive this, I know in my heart we can survive anything together.
I never thought I would be the mother of a stillborn child, but here I am. And you know what? As much as I miss my Addie, I’m proud to say it; proud to call myself her mom.