"My Son was Born at 29 Weeks Because of Placental Abruption."
Mother of Jacob:
My husband Jon and I got married in September of 2020 in the middle of the global pandemic. We had a simple, family only wedding on the coast of South Carolina then went back home and continued life, trying to enjoy what little bit of newly wedded bliss we could find. We never talked much about kids, thinking it was a discussion for after our first year of marriage. But six months later, I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test.
My heart was racing, mind spinning, but a little flicker of love had already started to grow in my heart.
At ten weeks we had a strong heartbeat.
At twelve a beautiful ultrasound of a baby that looked like a peanut. At twenty weeks we saw our peanut again, big belly, big legs, big head, and found out we were having a boy. We were so happy.
From the moment I found out God had given us a little boy to raise, I was completely and totally in love, excited and joyful. As the weeks continued, Jake grew, got A-pluses at all doctor’s visits, I worked out, ate right, traveled, and never had a worry in the world.
In October, we went on our babymoon out West. We love the desert and wanted to be out in nature. On that trip we felt so connected to our little boy, falling more and more in love. My belly seemed to be getting bigger by the day and Jake was starting to move more frequently. It was all so perfect.
At the end of October, a week after we got home, I got sick.
At first, I thought it was just third trimester tiredness. I was rounding out my last week in the 20's and as I got closer to 30 weeks, I kept telling Jon how much my belly ached and that I was so ready to meet our little man. But the tiredness was extreme. I was sleeping all day and had a mild cough. I went to the doctor for a check up, Jake had a good heartbeat and they didn’t seem concerned. My Covid and flu tests came back negative, so I assumed it was just a bug of some kind.
I spoke with my doctor twice more over the phone and no one seemed worried. I only got a little concerned when my breathing was off and Jake didn't seem as active. But I thought it was okay. I was sick and lethargic, so wouldn't he be as well?
He also had an anterior placenta making it more difficult to feel consistent movement patterns and I had just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, so I summed it all up to getting used to another “new normal”.
November 7, 2021 was the day of my baby shower.
I was still tired from the past week of being sick. I had more energy but was starting to feel funny in my head and my body was shaky, but I brushed it off. I got dressed and arrived at my shower, late as always. I walked in to the most beautiful, perfect shower. I visited with my friends and family.
I felt so loved, but continued to feel weird and disconnected, like I was floating above the room. At the end of the shower, I got a call about my husband, who was also sick. I went to go take care of him and didn't think of myself or Jake’s movements for the rest of the night.
Before I went to bed, I called my mom while sitting in the nursery, looking at one of the gifted baby books titled “You Are My Happy”.
I was peaceful, I was happy, I was ready to meet my little boy.
If I had only known...
November 8, 2021
3:00am I sat straight up in bed, belly hurting, realizing I had not felt Jake at all the day before. I was nervous, but calmed myself down, assured he was just tired from whatever bug I had fought off.
8:00am I made sure Jon was okay and lunch was made. I raced out the door to work. Throughout the morning I kept a conscious tab of Jake's movements.
There were none.
I assured myself he never really moved until after lunch anyways, so I went about my day.
12:00pm At my dad's insistence, I called the nurse, no answer. I hung up. I ate lunch, drank cold water and reassured myself that Jake would move later after lunch...like always. He didn't. I went to the bathroom and poked on him in his usual spots. Nothing.
2:00pm I called the nurse, left a message. She called me right back and told me to go to the hospital to check things out.
3:30pm my dad and I were at the hospital. 4:00pm monitors were strapped to my belly and to my relief I could hear Jake's heartbeat. It was short lived... When my dad told me his numbers, I knew they weren't good. However, I felt three strong kicks which gave me comfort, my little guy was still there.
At this point I lost track of time. I was told there looked to be a backflow issue with the placenta. In addition, his oxygen levels were abnormal so they had me go through a stress test, nothing changed.
The ultrasounds showed him moving, but they were slow. The doctor then informed me they were going to do a c-section. In the moment all I could process was my little 29 week, 5 day old boy was going to be delivered because my body was no longer safe for him.
I was assured that babies this young survive and was told the plan; my newborn would be transported to a bigger hospital with a level 3 NICU immediately after surgery.
When I was awake, they would get me to pump as much as I could and send milk to that hospital. The following morning, I would be transported as well. I took a deep breath, nervous, but calm. I called my husband (who was not with me) to fill him in, but quickly had to go as they started prepping me for the c-section. They had a hard time finding a vein and by the time they did I was so worked up I was about to pee my bed, so I asked to go to the bathroom.
And that was the moment my whole world started to crumble.
As I stood up there was a gush of blood. The nurses hurried me back into bed. They put the heart monitor on Jake, nothing. The doctor ran in, the nurses began to move my bed, then started to run. I couldn't process what was happening.
