Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ethan's Birth Story

This weekend, as I detailed in one of my last posts, Keith and I made a trip to Omaha. On Saturday my best friend and sister-in-law threw a small shower for me. I didn’t want anything too big, just family and a few close friends. It was wonderful to get a chance celebrate Ethan’s life and my pregnancy. We spent the rest of the holiday weekend with family, celebrating Independence Day.

On Monday morning I woke up and used the restroom, only to discover that I seemed to be passing more of my mucus plug. This kind of alarmed me, but I remembered that it is possible to lose it in parts. Still, I felt kind of nervous. Keith and I were still at my parents’ house, and were getting ready to head back home soon. I began feeling a crampy feeling in my stomach that would come and go. It seemed to be more noticeable on our drive home. I watched the clock each time it happened and noticed that it would be anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes apart or so, lasting about 20-30 seconds each time. When we got home I immediately grabbed my pregnancy books to see if what I was experiencing was pre-labor or false labor symptoms. From what I read, it appeared to be the latter. This continued into the rest of the afternoon. I spoke with my best friend on the phone and told her what I was experiencing. She was somewhat concerned, and suggested I call the doctor for reassurance. I took her advice and made a call around 6:30pm. My doctor had gone out of town for the week, so I spoke with the one who was on-call. She seemed to believe it was indeed false labor, and told me to drink lots of water and lie down to see if they subsided. If it got worse, I was to call back.

As the night wore on, I started to feel more pain in my lower back. The contractions were still not regular. I could go 5 minutes in between one and 12 minutes between another. Around 10:30 I tried to go to sleep, hoping that they would diminish in that time. But each time I was about to doze off, I’d have another one. By now the back pain felt pretty intense, though it still only lasted half a minute. I kept debating whether or not I wanted to call back to the doctor. Our hospital is a good 40 minute drive from us, and I really didn’t want to go there and then turn around and come home. By 11:45 I knew I had to call. The doctor told me to come in and they would check me, and maybe keep me monitored for the night. Keith and I got up and dressed, and rounded up our overnight bag just in case. As we drove to the hospital the pain seemed to get worse and closer together. I kind of thought it might be because I was feeling a lot of anxiety. We arrived at the hospital around 1am, and went up to the ante-partum area. A nurse was ready for us and took me into the room to hook me up and check me. She put a monitor on me for the baby’s heartbeat, and one to measure contractions. I felt relieved when the baby’s monitor displayed a heartbeat.

She had me lie back and checked my cervix. We were shocked to hear, “You are 6 cm dilated. We need to get you into a delivery room right now.” She got a wheelchair for me and told me they would get an IV started for me, and then an epidural. Two more nurses came in, and they called for the doctor. Meanwhile, another nurse started my IV. Keith made some quick phone calls to our parents in Omaha, who said they’d be there as soon as they could. The nurses all left the room for a moment to get the epidural and make sure they had everything in place. Literally a minute after they left the room, I felt an enormous pressure in my pelvic bone and my water broke in one huge gush. I panicked and told Keith to get someone quickly. The nurse came in and said she needed to check me again. By that time, only a matter of 15 or 20 minutes from the first check, I was fully dilated. This meant I no longer could have the epidural. A feeling of dread swept over me, knowing I was going to have to give birth naturally, not knowing how long or painful it might be. I continued to feel harsh contractions, and was told the doctor was a few minutes away. When she arrived they got me into position to push. I was told that with each contraction, I would have to push 3 times, for 10 counts each. I only ended up doing this for 3 contractions, what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes, before he was born. Ethan arrived at 2:31am, only an hour and a half after we’d gotten there. There was a team present in our room from the NICU, who immediately took Ethan. I knew things weren’t good because I didn’t hear any sound from him after he was born. They tried some compressions and a breathing tube, but after a few minutes with no heartbeat, they had to stop. They gently wrapped him up and gave him to Keith. I think I was in a state of such shock from the entire experience that it didn’t really register to me what was happening. I felt numb. “Does he look okay?” I asked him. Knowing all of the anomalies he had and potentially could have, I had been fearful that my baby wouldn’t look like a baby. “He’s beautiful,” Keith told me. He brought him over and I was in awe of his little face. No cleft lip or palate, and he even had some light brown hair. They measured him and told us he was 3 pounds, 1 ounce and 15 inches long. He was bigger than I thought he was at this point, which was wonderful. I held him and touched his tiny little hands. He was perfect.

