***Content warning: infant loss***
Knowing what I know now, thank God I didn’t know… November 29th 2015, my feelings were confirmed with an at home pregnancy test purchased by my friend, Adrienne (who seems to have a sense for these things). My feelings were all too familiar; tired, woozy and anxious. This was all fresh in my mind, it wasn’t long ago I felt the same way when I was pregnant with Brooks, who is only 14 months old. I was terrified of having two babies, I was still trying to figure out what having one baby was all about. I was taken out of shock when Brooks grabbed my leg, his big blue eyes cut through me. I picked him up and told him that he was going to be a big brother. I heard my phone vibrating, it was a text from Adrienne checking in, all I could say back was “oh my god”. I threw on my boots, grabbed Brooks and headed out the front door. To my surprise Adrienne met me half way up the driveway. All I could do was cry. I cried out of fear, excitement, joy, love! She just held me. Once I was able to pull myself together, I started planning on how to tell Ryan. Adrienne helped me take a couple of pictures of me and Brooks holding a book called “I’m a Big Brother”.
I was so nervous to tell Ryan, only because it seemed so soon to be having another baby. Ryan got home from work that night and I handed him my phone and told him that there were a couple of cute pictures of Brooks from the day that he should look at. It seemed to take a second to register in his mind but once it did he smiled and asked if I was pregnant, again! YES! He was so happy, a proud daddy for sure. The first few months were hard. I felt sick and tired but Brooks was such a good sleeper that I was able to rest. We made all of those important decisions quickly and felt very confident in them. One of them was that we were going to go with the midwives and use the birthing center. This was a very exciting decision for me, I felt like I was going to be in control of all of this, that it was more about me and this little baby and Ryan, less about rules and regulations.
I was nervous about the obvious but I felt so strongly about our decision, I couldn’t have been happier. February 7th I felt the baby move for the first time. I thought to myself that this little one seems like more of a stretchy baby than a kicky baby. On February 22nd, Ryan and I found out that we were having a girl. The ultrasound technician typed “it’s a girl” on the screen and I cried with happiness. We waited to tell our friends and family until we could all be together. Everyone picked a team, “BOY” or “GIRL”, team girl was the majority that night. Ryan and I confirmed their suspicions with 5 big pink balloons. The screams of joy were probably heard from miles away. I’ve dreamed of having a baby girl for a long time. I imagined what she would look like, the tea parties we would have, the way I would style her hair. I was meant to be a mama and especially to a girl. Ryan and Brooks were also meant to be a father and big brother to a girl. They both have such kind, sweet hearts and so protective of me. Needless to say, we wouldn’t wait to welcome this little girl into our family. March 8th, we decided to name her Quinn Jay. That night it sunk in with both of us… we’re having a girl.
The months that followed were filled with amazing memories; the most beautiful baby shower, a couple of amazing photo sessions and a family vacation that I will never forget. Some of my favorite memories are the times I was with Brooks and Ryan. I’ll never forget how Brooks kissed would my tummy or how he would lay on my tummy while I rocked him to sleep. I truly felt that Brooks was able to bond with Quinn that way. My due date came and went. My midwives were amazing and kept me positive and active. I was so ready though… it was hot and I wanted to meet this little girl. Quinn took her time, she was almost two weeks past the due date. July 31st is when it started. I was home with Brooks and Ryan was at work. I went to bed around 10:00 and I started to feel a little funny. I wasn’t sure what natural contractions would feel like since I had Pitocin when I was in labor with Brooks. I laid there for about 20 minutes and then started timing them. When they were happening more often I called Ryan. To this day it’s my favorite conversation with him on the phone. It was short and sweet but I felt the happiness and excitement in his voice. It made me so proud to be his wife, carrying his daughter for him. He came straight home and we of course waited some more.
August 1st… the longest day of my life. The day started with a couple of phone calls and a home visit from the midwives. Everything was happening slowly, I was completely fine with that. “The Aunts”, Laurie and Erin, came to the house and we just talked and laughed for hours. That afternoon we went for a walk down our long driveway, very long driveway when you’re 42 weeks pregnant. My support team of amazing women; Adrienne, Erin and Laurie, there we were at the end of the driveway laughing between contractions. I noticed Laurie checking her watch each time, she seemed to be keeping tracking but they were still very random.
It was a long walk back home for me, I really didn’t think she was coming that night. Ryan ran out to get us some burgers, we all ate like champs that night in preparation. Brooks was cozy in bed and I honestly thought I was going to bed too. All of a sudden, the contractions came on hard. They were still about 7 minutes apart but more intense. The lights were low and there was music playing in the background, I was home. I couldn’t have hoped for a more perfect setting. The contractions really started to hit hard, so I tried a couple new positions. One of which I will never forget, neither will Adrienne for suggesting it. That’s when I should have known… I was in such denial that I sat back up on the couch and said that I was going to go to sleep. As I was saying that I started shacking. I mentioned how odd that was since it also happened while I was in labor with Brooks. Laurie looked concerned and asked at what point did that happen and Adrienne answered for me, “Right before he came out!” Okay, okay… I guess we should call the midwives and head over to the birthing center.
