“People often go through their lives with a divider. That divider is a ‘Before’ and an ‘After.’ Although it’s an imaginary line, in our minds it’s very real. Only we, as the victims, know about it. It’s the hardest thing for people to deal with, but everyone has to make his own way. Most people don’t go through the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ phase until something massive happens. Some people don’t go through it until they’re much older. Some unfortunate ones, however, have to go through it while they’re still very young. I realize now that people find their own way to deal in diverse ways. Some have a brush with insanity, others depend on medicine for the rest of their lives and a few of the stronger ones go on with their lives and realize that’s just part of living. Most of the time, everyone goes through life wishing that the life-changing event had never happened. But of course, that type of thinking does nothing at all. It only wastes time and makes it impossible to move on. The hardest aspect of the ‘Before and ‘After’ divider is when it comes out of nowhere and no one is prepared for it. Although I think that’s how tragedy usually occurs, it’s more difficult to deal with…”
~ Zoey Hardy
I read this in the book Brockway High a long time ago, but as I was thinking about my life now, this passage came to mind again. My ‘Before’ and ‘After’ divider is obviously before Robby’s death and after Robby’s death. Robby’s death was truly the definition of a tragedy.
I thought that I was safe. I made it not only to the second trimester, but was nearing the third trimester and that is supposed to be when you and your baby are safe. I had read stories of women who lost their babies late in their pregnancy, and even though I read those stories often I still didn’t think it would happen to us.
Instead of spending my days imagining what Robby’s life will be like, I spend my days thinking about how it should have been and how we won’t ever get to see him grow up. I cry when I see a baby in public. I cry when I see a picture of a baby on Facebook. I cry when I see a pregnant woman because I wish it was me. When I see a baby boy being held out in public my arms ache knowing that I don’t ever get to hold my baby again. I just want to go up to those moms and tell them to cherish every moment that they have with their baby, because in the blink of an eye it can all disappear.
I struggle on a daily basis, and I don’t know when that will change. I am thankful for my family and friends who have been patient with me during this time. There are days I will try to talk to people, but then more days than not I just want to be left to my own thoughts and tears. We are now trying to pick up the pieces. It isn’t that Tanner and I are moving on with our lives- we can’t “move on” from Robby. Robby was our Plan A. Robby is with us in Plan B, just not here with us physically. He is with us in spirit watching over us and helping us to get through each day. My hope is that this blog will not only help me work through my own feelings, but help someone else as well.
This is when our ‘After’ started….and our Plan A was taken from us.
I have decided to write out our sweet baby Robby’s birth story because he was born and he was alive. However, this will be my last post for this blog because it was a blog intended for Robby and other than living on in our hearts, it is the end of his story. I will print out the entire blog of my pregnancy and Robby's birth and put it in a binder so that Tanner and I will always have it.
The last blog post that I entered was just a few hours before we rushed to the hospital on Monday, February 20, 2012. That day I was 22 weeks and 3 days pregnant I had been having bleeding earlier that day, so I went to the hospital, but the doctor on call there said that I was fine and released me. At home later that evening I started to have some cramping and went to the bathroom and out came a BIG gush of blood. I went and got a pad from my mom so we could monitor the bleeding. I quickly realized that my cramps were not just that, but contractions- real contractions. My mom, Tanner, and I all rushed to the hospital and into labor and delivery. The hooked me up to a contraction monitor and sure enough I was having consistent contractions. The doctor came in to check me and I was already 4-5 cm. dilated. When I realized what this meant I got hysterical. I realized that night that our little boy, our sweet little Robby, would be coming into this world entirely too soon.
Since we had gone to the St. Teressa Hospital first, they had to send me by ambulance to St. Joe. Tanner and the nurses had to fight to get Tanner in that ambulance with me because they all just knew that I would deliver Robby that night and they were afraid I would deliver in the ambulance-alone. I can’t even explain the emotions that went through me while they were wheeling me through the hospital and to the ambulance. Tanner was in the ambulance, but up front, so although he was near I still felt so alone back there. My mom and dad sped ahead of the ambulance so they would beat me there, Justin followed the ambulance, and Sue went straight for the labor and delivery room that had been assigned. The ride from St.Teressa to St. Joe was the longest, most excruciating ride I had ever taken before in my life. All I could think about was that I was going to lose my baby.
