Our Story – Told by Crystal
In honor of October being national pregnancy and infant loss awareness month and also some coaxing from a few family members I have decided it’s time to write down our story. I have yet to do it for one simple reason. It still hurts. For months I’ve tried to push it out of my mind but I feel like it’s time. I will try to make this as short as possible but I fear it won’t be because there are details that just can’t be left out.
Our tragic story starts exactly 8 months from today…
Up until reaching 33 weeks my pregnancy had been great. Super easy with very little to no symptoms. I never had morning sickness with her and the heartburn everyone talks about? I was never lucky enough to experience that either. On Feb 11 I started noticing strange discharge when I went to the bathroom. It didn’t look normal and at first I thought it was my mucus plug. I researched everything I could find on the internet which of course is a always a bad idea. I decided it was best to go to the doctor just in case. I called the doctors office and they suggested I come in to just make sure that it wasn’t signs of pre term labor. Upon arriving at the doctors they did a few tests and it was determined I had a bacteria infection. They prescribed me some meds and we went home. I had been experiencing braxton hicks for a few weeks now and they had started to become familiar for me. After a few hours of being home though they became more frequent. They started off just normal but then before I knew it were becoming increasingly uncomfortable. Once again doing some research, I found that taking medicine for bacterial infections can cause you to cramp painfully. Not thinking anything of it Zach and I carried on with our night. We ate dinner and sat down to watch some TV but the pain progressively got worse. Zach mentioned going to the ER and of course I told him no. I refused to be that women that made a small thing into a huge deal. He kept insisting, I kept turning him down. We went to bed for the night and while he quickly fell asleep I lay awake in pain. They started to be like clock work every few minutes a part. I got in the shower thinking it would help the pain. It didn’t. I thought maybe it was gas so I tried going to the bathroom multiple times. It didn’t help. Well after midnight I called the after hours line and spoke to a doctor at the hospital. I told him what was going on. He said because of “my voice” he could tell I wasn’t in labor and that to take some benadryl so I could sleep and use a heat pad for the pain. I let about an hour go by, nothing was working. Around 2 am I went into the bedroom and woke Zach up. I told him I couldn’t take the pain anymore something wasn’t right and we needed to go to the ER. He called the after hours phone and got the same doctor and explained what was going on. At that point the doctor told us to come to the ER. We got in the freezing car and made the 10 mile drive to the hospital. Nobody was on the road and the snow was falling lightly. I sat there clutching the side of the car with every contraction wishing we could go faster. We couldn’t, the roads were incredibly slick. We got to the ER and someone mentioned that tonight was the night for deliveries. They called in for a wheelchair and said that we had “another one”. A nurse showed up minutes later with a wheelchair to wheel me to the labor and delivery floor. Getting checked in was of course an ordeal. I clutched the counter with each contraction as they asked me questions nonchalantly like I wasn’t in any pain at all. Zach answered them to hurry the process along. After getting checked in they put us in a room and asked me to pee in a cup so they could check my urine to make sure that the pain I was experiencing wasn’t due to the infection. They then hooked me up the monitor to check Averie’s heart beat. The thump, thump, thump came over the monitor. It was still there and strong…I felt a wave of relief. The doctor came in with an ultra sound machine and while looking asked me if my water had broke. I told him I didn’t think it had. He said the amniotic fluid was low. At this point I will admit things got kind of hazy. There was mention of giving me something to postpone labor and I believe a shot to help with the development of Averie’s lungs. She was breach so a natural birth wasn’t going to happen. Then there was also talk of a c-section. I just started to cry. I grabbed on to Zach. The nurse asked me very sweetly “what’s wrong” and I replied simply “I’m scared”. The doctor checked me to see if I was dilated and it was decided I would be getting an IV. Everyone that knows me knows I HATE iv’s. I asked the nurse if she could numb me first and she just said “we like to just do one quick prick”. She started putting the IV in my hand and that is when everything went haywire. I screamed from the pain of the needle and the contractions and before I knew it a flood of people were coming into the room. The nurse told me to flip over on my hands and knees. They had lost Averie’s heart beat. As I flipped over my glasses fell from my face. With each contraction a rush of liquid would drain from my body. Splashing down my legs, all over the bed. I had one nurse telling me to breath, breath deep for my baby. I remember just weeping holding on to Zach’s hand. The nurse that tried to do my IV was unsuccessful because of the loss of Averie’s heart beat. Another nurse grabbed a needle and shoved it into one of my veins on my left hand. I screamed and continued to sob. I kept asking “why can’t I hear her?” It was at that moment that an emergency c section had been made. Still on my hands and knees I remember asking “what’s taking so long?”