Sisterhood of Angel Mama’s Magazine | Bereaved Parents Awareness Edition July 2022
Written & Photos by Abagail Swan
On April 29, 2022 I woke up like any other normal day. I felt more sore than normal, but chalked it up to round ligament pains starting. I was 18 weeks and a day. As I went through the day, helping my husband spring clean the house while taking care of our 2.5 year old and 17 month old, the round ligament pains turned into Braxton hicks. I figured I’d just done too much that day. They were enough to make me double over and have to take a break when they hit, but they didn’t seem close enough together for me to worry. At 5pm, we had family over visiting because my stepdaughter was over for the weekend, I was showing my mother in law the clothes and personalized swaddle I’d just bought for our baby, talking about what theme I wanted for our baby shower, excited about our future bundle of joy. We had no idea that in just a few hours we would be told he was gone.
My husband and I ran to Walmart to grab something we needed, I was just going to run in. I had a uncomfortable but painless contraction on the way there. In the store I had one, still uncomfortable but still painless. Got back in the car, had three on the ten minute drive home. They got more painful as they came and went. As we got home, I had another, even more painful, I squatted next to the car and breathed. I remembered this feeling, this pain, this pressure. I just kept thinking, “it’s too early for this. I’m just stressed, tired, I need to go have a minute to relax.” My husband helped me up stairs and in the kitchen I had another, this one brought tears of pain and fear. My husband told me to go take a hot bath, try and relax, maybe it’ll help. It was 8pm. I ran a hot bath. It hurt and was uncomfortable to sit flat on my butt, so I laid on my side in the water. The contractions didn’t stop. I laid there for an hour in the water, I finally got out, I wasn’t bleeding yet.
The contractions continued. I went and laid on the couch with my head in my stepdaughters lap, she kept asking me if I was okay, I kept telling her no, I don’t think so, I don’t know. I sat up to take some tylenol, hoping it would help, and I noticed something hard that made it painful and uncomfortable to sit. I went back to the bathroom. Pulled my pajama pants down to try to pee. One drop. Two. They were hitting the floor fast. I looked between my legs, blood gushing down. I opened the door and call for my husband, he comes and noticed all the blood, he sat me down on the toilet and just held me, I started bawling, we knew something was wrong. I told him I felt something and I was scared to look, he told me he would, so I laid in the floor and he looked between my legs. “There’s something there.. I don’t know what it is.” I started screaming “No” over and over through my tears, he just continued to hold me.
We called an ambulance and were taken to our local ER that isn’t equipped for pregnant women or for birthing. They cut the sleeve of my pajama shirt to give me an IV, then given an 2nd IV in the ER when they didn’t realize or understand why the paramedic stuck me. I was surrounded by nurses, my husband, the doctor. They searched my belly with a doppler for 30 minutes, whispering to each other “that’s her heartbeat, I can’t find the baby’s” the doctor told me they couldn’t find it, and that I was ready to deliver. I looked up at my husband, he was staring down at me with tears streaming down his cheeks, the first time I’d ever truly seen him cry. They had me put my feet in stirrups and made me push. My water bag started bulging. They made me stop, left me like that, and told me they were transferring me by ambulance to the hospital my OBGYN was at an hour away.
The nurse took my hand, and asked if she could pray for me, and she told me how sorry she was. My husband went to the car while I was loaded into the ambulance again, tangled in blankets and cords that kept tugging at the IV in my arm that missed my vein and just caused pain. As I laid there waiting to arrive at the hospital, I felt a gush and fluid soak my back. I told the paramedic, who confirmed to me that it appeared that my bulging water bag had broken.
Finally arrive to the hospital at midnight, the OB on call came in, not my usual OB, but he had delivered my daughter and I really liked him. He had an ultrasound machine, he placed the probe on my belly and there he was, my poor boy. He was curled up in a ball in an awkward position, face down. He was breeched. The doctor then confirmed our worst fears. “I’m sorry. Your baby has no heartbeat, and you’ve lost all fluid.” Again, my husband and I cried. He told me the plan was to give me two pills that needed to dissolve in my cheeks in order to help start contractions as they’d stopped when I started bleeding in the bathroom three hours earlier. They changed me into a gown, allowed me to use the bathroom, and helped me clean the blood from my legs that had dried, my husband cleaned my back from where the blood and fluid had pooled under me in the ambulance.
