Born Too Soon

I used to watch sports and say, “Can you imagine making a living…playing a game? How awesome is that!” Yet I do believe that my job is infinitely cooler. I get the privilege of playing a role in the most important and transforming time of a person(s) life!! I get to see a life enter the world and see that little person take their first breath, see their mother for the first time…help introduce them to the world! It’s truly magical…and it’s what I call my “job”. That word seems like a joke to me…it’s not my job, it’s my life…and my honor.

However, as wonderful as my job is…I also, unfortunately, have had to play a role in some family’s worst day ever as their nightmare unfolds. This is the part that people don’t even think about when they think of what I have chosen to do for a living. I don’t blame them…I don’t want to think about it either! But the reality is there – not all stories have happy endings.

(the following is shared with permission from the generous family)

Monica was 22 weeks pregnant when she started having some spotting. This was her first pregnancy (they had an adopted son already) and I was only her doula – this was a planned hospital birth. She called me unconcerned and just to let me know. I advised her that at this gestation that was not okay and not necessarily normal and she needed to call her doctor who would want to see her at the hospital. This is exactly what happened, so I met them at the hospital.

When I got there, Monica was already in her room waiting for the doctor to arrive. The nurse said that the doctor would come in, do a “spec exam” (where we visually look at the cervix with a speculum) and would “confirm if what I felt is what I felt…”

I asked her what she thought she felt…she just shook her head and walked away. That worried me and got me on ‘high alert’. I explained to Monica what was going to happen, that they would use a speculum, etc. I also went into detail about what would happen if she was effacing or dilating this early because things would happen quickly and I wanted her to understand what might happen.

The doctor came in, inserted the speculum as I peered over her shoulder…and we both saw her 100% effaced and 3 cm dilated cervix. My heart sank into my stomach and I looked up between her legs to see the mom looking down for my reaction – unfortunately, my face told her everything and she began to cry.

She was immediately hooked up to Magnesium Sulfate, put in a position so her head was lower on the bed than her feet, and we prepared to helicopter her out of this hospital (that doesn’t have a NICU) to a hospital a few miles away that is prepared to deal with such complications.

cervix with cerclage

The next 2 weeks were a roller coaster…she continued to dilate despite multiple medications until she was 5cm dilated with membranes bulging almost to the vaginal opening. A VERY talented perinatologist used a foley catheter bulb to push the membranes back up inside the uterus and put a cerclage into her cervix! An amnio was performed which showed that there was a low level bacterial infection in the amniotic fluid. Monica was put on antibiotics.

Then her water broke. I had been at the hospital absolutely every free moment I had throughout these 2 weeks – riding the ups and downs with her. The goal at this point was to get to 24 weeks, get to a point that we might be able to save the baby. At 23 weeks and 5 days

cerclage seen at top

another amnio revealed the infection remained – and fear for the mother’s health caused them to decide that they had gone on as long as they could. It was time to get the baby out.

The removed the cerclage and began Pitocin. Very soon after, the terrified mother requested and received an epidural. The fetal monitor was not used – and I think that was very hard on everyone. (the baby had a very very low chance of survival…but if they saw signs that the baby was in trouble on the monitor then they would be obligated to perform a cesarean on a 23 week uterus for a baby that it was not likely to help…endangering the mother’s future pregnancies.)

And we waited….until she was fully dilated. And this brave mother began pushing. A tiny little head, much too small to be born, came into view. Monica cried as she pushed her tiny daughter out, unsure if she would be born alive or dead.

As soon as the baby was out I saw her wriggling…I said to Monica, “Look down! She’s out…look at your daughter, she’s beautiful…” Monica looked down between her legs as she whisked her teeny baby over to the warmer to intubate. As they lay her down into the warmer, I saw that she was trying to cry…so I said to Monica, “LISTEN! Can you hear her…listen!!” The entire room became silent and nobody moved…and a tiny little ‘mew’ snuck out. Upon hearing her daughter, Monica sobbed…and that signaled the room into life-saving mode once more.

Almost 15 minutes they worked to intubate this little girl…but they finally got it in. Monica got to kiss her hand before they put her into the incubator and wheeled her up to the NICU.  She was weighed….1 pound 2 ounces.

Monica birthed her placenta 4 hours after the birth…a tiny placenta that represented a fraction of what it aspired to be. The baby was hooked up to all of the machines and bells and whistles in this state of the art hospital….and she fought.

Monica's hand with Jackie

On the second day they performed a cranial ultrasound that showed bleeding…this was worst case scenario. That was the news they feared, and they now knew that she wasn’t going to make it. They called me in the middle of the night with the news that she would be gone soon and I rushed down to the hospital. They were still in the NICU…all the wires had been unhooked so that mom and dad could spend her last bit of time loving her. The neonatologist observed, monitoring occasionally, waiting for the baby to pass. We all cried…holding her….until finally the neonatologist listened to the baby’s chest, looked at me, and shook her head ‘no’.

I leaned in to the parents and said words that were physically painful for me to say…”She’s gone now.”

Me holding Jackie

We spent the rest of the evening with her in a ‘family bonding’ room, holding her, dressing her, grieving her. She was born September 11th, died September 13th, and was buried September 18th.

I will never forget baby Jackie…she may have only been in our lives for 2 days, but she will effect me for the rest of my life.

**FOLLOW UP**

A year later I would attend the birth baby Jackie’s beautifully full term brother, followed by their sister! Beautiful births that I was honored to attend. I am grateful to the family for allowing me to be a part of their lives…and grateful to Jackie for the many gifts she gave to us in her too short time in this world.