. Before I knew it the anesthesiologist was in the room presenting me with paper work and asking questions about my prior health conditions. They gave Zach some stuff to suit up and started wheeling me to the operation room. The epidural went fast and before I knew it I was staring up at the sky with a sheet between me and the doctors. But Zach was nowhere to be seen and because my glasses had fell off back in the delivery room I was blind. Arms strapped out to my side I remember just staring at the blurry ceiling while the commotion went on on the other side of the sheet. Thank goodness for the kind anesthesiologist. He knew I was alone and scared so he did his best to tell me what was going on. I kept asking him “where is my husband” and he would say he didn’t know. I later found out Zach wasn’t allowed to come in. When it was evident that Averie had been pulled from my body I heard nothing. No cries nothing. I said to the kind man ” I can’t hear her! What’s wrong?” He told me she wasn’t breathing when they pulled her out and they were resuscitating her. The doctor was doing everything in his power to save our little girl. Before I knew it I had been sewn back up and was being wheeled to recovery. Somewhere along the way I saw my blurry husband in the middle of a blurry hall. He walked to the recovery room with me and told me he had seen Averie as they whisked her off to the NICU. We chatted with the nurses for a bit and then Zach was pulled into the other room by the neonotal doctor. A few minutes went by and Zach came back in saying he saw our little girl and the doctor said she was doing better. Zach said when he saw her she was moving around and he mentioned that she had my nose. With our sprits high we were wheeled back to the delivery room. A doctor came in to tell us that because of Averie’s condition they needed our consent to have her sent to the NICU unit in Syracuse about an hour away. They had a great facility there and she would get the best care. We were to wait and in a little while we would be taken back to her to see her before she left. At this point it was 6 am ET only 4 am in Utah where our family lives. I called my sister Vanessa and told her about our crazy night and that she was an aunt again. Averie was here early. Hours went by and nobody had come into the room to get us. I looked outside and the snow was falling. I thought, it is safe to take her in this weather? I was restless I wanted to see my baby girl I wanted to hold her. We sat there for about 4 hours before someone came into our room. In walked the neonatal doctor and the doctor that had driven up from Syracuse to take our little girl. It was at that point I felt something was wrong. They proceeded to tell us that Averie’s health had taken a turn for the worse. Our baby girl was showing no brain activity. We were then told that she would most likely not make the trip to Syracuse and would probably not make it over night. At some point during everything she had swallowed meconium. The doctor then explained if she did indeed make it she would be a vegetable for the rest of her life with multiple health problems. Zach and I had to make the hardest decision of our lives. To let our baby go. At this point I was numb. I couldn’t even cry. I remember just staring wide mouthed between the doctors and Zach. The doctor from Watertown walked up to me and looked me in the eyes and said “Mommy don’t blame yourself there was nothing you could have done to prevent this”. I kept thinking this cannot be real this cannot be real.They then told us we could go see her now. Everyone left the room for a short moment and I took Zach’s hand. We looked each other in the eyes and I said “We cannot let this break us. We have to be strong for Averie”. I called Vanessa the devastating news. They then wheeled me to the small NICU unit into this tiny room. Averie was lying there with tubes coming out of her in every direction. It was then that the tears really hit. Seeing our beautiful little girl so helpless. The Doctor from Syracuse kept telling us that she had been doing this for 20 years and that blah blah. I felt like she wanted us to hurry or something and say our goodbyes. I felt rushed. Zach and I sat in this tiny room holding our baby girl trying to take every part of her in. She didn’t have my nose. She had her daddy’s. She looked so much like him. At one point her eyes were opened and she had the darkest most beautiful deep blue eyes. They cleaned off her hair which was so blond and she had so much of it. As we held her we discussed our decision. Zach and I didn’t want her to suffer anymore we didn’t want to keep her alive just for us to be selfish and to have her. My phone rang while I looked down on our beautiful little girl and it was my best friend Ashley. I answered it to sobs on the other end. Vanessa had told her the horrible news. We sat on the phone together and just cried. The hospital staff called a photographer from As I Lay Me Down To Sleep. Their motto is: Providing the gift of remembrance photography for parents suffering the loss of a baby. We sat in that room for a few hours just