"My Daughter was Stillborn at 24 Weeks Because of an Umbilical Cord Accident."
Mother of Karlie:
I found out I was pregnant in October 2017.
We got pregnant right away. We were extremely happy, scheduled our doctor’s appointment and I was seen at 6 weeks.
All was well, the baby had a heartbeat and we got ultrasound pics. This was my first pregnancy ever, so I was new to all of this. As the milestones went by, we took pictures every 4 weeks of my growing belly.
The 12-week NT scan went perfect and everything was normal.
Every appointment went well and, overall, I felt great. I never felt sick and remained super active.
At 20 weeks we had our anatomy scan, again another perfect appointment.
All chambers of her heart were normal, there were no birth defects, and the placenta was anterior which was, also, normal.
3 weeks later it was spring break, and we went to Disneyland for Easter with my family. I was 23 weeks pregnant at this time. My husband and I flew there a day early and then my family met us the next day.
Prior to our trip, I had an awful cold but even though I felt pretty crappy, it was just a cold. I would survive.
We walked a lot of the three days I was there, as you know it’s a lot of walking. The 2nd day I was noticeably swollen, to other people, not just something I noticed. For only being 23 weeks, I thought it was a little weird but with all the walking I thought maybe normal.
I noticed on the 3rd day not much movement was happening as I had thought I should be feeling. But we would stand in line for a ride, and I thought, I just felt a big kick. So, all was fine, and I went about my day at the happiest place on earth.
I still had a pretty bad cold and I was plugged up. I didn’t feel awesome.
On our car ride home, we stopped to eat and my lips, hands, and feet felt pretty swollen. Again, I thought I over walked (15 miles a day) all over the park.
I then thought I felt something again, something small, but I felt her, I was sure.
That night I got home from the 6-hour car ride and was really tired. So, I rested and went to bed thinking if I don’t feel something by morning I should call.
I was worried. I told my husband I think I should be feeling more because I was feeling her for 3 weeks now.
I woke up; it was Wednesday morning. No movement.
So, I called.
They asked my symptoms and told me to come in immediately and get checked out. I was a little concerned, but I thought ok at least I’ll go in and see that she’s fine.
I called my mom and we went in together. When I arrived I checked in, they put me in a triage room where a nurse came and told me it’s normal to not feel much yet.
I was 24 weeks exactly and an anterior placenta so movement might be hard to feel.
She got the doppler and it was silence for 1-2 minutes as I could hear my heartbeat but not the baby’s.
She said she was having trouble finding it, I looked at my mom like, "for real?!"
I just hoped she was uneducated and didn’t know what she was doing. In fact, I for sure thought this nurse has no idea what she’s doing.
She got the ultrasound machine, rolled it in, I could see the baby on the screen.
I remember all my prior appointments the heart was flickering. There was no flicker.
She called the doctor to come in and that doctor called another doctor.
And I saw my baby lifeless on the ultrasound screen. No heartbeat. The doctor looked at my mom and I and said, “There’s no heartbeat”.
She felt awful and I could see it in her face. I looked at my mom and said “I don’t want to birth a dead baby”.
I thought to myself:
"How is this even real?" "How does this even work?" "What do I do?" "How am I going to deliver a dead baby?" I could not believe this was happening. Let alone, now I have to call my husband and tell him to come from work because we need to decide what we are going to do.
I was offered 3 choices:
1. Go home, take a pill and wait for things to happen on their own
2. Get a D&E but we would have to wait and schedule it
3. Be induced right now today
The third choice seemed like my best option.
I obviously didn’t want to leave and go home with a dead baby inside me. How would I go about my life knowing she’s dead in there.
I’d have to wait a few days for the other options. So, induction it is.
Let’s just do this so I can go back home and try to resume normal life. Seems harsh, but I wanted out. This wasn’t how my life should be.
My husband arrives, I ask the doctor to do another ultrasound because he needs some proof that there’s no heartbeat. Or maybe the proof was for me to see again. Not sure.