When our family arrived later in the morning, we arranged for a Chaplin to come and say a blessing for Ethan. That was the first time that I cried. The reality of what was happening was starting to sink in. They took Ethan for a little bit to get his footprints and such. Two nurses from the NICU came up to talk to us about what they’d noticed about him at birth. They saw that his skin was beginning to peel in some places and that some of the organs in his abdominal wall defect had begun to almost liquefy. This indicated that he had likely passed away in utero days earlier. I was confused by this because I distinctly saw a heartbeat on the monitor prior to delivery. I was told that this was likely my heartbeat, not his. It didn’t quite make sense to me, but I believe it because I hadn’t really noticed definite fetal movements over the weekend. They said that I probably did truly hear his heartbeat at the doctor’s office last week, which meant it might have happened anywhere after Thursday morning. Therefore, it was determined that he was a stillbirth.

Though this wasn’t the outcome that Keith and I had ever wanted, I still feel like God was looking out for us. For one thing, I had an incredibly fast and painless delivery. Amazingly I didn’t have any cuts or tears whatsoever. I had fretted about labor for weeks prior to this, wondering how on earth I would get through it, and it ended up being so smooth. I think God knew we’d been through enough pain in the pregnancy. I also feel it was a blessing that the monitor picked up my heartbeat. I think if I hadn’t heard anything before delivery, it would have been so much worse. At least in my mind I could believe he was still alive and there was hope. It’s really amazing how God works.

Today has been a rough one. We had kept Ethan with us all day and overnight, so this morning Keith and I held him and took some last pictures with him. We left the hospital later in the morning, and leaving without a baby is the most gut-wrenching feeling I’ve ever felt. I’ve cried a lot. I feel like I’m mourning not only the loss of my son, but also the loss of my pregnancy, of time itself. I should really have had 4 more weeks with him inside of me. I already miss him so much.
We’ve made plans to have Ethan cremated, and his remains will stay with us. Since we don’t currently live in Omaha, and move around with Keith’s job, I didn’t want to bury him. It would be too hard not to be able to regularly visit his grave. We will be getting his remains sometime tomorrow, and then will be driving to Omaha to have a service. I’ll share more details about this later.

Thank you all for sharing in this journey with us. I plan to continue to blog, as a way to keep Ethan’s memory alive and help me heal. This is not the end of our journey, just a new chapter. I hope that you will continue to stay with us.
I will be posting some pictures of Ethan soon.



  1. You are an amazing person Ashley. You are so right. God works in such mysterious ways. I am happy to hear that in the smallest of ways, he was able to give you hope and the guidance to carry on. I really really look forward to seeing pictures of your beautiful son.

  2. My heart goes out to you and I know there are no words I can offer to console you just know you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  3. I don't remember how I found your blog but I have been following it for quite some time. Your entry today was beautiful. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I wish you peace and comfort in the days ahead.

  4. Thanks for sharing Ashley. Still praying. Looking forward to seeing pictures of Ethan, and will see you at his service if you decide to include more than family. You did an amazing job of honoring his life through your pregnancy. You loved him through a journey that some would have refused to take. God bless you and Keith.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this story Ashley. I am so sorry for your loss and pray you find comfort. Are you on's message boards? They have an incredible support system of great women who have experienced the very same thing that you have. I find immense comfort from them. Hugs.

  6. Your love for your son is beautiful.

  7. Ashley, I look forward to seeing pictures of your beautiful son, we are praying for you. I think that you are doing an amazing job of honoring Ethan!

  8. oh ashley. i know that is not what you envisioned... and i know how hard it is. keeping him with you is a great choice (max is still with us) and will comfort you many nights.

    ethan was so lucky to have you as parents. your strength and determination for his well being showed such love.

    we'll be thinking of you always.

  9. To Ashley and Keith,
    I have been following your blog from Lindsey's page, Keith and of cousin of mine were friends in high school. I am so sorry for your loss, please know my heart is with the two of you. I pray that god gives you strength to moving forward everyday. I wish you the best with his services. Also Thank-you for posting your amazing story.

    Talia Gleason

  10. You have such faith and strength! He is a lucky baby to have been so very loved by such a wonderful woman. I will continue to pray for you.

  11. Your love for Ethan is amazing and you are amazing for sharing your story. I have following your progress and praying for you and your family. Ethan is in God's loving arms now and watching over you! My thoughts and prayers are with you so that you may heal. Take Care! Laura

  12. I pray that you will always be comforted with the knowledge that you chose to carry Ethan, and loved him fully, and welcomed him as your first-born. You did everything God allowed you to do, so that he was able to live the full life he was intended to live. I love that the medical people present at his birth made the attempt to revive him. Maybe that does not seem so significant today, but you have the blessing of the memory that no one refused him care.

    You have loved Ethan well, and you will always be his parents, and even though it is painful, you are better off for having loved him.

    We lost our little girl a couple of weeks ago, and some memories that comfort me are of times in the past few months when my husband and I saw her receive loving and excellent medical care, with no regard for whatever her genetic makeup might have been. That's why your Ethan's birth story touched me this evening.

    And he was beautiful!