Labor began fast and furious at 41 weeks and 1 day gestation. We had our 2nd homebirth/water birth planned, to be attended by a licensed midwife. I woke up feeling crampy at about 4:40 am on October 6th, 2008 and went to the bathroom. I went back to bed where contractions immediately started and I quickly woke up Paul with my moaning. He began timing contractions and at my urging called our midwife at about 5:10 am and she left.
We moved downstairs where the birth tub, a bed, and our supplies were set up for the big event. The contractions were really hard and close together. By 5:45 I was feeling the urge to push. Paul was on the phone with our midwife and she instructed me to get down on the mattress in a head down butt up position to counteract gravity. I was also puffing out my breaths to keep from pushing, but it was really difficult. I wanted so badly to get into the tub, but couldn’t because our midwife wasn’t there yet. (She had been on the phone with Paul while she was in the car driving to our house.)
She arrived at about 6:25 and rushed to get all her stuff in. I got into the tub as soon as she said I could and she tried to get the baby’s heart rate with the Doppler. I felt my water break then and needed to push, so when she couldn’t find the heart rate, I was only briefly concerned. Due to a shoulder issue with my last baby, she wanted me in a running start position for pushing, so I didn’t really see what was going on as the baby crowned and came out at about 6:40 a.m.
After she (we didn’t know what we were having) came out, I turned around and the umbilical cord tore in half. I saw my baby in the midwife’s arms, all purple and with the cord around her neck. I was so weak and numb from the pain being over. I heard the midwife say, “Oh, God!” and immediately she started doing mouth to mouth. Paul was stunned at what was happening and she yelled to him to call 911. They took the baby over to the bed and our midwife continued infant CPR with Paul right there. He was crying out to God to help his daughter and that’s when I realized we had a baby girl! I hadn’t even touched her! I was still in the tub, numb from shock. I continued to sit in the birth tub sobbing and crying out to God to help my daughter.
Then the paramedics and police arrived. There were multiple people helping with Felicity (we had names already picked out) and others talking and attending to me. We were in such shock, we didn’t know whether anything they were doing was helping or not. They left with Felicity at about 7:10 to transport her to the hospital. I still hadn’t even touched her!
Paul stayed with me and once I had delivered the placenta, they transported me by ambulance to the hospital as well. The hospital is about 8 miles away and the whole ride there, Paul and I alternated between praying, singing, crying, and quoting scripture. The scripture that came to mind which I kept repeating was “and the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The paramedics kept saying they didn’t know anything about Felicity and that we would find out when we got to the hospital. We arrived about about 8:30 a.m.
They took me up to the OB floor. A nurse came in and asked some questions and took my blood pressure. It was all a blur; I just wanted to see my baby. We were told my doctor was on the way and then they left us alone in the room. We had to wait about half an hour before my doctor came in to the room. (I had seen her twice during my pregnancy and she had given me the referral for the homebirth.)
It was after 9 at this point and I think I remember her introducing herself to Paul and greeting me. She made a couple of comments about what had happened during my labor and then she started to say, 'Rachel, I am so sorry to have to tell you this. . .' She didn't get any farther and I just felt my body erupt in pain and anguish. I started crying out, 'No, no, no!' and Paul was sobbing too! It is such an empty hollow feeling and I just can't even begin to describe what we were feeling.
The ER crew had worked on Felicity until about 7:50 a.m., but was never able to get her breathing. It was noted that she had a tight knot in her umbilical cord and the cord was stretched very thin on either side of the knot. When they tried to intubate her, they noted meconium in her system. The ER doctor in charge called her death at 7:50 a.m. Officially, it was recorded that she never breathed and died sometime before she was born. (In the case of a stillbirth, parents never receive a birth certificate, only a death certificate.)
They brought Felicity up to our room in a nursery bassinet, wrapped in hospital blankets and with a newborn hat on. She was very dark purple due to her heart having stopped before birth, but so beautiful, none the less. They picked her up with such care and put her in my arms and left us alone with her. We cried and cried. We were told we could spend as much time with her as we wanted and everyone in the hospital was so kind. We hadn't called home to let anyone know what had happened to Felicity and then my mom arrived. Paul was holding Felicity and had his back to the door when she came in and at first her mouth dropped open in shock and a light came into her eyes, but I started crying and had to say, 'Mom, she's gone!'