When I arrived at the hospital I agreed for them to give me some morphine for the pain of the contractions. They told me that although it might not help the pain very much, it would help relax my uterus which could slow the contractions. I didn’t want to take the medicine, but I knew that I had to relax through the contractions so my body wouldn’t push. I had spent my entire pregnancy thus far taking absolutely nothing for a cold, a headache, a sore throat or a cough and now I had to agree to morphine.
The next few days were a really big blur for me. I do know that Tanner and my mom didn’t leave the hospital even once, and my dad only left when he absolutely had to. There was always someone on each side of me holding my hands and helping me breathe through the contractions. They were unending. Night time was the worst; I would have contractions one to two minutes apart sometimes, so as soon as one was over another one began. When contractions were 10-15 minutes apart we consider it "good" because they were farther apart. My body was so tired, but I knew I had to hold on as long as possible to give our baby boy, Robby, a fighting chance at life.
The hospital assigned me a high risk doctor who I later found out is actually a Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor (MFM). The first time he, Dr. Wolfe, came in to see me he seemed hopeful that I could hold on. He put me on a medicine that he thought might help stop the contractions, but I could only be on it for 48 hours without horrible side effects to Robby and me. I found out later that he was pretty much just blowing smoke up my rear, as he told my mom in the hallway that I would deliver that day. That was on Tuesday, and I did not deliver that day. After my mom talked to Dr. Wolfe and he gave her the grave prognosis, she called for prayers from everyone she knew. There were people from all over the country praying for me and Robby. Catholics’, Southern Baptists, Churches Of Christ, and probably many other denominations were praying that Robby would make it. Everyone was praying for a miracle. Even the nurses acknowledged that the only reason I was able to hold out so long were the prayers that we were receiving, because nobody thought I could do it.
After 24 hours on the medication Dr. Wolfe (the MFM) took me off of it without informing me. He was wrong; I did not deliver when he thought I would. When my doctor, Dr. Short, got to the hospital and realized they had given up hope and that the MFM had considered Robby “terminal” she got very upset. I am so thankful to Dr. Short for wanting to give Robby every chance possible to live. She did not ever give up on me or him, and I will never forget that. After we insisted on resuming the medication for the contractions I did not hear much from Dr. Wolfe. He basically just wanted me to let him break my water and be done since he "knew" what the end result would be. I couldn't and I wouldn't do that. I knew the statistics were not in my favor, but I had to give Robby a chance at life. I had to do as much for him as humanly possible. If it would have helped I would have hung upside down on monkey bars for the remainder of my pregnancy.
The hospital’s policy was that they would not attempt to resuscitate any baby born before 23 weeks. Because of this policy my first goal was to make it to 23 weeks. Once I hit that magical number they would have a team, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, at the birth waiting to work on our sweet Robby at his birth. My second goal was 23 weeks 5 days which is when they would start me on steroids to help mature his lungs. Unfortunately, my body didn't hold onto Robby long enough to make it to our second goal.
The nurses at St. Joe were fantastic- each and every one of them were truly amazing, hopeful, personable and sympathetic to my situation. They kept a really close eye on me. One of the things that kept me going while I was there was being able to hear Robby’s heartbeat every four hours. We always knew where we would find his heartbeat, because he liked to hang out on my lower right side. Sometimes he didn’t want to be bothered, so he would move away from where the monitor was probing for him. One of the nurses suggested that we record his little heartbeat- just in case, and I am so glad that we did. I will forever be able to play the sound of his heartbeat and hear our little Robby.
