So far on Sugar Free Ear Candy we have talked about the disaster that is bringing home a baby while being crazy, struggling with infertility, the question of having more than one kid, and now, what may be the toughest of all...In a game that no one wants to win and that game being "What is the shittiest situation ever imaginable?" this may just be the winner.
I know what you are thinking...why in God's name would I want to read this article? I'll tell you.
Unfortunately, I know more women that have suffered a miscarriage or still birth than haven't. This is a club that no one wants to be in yet so many women are forced into this horrible club. The point of this article isn't to scare you or simply to make you cry (and you will cry). This article is about letting you know that if this has happened to you, or if you are currently going through this, you aren't alone. You aren't. Unfortunately, you are in a club full of other women who were forced into it as well. There are others out there who understand and have been through it and can show you that there is hope and there is a happy ending.
So, without further ado - please let me introduce Kate who is here to share her story, Caden's story. My friends, please read and show some love & support to Kate.
My Story of Losing a Child
Before I begin, I just want to say THANK YOU to Lynsey, and her amazing blog, Sugar Free Ear Candy, for giving me this platform to write my story. If you are not a follower of her blog, you need to be because she is witty, funny, sarcastic, and an amazing person!
I am feeling a mixed basket of emotions about writing my story. I feel a little terrified about putting this out there to the public, but also I am feeling like this is going to be very therapeutic for me, and hopefully for some of you too. I am hoping that sharing my story will HELP someone else out there who may have experienced what I went through or who might be going through it now. This is also for all my friends, family, and strangers who have supported me though this difficult time in my life, and for those who may have been a little afraid to ask. So, here it is… the whole story and nothing but the story….
October has always been one of my favorite months of the year. The weather is just perfect, the leaves are changing, there is a chill in the air, and the holidays are right around the corner. It’s also when I break out my red wine, and god knows I love me some red wine! It was like this the October of 2007, minus the red wine, because I was pregnant with my first baby. We had just moved to an amazing area, Fishers, Indiana, and I was working for an amazing school! We had just bought a house that was amazing, in a neighborhood where I knew the women I met would be my friends forever. My husband had just gotten a new job at a company where he knew he could do amazing things, and we were excited and pregnant! And everything was just A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
I was working one day, and was in the office of the school. For a few days before that I was feeling a little more tired than usual and had some “growing pains” in my stomach. At least that’s what I thought it was, my belly stretching out for baby. I got up, went to my local gym, did my run, and got to work. Once I was at work I just couldn’t stop feeling those “growing pains.” I kept talking about it to the secretaries at the school and they encouraged me to call the doctor just to ease my worry. I didn’t want to call the doctor because I didn’t want to be “that” new mom who calls every time I feel a twitch, pain, movement, in my belly. (GIRLS….ALWAYS CALL YOUR DOCTOR!!! THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE THERE FOR! That’s my PSA for the day.) Anyway, I called thinking they will just tell me it’s no big deal. However, they wanted me to come in right away. So I called my husband, but told him not to leave work as I was sure it was no big deal. So, in I went at 22 weeks pregnant....
I got to the doctor and they did an ultrasound to see if everything was ok. I loved my ultrasound technician, she was warm and fuzzy and said all the right things. However on this day, she was silent looking at the pictures on the screen. She didn’t say a word, and told me she was going to let my doctor talk to me. What???? Mind you, I was BY MYSELF! Ok…no problem. I walk into the doctor’s office and he comes in right away. No waiting for me! He looked very stern and did not sugar coat it for me. He said, “Kate, we need to send you to the specialist doctors across the hall to get a high tech ultrasound to make sure what I am seeing is correct.” He says the pains I have been feeling were not growing pains at all but contractions. Real live…having birth…contractions. By that time I had called Bryan and told him to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Luckily he was close by so he got there fast. We went to the specialist toghether and confirmed my doctor’s notes. I was having contractions every 5 minutes, I was completely effaced, and baby was coming.
From that moment on, things went so fast! Bryan and I didn’t even have time to comprehend what was happening to us as nurses flew around us, hooking me up to monitors, giving me shots of steroids to stop the contractions, a shot of another steroid to help kick start the growth of the baby’s lungs (just in case), putting my hospital bed at an angle so my head was down and my feet were up to release any pressure on my cervix, and a constant IV drip of terbutaline, which made me feel sick! Once all of that was taken place and things calmed down a bit, I called my mom.
Oh man, was that hard. I called her, told her what happened, and she started laughing like she thought I was joking. I don’t blame her, no one ever in my family ever had pregnancy issues. I was the last child to have babies, and we didn’t know the meaning of what was happening. My parents live in KC and once she realized I was not joking, that it was all VERY real, she and my dad were shocked! I was still in shock myself and told them not to come in to visit because I thought for sure, this was nothing, and I was going to have a healthy baby on January 6th, my due date.
