This is the detailed story of our baby boy William Aiden Tompkins.
He has forever changed our lives even though he never took a breath.
He has forever changed our lives even though he never took a breath.
Tuesday Night, September 7th.
Right before bed, I read Claire a new book called, My Little Brother Needs Me. It was about a little girl helping out with her baby brother. Every page ended with, " I love my little brother, God loves him too." When I was done reading, we sat there for a few minutes, and Will kept kicking Claire's head while she lay on me. I reminded her there was baby in me, and she gave my belly a kiss and said "Wuv you Will!" I told her to say "Come out soon!" and she did. Little did we know she was saying good-bye. While Josh and I watched a little TV I was lying on the couch watching my belly roll and move as Will was his typical active self. I do remember thinking "Wow, he is active tonight!" I almost woke Josh up to see - I wish I had.
The idea that the next day we would have words such as "fetal demise", "stillborn", "mortuary", "autopsy", and "cremation" enter our vocabulary was absolutely inconceivable.
Wednesday, September 8th (37 weeks exactly)
I woke up, Josh had left for school. When Claire got up, I reminded her that we were going to my "doctor". Claire, for some reason, loves to go to my midwife. We got to the midwife's at 9:30am. She asked me how I felt, I said "great!" They measured my fundal height (belly) - right on track. She got out her doppler and set it on my stomach. She couldn't find the heartbeat, so she tried a few other spots. Still nothing. It was a new doppler, so she tried her usual one. Still couldn't find anything. She went and got a third doppler. In the meantime, I got on all fours to try to get the baby to move to a better position and drank some ice water. She told me to tell her if I felt him kick and where. I became increasingly aware that I had not felt him kick all morning. I had been busy though, so maybe I just didn't notice. I could tell my midwife was getting more and more concerned. I was a little nervous, but I remember lying there (while she was still trying the third doppler) and thinking "I'm not going to freak out, there is no way anything happened to him. That sort of thing just doesn't happen to me." After 30 minutes of trying to find the heartbeat and/or make him move or kick, she gave up and said we needed to schedule an ultrasound to see what was going on. I could tell she knew the news was going to bad because she made sure Josh could be home, and she scheduled a friend of hers that comes to homes to do the ultrasound. I left there feeling worried but didn't let my mind go any further than getting home and having the ultrasound. I called Josh, and he came home right away to wait with me until the ultrasound tech could get there. It was a terribly long wait, and I still did not feel him move. At 2:30pm the tech showed up. He was the kindest man. He had just come from another emergency appointment like ours - and had another right after ours. I asked him the outcome of the one before us, he said it was a "fetal demise". He had me lie down on the couch, and we were able to see the ultrasound on our television. The moment he set the wand on my stomach and we saw the the screen we knew. He looked around briefly and announced that the baby didn't make it. He spent another 10 minutes or so looking at everything about the baby. He said brain development looked normal, heart looked normal, spine, kidneys, everything was completely normal. He couldn't find anything wrong with Will except that his heart was not beating. We could see his adorable, chubby face very clearly. I did not cry until the guy left. I called my midwife and asked what we do. She said we had two options: try to induce labor with herbs and castor oil so I could deliver Will at home like we had planned; or have him at the hospital. I said we wanted to do it at home - although I made this decision because we had already paid the midwife and I knew the hospital would be thousands upon thousands of dollars. So, we went to Sprouts to buy the appropriate herbs and castor oil. We planned for me to take the herbs that night and then take the castor oil the following morning - there was a better chance of it working if we waited until the next day. I called my mom, and she thought it was a terrible idea to have him at home. I didn't want to, but cost was a huge issue. She said that she and my dad along with other family members would help take care of the cost, I just needed to do what would get me through the next 24 hours as easily as possible. That night, Josh and I couldn't sleep. I spent a lot of the time crying, and I couldn't decide what to do. I started having contractions and remembered the pain of labor - which is bearable if you have a baby to hold after it all - and I didn't think I could go through it without having something to look forward to. I also realized that I didn't want to have the memory of the ordeal being in our home or the perfect birth I had planned to have this result.