The door to the OR was opened. They took me inside, moved me to the operating table; everyone in the room was doing something: catheter, ointment, breathing mask... I began to panic, reality started to sink in as I stared at the OR lights.
"Keep him safe, Lord, keep him safe. Be with us. I'm so scared. Lord, keep him safe. Hold on baby." I heard the anesthesiologist say “you’ll be okay, honey.” And I was out.
Jacob Henry was born at 7:20 pm on November 8, 2021, 2 pounds, 13 ounces, 15 inches long.
I came to, shaking uncontrollably, scared, cold.
I just wanted to go back to sleep. I couldn't remember what was happening. I was just scared. I came to again, a sweet nurse told me he made it, but somberly told me it took eighteen minutes to revive him.
I nod, "thank goodness." She reiterates how long it took, but at that moment I didn't understand why. "What's his name?" asked another nurse. "Jacob Henry," I said. "Happy Birthday Jacob!" I heard the nurses say as I fell back to sleep.
I've been told that at that time Jake was intubated, the transfer team was there at the OR, the ambulance was ready to take him to the level 3 NICU. My dad was talking to the anesthesiologist who reassured him that the other NICU was great, and he was keeping Jon posted.
I come to again, this time on my own.
That’s when I saw the neonatal nurse and two others walk in, sullen faces. I knew. I knew in my heart. A mother knows it in her bones. "I'm so sorry."
He lost too much blood. I'm so sorry." she said repeatedly. And just like that he was gone.
They asked if I wanted to hold him and I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I was heavily medicated and in a total daze, but all I wanted was to see my boy.
Minutes later they brought in my perfect little angel. The emotion that hit me first was love, total love, like nothing I’ve ever felt. Then sheer agony. I sobbed. My dad enveloped me and cried with me. My mom arrived and held me as I held Jake.
Then I had to do the worst thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, tell Jon.
He was at home, an hour away, not allowed in the hospital because he had been sick. Pandemic rules.
So, I had to tell my husband our precious baby boy died, over facetime. As if it's not hard enough to lose a child, we lost him separately and my husband had to hear it over facetime, alone. Trauma on trauma. Heartbreak on heartbreak.
Thanks to some amazing nurses and an act of God, Jon was allowed in my room to hold Jake.
We held him, cried, prayed, stared. We were destroyed, shattered, our innocence left with our little boy.
We were allowed to spend as much time with Jake as we could, but eventually rules can only be pushed so far, and Jon was required to leave. I thought my heart couldn't break any more, but it did. My husband was alone and I was left holding our precious baby without him.
At some point in the night, my angel of a nurse asked if she could bathe Jake and came back in, presenting his full head of sandy red hair which gave me a much needed smile.
All night long I marveled at his perfect little nose. His sweet little lips. His delicate eyelashes. He looked just like his dad. I held his sweet fingers and toes. I rubbed his soft cheeks. I kissed his perfectly round head.
I tried memorizing every inch of him. I was so in love.
The following morning, we were blessed to be gifted a photographer to capture our only moments with our sweet boy.
Jon was allowed back in one more time. We spent several hours loving on our sweet Jacob Henry until it was time to say goodbye.
If it were up to me, I would never let him go. But Jon could see it was time and our hearts needed to let our baby rest. I couldn't even bear to watch them take him out of the room. Even now, remember that moment, my heart cries out for him.
It is the most unnatural thing in the world to have your baby taken away from you forever.
In the following days and weeks after Jake's birth, we found a few answers.
Whether due to being sick, gestational diabetes or a combination of both, Jake's placenta has started to dysfunction causing his heart rate and oxygen levels to decrease.
While I was in the hospital a placental abruption presented itself when I went to the bathroom. However, it is the belief of the doctor that the abruption was silent, meaning the blood was pooled in a way that could not be seen on the ultrasound so Jake may have been losing blood for a while.
I've been told this is rare. Not knowing what the exact cause was eats away at my mind. I constantly replay all the things I could have done that may have prevented it. I research causes, little of which is actually known. Everything leads me back to the same place, it's all out of my control.
I have never felt so helpless. I have never felt so vulnerable.
My innocence is lost. I now live in a world where babies die - healthy babies die.
No one could ever have prepared me for the pain of saying goodbye to my child.
But also, no one could have prepared me for the amount of love I was to experience. I will never understand why this is the path God planned for me, but I do believe Jake has a purpose.
As I see it, the only way for me to live my life now is to live for God and to honor Jake. I want God to work through our suffering, both within our family and our community.
A year later, I do have hope for the future, even if some days are dim.
I miss my son with every fiber of my being, but I am so thankful I got to carry him for the time I did. I’m proud to be his mama, to tell his story and share the love that has poured out from his short life.
And even more, I can now testify that in the darkest of valleys, I can trust God to redeem the brokenness, with my hands raised and heart wide open.
This blog was written by Kait Roth in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kait has been with her husband, Jonathan, for seven and married for two years. Together they have one children, Jacob, in heaven.