On the morning of November 5, 2014, as I was sipping my half-caff coffee, I told my husband Justin that I planned to wash all our baby’s clothes that weekend. With a planned c-section only five weeks away, we were busy preparing for the arrival of our second child and first daughter.
After dropping off my son Benjamin at daycare, I realized I didn’t remember the last time I felt the baby move, and it scared me. She was always so active, to the extent that I had told my obstetrician, “She moves around A LOT,” to which she responded, “An active baby is a healthy baby!” And it had been a completely healthy pregnancy, although two weeks before, my OB had done an extra ultrasound because the baby had been measuring small. After taking her measurements, my OB declared her the 30th percentile and within completely normal ranges in terms of growth.
But at my 34 week appointment, when my OB put the Doppler on my large belly, she was met with silence. She moved the Doppler around, looking for my baby’s heartbeat. But it wasn’t there. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t there.
An ultrasound confirmed that my daughter’s heart had stopped beating.
I called my husband and managed to choke out, “There’s no heartbeat.” We went home, staring dumbly at the baby swing set up, and waited while our family rushed to be with us. My sister helped me pack a hospital bag, including the bright yellow blanket I had been crocheting for my daughter. I pictured wrapping her in it when she was born, tucking her in with it once we were safely past the risk of SIDS, watching her walk down the stairs, dragging it behind her. I never, not once, pictured this.
I checked into Labor & Delivery that evening, breaking into sobs as I sat down next to the empty bassinet. I was induced, and after hours and hours of labor, my daughter Lydia Joanne was born at 12:14 pmon November 6, 2014.
She was perfect.
She was perfect, but her umbilical cord was not.
It had a small narrowing that lacked Wharton’s Jelly, which keeps the cord from becoming entangled. In my womb, Lydie moved in a way that constricted her umbilical cord completely, like a garden hose.
That narrowing that cost my daughter her life was never detected by any monitoring.
But Lydie…. Lydie was perfect. A tall girl, at 18 inches. 3 pounds, 10 ounces. A full head of dark hair, like her dad. Big flipper feet that would have made her a great swimmer. I held her hand all day, examining her tiny fingernails and her long fingers. I would have done anything for her to squeeze back.
Justin and I spent six hours with our baby girl. We planned to spend a lifetime with her, but we only got six hours. We held her and kissed her and told her how much we love her. I told her “I’m sorry” over and over again. We read to her the book Wherever You Go, My Love will Find You with the line, “We wanted you more than you’ll ever know, so we send love to follow wherever you go.” We wrapped her in her yellow blanket. We cried.
And then we had to say goodbye, and leave the hospital without our daughter. We had to walk through the hallways of Labor & Delivery where happy couples were welcoming their screaming babies. We had to leave with only footprints and a memory box. We had to say goodbye to our perfect, loved, wanted daughter.
We had to go home to our 19-month-old son and tell him to stop blowing raspberries on my belly, that his sister wasn’t in Mama’s belly anymore and she wouldn’t be coming home afterall.
We have to live everyday with our grief and our trauma.
We have to live everyday without our Lydie.
We were shocked to learn that in the United States alone, 26,000 babies – 71 per day – are stillborn. This is 10 times more than the number of infant deaths contributed to SIDS. One in 160 pregnancies ends in stillbirth.
I had no risk factors.
My child could have been saved if there was any indication that her umbilical cord was compromised. Although it is possible to see the umbilical cord on an ultrasound, it is not routinely studied in a low-risk pregnancy such as mine.
Unfortunately, there is not enough awareness about or funding dedicated to stillbirth research. More research is desperately needed to develop prevention strategies.
I have become an “active griever,” one who honors my daughter by working to prevent this senseless tragedy. Last year, 280 people participated in Lydie’s Loop, raising a grand total of over $21,00. All funds were donated to Star Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to stillbirth awareness, research, education, and ultimately prevention, and bring more family support to Ohio. We’ve also founded an Ohio Chapter of the Star Legacy Foundation, working with the national chapter to bring increased programming, such as a bereavement conference for labor and delivery staff, to Ohio.
It was a remarkable morning, one where many families and their supporters honored their children and found community with each other. We very much look forward to the second annual Lydie’s Loop.
I greatly appreciate your support, in helping me to carry Lydie in my heart as well as helping Star Legacy work to prevent such senseless tragedies.
- Heather Johnston Welliver