I can’t express how hard this post is to write. But I have shared her whole life with you so far, and I can’t let her final chapter be any different. So even though this is gut wrenchingly painful to do, I am going to try my best to write about Anika’s twenty-first and final week of life. I want to remember and celebrate the good from this week as well as acknowledge the terrible. So please, bear with me.
Saturday I only got out of bed to take my bump day picture. I had a pretty bad chest cold and I was worried about what kind of stress coughing was going to put on my cervix. I really wanted to do all that I could to keep Anika safe.
After pouring hot water with honey and lemon all over me as well as chicken soup, David went out and got me straws. Having me on full bed rest was hard on both of us and frustration floated just below the surface. It was mixed with equal parts of worry and love. And little gestures like getting me straws so I could sip without spilling were so very appreciated.
Sunday was another quiet day. I again spent most of the day in bed, not wanting to risk any extra strain that moving to the couch might cause. David went out to grab things we needed and came back with cupcakes. He had remembered that a day or two earlier all I wanted was chocolate cake. It was yet another way that he showed how he wanted to make things as comfortable and happy as possible for me and Anika.
That day my niece Hannah came by to help out for a few days. David was working and Hannah was going to help me get food, keep the place from falling apart, and keep me company.
Monday morning I went for another ultrasound, it was super early in the morning. David helped me get ready and loaded me in the wheelchair, and we waited for my niece Mia to pick me up, David couldn’t go because he had to work. We gave Hannah the chance to sleep in while David and I both left. I didn’t know then that it would be my last chance to see my daughter healthy and safe within me. She was beautiful, I could see such familiarity in her profile, I imagined what she would look like when she was born this winter. My gorgeous angel. I was nervous about my cervix length, but they didn’t keep me after my appointment, so I took that to mean that everything was good. I was disappointed that Mia and Kaiden didn’t get to come in and see Anika. But I did get to share the pictures with them as well as text Anika’s dad with pictures and a little update. As soon as we were out of the clinic, I just wanted to get back home and back to bed so that I could keep my precious Anika as safe as possible.
I have to admit that the rest of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were really a blur of coughing, food and Lord of the Rings Online. I was feeling pretty good though and feeling a lot of wonderful kicks from Anika. I loved rubbing my belly and talking to her, telling her how loved she as and asking her to kick mommy or kick daddy. She never obeyed, and only kicked when she wanted to. I am so disappointed that David never got to feel her move.
Thursday morning at around 4am, I was woken by cramps. I knew the drill, they could be gas or bowel cramps, give it an hour before you panic. I was back asleep before I knew it… But at 5 I was woken again. They were pretty consistent and rather intense. I opened a contraction counter in one of my apps and woke David. They were still going at 5:45 and David made the decision that if they were still happening in another five minutes we’d go to the hospital. He woke Hannah to let her know what was going on and we got me into the wheelchair and then to the car. I was very thankful for the wheelchair and I thought that it would be really handy in a couple more months when I was really in labour.
We got to the Family Birthing Unit and they admitted me to triage and gave me medication to stop the pain and to hopefully stop the cramping which they had determined were in fact contractions. My mantra while I lay in that bed was “I will NOT lose Anika.” The contractions eased off and had stopped by early afternoon, but my cervix was very thin and the only thing keeping it shut was the stitch. They admitted me to a room. I was feeling better, and I thought that we would probably be going home on Friday. David slept beside me in a very uncomfortable convertible bed chair thing. I was so glad to have him there, but I really wished that he could be in the bed with me, holding me and letting both me and Anika feel his presence and support.
The contractions came back late Thursday night and lasted into Friday morning. I began to have a lot of mucous discharge, but no one seemed too worried about that. They had me go for an ultrasound on Friday and I had to laugh at Anika’s ability to kick me up by my ribs and hit me in my very full bladder at the same time! I didn’t get to see her, the hospital never lets us see the ultrasounds, and David wasn’t allowed in with me. After the ultrasound, the contractions came back, but for some reason I still held out hope that everything was going to be okay.
Saturday was the start of our twenty second week. It was the day I should have taken my 21 weeks Bump Day picture. I was feeling really good. I hadn’t had any contractions since the night before. I had slept pretty well, all things considered. They did another blood draw and checked my temperature like they had several times before since Thursday. But I guess I should have known that something was different when Doctor M, another doctor, and two nurses came in to talk to us. My white blood cell count was high, and the medication to control the contractions had been hiding a fever. We had to take out the cerclage. I had a uterine infection and things were not good for Anika or for me. This infection, if not taken care of would not only kill Anika but me as well.