The grief we feel is like nothing I can describe. We spent most of the day with Felicity, holding her, kissing her, crying over her, and examining all her features in detail. She had a head full of dark, dark hair, basically black and little ears. Her fingernails and toenails were so long! She had my long skinny toes and chubby thighs. She looked so much like Elijah did with a perfect little rosebud mouth and chubby cheeks. She had light colored eyebrows and despite her coloring, she was absolutely perfect in every way! I could tell she was heavy. They weighed her and measured her and took her back to the nursery to do her footprints and take more photographs. They dressed her in the sweetest pink sleeper with a hand-knit sweater and hat.
We debated a little bit about whether the boys should see her. I am so glad that Paul thought it was important for them, as I was unsure. He went home to tell the boys and bring them and my Dad and Aunt Cathy back to the hospital. My mom called home and told Dad and Cathy that Felicity went to be with Jesus, but to wait to tell the boys. When Paul got home, Ethan greeted him at the door and said, 'Daddy, can we go and see my sister?' Then he saw Paul's sad expression and he started to cry. Paul sat down with the boys and told them what happened. He and Ethan cried together.
I was holding Felicity when they came into the room. Ethan had a very sad, closed off look when he came in, but Elijah in all his 2 year old enthusiasm came right over to the bed, said, 'Hi Mama.' and asked to get on the bed. He said hi to Felicity and immediately started touching her and kissing her. He had no reservations about the dark color of her skin or how still she was. Ethan had to be encouraged to come and look at her and touch her. He finally climbed up on the end of the bed with me and looked more closely. He touched her and I commented to him about how soft her skin was. He agreed. The nurses took more pictures of her with the boys. They both held her.
My parents and Cathy took the boys home around 1 or 1:30. Time is fuzzy and I can't quite keep it all straight. So much time was spent in tears and prayer. We had to meet with the coroner and talk about what happened and why. He determined by looking and examining her that the result of death was the 'true' knot in her cord. In doing some research online I found that only 5% of pregnancies have a knot form in the cord, usually in the first trimester and they are not detectable by ultrasound. But of that 5% only 1% end in death/stillbirth. Felicity died while still inside me, sometime in the night or during labor.
My doctor wanted me to stay the standard 24 hours, but of course I wanted to go home. I wanted to be with the boys, to be surrounded by my family, and feel their love. We spent the rest of the afternoon, holding and loving our daughter, while trying to make some plans - whether anything in her body could be donated (it couldn't due to an unknown time of death.) We also had to decide on whether we wanted an autopsy or testing done to determine any genetic problems which might have led to her death. We decided against both. An autopsy wouldn't be able to tell us when she died and based on how she looked and that she was full term, it was fairly certain that there was nothing wrong with her internally. The genetic testing didn’t make sense considering the knot in her cord.
A professional photographer from a ministry called 'Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep' and took photographs. It was amazing how many things they do for families who lose a baby. The hospital sent us home with the outfit she wore, mementos, a lock of hair, and her footprints.
We had to start the process of planning a service and contacting a funeral home before we could go home. A man from the funeral home came and picked up her body around 4 p.m. He came with what looked like a large black tool box case. I couldn't watch him put her body into it, so Paul held me while he did it. And then . . . she was gone!
I often find myself reliving that day in bits and pieces in my mind. I wonder when a day will go by that I won't think about her and the place she would have had in our family. I will always wonder how different our lives would be if she were here with us. We will always feel an emptiness in our lives because she is not with us. We are so thankful though that she is in Jesus' arms, perfectly complete and content. Felicity Faith means "joyful faith." Her life was short, but we pray we can live out her legacy by having a joyful faith.
After doing more research on true knots, I came across information saying that knots ARE detectable in an ultrasound. There are still many factors that contribute to whether or not a knot can be seen, but they can be detected. There are no guarantees that a C-section will produce a live baby if a knot is detected. I had an ultrasound at 38 weeks 5 days to confirm Felicity was not breech. I am assuming that the technician checked other things during the scan as it lasted for about 10 minutes or so. No concerns were noted at that time. I believe God is sovereign and that we live in a fallen world because of sin. I blame no one for my daughter's death.