On Friday morning, around 5:00 am, my body just could not hold off anymore. The contractions were so bad that the morphine hadn't even touched them for about the past 24 hours. Then the pressure came. I could feel my body trying to force me to push Robby out. I knew then that the inevitable was coming; our baby boy would be born at 23 weeks. Tanner, my mom and my dad were already there in the room and we called Justin who came immediately. My body started to shake uncontrollably and I couldn’t keep my body relaxed through contractions any more. At this point I was straining with all that I had to refuse the pressure and to refuse to push. My dad came to my bed and said: "Amanda, maybe it is time to give Robby his chance." I knew he was right. I felt so guilty that the guilt I felt was worse than any pain I have ever experienced. Having to push was emotionally so hard on me. A day earlier the nurse had offered me an epidural, but since I wouldn’t let anyone check me, in fear they would break my water, I refused. So, I was delivering my little boy naturally. Pushing seemed to last forever, but in reality it only lasted for about forty-five minutes. He was breech, so he came out feet first. I remember the pain I felt seeing his little legs coming out of me and knowing that in a matter of minutes he would be out where he wasn’t protected anymore.
At 7:29 am on Friday, February 24, 2012, Robert James Smith was born. The NICU team worked on him for a few minutes, but they were unable to get his lungs to inflate, so they brought him over to me so that we could hold him while he was still alive. Robby was the most perfect little baby I have ever seen. There was absolutely nothing wrong with him other than that he was just born too soon. He had ten perfect fingers and ten perfect little toes. He looked exactly like his daddy and had the most adorable little nose. He had a full head of hair (stubble) which is unbelievable at his early age! He had perfect ears. His eyes were not open yet because it wasn't time in the pregnancy for that happen. The pigment wasn't there. We got to spend an hour and forty-five minutes with him before his heart stopped beating. My baby was born alive. He has a live birth certificate. He wasn't miscarried. He wasn't stillborn. He was alive, had a beating heart and moved his precious little hands, fingers, and lips while we held him. I am thankful for the time I had with him, although holding your baby knowing that he doesn’t get to stay with you is a cruel and horrible thing to have to go through. BUT, as hard as it was, I am so thankful that Tanner, my mom and I were able to hold this sweet little boy while he was still alive and that my dad and Justin were there to spend the time with us and Robby as well. The nurses said that he knew that we were with him. He knew that his mommy, daddy, and Mimi were holding him and loving on him while we could.
Even after Robby had gone to be with Jesus the hospital let us hold him for as long as we wanted. They didn’t ever come and tell us it was time for him to go, but they let us say goodbye on our own terms and in our own time. We sat there and held him and rocked him and loved on him. When they got me up to shower Tanner took Robby and watched the television. When I came out Tanner looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “He wanted to watch at least one cop show with me.”
Soon after I delivered Robby I spiked a fever of over 102*. For this reason I was not allowed to leave the hospital on Friday. They hooked me up to bag after bag of antibiotic and told me it would be 24 hours. I couldn't stand being on the labor and delivery floor. My mom asked them to move me and our wonderful nurse, Lara, got right on it. They put me on the 7th floor back in a corner where I wouldn't be bothered. Saturday morning I woke up ready to go home and my white blood count was still not at the right level so they had to continue the antibiotics all day long. Later that morning, my first visitors came since the birth and death of our son.....my girls. My girls who had been loving Robby and counting down the weeks until his arrival since I was 4 weeks pregnant. Their hugs were the medicine I needed but their sad little faces were crushing. They had been on a 2 week vacation and had missed his birth. Maybe it was for the better that they were out of town but the guilt I felt and still feel is very real. Once I had been diagnosed with a short cervix at 18 weeks Brittany had started worrying that I was going to have Robby while she was gone. I had promised her that would not happen. It did. The girls had been eagerly anticipating getting home to feel Robby's kicks. Now they would not ever feel Robby kick. They were all devastated and seeing their tear filled faces just broke my heart even more because I love them so very much and I know how much they all loved their little nephew Robby.
Nanny was on her cruise while we spent this agonizing week at the hospital. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to get a hold of her, so we just let her enjoy her vacation while she could. When she got back she felt terrible that she was not here for us and for Robby’s birth.