14 Comments

  1. Jessica Brovitch wrote:

    beautifully touching! I am so glad they were blessed with more children.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink
  2. Amy Drorbaugh wrote:

    Those moments together are so precious, no matter how short they are. My daughter was stillborn and the hours we spent as a family together are still some of my most beautiful moments. Thanks to the family for sharing their daughter with us.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  3. Shari wrote:

    Thanks for sharing Jackie’s story and thanks to the family for allowing you to do so. Very touching. What was her size at birth?

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  4. elfanie wrote:

    WHOOPS! Thank you for asking, Shari….I edited to include it into the post – she was 1 pound 2 ounces.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  5. Kolleen wrote:

    WOW…how sad..touching…valuable. Moments like those have to be treasured. What a beautiful story. So glad they let you share. And so glad they went on to have more babies!!

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Permalink
  6. Great story about a tragic situation. I’m glad you could be there to help her through that, and I hope she is able to have more success in a future pregnancy.

    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  7. Rebekah C wrote:

    There just aren’t words, are there?

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink
  8. Sara wrote:

    I read this the other day and had to come back and comment.

    My whole life I knew that my mother had a set of twin girls that she lost at 24 weeks before my sister and I were born (another set of twins!). My mother never talked about it much, and I guess I had never really visualized their little bodies. During my pregnancy I thought about them a lot since my mother had two premature births- them and my sister and I at 31 weeks. When I read this it made me so sad for several reasons- the reality of their little almost totally formed bodies…I saw them as little people for the first time. And then I asked my mom about them and she told me that she never saw them- the doctor that delivered them was of the opinion that “putting it behind you” was the best way. One was born alive and one died during delivery…and all she has is the tiny footprints of the one that lived for a short period of time. It makes me feel like their little bodies were just disregarded as if they weren’t human.
    Anyway, I’m glad that the mother that you were with had wonderful support and was able to really meet and say goodbye to her baby. My mother regrets now that she didn’t have that opportunity, and I also am saddened by never knowing my twin sisters or having anything to remember them by.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  9. Stacy wrote:

    I lost two babies also, one at 21weeks and it was a boy and the other one at 22 week and she was a girl also. My story was the same way and it hurts so much. I really want to have another baby, but am so scared that i would go throw the same thing over again.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Permalink
  10. Anna Cekstan wrote:

    This made me cry from the bottom of my heart. I gave birth to my son at 26w6d, and after 82 days of NICU, we were able to take him home. He is not seven month, 18lbs, smiling and giggling…I count my blessing, as I know the difference between live and death is very small at that point. It was hell to give birth so early and to be forced to push knowing your child could be born dead…knowing your child should not be born then, and still…not being able to keep him in. I will never forget that feeling of despair and helplesness-trying to keep him in and not being able to do so! My heart goes out to all families who lost babies due to preterm labor.I pray for them, and always will for all preterm babies and their families.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 6:26 am | Permalink
  11. ENEYDA wrote:

    I COULD NOT STOP CRYING! I MYSELF HAD A MISCARRIAGE BACK IN DECEMBER 2007. IT WAS SCARY & TERRIFYING BUT I WAS YOUNG. I BECAME VERY SAD BECAUSE I KNEW IT WAS AN INNOCENT LIFE WHO LOST THE BATTLE. I DONT HAVE ANY KIDS RIGHT NOW & DON’T PLAN TO UNTILL I FINISH MY CAREER. CURRENTLY TRYING TO GET INTO THE BSN PROGRAM AT CSU SAN BERNANDINO THEN FROM THERE GET MY MASTERS IN MIDWIFERY & EVENTUALLY MY DOCTORATE DEGREE IN MIDWIFERY! I AM VERY EXCITED TO BECOMEA PART OF A MOTHERS LIFE IN THIS WAY. I CANT WAIT TO HAVE MY LIFE BASED ON HELPING MOMS BRING LIFE TO THIS PLANET. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING. BABY ANGLE JACKIE IS IN HEAVEN NOW! GOD BLESS…

    Friday, September 23, 2011 at 12:02 am | Permalink
  12. Candice wrote:

    Thank you for sharing Jackie’s story. It was very brave of you to do, so touching (I cried all the way through) I’m so sorry for your family’s loss, So, tiny and delicate she was beautiful.

    Friday, November 25, 2011 at 1:14 am | Permalink
  13. Katie wrote:

    Such a touching story. I THANK YOU for the viewing of the photos. I found this page on a search of what a 3cm dialated cervix looks like. Instead, I found a story so similar to my own. I went into labor at 22 weeks and didn’t know it (Just had cramping). I went to the hospital and was 3cm. I was dismissed since the hospital doesn’t try to save babies under 24 weeks. I went to another local area hospital where they took me in and did everything they could to save my daughter. At 23w6d I was so very sick with an infection that was taking over. I had an emergency c section. My 1lb daughter was born. She was in the NICU for 3 months before coming home at 37 weeks gestation. I wish things were different for this story. I send my love to this family.

    Monday, July 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink
  14. 10+ years later and I miss Jackie just like it was today. Thank you Stephanie for keeping those two days alive for me. I don’t ever want to forget what a blessing Jacqueline Michelle Weaver is our lives.
    Sincerely,
    Michael, Monica, Kevin, Matthew, Isabella, and Rebecca Weaver

    Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

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