I’m a mother who never saw her baby open his eyes. But I’m still a mother. And he was still born. I separate the word because he was born, still. Even if he never lived outside the womb. He is loved with my whole heart and my whole being. And he will always be missed. Here is the story of our son, who was so wanted, and who is still loved, and who was stillborn:
We found out I was pregnant on August 15, 2009. I felt pretty good overall, just tired and semi-nauseous, but only sometimes. Ginger ale and toast helped. And cereal and smoothies and lots of fruit. I was one of those pregnant women who looked like they were about to pop, when I was a mere 5 months along. He moved a lot in the womb. Always moving, and often tickling me.
When I was 20 weeks, we found out he was a boy, he was already named. When I called my parents and my brother (they were all anticipating the ‘which gender’ phone call) I told them all, “It’s a Beau!” I felt like we were on top of the world. Everything was perfect.
We started to take a childbirth class, and we took a breast-feeding class too. (Yes, daddies were encouraged to come, and so yes, Sam did attend Breastfeeding 101. Sorry sweetie). In the first childbirth class, there were about 10 couples, and everyone went around the room introducing themselves. We were supposed to say our names, and how we met. Sam told the group that we met in a previous childbirth class, which made me burst out laughing. We only made it to one class, so I wonder if anyone thought it was true….
Suddenly at 33 weeks, Beau stopped moving in the womb. I thought it was because what the pregnancy books say, that they run out of space so you don’t feel the kicks as much. I started to get worried, told Sam, (wanted him to reassure me), and we decided to call the nurse line, also just for reassurance. I tried everything to get Beau to move. (I still have nightmares about that). The nurse told me to get to the hospital right away. Once we got there, we were put in a dim room, the nurse held the Doppler machine to my tummy, and nothing. No heartbeat. The nurse said she would go get the Ultrasound machine “Maybe we’ll find it on there” she said, and the whole time I was focusing on my shallow breathing. I couldn’t even look at Sam, just shake my head back and forth while I laid on the table. My arms were at my side - I couldn’t bear to look at, or touch my stomach; I was waiting until they told me everything was fine. Then the nurse wheeled the Ultrasound machine in, and I draped an arm over my face so I wouldn’t have to see, still shaking my head, “NO”.….I think it was then, that I knew. After what seemed like FOREVER, the nurse told me “Sweetie, I’m just not finding it. I’ll go get the doctor.” She had tears in her eyes, and left the room. Sam came over to me and said, “This is nature we’re dealing with. You did nothing wrong.” I remember saying, “Noooo!!! Beau!!!!!” We grabbed each other’s hands, and searched each other’s faces for some kind of refuge. The doctor quickly came in, confirmed there was no heartbeat, and she asked me a few questions – was I bleeding? Cramping? Contractions? No, no, no. Nothing. Just stillness and now emptiness. My mind couldn’t even fathom the crushing news that my Beau had died, and so I couldn’t even comprehend what she started saying about inducing me into labor. “My baby died and now I have to do WHAT?!” I thought. They were doctors – couldn’t they do something to make me “skip” that part? I tried to reason with the doctor, saying over and over in a small voice, “But I didn’t do anything wrong! I didn’t do anything wrong!” She said calmly, “I know. Sometimes this happens and we don’t know why. We will run some tests.” I didn’t know how she could be so calm. I didn’t want tests - I wanted my son! I wanted to finish my pregnancy. I wanted to go into labor suddenly the next month, hopefully a bit early, have my water break at an embarrassing time, and laugh about a funny labor story later. I wanted my son to scream and cry and pee on the doctor.
I kept hoping in the back of my mind that “Maybe they’re wrong – maybe he WILL scream and cry and surprise everyone, and we will have to decide whether or not to sue the hospital, because everyone’s being so nice right now. Suing the hospital will be the hardest decision to make”. But we had other decisions to make – did we want an autopsy? (yes) Burial or cremation? (cremation) Did we want a chaplin? (yes, please) Did we want to get our camera? (No!) But the nurses took a few pictures, of which I am eternally grateful. Did it feel morbid, having pictures taken of my dead son? Yes. It felt so wrong. But I’m so glad we did, because I have almost no memory of holding him, of almost anything that happened once they started pumping all the drugs in me. On March 7, 2010, at 6:41 pm, Beau Nicholas Caston entered the world, silently.
He was beautiful. He had a head full of dark, wavy hair, and his daddy’s nose. His hands and feet were perfectly formed. He weighed 3 pounds, 15.5 ounces, and was 18 inches long. He looked like he was sleeping. He was so precious.
We held him – me, his daddy, my parents (Sam’s parents flew in the next day), and Beau’s uncle Drew and uncle Johnny. We all told him how much we loved him and how much we wish he could have stayed.
I left the hospital the next day, still stunned, in a wheelchair, family surrounding me, my arms empty and aching. I didn’t want to leave, because that meant facing the world without my son. I had just given birth, but to death. My physical pain during and after labor was nothing compared to when my breasts swelled with milk shortly thereafter….excruciating for two weeks, and a cruel reminder that I had no baby to feed. I felt so unnatural; everything was wrong.
I didn’t even know that it was possible, for this to happen. It was too horrible to even imagine. I don’t live in a third-world country for Christ’s sake. I live in a world with technology, Ultrasound machines, clean water, prenatal vitamins, doctor appointments, pregnancy books. I was educated. I didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, I got plenty of rest, I ate organic food mostly, I put my feet up at work, all my tests were coming back “perfect” at my prenatal appointments. The doctors asked me and Sam if we had history of stillbirth in our families – we said, “Yeah, sure, our grandparents, but that was back in the FORTIES and FIFTIES”. This wasn’t supposed to happen now.
About six weeks later, I got a phone call with the autopsy results, which came back “normal”, the doctor said. I responded, “WELL, CLEARLY SOMETHING WENT HORRIBLY WRONG! WHAT! WENT! WRONG??!!” I felt like I screamed into the phone; I’m pretty sure I did. They had no answers. A few weeks later, I had an appointment with a perinatologist, who said it was his best medical guess that it was an “umbilical cord accident”.
So here we are, Beau’s daddy and me, living and breathing our worst nightmares. It’s four months later, but this pain is far from over. Sam and I hold onto each other tightly, and just hope for better days. Thank you for listening, and thank you for being there for us during this time. Your love and support is helping us weather this terrible storm.