Leaving the hospital was a horrible thing to go through. I was so ready to leave, but then I realized that I would be leaving without my baby, so then the thought of leaving terrified me. I was leaving with empty arms, and a broken heart. My mom convinced the nurse to let me walk out instead of using a wheelchair. As I walked out of the hospital for the first time I really realized that it was real. While I was in the hospital going in and out of my morphine state, I would pray that I would wake up and everything would be okay- that Robby would be okay.
I think it is our nature as humans to want to place blame on someone. I know that after giving birth to my baby, only to have him taken away less than 2 hours later, I have tried to place blame. I wanted to blame God. Why did God take our little boy away from us? What did I do to deserve this? Why me? Then I realized that God didn’t want this to happen, but this is simply just life and it happened. I hate it when people tell me that “everything happens for a reason” because that makes it sound like God took our baby away from us for a reason and I believe in a loving God- a God who doesn't deliberately choose to take a baby from a mommy and a daddy.
I tried to blame the doctors. They should have watched me more carefully. They should have tried harder to keep him in. They should have caught it at the hospital that first trip in on Monday afternoon. Why didn't they do a pelvic exam on me that afternoon to see if something was wrong instead of just a sonogram? Why did they tell me I was ok and send me home? I know in my heart that they were watching me as closely as they thought was necessary and there was no way to predict that this would happen.
Out of everyone that I blamed, the person I blamed (and still do sometimes blame) the most is myself. Why didn’t I realize something was wrong sooner? Why didn’t I insist on a pelvic exam earlier on Monday? Why couldn’t I just keep him in longer? There wasn’t anything wrong with my sweet little boy, it was me. I was the problem. My body pushed him out of his little spot where he was supposed to be safe and grow. I was his mom and I was supposed to be able to protect him, but I couldn’t. Everyone tells me that I did all that I could, and I know that I truly did, but I still can’t help but feel that I am in some way to blame.
I also ask myself why. Why did this happen to me and Tanner? Haven’t we gone through enough? But, as Kevin Nash said at Robby’s funeral- Faith is not needing to know the answers, but trusting in God.
On Monday, February 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm we had a funeral for Robby. It was a short graveside service for anyone who loved Robby. We had so many friends and family show up, and it was nice to know that they were there for us. It was nice to hear our friends say how close they had already felt to Robby because of the blog I had been keeping up. It was comforting to hear people say how much they already knew him and our love for him.
Sometimes I forget that I am not pregnant anymore. Night time is the worst time for me. Robby was so active at night, and sometimes I still think I feel him moving around in there. Then, I reach down to my stomach and realize that he isn’t there anymore. He is gone. When I realize that he is gone I start thinking about all the things that we won’t get to do together. I won’t ever get to read him Dr. Seuss books again, or rock him to sleep. I won’t ever get to go play outside with him on a swing set or in the sand. Tanner won’t ever get to take Robby mudding or to a monster truck show. My dad won’t ever get to build a tree house with his grandson, and my mom won’t ever get to play baseball with him. We won’t get to watch our sweet little Robby grow up into a young man. I hate that our time with him was cut so incredibly short. We had barely even begun to get to know him and now he is gone.
I don’t know what Tanner and I would have done without my family. My dad took care of all of the funeral arrangements for us. When planning for a baby you don’t ever think you will have to plan a funeral as well. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for him to have to plan his grandson’s funeral, but he was so strong for us and I am so thankful for him. As I said earlier, my mom did not leave the hospital even once. She was in her pajamas for the first few days because that is how we all rushed to the hospital on Monday night. She wouldn’t leave long enough to even change or shower. Everyone was just so sure that my water would break at any minute that my mom did not want to be away from me and I couldn't stand the thought that she would leave for even a second. We knew that as soon as my water broke it would be shortly after that when Robby would be born. She has held my hand through everything, and I don’t know what we would have done without her. Justin was at the hospital every chance he could, mornings, evenings, and even some nights. He was by my side and was always encouraging me. He even went to Gymboree to get Robby’s outfit that I had picked out for him. Just 2 weeks earlier I had picked out a little froggy outfit that I had planned to go back and get for Robby's coming home outfit. He wore it to go home- home to Jesus.