I stayed in the hospital for a week, and they said I was looking good and could go home to be on complete bed rest. I could only get up to go pee, and had to take a 5 minute shower. My incredible sister in law, who lived in Indy, came over every day and helped me as much as possible. I remember she just got a puppy, Roxy, and she would lay next to me on the couch. About three or four days after I got home, Lael came over and I casually said to her that I kept feeling wetness in my undies. She looked at me horrified and said, “Kate, I think your water broke!” I was like, no way, it’s just a little. Nonetheless, we went back to the hospital, and sure enough it was amniotic fluid. I was now a permanent resident of the hospital.
So, I spent about three weeks in the hospital. Thankful for the many visitors, Lael’s homemade meals she would bring me for dinner, my niece and nephew who drew Halloween pictures to put up in my room, and Bryan NEVER left my side. Doing work and sleeping in the most uncomfortable hospital chair in the world! My mom called one day, and said she couldn’t stand it anymore and she was coming. I finally told her that I really needed her with me. She got to Indy, and thank GOD she came when she did, because that’s when it all went to shit….
I was 27 weeks pregnant and doing pretty well. I had to be in a constant state of laying down, catheter in, and no showers. Basically I could not get out of bed under any circumstances. That was HARD! The day my mom arrived, the nurse did a routine ultrasound in my room to make sure I had enough amniotic fluid and to check on the baby. I was laying there chatting with my mom, (she painted my toes!), and husband when my doctor came in. He said he wanted to take me in to get a better ultrasound because he THINKS he saw something with our baby’s heart. But made sure to tell us it was probably nothing, just being extra cautious. Uh huh. So, I got to get in a wheelchair after being in bed for three weeks, which was a fun adventure for me. My mom and hubby came with me and we went to see a pediatric cardiologist who had a high tech resolution ultrasound to look just at our baby’s heart. Well, he looked…and he looked….and he looked. For 15 minutes he looked WITHOUT SAYING A WORD! Now we are all freaked out. I finally said, “Is everything ok?” And he simply said, “No.” Our baby had Critical Aortic Stenosis of the heart. Basically, that means that his left ventricle of his heart, the valve to the main artery, was blocked. Therefore blood circulation was compromised and could not move through the body correctly. It also is more common in boys, but at this time, we had not found out the sex of our baby. We wanted to be surprised. Our doctor said he could correct this after that baby is born, but I would have to deliver at full term because he had to be at least 7 pounds to tolerate the surgery. So, that was my main focus now. I was counting down day by day and making sure I was doing everything in my power to keep this baby inside me.
The next day was routine. My mom, husband and sister in law came to visit. Lael, made an incredible homemade pizza and brought it for dinner. Everyone was eating and I was trying to eat this pizza while lying flat on my back! It was hard, so I lifted my chest up to reach the pizza and BOOM…my water broke! Gushing water all over the bed. I was in horror! I immediately said it was my fault! I should not have leaned up to eat, it’s all my fault! Then I started to say, “No this can’t be happening! It’s too early! The baby isn’t ready! The heart! The baby needs more time! He needs to be bigger!” Everyone was in crash mode! Nurses and doctors started flying all around me. My husband looking down on me trying so hard to be brave, my sister in law screaming for more nurses to come because I HAD to push, my mom grabbing my face and saying, “You can do this!” They wheeled me off, with my husband, and we went to have the baby. As I was pushing, there were so many people in the room. The NICU nurses were ready and waiting for baby to come out and whisk him/her away. I finally pushed for the last time and here came the most beautiful, very small, baby BOY! We had a boy! We were so happy and Bryan was jumping up and down saying, “it’s a boy! I have a boy!” We had a few moments of bliss….then reality kicked in.
Caden Michael Sanders was whisked away and was treated on very rapidly. I was laying there as the doctors were helping me, while they took Bryan with the NICU nurses to see Caden. I was wheeled away to recovery and was still in such a euphoric state. I was so happy that he was 2 pounds! Everyone kept telling me that is so big for a 27 week old baby. So I was thinking, this is going to be ok. We can do this! CADEN WILL SURVIVE! Then Bryan came back to see me. He was white as a ghost. But still stayed so strong for me. He could see how happy I was, and he said he saw our boy. I asked how he looked, and he said, “it’s not good, Kate.” I just didn’t believe him. Even when he show me pictures of him, I thought we was perfect! So Bryan let me be the happy one, all the while, he knew exactly what was going to happen.
After that, everyone came in town. Bryan’s parents and grandma, my parents, and even my sister who flew and left her sick kids to be with me. My sister in law and brother lived in Indy, so th were there too. Even my friends came and got to see him in the NICU.