Two hours later, I used the restroom again, and as I climbed into the high hospital bed, I noticed something bulging from me again. Called the nurse in, and she called even more nurses in, they were all confused on what to do. My umbilical cord prolapsed and was hanging from my body, the doctor told them since he was breech and my water had broken, it was a possibility, and it would just be left until I delivered. Every 6 hours I was given another set of pills, they were awful and chalky and didn’t dissolve well. After 9am, I was given my epidural.
By 12:30pm, by husband had went to the local Walmart to grab some snacks and a new outfit for me since mine were ruined and bloody. Shortly after, the cord hanging from my body felt like it twitched, I was numb but I could occasionally feel the sensation of the cord slowly protruding further out of my body, but this time felt different, nurse came and checked me and told me I was ready to deliver and she would get the doctor. I called my husband and told him I was getting ready to deliver, had no idea what to expect, so I just told him to hurry. As soon as I had gotten off the phone, the OB reached in and pulled my baby and placenta out and let them plop onto the bed. I had no idea until she looked up and said “baby’s out.” I felt horrible, my husband missed it. They did allow us to wait for him to come back for him to cut the cord, so thankfully he was able to continue carrying that tradition with our third baby just like he had with the ones before him.
After that, they took him for measurements and to prepare a memorial box, and we let family know he had arrived and we could have two more guests in the room with us to have time with him. My mother and father in law took turns coming in so one could stay with our younger two while my stepdaughter came in with one of them. I honestly expected her to be scared, or not want to see or hold her baby brother, but she surprised me by wanting to hold him almost the entire time, touching his little hands, face, and feet. She was so brave. I was so proud of her.
After our families said their goodbyes, we spent time alone, just us two and our sleeping angel. Holding him, holding each other, taking turns holding him, and crying. We finally decided we were ready to say our final goodbye, though we didn’t want to. Our sweet nurse came in with the tiniest casket, and placed our sweet boy in it. Tears streaming down all three of our cheeks as she quietly and carefully closed the lid of the tiny casket over him. As she carried him from the room, sniffling as she did, my husband and I both burst into a loud sob.
When she came back with paperwork to fill out as to what to do with him, I told her I needed to leave, I couldn’t be in that room anymore after all was said and done, it hurt too much, I was exhausted after a 17 hour labor and spending 8 short hours just mourning our boys sleeping body, I wanted to go home. We filled out the paperwork to have the funeral home come and get him to cremate him as she worked on discharge papers. Shortly after, we went home, to a quiet empty home, our three kids with their grandparents, and my heart and womb both feeling gutted and empty, the clothes I was showing off laying on the floor where they were left before we lost him. Being home didn’t feel much better after all. My husband held me close all night and I slept.
A week later, we received his ashes, a tiny black velvet box with a ziploc bag inside that contained our tiny boy. As we opened that box, the hurt rushed back, we both burst back into tears in front of the funeral home in our vehicle, Beyoncé’s “Heaven” playing through the radio as we cried.
Another week passes, we finally hold his memorial service in our church, surrounded by our families, the sounds of sniffles and sobs behind us as they all cried for us, with us, for the hurt they’ve experienced before as well, for we were not alone in our pain and struggles. My father in law spoke from the heart, referring to his “Dr. Reid” from Criminal Minds, saying that our son was not an UnSub (unknown subject) as he called them in the show, but he was known, and loved since the day we told our family we were expecting again.
What hit me the hardest was when the memorial ended, as family and friends came around to hug, give their condolences, and talk amongst themselves, I noticed my stepdaughter clinging to her dad, tears streaming her face. The reality of it had finally hit her as it had hit us the day that it happened, her brother was gone, and she cried so hard. It broke me, and I kneeled down and held her and cried with her.
My heart still hurts, I still feel empty, but I am not alone in my hurt and struggles. I will always carry my baby in my heart and make sure he is remembered always.
Sawyer Reid Dubielak
April 30, 2022 – Due September 29, 2022
Only 6.2 oz & 9 inches long