As soon as everyone realized it was go time there was a lot of movement with my team. Ryan and The Aunts were getting everything in the car and I think Adrienne helped me to the bathroom. That’s when I snapped out of my denial, Quinn was coming… FAST! I yelled for Ryan and told him that we didn’t have much time and that she was coming quickly, oh and my water broke. I thought the contractions were bad before my water broke, there was no more laughing between contractions. Ryan tried to help me to the car which wasn’t far but it seemed to take forever. We stopped at the tree next to the car, I didn’t want to leave the comfort of that tree, the thought of walking 15 more feet to the car seemed impossible. Erin jumped in the car with us, a choice she probably regrets to this day, for fear of her life. There was a lot of me yelling at Ryan to slow down and then telling him to hurry because she was coming so quickly. Needless to say, Ryan was driving like a mad man.
Once we arrived at the birthing center I formed another bond, this time with the hallway wall when a massive contraction stopped me in my tracks. Edana my midwife, encouraged me to come into the center but again it seemed impossible. I finally made it to the bed and told Edana that she was probably crowning and she didn’t believe me. She hardly had to look when she realized I was right and it was go time. From this moment on everything happens very fast and becomes scary. Quinn was breech, what Edana saw were her feet. Edana quickly moved me into a different position and told me what was going on. I saw the seriousness on her face and that made me worry. She told me that I would have to push very hard to get her out. So I did.
Erin was above me on the bed, holding my arms up, so I used them as leverage. Erin had to yell at me to push harder and harder and I screamed with each push. It was hard to stay focused with everything going on around me. Laurie and Ryan were at my feet and they looked worried, Erin and Adrienne were assisting Edana with supplies. Quinn was breech and the cord was wrapped around her neck. It took a few hard pushes and I had to do it quickly so that they could get to the cord. Finally she was out and what I thought was the hard part was over.
My beautiful Quinn Jay was born at 10:05 PM on August 1st, 7lbs 2oz and 19 in. She was born with a rare genetic disorder that effected the development of her lungs. There were 911 calls, fire trucks, two ambulances, every single doctor and nurse available in the ER and so many other qualified people that worked so hard to keep our beautiful girl alive but there was nothing that could have been done. This was something that happened at conception and even if it was detected during the ultrasounds, there’s still nothing we could have done to help her. She died in the early morning on the 2nd of August, snuggled in my arms.
There was a lot that happened in that four hours, things that no parent should ever have to experience, but I can’t and won’t focus on the bad when I don’t have to. I want to think more about my happy pregnancy and my amazing labor, as hard as it was. I want to remember her stretching inside me. I want to remember the 42 weeks that she lived with me, in spite of what her death certificate that says she only lived for four hours. I will always remember her brown hair and her bright brown eyes, her soft dark skin and he chubby hands. She looked just like I imagined she would, she looked just like me.
When I see her again, I will thank her for the strength she gave me to continue on. According to medical professionals, Quinn should not have lived to full term but she was incredibly strong. I will tell her that because of her strength I pushed through some of the emotional pain and pumped bag after bag of breastmilk to donate in her honor. Because of the strength she showed, I woke up every day to be a good wife to her daddy and a good mama to her brother. Because of her strength I laughed and continued going forward with her in my every thought. I miss her every single day of my life but I know I will see her again and I thank Jehovah God for that, otherwise this would be unbearable.
A special note to breastfeeding mamas: I always knew I would want to breastfeed my children when the time came and when it did with my son, Brooks, it was very natural. I enjoyed the bond I felt with Brooks, I loved the downtime that it sometimes would force on us and the overwhelming pride I felt for my body. By taking care of myself; eating right, drinking plenty of water, staying mentally healthy, I was able to produce what seemed like liquid gold with my body. With that milk my son was able to survive on that alone, not only survive but THRIVE.
Needless to say, when I was pregnant with Quinn I was thrilled to have the privilege of being able to do that all over again. Quinn was born naturally, full term. My body was designed to produce milk and continued to do so regardless of the circumstances. At first I took the advice of healthcare professions since I couldn't think straight. They said that it might be too difficult for me to pump and continue down that path mentally. I would bind myself up with extra small sports bras and then wrap an ace bandage around my chest so tight that it was difficult to breathe. I drank bitter sage tea several times a day and used ice packs to relieve some of the pressure and pain. I struggled mentally with this for days. I was forcing my body to stop something it naturally wanted to do.
I don't run marathons, I didn't go to college, I don't sing or dance well, I'm not one to stand out in a crowd. However, my body knows how to produce milk. Thankfully it did not fail me this time either. I remember the moment vividly, my husband was wrapping the bandage around my chest, through my tears I asked him to stop and to help me take it off. I turned around and told him that I was going to start pumping and that I was going to freeze the milk to donate it. He fully supported me along with my friends and family. They were thrilled that I would no longer have to go through some kind of mid evil torture to try and stop something that my body did so well.
I knew that pumping and seeing the milk that was supposed to be for Quinn would be incredibly difficult at first. I would sit in my room and look at the pictures we had of her and pictures of my son to help the milk let down. And of course I cried and left emotionally pain and loss, but I also felt mentally healing and physical relief. The swelling went down, my uterus started to contract and get smaller, I was physically healing. I hoped that whatever I was able to donate could be used. I remembered how strong our Quinn was and I knew I could be too.
Regardless of what some medical professionals may think, it was the best decision I could have made for myself. Over the next several months, I pumped as often as I felt it was needed and I naturally, painlessly, stopped producing. It wasn't much milk, liquid gold, but I was proud of it. I was able to donate all of that milk and they were able to use it for babies. Which made all of the time and effort that went into it well worth it. The only regret I have, is not listening to my body sooner. Women's bodies are amazing, we were designed in a way that we can grow and provide for our children and I'll never take that for granted.