I haven’t posted a new blog in over 7 months. And now I’m tentatively stepping out of my comfort zone to share why.
This is Sadie’s story.
I’ve always had a deep fear of miscarrying (maybe most moms do).
But, I never thought it would happen to us.
My first trimester was hard. Nausea. Fatigue. Throwing up multiple times a day. And an impromptu trip to Urgent Care for IV fluids during a family reunion.
When we finally reached the second trimester, I breathed a sigh of relief. While an estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, the risk drops significantly once you reach the second trimester. We started making baby plans. Designing the nursery. Thinking of names. Setting a date for the baby shower.
We were full of hope, plans, and a false sense of control that would all come crashing down on us a few weeks later.
The week of October 1st, at 15-weeks pregnant, I began to feel cramps that slowly worsened. We kept in contact with our OB office, but we didn’t start to worry until Thursday night when I woke up with terrible cramping and in a pool of my own sweat.
We went in for an emergency ultrasound the next morning. We held our breath and prayed for a heartbeat.
The beating spot on the screen provided a deep sense of relief. Also, she’s a girl!
The ultrasound tech noted that I had an ovarian cyst rupture, which may have explained the cramping and pain. We felt so relieved and sent prayers of thanks that our baby girl was safe and that this scare was hopefully over.
We couldn’t wait to share the news with our families and decided to name her Sadie Mae.
But, that night, the shaking, cramping, and vomiting returned with a painful vengeance. When Sunday morning came, I was shaking so violently that I couldn’t get out of bed. Danny called the OB, who recommended that we go to the emergency room right away.
Once there, the doctors quickly put in two IVs for emergency fluids.
They rolled me down for an ultrasound, and I prayed.
Tears rolled down my face as I laid there in silence, too scared to look at the technician’s face in fear that it would only show me my worst fear. But then, the ultrasound lady quietly whispered, “I’m not supposed to tell you anything, but I can tell you that I see a heartbeat.”
After more blood tests, exams, and an MRI, the doctors were stumped. They suspected that an infection had spread to my blood and then led to a condition called sepsis. They took a vial of my blood to test and started me on IV antibiotics right away.
Fortunately, I was not dilated and the ultrasound showed that Sadie seemed healthy and was even moving around and playing with her little toes. Our sweet girl. I’ll never forget that ultrasound image.
That night, my blood pressure kept dropping and my heart rate kept rising. I was lying in bed, incredibly weak, as my heart pounded and my body shook desperately to fight off the infection and keep me and baby girl stable.
And then, I started bleeding. The kind of bleeding that makes a pregnant mom’s stomach drop, so the hospital OB came to examine me.
“You’re not dilated and your cervix looks better than I thought it would,” she said. But, they would like to move me to the labor and delivery floor, just in case.
“If you deliver your baby, it is too young to survive, and there is nothing we could do at that point,” the OB said bluntly. She left, and Danny and I sat there stunned, crying together on the hospital bed.
We prayed desperate prayers that night. If you have ever prayed for your life or someone else’s life, you know the kind I mean. You drop all inhibitions of how it may sound in your head and just plead desperately with God. I’ll do whatever it takes. Just please, save our baby.
The next day, we actually got good news. My vitals were almost normal, and I felt much better. The bleeding stopped, and Sadie still had a strong heartbeat. The doctors were completely stunned and confused, as they still didn’t know the cause of my infection. My prayers of desperation were answered, I thought!
With all of my symptoms and vitals looking better, they sent me home with instructions to rest, drink lots of fluids, and take the rest of my antibiotics. We were to follow-up with the high-risk doctors the next day.
We arrived at the high-risk OB office the next day for our ultrasound. At this time, both of us were feeling tentatively positive and were excited to see our girl again.
But, five minutes into the ultrasound, the technician stood up. “I’m going to go get the doctor now,” she said. My heart dropped. Ultrasounds generally take 30 minutes, at least.
Though she spoke gently, her words struck us with a violent force.
She told us that I had no amniotic fluid left and that my water likely broke earlier this week. “Babies cannot survive outside of the womb without amniotic fluid,” she told us. She instructed us to head over to the hospital OB ward to be induced. She left us and we cried tears of shock and sadness over our precious baby girl.
As we headed over the hospital, one thought kept popping into my mind: but she still has a heartbeat.
As the hospital was preparing me for admission and induction, my regular OB arrived. I am SO thankful for her (more on that below) because she essentially said: “let’s take a pause”. She knew we were overwhelmed, and she wanted to look into every possible solution before moving on with induction. She wanted to give Sadie a fighting chance. So did we.
She told us that there are some rare circumstances of amniotic fluid returning. It would likely require bed rest, but there is a very small chance. After this discussion, I was convinced that we would not induce while Sadie still had a beating heart. We were going to give her every fighting chance possible and allow God the opportunity to give us a miracle. We agreed to do another ultrasound tomorrow to see if there was any improvement.
That night, I texted groups of people asking for prayers, and many of those people asked their prayer groups as well. We must have had over a hundred people praying for a miracle. Prayer in action is beautiful, momentous, and desperate all at the same time.
But, the ultrasound looked the same the next day, void of amniotic fluid. Sadie’s heartbeat was higher than normal, which they said may have been another sign of infection. I still wanted to wait it out and did not feel comfortable inducing knowing that doing so would lead to Sadie’s imminent death. My OB went to do more research and discuss with the high-risk OB doctors.
The high-risk nurse practitioner came to speak with us, and she sat next to the side of my bed as she spoke.
My water slowly broke the Tuesday prior (we later learned it was likely due to a partial placental abruption) and because my membranes were open, bacteria migrated and cause a full-blown infection that worsened as the days passed.