My family and I have been so overwhelmed with the showering of love that we have received from our friends. Our friends have been so generous by sending flowers, cards and food- not to mention all of the prayers that have been spoken on our behalf. We greatly appreciate all of our friends for being there for us in our time of great need.
Tanner has been so amazing through everything. Tanner and I have been through a lot in our relationship. Before we got married his family told him not to marry me because of my health problems, but he loves me and he means in sickness and in health. He has stuck by my side through it all. He decided that even without the support of his own family, he wanted to marry me and be with me for the rest of his life. I hope that some day they will understand what an upstanding man Tanner Smith has become. Just when I thought I couldn’t love him anymore- I do. He surprises me each and every day with even more love and more compassion. I didn’t think it was possible, but I think our love has grown stronger because of Robby. We both learned to love in a way that we hadn't known before. I have been able to lean on him since the contractions started, and when I try to blame myself for letting this happen he reassures me that I did all that I possibly could, and that it is not my fault. He holds me when I cry and helps me up when I am feeling down, and I couldn’t possibly be any prouder that I am able to call him my husband, and that I get to spend the rest of my life with him.
My follow up doctor’s appointment did not go as I had planned. I thought that my official diagnosis would be cervical incompetence so I researched it and researched it and learned all I could about what could be done for it and what we would do the next time I got pregnant. I was wrong. With an incompetent cervix I would not have had the pain or the contractions. When you have an incompetent cervix, they can do a cerclage, which means that they would go in and stitch up the cervix to prevent it from opening. The problem with doing a cerclage on me would be that if I were to contract it would rip my cervix and then we would be done having babies. My official diagnosis is preterm labor. They don't know a lot about preterm labor and they don't seem to have the magical fix for preventing it from happening again. My doctor gave me a referral to a MFM (Dr. O'Hara) that she thinks is the best in Wichita. The biggest concern with the preterm labor diagnosis is that they don’t know much about why it happens other than they do know that once it does happen then the odds are it will happen again. There are things that can cause preterm labor such as:
· Late or no prenatal care
Well, since Robby was planned it wasn’t that we didn’t have early enough prenatal care. I started taking prenatal vitamins when Tanner and I got engaged because we knew we wanted to start a family as soon as possible. During my pregnancy I wouldn’t even chew sugar free gum because of the artificial sweetener, so I definitely wasn’t doing illegal drugs! I cut all caffeine out when Tanner and I started trying to conceive so you can be positive that I wasn’t drinking alcohol. We are not sure why this happened, but there are things that we can do to try to prevent it from happening again. Things that they can do next time for me: I will most likely be on bedrest, they will have me on p17 shots, and they will monitor me very closely.
Dr. Short told me at my follow up appointment that it is not standard procedure for a sonogram technician to check cervical length at the 18 week sonogram. What that means is, if my sonogram technician had not checked my cervix at that appointment, I would not have been flagged in the charts, and I would have been on the cruise with Nanny when I delivered Robby. We would have been on the open sea that Monday when I went into labor. If that sonogram technician would have just done what was asked of her and nothing more, then Tanner would not have been there for the birth of his son. Dr. Short said that she pulled that lady aside and thanked her from the bottom of her heart for checking my cervical length at that appointment.
People are now asking me when we will be able to try to have another baby. Tanner and I will have to be ready physically and emotionally before we decide to start trying again. My doctor said that we will need to wait about eight months before we can start trying again. My next pregnancy will be difficult for us mentally and physically since we will worry with each minute of each day that our baby could be preterm like Robby. We will always love Robby, he will always be our first born, and he will always have a special place in our hearts. We had always planned on having a big family, and we won’t let this scare us. However, our next baby won’t be replacing Robby. Robby was born, and he was alive. He was his own little person and we will treasure our time that we had with him forever. We won’t ever truly be saying goodbye to our sweet little Robby, because he will always live in our hearts. He will always be our son and our precious, sweet, little, perfect Robby, and we take comfort in knowing that someday we will be with him again.