I want to tell you all a story about a girl named Diana.
I delivered my stillborn beautiful baby girl, Diana Hope on June 13, 2017 at 8:10 pm. She was 4 lbs, 1 oz, 18 inches long. She had dark hair and eyes, just like her dad, Gaetano. He says she looked like me and that makes me happy.
I awoke the morning of Tuesday, June 13th and realized I hadn’t really felt the baby move much the previous day, which wasn’t uncommon, since she never really moved that much to begin with. I started to google “decreased fetal movement” and came across a story about a woman who had the same thing, went to the doctor only to find out the baby had no heartbeat. I decided to call my OBGYN, just in case. My next appointment was that coming Friday (in three days). I had only been there a week before, exactly. They told me to come in, I did and they took me right away. I texted Gaetano when I got there, I didn’t even tell him I was going. They tried to find the heartbeat with the fetal monitor. The nurse said it was staticy. They tried with another, same thing. They told me to go into the sono room. The sonotech clicked and took pictures. Then she said the 6 words that would change my life forever. “I have to get the doctor”. I immediately knew. The doctor came in, and uttered the words that so many people here, “I'm sorry, but there is no heartbeat, and you have hardly any fluid”. No heartbeat?? It couldn’t be. I was 36+ 2 days. How could this be?? She asked if there was anyone close. I texted my sister in law, Leigh, who was two blocks away. No answer. I had to get my husband’s number at work-his office is underground and he doesn’t get any service. They moved me to an office. No answer from Leigh yet. I called her. She hadn’t read my message yet. She immediately started to cry. I found Gaetano’s work number. I called him. I don't even remember exactly what I said. He said “what? What?? I’ll be right there”. He works in Lake Success so I knew it would be a while (at least 35 minutes). In the meantime, Leigh came with my two nieces. I asked what my options would be almost immediately. I could be induced, or a c section and I didn’t have to do it that day. I could wait a few days, I was not in any danger. My husband came then. We went over the options again. Induction was the better choice-for my body especially. We could go in at any time-the hospital would be waiting for us.
We went home and I packed a bag. I started to text a few people. My co-workers; who were expecting me in. My boss; who I had texted earlier in the morning,“I’m going to the doctor, not much movement, I’m sure all is well”. We got to the hospital a little while later. They were waiting for me and took me right in. They hooked me up to an IV and tried to take some blood. They had trouble getting blood from me, something that hadn’t happened the whole time I was pregnant. The doctor (who was a different one-but someone I had seen before in the practice) explained to me what was going to happen. Every 4 hours I would get Cyotec (a pill) inserted in me. It could take up to 36 hours. The first pill went in at 12:30. At this time, my brother and Leigh, the kids, my parents and my mother in law came.
I felt no pain at this point. At 4:30 they inserted the second pill. A little while later, the real contractions started. They asked me my pain level, I told them 4. Did I want an epidural yet? No, not yet. I had heard that epidurals can sometimes delay labor even longer. (it was my plan all along to get ANY and EVERY drug possible to not feel any pain). When my contractions started 2 min apart, I asked for some kind of pain meds. They said it would make me loopy, but it never did. It didn’t work on me. The contractions started to get closer and hurt even more. At this point, it was just me, Gaetano, and Leigh. Squeezing Gaetano’s hand on one side and listening to Leigh on how I should breath on another. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know how I would’ve been able to make it through them. I am forever grateful towards her. They finally told me I could get my epidural. Again, I don’t know how I stayed still for it. The doctor checked me right after that-and said “OK time to get your husband! It’s time to push-you are 10 cm!” Gaetano wasn’t in the hallway, he went downstairs with everyone else, assuming the epidural would take longer to get in.
I called him to come upstairs at 7:52 pm. Diana was born at 8:10. I was terrified to push, but my doctor guided me and told me I could take my time. She was amazing. After two contractions, and two pushes, she was out. I felt no pain pushing her out. I promise you this. When the doctor said “you have a beautiful baby girl here”…we were surprised. Everyone had said BOY! All along, I didn’t know what it was either. I had no strong feeling either way.
When she was handed to us, it was probably the saddest moment of my life. We spent some time with her, then told the families to come up, if they wanted, to meet her. (At this time, Gaetano's brother and wife had come to the hospital too) They did. I am grateful for this as well. My brother took pictures of the three of us, which I am forever thankful for and thank modern technology every day for this. The families left and we spent more time with her. In total, we spent 5 hours, and 35 min with her.