They started me on two different antibiotics, and we were taken to another room with a bed that was built for birthing and could be moved around so that Doctor M could get a good angle to get at the stitch. They hooked me up to some stronger pain meds and I kept telling myself “I am NOT going to lose Anika”. But Doctor M’s face when she saw the stitch told a very different story. Part of my cervix had already torn, the infection was BAD. The amniotic sac was bulging around the stitch and there was no way to take the stitch out without breaking the sac. I didn’t want to do that. We briefly discussed waiting and going to the OR where they could adjust the table and hopefully have gravity help get the sac out of the way… But realistically, that wasn’t an option. So much more could go wrong in that hour and Anika still wouldn’t stand much of a chance, and they likely wouldn’t be able to get the infection under control with her still inside. I looked at David’s face and I knew that I couldn’t deny the reality of the situation anymore. I stared at the ceiling and tried to turn off my mind and emotions as my second daughter’s fate was sealed.
Doctor M had been at the hospital since 7am the day before and she didn’t feel that it would be safe for her to deliver Anika, and she introduced me to the doctor that would be taking over. They gave me a drug, this time to induce labour, and we waited. My sister Becky and brother in law Denis, as well as his brother who is a minister and my sister in law Valerie all showed up to support me. I had to let them know that we were beyond the point for hope and miracles. It was only a matter of time before Anika was going to be born… Three weeks too soon for minimum viability. My mouth was dry, and tasted of metal. I chewed ice chips and they continued to monitor my temperature. David went to get food after someone told him that it would be a while before things progressed. While he was gone, my skin began to feel like it was burning. My head was spinning and the contractions were becoming so much closer and more intense. The doctor checked me and told me it was time to start pushing. I refused. David wasn’t back. I was not about to deliver his baby when he wasn’t in the room. I had cold cloths on my face and neck in an attempt to cool me down. David came back and we cleared the room except David, Mary (who had been with us most of the day, and most of the time we had been there), the doctor and a nurse.
I felt like my skin was boiling off my body. I was so angry! I didn‘t want to feel anything… But I knew exactly what was happening, and I knew exactly what was coming. I have done this before. I prepared myself for the burst of completely unfair euphoria that accompanied the end of the birth and the end of my tiny daughter’s life. I know that it’s part of the body’s way of protecting itself and helping mothers forget the pain so that they are willing to endure this again to continue the species. But I already knew that we couldn’t go through this again.
It was 5:10 pm on September 17th. Anika Belle Peralty was born. There was no squawks of life, no cheers of congratulations. No reason to celebrate and that brief moment of endorphin induced euphoria passed and I was face to face with mortality and the fragility of life. They passed me my tiny daughter, all 13.1 oz. and 10 inches of her. Anika opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue. She moved her little hands and feet and I saw her tiny heart beating in her chest. My tiny baby. My family. The second chance that David and I had at traditional parenthood. I watched as she relaxed into me, and the life gently and peacefully left her. I held her close to me, my burning hot skin keeping her tiny body warm. She had big beautiful lips like her dad, and a ski jump nose like me. She was a beautiful blend of the two of us. She had long legs and long dainty hands. We dealt with the aftermath of the birth and trying to make sure that I was okay, and then we let family back in. Anika was baptized and held by two aunts, two uncles, a dear family member and one of my best friends and her husband. Just a small representation of the people who loved her, and wanted so much more for her. David and I kept her with us for six and a half hours before surrendering her to the funeral director.
There are no words to express the agony of losing a child. It is a fate no one should have to endure, especially not twice. I knew even before Anika was born that I can’t go through this again… But nothing prepared me for being told by our doctor that it is probably for the best that we not try again.
I stayed in the hospital until Sunday afternoon. They needed to see my temperature remaining good for 24 hours. The staff at the hospital were amazing this time around, just like they were with Lily less than a year ago. If I could have changed anything, knowing that I couldn’t change her fate, I would have changed the room(s) that we were in. I have been in contact with someone from the hospital about exactly that, making a compassionate room for couples dealing with late term losses. I would love to see a room created that still exists within labour & delivery with access to the amazingly compassionate staff, but that is either sound proofed or moved far enough away that you can’t hear the healthy baby cries or the joy of other families, a room without baby things in it, or pictures and posters on the walls, and a room with a bed where that mom and that dad can be together, holding each other in their pain.
We entered the hospital as three… but we left as two.
I have started a facebook group to support families dealing with a late term loss. If you or someone you know could benefit from such support, please click here.