I call my dad and my sister to tell them the news. Everyone’s upset at this point, and I’m mostly upset because I’m also making other people upset by the news.
I didn’t even know what was to come. It was a lot of on and off crying.
They gave me the biggest room in the labor and delivery unit. They were kind and tried to make me feel comforted in the worst time of my life.
My family came to be with me and we waited.
I got induced and 23 hours later we had the most perfect looking (small & skinny) baby girl named Karlie Corinne.
They prepared us she might look different, but she really didn’t other than not being a full-term baby.
She was a little bruised because she was so small. But all 1lb 2oz and 12 inches of her was perfect. Also, the correct size for that gestation.
I had a lot of bleeding after delivery and I felt lifeless. I couldn’t even lift a finger. They gave me Pitocin in my IV to stop the bleeding.
I laid there for I’m not sure how long, also looking at my lifeless daughter on the table where they would have been taking her assessments. Instead, she’s there alone.
As nurses and doctors came and left the room, I saw them look at her confused and shocked. We had held her prior to this, right after her birth.
Our families came in to meet her. It all seemed fast because I was scared to get attached to something I couldn’t bring home.
Which was also confusing, because this is my child, "why am I trying to make sure I don’t fall in love?" Weird.
I guess I was protecting myself from what I’m about to feel the rest of my life, a pain I wish I didn’t.
We waited for a photographer to come from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (an organization that sends a volunteer to take pictures of stillbirths) but no one was available. So, my sister and mom took pictures of us and Karlie.
Originally, I didn’t want to because it seemed weird to do that. I am so thankful my family did.
I could not imagine not having those photos. She’s my daughter after all.
I didn’t know what choices to make in the moment, looking back I still don’t know if I did it all right. But I have some faith that I did. And at some point, you have to stop fighting the “what if’s”, or the “I should have done this”, because that list will only continue to grow and spiral.
Leaving the hospital, the next day, I was empty handed. Other moms leaving with their babies. But I didn’t have mine.
I was angry, upset, sad, and confused. But just wanted to be home so it could be over, or at least the part of leaving the hospital without Karlie could end.
The first few days after I spent every minute thinking of the process Karlie would have to go through. They probably had to keep her cold until they could do the autopsy.
After the autopsy the place we chose to get her cremated would have to pick her up. My husband and I signed all the documents at the place we chose to get her ashes.
Never did I think I’d have to get ashes of my baby.
The autopsy came back about a month later. I wanted an answer.
They let us know they didn’t find anything abnormal with her or the placenta. But the cord was where something was wrong.
These were the basics of the findings:
Death 1-2 days prior to delivery
No external/internal abnormalities
Abnormal-congestion in organs umbilical vein
Placenta-50% percentile normal
Umbilical cord excessively long-80 centimeters. It should be 63 centimeters at 24 weeks gestation. It was 17 centimeters over.
Fullness in cord and organs full
Very long cords increase blood flow
Cord accident-but not wrapped around anything
So, they called it an umbilical cord accident, but it wasn’t your usual cord accident where the cord is usually wrapped around the baby’s neck.
They don’t know why the cord was stretched so long and 17 centimeters over what it should have been.
Our answer for her death is at least a little bit of closure. I feel good about the fact that she was perfect, and I like to remember her that way. But every day it’s still hard.
As I look at my two other children, I feel so thankful they are here and healthy. But I also feel sad as we celebrate things each year like Karlie’s birthday, and I have to explain to my kids why we celebrate for their sister who is not here.
It gets harder to explain it year after year. As they get older, they will once start to realize they wont ever get to meet Karlie and that falls heavy on my mama heart.
We do walks for Karlie with NILMDTS and we light the candle every October for the Wave of Light.
We have her pictures up in our house and we sign her name on every family Christmas card.
We try hard to continue to include her in our family and I try especially hard to spread awareness about stillbirth in memory of my sweet girl, Karlie.
This blog was written by Hillary Wilson in Newark, California. Hillary has been with her husband, Cody, for ten years and married for five. Together they have three children, Kinsley, Layne and Karlie, in heaven.