The burial was something I was dreading. I dread any wake or funeral. But to bury my own daughter? How would I do this? I don’t know how, but I did. It was 8 days later. We got to see her again at the funeral home. We wrote letters to her and put in my niece’s favorite doll in there with her. We put pictures of us and her family in there and a few more items.
We had a short service, just siblings and parents, given by a friend of ours at the cemetery. It was so nice-and added a personal touch. She is buried with other infants in a special space at St. Charles. Where she is, she faces where Gaetano’s father is buried. It feels right.
The love we have received is absolutely amazing and overwhelming, but in a good way. From Thailand to Briland to the UK. People who we haven’t talked to in years. Some might want to hide and not talk to anyone in a situation like this, but everyone is different. It keeps us going. Our friends…there are no words. I get choked up thinking of the love they have surrounded us with. I am forever grateful to all of them. We know how much we are loved.
Her name. We didn’t have any names picked out, really! We had gone back and forth in the days before her passing about a few..but we were going over more boys names. Diana Hope came to me right in the hospital, shortly after I delivered her. Diana was an Ancient Roman goddess, of the moon, the hunt and nature. She was also the goddess of childbirth, but more about that in a minute. Diana was also the name of a Latin teacher my husband and I had in high school, who I became very close with…she fought with cancer for years, but sadly passed from it. And Hope…is for what we will have for our future, as Gaetano says.
I have always known I wanted children. I love babies, but I was selfish. I liked coming and going as I pleased. I was vain with my body. It took me 10 years, but we finally said ok let’s do this..and it happened. Another thing that held me back for so long was childbirth. If you know me, you know this is (or was…) my biggest fear. I am not good with pain, I am a hugee baby! Diana, the Ancient Roman Goddess, was the goddess of childbirth, which is something I didn’t find out until days after we named her. I know now it’s really…not that bad! I felt no pain after birth. I would do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, etc. People have said to me-she was given to me for a purpose-whether it was to show me that I could get thru childbirth or something else…well, we’ll see.
My pregnancy- was pretty normal. I did not have any bleeding or spotting. I didn’t have morning sickness, I was maybe nauseous a handful of times. I did not have high BP, nor gestational diabetes. I DID have everything that could go wrong with me, go wrong with just me. I had sinus infections, a bad cough that turned into possible pneumonia. I had a stomach virus and bad headaches in the beginning. I took a fall outside of Babies R US (but didn’t fall on my stomach, my elbow and hands and knees thwarted that!-still went to the ER and checked out -all good). I drank a LOT of water. As far as the no fluid-I didn’t have any big leaks. I had a small few ones-but again, totally normal. Diana didn’t really move a lot, but not a cause for concern. A lot of babies are just…lazy. I did not like being pregnant-even though I feel guilty writing that, it was true. My body didn’t feel the same to me-and I hate change. But I’d be pregnant another 9 months if this could’ve never happened.
As of right now I have pretty much gotten back all the testing. Doctors will never know the exact reason why this happened to us, but I do know one thing. I had total plancental dysfunction. What causes that? Again…there is not enough research. The placenta is the most vital part of an embryo. And the most understudied part of the human body. How can this be? It’s horrible to even think 1 out of 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth. Let that sink in. The rate of stillbirths has not changed in over 50 years. Crazy.
I have talked to a lot of people who have experienced this in the last weeks and it seems to be way too many. This shouldn’t be so uncommonly common. But in some weird way, it helps. I want to hear their story and I want to tell the story of Diana. I never want to forget her. And we won’t. Gaetano wanted to continue to fix up her room for her, so we are. At first, I had no idea what to think-what do we do? Do we return all the gifts we got at my shower? Do we paint her room? Do we have the furniture delivered? What will people think? Will passing her room upset me more? Will it comfort me? I know now there is no right or wrong answer, but what feels right. And that could change at any moment of any day.
The nights and the mornings and “firsts” are the hardest. People keep saying we are so strong, and maybe we are. But we have a choice when we wake up in the morning-to let the sadness overcome us or to get out of bed and be grateful for the positive things in our life and most importantly, honor Diana the way she should be. To keep doing things that make us happy/smile, because I really think she would want that. I don’t stop thinking about her. I hope she knows how much I loved her…Gaetano says she does and I believe him. We are taking it day by day..because really, what else can we do? We have such a strong love-I truly believe that is helping us get through this. I still can’t believe this happened-maybe I am still in shock.
Thank you for reading the story of Diana Hope, but it doesn’t end here. I promise you this. I am committed and determined to make some kind of difference with this horrible occurrence.