The Stillbirth of Willow Reese

On July 30th I started having contractions. Mild but frequent. Enough to get me to start tracking them and give my midwife the heads up but nothing too exciting. The next morning I was still contracting so when I talked to C on the phone I told him he might want to consider coming home. He was in the L.A. area and it could take him about 7 hours to get to Vacaville. With the way things went with Wren I could labor like this for a few days BUT if I birthed as fast as I did with Shiloh then he'd never make it in time. He had just gotten off a night shift. So he napped for a few and loaded up his things and hit the road. My contractions continued thru the day but by the time he made it home that night. Nothing. 

We decided he might as well stay home. He had already made the drive. No sense in going back. My labor could start up again at anytime. I was due in a week and a half and we were moving in a week so we could use his help. 

The weekend was normal. I was big & uncomfortable, managing the lives of 5 hootenannies and a new puppy but nothing I couldn't handle. Baby was not as active as she had been but that isn't unusual for babies to slow down at the end of your pregnancy. There's less space, they're in position & with some contractions & tightening here & there I figured she was just laying in wait. 
My feet began to swell for the first time. Ever. In fact I looked down at my feet and had to double take because I didn't recognize them. I yelled for Sarah & Chris & when they came in I told them in a panic "These aren't my feet!!!" They assured me they were cause they were in fact attached to my legs but it was so bizarre to see them so big & sore. 

When Sunday night rolled around I began to wonder more about her.  I had been actively packing all day but didn't really remember feeling her much and when I laid down to prompt her I didn't get any feedback. I called my midwife and asked her if I could come in first thing in the morning on my way out of town. Just wanted to take a listen and set my mind at ease. 

The kids and I got to her office around 10/10:30 that Monday morning Aug 4th. The kids were use to joining me for these visits but they knew I was a little worried for this one. Shiloh asked as we pulled in "Mama, What if yous baby is dead?" I didn't know how to answer her & I even told her that. What if? Wow. I told them all that I really hoped everything was ok but we were going in to make sure. 
The kids played as I settled down on the exam table. Josh anxiously paced in the doorway. I could puke from the nerves but we heard her. Loud & proud, responsive to our nudges and we passed a non stress test just fine. 
We got back on the road and headed to Georgetown to meet Sarah & Chris. Today was Sarah moms memorial service. It was emotional for everyone & physically I was tired. My feet had swollen so big that none of my shoes fit me. I could barely walk on them. Just looking at them hurt. I had no appetite, I don't really remember eating anything that day. That night we all slept over in Georgetown. The house was full of the elders so we split up between a tent and the 5th wheel. I remember at the time thinking it was the worst night of my life. Sleep wise. It was so hot & I really wanted my fan. The 5th wheel wasn't completely level. To everyone else it was just fine but to someone with Meniere's Disease just the slightest tilt made me so uncomfortable. I tried every direction and position I could think of but never found comfort. Wren woke to nurse a lot & of course I had to go potty like 6 times. I was happy to see the sun rise so I could just get up already. 

The next morning we said goodbye to Sarah's family as they drove back to Idaho. The kids hung out on the trampoline (we built the night before) and we began preparing the house for us to move in the next week.

My midwife Randi came around 1pm for a home visit. We didn't know where I would be delivering. Vacaville or Georgetown? So we decided to do the home visit in GT since it was a little harder to find. I had just been keeping my birth kit in my car with me so I would always have it wherever I happened to be. Vacaville, Georgetown, the side of the road maybe :) I was ready to deliver anywhere. 
Randi & I went over my supply list, talked about the drive & the plans for the move & where I'd be setting up the birth pool in the new place and the old 

I remember these last few moments before everything changed. Before my world was shattered. 
The house was almost emptied the of its furniture aside from the couch that I was sitting on, a recliner and a bed in the back room. I remember hearing the kids laughing on the trampoline. Chris and Sarah were taking the tent down outside the window. The sliding glass door was open, the screen was shut. The weather was nice. Hot but not miserable. The house smelt like popcorn I had just made the kids for snack. 

I laid down on the couch and Rani took out her fetal doppler. She moved it around for a minute. The longest minute of my life. My belly was quiet. We were quiet. I remember looking at her face & I could see how strong she was being for me. I looked out the window and into tree tops. This can't be happening. Please no. 

