As a newly licensed midwife, I would like to keep a written history of my births. In each case, I will change identifying details, including posting on days or months away from the birth itself. Birth stories are important historically, personally, and in advocacy work. This is one such story, from my perspective as a midwife and women’s healthcare provider.
She came into triage, not yet term, with vaginal bleeding. Regular and frequent contractions paused our conversation. Baby not moving, no heart tones. Bedside ultrasound confirmed the fetal demise. She calls her husband.
Crying, we moved her to the labor room. Trying to put in orders for morphine pain relief, the nurse calls out that she is feeling more pressure. Complete, +2 station.
I speak with her quickly about what is going to happen; though she is an experienced mother, this is new to her, and to me. She needs to push this baby out, and it is going to be difficult, but she is strong, and we will talk about all of this more afterward. The wonderful nurse asks if she wants the baby immediately, or if she should take her into the next room: the mom asks to see her after she is cleaned up.
Contracting again, I encourage her to push with this one. She looks me straight in the eye, pushes hard, and the head comes with shoulders quickly after. A fully developed baby girl emerges, eyes closed and skin pale. The nurse takes the baby to be ready for mom to hold.
The husband rushes into the room, immediately goes to the top of the bed and hugs her as she cries to him, “Baby, our baby is dead.”
After a difficult placenta delivery, she has changed gears to be angry and in control. She talks about how she needs to be strong for her other kids. The husband does not want to see the baby or talk about it. He leaves to bring up his mother-in-law for support. Calling a few minutes later, he says the mother-in-law does not want to come up, that she does not want to talk about it yet.
I sit with her, telling her how important it is to know that this was not her fault, there was nothing she could have done differently, that it is okay to be sad and angry. She just shakes her head, staring blankly, asking aloud why this would have happened.
The nurse brings the baby into the room, describing that her skin is peeled and the bones around her brain are loose, just so the mom is not surprised when she notices. The nurse asks if she needs anything, and the patient says, “I’m okay.” The nurse leaves.
I ask if she wants to be alone, and she says, “I’m okay.” I hesitate, and as I stand up to leave, she starts to ask a few questions. We sit together, and I encourage her to look at and touch her baby as much as she wants. To unwrap the blankets and hold her however she wants. I help her, carefully pulling the blankets away from the frail skin. We spend a long time, touching her hands, admiring her long hair, telling her how beautiful she is. She called the baby by the name she had picked, kissed her on the face, and held her close. I tell her how strong she was to be able to do what she did. She says she doesn’t know how to feel, how to act, that she was supposed to have a baby and now she doesn’t. She does not feel strong, and I tell her she has more strength than she knows, and I see it in her. We hug and cry, and sit for a long time, quiet.