The next morning, I asked my mom to call around a few hospitals and just see how much it would cost. She got back to me with encouraging news - Phoenix Baptist (where we had Claire) had a 'package' that the entire birth, epidural and other various drugs, the overnight stay and post-partum care was only $2900 if we paid up front in cash. I was so relieved. I was expecting 10k at least. I called my midwife and told her I wanted to abandon the home plan. She supported my decision, her only concern was that we wouldn't have grieving privacy and time with Will. I knew the atmosphere of the hospital because of Claire, so I was not concerned by this. I aimlessly threw some clothes in my suitcase and became aware that I didn't need to pack any infant clothes. We met Josh's parents at the hospital and they took Claire home with them to spend the night. I wanted my mom to be there, so she came too. We got to our labor and delivery room at 11am. The hospital nurses were so nice. They showed us that they would hang a special card on our door (it was just a picture of a leaf with a teardrop on it) so that anyone coming in would know that it was not a normal situation. We got settled in the room and the waiting began. I got an I.V. of what was explained to me as "gatoraide". I had some blood drawn and then waited another few hours for the anesthesiologist. The guy was very nice, and I was happy I didn't have to leave the room for the epidural. I just scooted to the side of the bed, and he placed it. He said I should be a practice model for epidural training, because you can see every vertebrae in my back. That was comforting. They even let Josh hold my hand. I was surprised because on any baby show I've ever seen, they make the mother put on a hair net and go by herself into the O.R., like it is a huge deal. The epidural felt pretty strange going in - it was gross feeling but only hurt a little. Immediately, my legs felt heavy. A few minutes later, I couldn't feel anything and was therefore stuck in the bed. They THEN put it the cervix softening medication, and we waited...for...8...hours. I am so thankful my mom was there to support us and help pass the time. I don't know which drug was doing what, but for the first hour or so of being on all of it, I would get extremely shaky, then tired, then I would almost throw up and then I would feel fine for about 10 minutes, and then the cycle would start again. I also got really itchy all over - I was told this was from the epidural. I decided that I would never want to get an epidural in a normal situation, but it this case it was perfect. Finally, at 9:30pm she said that I was 7cm dilated, and I was starting to feel a little pressure. They could finally start the pitocin. By this time there was a shift change, and I met my new nurse and doctors. The nurse, Tiffany, was the sweetest girl ever. I am so thankful for her. The doctors, on the other hand, were so strange. There were two, and one of them was obviously in training. The more knowledgeable one was Asian, and he was fine, except I could barely make out what he was saying - luckily he used hand motions when he talked so we had a good guess at what he was talking about. The other guy looked like Buster from Arrested Development, and we decided he was Russian. He was quiet and also hard to understand. Tiffany translated for us after they left. I told her that I was having a lot of pressure, so she checked me to find that after just 3 minutes of pitocin, I was "complete" and ready to push. The doctors came back to the room. They were cheerful and joking with each other, which now sounds completely inappropriate, but it lightened the mood As they were getting ready for me to push, I got really shaky again, but I think it was just from nerves. It was finally going to happen, and Josh and I had no idea how we would react. We had been dreading this moment. All throughout the day, the doctors and nurses kept asking us if we were going to hold the baby or see the baby and how long we wanted to be with him. Our answer to everything regarding Will was, "we don't know yet." We were warned that stillborn babies have a tendency to have really fragile skin, because it begins to break down immediately after they die. Often times they are born with their skin being discolored or torn, and it can be quite traumatic depending on how bad the tears are and their location (i.e. face). We told Tiffany to let us know how he looked after he was delivered, and we would decide then. The doctor who was actually going to deliver Will was the one in training. He looked so nervous. He sat there in front of me rubbing his hands together slowly like he didn't know what was going to come out. It must have been his first stillborn delivery. Josh sat up by me, put his head down next to mine and turned my face toward him, then he blocked our view with his hand. They told me to push when I felt pressure - so I did. It took 5 pushes (It was extremely easy) and at 10:35, Will was delivered. He weighed 8 lbs, 7 oz and was 21 in. long. No wonder I was having so much