She suggested we move to the bed in the back so I could lay out better but again we couldn't find her. I wanted to run but I couldn't run away from this. I could barely even walk.  I sat up slowly. Tears were welling in our eyes. 
I was calm. Randi was calm. I remember asking her what we do next. She suggested that we go into labor & delivery and ask them to take a look
and listen for us. 
Everything moved quick after this. Randy offered to drive me so I grabbed my purse. I went into the front yard and very calmly told Chris and Sarah that we couldn't find her so we were going in. They looked shocked. Quiet. Confused. Wondering what they should do next. I told them I would go on ahead with Randi and that they could finish up the projects they were working on, pack up our things and then I would call to let them know to either come pick me up or drop one of them off and go from there. We hugged and cried a little but they encouraged me to stay positive. 

Driving to Placerville isn't too far. Unless this horrible fate is hanging over your head. Then it feels like a never ending windy road to unavoidable disappointment. Randi called ahead to Placerville L&D. She let them know that she was bringing in a client and that we couldn't detect fetal heart tones. They said they'd be ready for us, and they were! I felt like the president getting off the plane. Doors opened & nurses were standing there waiting to whisk me right into a room. Right on the bed. The doctor on call was there faster then you could snap your fingers, ultrasound wand in hand. She looked, she listen, she frowned and then she suggested calling a tech with a more advanced machine to come take a look. 
Only minutes passed and she was there. She kept her screen turned from me & told me she was sorry but whatever she found would have to be told to me by the Doctor. 

Randi positioned herself at my legs & peaked for herself. She turned to look at me & softly shook her head from side to side. I nodded that I understood and both our eyes filled with tears. I laid quiet looking at the ceiling as she rubbed my feet. My head was spinning, my ears were ringing. I felt this heavy weight come over my chest. My heart was breaking. 

It wasn't long before the Dr. returned and very sweetly apologized for my loss. She told me how sometimes these things just happen & they don't usually find out why.  She gave me some time to call Chris & Sarah and said she would be back to talk about my options. I don't remember all of my phone call. I hated telling them over the phone. It was hard to speak so I didn't say much but I'm sure they caught my drift as I choked out some words. 
They decided to have Sarah drop C off with my portion of birthing supplies from my car kit. Sarah would bring the kids home to Vacaville and head back up as soon as she could. I called my mom and broke the news. She didn't take it easy but she dropped everything & got ready and headed straight to Vacaville to be with the kids. I remember her saying No No No. Asking Why? How? But there were no answers. "Sometimes these things just happen"

The Dr. returned to let me know that I had choices. I could stay and be induced. Or I could go home, and wait for my body to go into labor on its own but it could be days or even weeks before it happened. 
I didn't want to wait, I didn't want to do this not knowing when or how long. I was here now, so I decided to stay and be induced. I asked Randi to stay with me. Before I could even finish my question she told me she wasn't going anywhere and she meant it. She never left my side. 
My Dr. & Randi spoke about my pregnancy, shared files & whatnot. I shared with the Dr. about a pregnancy I lost at 15 weeks in 2008. I had chosen to miscarry at home and it had taken several days. The Dr. stopped me "THIS is not THAT Janeen. This is not a miscarriage. This will be nothing like that" 

This was going to be hard. The hardest thing I've ever done. Physically. Emotionally. Ever. There was no way out of this. No escape. No third option where I can just check out and not participate. I was going to have to give birth. In a hospital. My baby wouldn't be shifting and moving and participating in its journey. It would be all me. And when it was over they would hand me my little girl and she would be dead. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. 


So now I find myself completely full circle in my journey as a mother. Back to the very beginning. Everything I know, everything I've learned and I LOVE about birthing empowered is not an option for me anymore. 

This was not my home. These were not my things. There were no candles, no music, no warm tub of water. This was not "my show" 

I was in a hospital room.  
I was given an IV. 
A blood pressure cuff. 
Contraction monitor. 
There would be pitocin. 
Mother fucking pitocin. 