She told me that my symptoms were currently controlled from the IV antibiotics, but there is no way for the antibiotics to reach the membrane within my uterus. The only way to treat the infection fully is to deliver the baby, placenta, and membranes.
Then, she looked directly at me, “Maria, I have seen mothers die from this infection. I am afraid for your life if we do not induce.”
She continued on to say that if the infection itself did not lead to Sadie’s death, that the lack of amniotic fluid would. She reiterated that babies who are this young and grown in the womb without amniotic fluid cannot survive outside of the womb. Sometimes they live just hours or even a day. But, they suffer. These types of babies are some of the saddest cases because of their suffering, she said.
“Because of this, induction is the kindest thing you can do for your baby right now,” she said.
I labored for a long 36 hours, but the actual delivery was very quick. On October 12th at 3:52 in the morning, I delivered our perfect baby girl at 16 weeks and 4 days pregnant.
I was terrified to look down when she was born because I didn’t know what to expect. When I finally inched my head over the hospital gown, I saw the tiniest, most beautiful baby. Then, she moved, like a twitch. Oh my God, she’s moving, I cried out in shock and sadness. I didn’t expect her to move.
But, there is one divine moment that I am clinging to: the moment the nurse laid our beautiful, perfectly formed Sadie girl on my chest. Yes, there you are. My baby.
We told her we loved her so much. We told her it’s okay, go be with Jesus now. We will see you again, sweet girl. We held her for hours. We admired her cute nose that resembled Danny’s, and her creased chin and plump lips that resembled mine.
At just under 17 weeks, she was a tiny, beautiful person. We didn’t get the miracle for which we initially prayed. But, we still got a miracle. Sadie was our miracle.
The following days, I felt bruised all over, as if I might burst into tears if someone poked me or even looked at me. I felt physically and emotionally empty, but at the same time, my body felt heavy and slow as we attempted to trudge through this new grieving life. Thankfully, we were blessed with so many prayers, meals, messages, cards, and other loving acts of sympathy. My husband, Danny, was grieving just as deeply, but he was my rock the whole time.
Despite having enormous support, I often felt alone. Many parents sadly experience the pain of miscarriage. Because Sadie was just under 17 weeks and was alive when she was delivered, some people refer to this as a “live miscarriage.” But, at that point, we didn’t know anyone who had to make the impossible decision to induce. To choose your life over your baby’s. How do you make that decision? How do you live with yourself?
The enemy often attacks at your weakest point, and he feeds off despair and grief. In the first few weeks, I constantly fought off horrible thoughts from the enemy. You killed your baby. You went against God’s will. You prevented God from performing a miracle. What kind of parent are you?
I shared these thoughts with the moms in my support group, who insightfully told me that God NEVER uses unhealthy guilt. And he never uses shame. Only the enemy does.
The reason I wanted to share Sadie’s story is that I felt inclined to share about God’s faithfulness and mercies even in extreme heartache and despair. One day, you may experience overwhelming grief and heartache (if you haven’t already). It’s a sad and inevitable truth because we live in a broken world. But, you will also experience His unexplainable peace – if you open your heart to it.
Thinking of all the ways God has shown us his love, kindness, and grace during this time has made our suffering a little more bearable. Here are a few of them.
We are so thankful for Dr. McGlynn, who gave our Sadie a fighting chance. Who looked into EVERY possible option to save her precious life. The “pause” she presented to us to consider all other options likely saved us from a lifetime of guilt and tormenting “what ifs”. When Sadie was born, Dr. McGlynn baptized her. In our follow-up appointment the next week, she cried with us and prayed over us. She thanked God for sparing my life. God put Dr. McGlynn in our life for a reason.
Despite having multiple teams of extremely intelligent doctors on my case, they did not realize my infection was due to chorioamnionitis until my second admission. If they had found the source of the infection during my first hospitalization, when I was extremely sick, my OB told me that they would have likely performed an emergency D&C. We would not have had the peaceful moments of delivering Sadie naturally, holding her tiny body, kissing her, and saying goodbye. This mercy alone brings me to my knees. Thank you, God.
Despite having so much loving support around us, I felt alone after our loss. While many other moms sadly experience the loss of miscarriage, I felt alone in my guilt of deciding to induce. I prayed about my loneliness, and God heard my cries. A mom reached out to me who heard about my story and shared that their story was also very similar. God can use a loss to bring people together. I also think that our girls wanted us to find each other.
The night after Sadie died, I asked her to send me a sign that she was safe in heaven. We were preparing to leave the hospital the next day, and Danny went to pick up the car. As I shuffled out of the wheelchair and into the car, I heard the radio playing softly. I buckled my seatbelt, and then I heard it. The song stopped, and the volume increased (as they always do during commercials). A lady’s voice came onto the radio and clearly said: “Hey guys, It’s Sadie here!” That was my sign. Our girl was letting us know she was at peace. We’ve received many other signs of peace since then, like the dove that waited on our truck after her burial.
Don’t get me wrong. Our grieving hasn’t been pretty and it sure hasn’t been linear. I’ve yelled at God and questioned his goodness. I’ve felt a lot of resentment and bitterness. We’ve had a string of “good” days only to have a medical bill for our dead baby arrive in the mail. Grief hits you out of nowhere. You don’t gradually get “better” until you’re “back to normal.”
But, this is what I do know. The world tells us that death is the end, but we know that it is only the beginning of eternity with our Creator. Because of Sadie, I fear death less and celebrate life more. I look forward to the day when we will someday be reunited with her in heaven. At the same time, life is more precious, and I want to celebrate and be present in every moment because nothing is guaranteed. We will grieve until we meet Sadie again, but we find comfort knowing that God can and will use her short and precious life for good.
Our sweet Sadie Mae has left her mark on us, and we will forever wear that deep scar as evidence that she was here, and she is loved.