back pain, if he would made it to his due date, he would have been a 10 pounder! Tiffany took Will and cleaned him while I was being stitched up for a tiny tear. We could hear her sobbing as she wiped him off and wrapped him in a blanket. For some reason the trainee doctor took over 30 minutes to stitch me up. I told Josh I didn't want to look until they were done and everything was finished. When we finally looked around the room, we were surprised to find that there were now 6 doctors in the room. I am wondering from which doctor we will get the bill. I asked them if there was a knot in the cord or some sort of explanation as to why this happened. They said that cord, the placenta, and the baby all looked perfect. After everyone left the room, Tiffany brought Will over to us. We asked her if he looked okay, and she said he was absolutely beautiful. At first we just looked at him while she held him. She asked if we wanted to hold him. I decided that I did - I knew I would regret it if I didn't. Carefully, she handed him to me. His weight in my arms is something I will never forget. Josh held him next, and we carefully pulled back the blanket to see his little body. He was so perfect, and chubby. There were a few tiny spots of skin damage but it looked more like an open blister than a tear. He looked so much like Claire did when she was born. I don't know how long we held him, but it was probably only a few minutes. We gave him back to Tiffany, and she wheeled him out in a cart. She said we could see him as many times as we wanted, but I knew that that was the last time we would. After he was gone, it was just me and Josh and my mom in the room. We just sat there and talked about what had just happened like it was an everyday occurrence - for some reason we felt so much peace and relief. The unknown part of the ordeal was over. My mom went home at almost 2am, and Josh and I tried to get some sleep. We were both exhausted but couldn't sleep for more than an hour or two at a time. The next morning a nurse came to discharge us. I was surprised at how early they let us go home. It was heartbreaking to pack our things and get wheeled out of the hospital without our baby, and to think that we were leaving his precious little body behind. Instead, we had a small box containing some blankets they had wrapped him in when they took pictures for us, and his foot and hand-prints.
Once at home, Josh's dad brought Claire back, and she was picked up a little later by my mom, so she could stay the night at her house. As much as we wanted Claire to be with us, we just weren't prepared to take care of her and her needy, two-year-old whims. My parents brought Claire back the next day. She had a great time at both grandparents houses, so we were glad that at least she had a fun couple of days. We were ready to have her home that day - just to have her in our arms and bring us back to reality.
The days following have passed slowly, but we are so grateful for the prayers and support of our family and friends. Looking back, it seems so surreal how calm and peaceful we felt during the whole process. I now know what it truly means to have peace that passes all understanding. We thank God for the little blessings along the way: the fact that we didn't have his room all ready; I hadn't had my baby shower yet; the compassionate hospital staff we had; the surprisingly low cost; the fact that the labor and delivery couldn't have gone smoother; the feeling of peace we had during those few days and still have now.
It is so strange when I wake up in the morning and my belly is gone, but my arms are empty. I feel like a huge piece of me is missing. I have been working around the clock to keep my milk from coming in. Unfortunately, my body doesn't know that there is no baby to feed. I think I am winning the battle, slowly, but it is a sad reminder.
Yesterday, Josh and I both had to go to the mortuary to sign papers for the cremation. In the state of Arizona any baby over 20 weeks gestation is considered stillborn and therefore the body must be buried or cremated. A week ago, I never thought that we would be walking through a morgue - let alone for our son. The mortuary offers infant cremation for only what their costs are, so it was a not a big expense at all. They were willing to take his foot prints and hand prints on some scrapbook paper that we took with us, so I hope that they turn out better than the ones the hospital took. We have not received the pictures back yet - it'll probably be a week or so before they are in. I am anxious to see them, but at the same time I dread it.
Josh and I continue to cling to God, family and to each other. I believe our love for each other is stronger than ever after walking through this together. Although we don't understand why this happened, we know that it was not a surprise to God, and we know that in His perfect plan there is a reason. I pray that whatever the reason is, we will make the most of it and be able to bless others through our loss.
"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21)