My induction took a while to get stared. When the outcome of your pregnancy has already been determined there is no urgency. No time clock. No restrictions (Although they wouldn't make me a rum & coke) Several nurses came and went as they prepared me. They were all so sweet. I could see the sadness in their faces. My loss was their loss too. This night wouldn't be easy for anyone on the floor. 
Pain management was discussed briefly and I immediately chose to birth naturally. It's what I had intended to do at home and I think at the time I thought it was the only part of this I had left in my control. 
Pitocin started my contractions right away. Mild, manageable. Steady start. I sat with Randi and talked. We talked around in circles. We would talk about birth and share good stories, maybe something funny, one of us would tell a a joke. Then I would just cry and cry and cry. "I don't want to do this" We went around like this for hours. The Pit and contractions increasing as time passed. Chis check out. He couldn't hang. He curled up in a ball and went to sleep. A nurse caught me looking for something to throw at him and told me to be patient. Everyone grieves differently & some people just have to check out. Fine. I guess I'll let him live. 

Lots of conversations went on over the night. I remember talking about what would happen after she was born. I could chose to hold her or not see her at all. I chose to hold her.  They said they wouldn't rush me on time. We talked about paperwork. There would be no birth certificate, but a death certificate. We talked about autopsy, I declined. How long I would stay postpartum was up to me. Still no rum & coke. 
Over these hours I did several blood draws. Did I say several? Make that a shit ton! I gave so much blood. They ran every test under the sun some more then once.  All of my labs continued to come back normal. All of my monitoring was normal. My blood pressure remained low. Low enough that I was asked half a dozen times if I was a runner. All I could do was laugh "Do I look like a runner?" 
I stayed as zen as I could, whether I was calm or hysterical I was still kind. I do remember snapping at a nurse just once when she said something about "fetal demise" I had heard that phrase several times thru the night and it was making my skin crawl "Whyyyyyyy? Why do you guys keep saying that?!?!" Stop it!!!! 
I guess it's the lingo. They dont call it a birth because even tho you are giving birth you are not birthing life. When you give birth to death it's called Fetal Demise. Well then. Fuck you. Call it what you must but just stop saying it in front of me please. 

When the Dr. checked in with me and gave me an exam I was only dilated at a 3. She said that she could feel her head but she was bobbing around in her fluid, weightless. She suggested breaking my water to bring her down onto my cervix. I agreed. At first she wasn't sure if she got my bag her first try so she said she would check back on me and try again but minutes later I felt all my water release. Her theory was right. Free from her fluid she was now engaged & bringing pressure with my contractions. 

This continued for several hours. Steady, painful pitocin induced contractions. I tried my best to get into my zone. All of the tools I used to birth naturally eluded me. There was no relaxing, no hypnosis, no birth imagery of my baby doing its part. I was not looking forward to the end result. There was a beautiful bathtub I had admired earlier. I could care fucking less about it now. I had no zone. I had no desire. I couldn't believe this was happening. I couldn't see how I would ever get thru this and every contraction that came just reminded me what was happening. Every physical pain I felt brought emotional pain with it. I was in my head in a bad way. 

I remember laying in bed. Sarah, Randi, a nurse, the Dr. all circled around for me. The Dr wanted to revisit pain management. She told me that it didn't have to be like this. I didn't have to suffer thru but for some reason I felt like I did. She wanted to up my Pit & doing so would bring more pain. I hadn't slept well the night before, I had a headache all day & neck pain from sleeping weird. If I could just take the edge off I could rest & regain my strength. I agreed to an IV med at first but it didn't change my physical pain, only made my head fuzzy, almost like a rum and coke. Sarah pleaded with me to stop torturing myself. Enough is enough. So I agreed to an epidural. I could see a wave of relief wash over Randi & Sarah's faces. They were happy I changed my mind.

Ariel the anesthesiologist appeared pretty quickly. We talked benefits & risks. I really didn't want to do this but he old me there was just no reason for me to have to experience this physically. I asked if he was going to back it off at pushing time like they tend to do so that mothers can feel to push. He said he wouldn't. I told him it wasn't my first time and I knew how to "push" He said I could be pain free for it all.  I only wanted to do this if it would really take my pain away, the whole time. Not just a tease. So we made a deal. You take my pain away and I'll promise to push like a pro. 
I may of jinxed myself because I asked him to do it quick. Well there was nothing quick about it. In fact his first attempt was off centered so he had to do it twice. I buried my face in Randi's chest. She whispered in my ear. I cried. I told him if I pass out just finish it before you wake me. It took forever and I hated every second of it but once it was done, it was amazing. I'm pretty sure I declared my love for the man & everyone else in the room. I was finally able to rest. Sarah took a nap. Randi dozed a little bit in her chair but I remember opening my eyes a few times and seeing her watching my monitors. 