It was a back and forth conversations with the doctors and nurses. One hour he would be progressing, and then the next he would not. And that’s where he stayed. The doctors and nurses did everything they could possibly do for a 2 pound baby with critical aortic stenosis. They said if he stays strong, and grows to be 7 pounds, we can do surgery. However, that’s not what happened. His little body could not take all the hard work his heart was doing to pump the blood through his body. And there came a time when we had to make a decision. For two days Bryan kept telling me there was nothing they could do anymore. But I didn’t believe him or the doctors. On the third day, all the doctors and nurses held a meeting in my hospital room. They were speaking in all this medical terminology and talking in circles and I couldn’t comprehend the fact that they were taking about not being able to save my son. When Caden was three days old, we had to make the worst and most difficult decision of our lives. We had to stop treatment and take him off life support. I was sitting in the NICU, next to Caden, while Bryan was telling the doctors and nurses our decision. I kept thinking, what am I doing? Did we do enough? After Bryan told them, our doctor knelt down to me and said, “Mrs. Sanders, with all due respect, you are making the right decision.” At that point, I looked into his eyes, and sobbed. It was October 28, 2007.
We got to take him to a special, private room, and be with him as a little family of three. The doctors told me it could take hours for his heart to finally stop beating, so we just held onto him for dear life. We gave him a bath, took the saddest pictures, and held him so tightly. After about three hours, Bryan and I were talking about how exhausted we were. We were just emotionally, physically, spiritually, exhausted. We didn’t want to close our eyes because we didn’t want to miss ANY time looking at our boy. But somehow, we just closed our eyes, and I swear to you, something amazing happened. While we briefly had our eyes closed, we felt this being, this spirit, come and take Caden. It was like someone closed our eyes for us so we wouldn’t have to see his soul being taken. Now, we are not a very religious people, and Bryan is not more than I am, but I do still believe in something after life. What that is, I have no idea. But to experience what we experienced in that room, and that moment, I will never forget. God or an angel came, closed our eyes, and returned Caden to heaven. We woke up and both of us looked at each other and said, “Did you feel that?!” And that’s when we knew he was gone. The doctor came in to check his pulse and told us he was gone. It was like someone ripping out your heart and feeling like it wasn’t real. The pain…it was immense.
In the days of being in the hospital, I kept thinking, what have I done to deserve this? Until then, I have had a pretty good life! I had a great childhood, I was married to the man of my dreams, he was becoming very successful, and we were pregnant. Was it just my time to have something bad happen to me? Did God think I wouldn’t be a good mom, so he took my baby away? So many thoughts went through my head to try to explain it. But, I have realized now, 7 years later, it just can’t be explained. Maybe God was sparing me a life of hardship because of Caden’s heart, and his premature state. Maybe He was making room for my extraordinary two daughters I now have. I don’t know. I will never know until I see Caden again one day and I can ask God myself.
There is so much more I can write about the aftermath of losing a child. The amount of sadness you see in your family and friends, planning a funeral for an infant, the intense feelings you feel after you lose someone, especially a child, and the loneliness, oh God the loneliness, you feel once everyone is gone and life goes “back to normal.” But that is a whole other story.
So, Caden’s birthday was October 25th, and he turned 7 years old. My family and I always celebrate his birthday every year. We make a cake, sing happy birthday, and I write to him in a special journal I have. This year, I think I am going to release balloons in his honor. My girls are 4 and almost 6, and my oldest is really getting it. They both know they have an older brother who lives in heaven. They LOVE talking about him. This year, my oldest wants to write a letter to him. This is what I have been waiting for since forever. For his birthday to be a family affair, where his sisters want to be involved and it’s not just me writing letters. So, I thought we could write our letters, place them inside and balloon, and release them up in the air. I told them about the balloons, and my oldest said, “And then Caden will catch it up in heaven and read my note!” YES! YES! Exactly! She gets it! Its music to my ears! He is alive, you see, not dead. He is alive in our hearts, in my girls, in our house. He is everywhere. I like to think both of my girls have part of his personality. My oldest inherited his sassiness, creativity, and assertiveness, whereas my youngest inherited his tenderness, generosity, and empathy. And, I am not afraid to die because I know he will be waiting for me with open arms, and hopefully he will say, “Hi mommy.”
Every day I look for signs from him. I am obsessed with Long Island Medium, and Teresa Caputo, because she brings such hope to people who have lost someone. It’s probably silly, I know, but for me, I want so badly to connect with him, to make sure he is ok, healthy, and being taken care of. But then, I look at my girls, and maybe that’s all the signs I need.
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”
GOD SAW YOU
God saw you getting tired and a cure was not to be, so He put his arms around you and whispered, “Come to me.”
With tearful eyes we watched you and saw you pass away,
And though we loved you dearly, we could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating, hands were put to rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us, He only takes the best.
To make a donation to the March of Dimes please click: HERE!