holding her, being with her as the photographer took pictures. The hospital staff then got Averie cleaned up and put her in a cute pink outfit. They then disconnected her from all the machines that kept her alive. Zach and I took turns holding her, kissing her little nose and saying our goodbyes. I just remember holding her thinking “I can’t do this, I can’t do this”. Watching her gasp for air I felt like the worst parent on the planet. I believe she took her last breath in the arms of her daddy. When he handed her off to me that last time I knew her little soul was gone. They wrapped her up tightly in a blanket and put her in my arms and then wheeled me back to our room while Zach walked quietly beside me. I didn’t look up I didn’t want to see anyone and their sorrowful eyes. Once in the room they let us keep her and told us we could take as much time as we wanted with her. She was starting to get cold and very purple but I didn’t want to let her go. After 8 months she was finally in my arms. We decided to have the nurses take her away for a bit I was having a hard time seeing her that way. Hours passed while Zach watched TV and held my hand as I stared off at the wall. Vanessa had called me and told me she and my mother were on their way. Zach’s mom was on her way as well as our second family The Mullins. Everyone would be arriving the next day. Night time came and I told Zach I felt like we needed to say our final goodbyes to our sweet baby girl. I had been putting it off because I didn’t want to. Goodbye was so final. I didn’t want to think I wouldn’t get to hold her again or kiss her or smell her. The nurse brought her back in as well as a large warm blanket to keep her warm. I stared down at her and cried. I told her I loved her. I handed her to Zach and he did the same. The nurse came back in and took her away from us. We sat in our dark room holding each other. They gave me something to sleep but I didn’t want to sleep. I didn’t want to wake up to another day of knowing this nightmare was real. I hadn’t dreamt it. Because there were so many women that had had babies that night there wasn’t a special room for Zach and I to go to so we stayed in the delivery room.The nurses did as much as they could to make us feel comfortable. They were truly amazing. I remember in the dead of the night hearing the heartbeat of a healthy baby one room over as a mother delivered. Such a happy sound to them but a painful reminder for me.
The next day we were forced with reality. I wanted to leave the hospital because I couldn’t be there anymore. Despite just having had a c-section I made sure I passed all the tests they wanted me to do before they discharged me. I know most women stay for a few days or 3 but I couldn’t. Funeral arraignments had to be made before I could be discharged. Zach was amazing and so strong calling around to all the different funeral homes. He found one that would wave the “fee” since Averie was just a baby. Our families started showing up and once I saw my mother and my sister walk through the door I just cried. My mother rushed to my side and held me. She whispered through her tears “My baby”. Ruth and Sean walked in and more tears fell seeing these familiar faces that meant so much to us. They had flown such a long distance in such a short time to be with us. We feel so incredibly blessed to have such amazing family. Sometime that morning the very first nurse we had that had attempted to put my IV in me walked in our room. After I delivered the previous morning she had left because her shift was over. Having just heard of our news she walked in the room with tears in her eyes. She came over to me and hugged me and whispered “I’m sorry”. It was a very tender moment. We packed up my stuff I changed back into my pajamas I had on the day before and they wheeled me out of the room. With our family by our sides. The next few days would prove to be some of the hardest yet happiest times. But that’s for another day.
We chose not to have an autopsy done on Averie we didn’t like the idea of anyone cutting into her little body. They did send the placenta to a pathologist to see if they could determine the reason for everything. As it stands now it still remains a mystery. Although they found an infection in the placenta they can’t determine if the infection caused my pre term labor or if they pre term labor caused the infection. Either way the Doctor described it as a “freak accident”. I fought a long time with not having a reason for the way things happened. And even still I find myself thinking about it. Dwelling on it won’t bring our baby girl back to us and that is something I have to learn how to accept.
Since we will not be living in upstate New York forever we didn’t want to bury our baby here, and because the thought of sending her back to Utah away from us didn’t sit well either, we decided to have our baby girl cremated. Her beautiful urn sits in our living room along side other precious items the hospital staff so kindly gave us. A lock of her hair, her footprints and the clothes she wore in the hospital to name a few. They also took the sweetest pictures of her that we have up throughout our house. Friends and family sent us so many wonderful things as well. Someday we hope to find a spot for her in Utah where we will give her a headstone and a place for her ashes but for now she is just where she needs to be…with Mommy and Daddy.