I think I slept for maybe 2 hours. It was now Tuesday August 6th. The nicest nurse ever woke me up to get some new readings on my blood pressure cuff. I was so cozy but I complied. I rolled from my side to my back and BAM! All hell broke loose. 
Pain flooded in. My whole body began to shake. I was instantly freezing cold and out of control. The Dr came in and checked me. I was only at a 6. My pit was maxed. My epidural was maxed. It should be working but it absolutely was not. They paged Ariel to come back but he was off site so it was going to be a little while. I recanted my love statement from earlier. Lots of swearing went on at this point. I may of even threatened his life. 
I was mad. I was sad. I was in so much pain. He promised me. "This is fucking bullshit"  Randi & Sarah tried to calm me but my shivers & shakes were uncontrollable. I was so cold & my contractions were so strong. When the anesthesiologist re appeared 20/30 min or so later he had no answer. It was all the way up. It should be working. There was nothing more he could do. 
This was transition, and just like that I felt the need to push. The Dr had just checked me but when she looked again I was at 10. So here we go.
Everything around me was going at 2 speeds. Some things were fast. Some things were slow. There was several nurses to my right setting up trays. I started pushing. I begged I pleaded "Just get her out" "Just get her out NOW!" I pushed more. Maybe another time or two and I remember changing my mind. STOP. Nope. Stop. I'm done.  I don't want to do this anymore. This is fucked up. If I push... She will come out. And when she comes out this lady will hand me a dead baby... And I don't want to see a dead baby. No one does. Make this stop. This isn't fair. What the fuck. Why? Why is this happening to me. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck is my favorite word. Fuuuuuuck.... and my body pushes again. 

When you birth a live baby, it participates. It's body communicates with yours.  Physically and chemically (oxytocin) There is magic. But when your child has already passed you are on your own. You do the work for both of you. Hard work. Physically and emotionally.  I felt sad for myself. I felt sad for Willow. This wasn't the magic I had in mind. I completely gave myself over to this disappointment. 
I let it register and then just like that I adjusted my expectations in a split second. I needed to take back some control. It was still OUR birth. She was still MY baby. I could do this for us both. I have my own magic. I breathed deep. I pushed hard. This was still birth. Stillbirth. 

I pushed and I told the Dr. "I feel her crowning"
Dr. said "Yes, she is"
I pushed. I said "Head is born"
Dr. said "Yes, it is"
I pushed. "Shoulders"
Dr. "Yes"
One last push 
Baby is born. 

Like absolute silence. 
My ears are ringing. 
But It wasn't really quiet. 
Mouths are moving but I hear nothing. 
No crying baby 
My heart aches

I look up and see sad faces. Tears.  Them looking at me, then back to her, then back to me. I hear that she's beautiful, that she looks perfect. Dr. asks who wants to cut the cord. Chris tries to bolt but he's trapped. He's white as a sheet. Staring at me with huge eyes. I ask Sarah to do it "Please Sarah, you do it" She does. They wipe her down. Wrap her up and hand her to me. 

She is beautiful. She is perfect. She's so still. So quiet. Limp. Her eyes are closed. I could just repeat "She's perfect" "I'm sorry" "I love you" "my baby, my baby my poor baby" "I'm so sorry" over and over again.


2 Response to "The Stillbirth of Willow Reese"

  1. Mother Earth in Progress Says:

    I've tried to comment twice and my phone isn't letting me. I don't really have the correct words to say how honored I am to read your tale. ❤️ πŸπŸƒπŸ‚πŸŒΏπŸŒΎπŸŒΉ

  2. Mother Earth in Progress Says:

    I've tried to comment twice and my phone isn't letting me. I don't really have the correct words to say how honored I am to read your tale. ❤️ πŸπŸƒπŸ‚πŸŒΏπŸŒΎπŸŒΉ

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