The Birth of River

OCTOBER 15th, 2019

The Birth of River

OCTOBER 15th, 2019

Content Warning. This story shares about a miscarriage.

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This is a story my son, River, who lived for a few short months in my womb.  I was in the second trimester of pregnancy when our little one was born.  Being that far along, most of the people in our lives knew that we were expecting a child.  Thus, we had a lot of people to tell about the loss.  Many of the women, in fact the majority, replied by sharing their own story of losing a child or children during pregnancy.  In that regard, I was lucky that our pregnancy was so far along as I was able to receive a lot of support from friends.  Had I been earlier in the pregnancy, I wouldn’t have told as many people yet and wouldn’t have mentioned the loss to many people either.  I would have mourned alone, which is a sad thought.  I was also helped by miscarriage stories I read online during the process, which included the emotional and physical aspects of what happens.  I have included those details here, including raw emotions & physical details.  Please keep that in mind if you choose to keep reading.

Early in January of 2016 my husband & I found out we were expecting our third child.  It was a mix of emotions initially.  We love our children so much so we were of course excited to be welcoming a new little human into our family.  However, we were also a little nervous.  Our hands were full as it was.   At the time, I was a stay at home mom and homeschooled our two very adventurous children.  My husband already felt constantly torn between work and wanting to spend more time with us.  We both strive to be as present and patient with our children as possible, but it’s challenging at times.  So we wondered how we would do it all with another child.

At almost twelve weeks along I noticed a tiny bit of blood mixed with cervical mucus.  The kids and I were planning on going to a museum that day which meant lots of walking.  I got in touch with a dear friend who is a midwife to ask her opinion.  She said the blood wasn’t concerning but the mucus was and that I should rest and get my progesterone levels checked.  I did a half ass version of the first suggestion (we didn’t go to the museum, but I still spent the day playing and cleaning).  I didn’t check my progesterone.  A week went by and then I spotted again.  We had an appointment a few days later to meet with a prospective midwife.  I mentioned what had been happening and she asked if we would like to try to hear the heartbeat.  We jumped on the opportunity.  First she felt around over my belly to feel my uterus and noted that it felt a little earlier than 13 weeks, but that it was such a small difference and wasn’t anything to worry about.  Next was the doppler.  She spent ten minutes searching without hearing a heartbeat.  At 13 weeks you can usually hear it.  Perhaps the baby was in a funny position?  Maybe I had an anterior placenta?  Those were hopeful thoughts.  On the drive home I called my midwife friend again, the same one who gave me the advice a week or two prior to that.  We spoke about possibilities.  Sure.  Maybe the baby was there.  She mentioned that sometimes she can’t find the heartbeat even at 14 weeks.  She also mentioned her personal experience with a blighted ovum.  I was feeling sad, but was holding onto hope.  A few days later there was more spotting.  Then more the next day and the next, but only once each day.  The following day was a Saturday.  The kids and I were planning on going to the Holi Festival with friends.  I spotted all through the morning.  I had a fleeting thought that morning that I would have a miscarriage that day, but I continued through our morning reminding myself that many women spot during healthy pregnancies.  However, after getting the kids all buckled into the car and ready to go I started cramping.  The only time I’ve cramped in recent years was when my body was gearing up to give birth.  I knew this was it.  My husband came out to say goodbye, but instead of kissing him goodbye as per usual, I let him know what was happening and my belief that I was about to miscarry.  He canceled his plans so he could take the kids out while I spent the day in bed.

The only time I've cramped in recent years was when my body was gearing up to give birth.  I knew this was it.

My time in bed was full of rest, thinking, reading miscarriage stories online and reaching out to midwives.  Laying down helped slow the cramping.  There was so much going through my mind.  Among many other things, there was the question of why me?  I’d been relatively healthy during my 31 years here.  My previous two pregnancies were delightfully smooth and our children beautifully healthy.  So why this, why now, and why me?  I was in touch with two midwives, the same one who I’d been receiving advice from and the one who tried to find the heartbeat.  They both offered their well wishes and although I still held onto tiny bits of hope, their tones told me that they knew from experience that we were about to lose our baby.  Although I’m not a big fan of ultrasounds, I decided to get one that day to find out what was happening.  When my husband came home later, I remember crying with him, deeper than I can recall crying in a long long time.  The reality of it all hurt so bad.  This pregnancy didn’t have the same magic that surrounded our first two, but I still loved and wanted this baby very much.  I called a dear friend who I had confided in during the past few weeks to ask if she could watch our boys while Rich & I went to the hospital.  I didn’t know what to tell our kids, so I simply said that I wasn’t sure there was actually a baby in there and we were going to check.


On the drive to the hospital the cramps picked back up and I started experiencing back pain, another symptom that I only feel during labor.  At the hospital though, the doctor said he had a feeling he knew what was going on and that it likely was just bleeding around the placenta.  I felt optimistic before going into the ultrasound.  I thought yes, this must be it.  It just has to do with the placement of the placenta!  All was fine.  Surely we were about to see a healthy baby on the ultrasound screen.  I sensed that my husband was still very nervous, but I held onto the possibility of having a viable pregnancy.  We were wheeled over to the ultrasound room and the tech started doing her thing.  This was our first ultrasound during this stage of a pregnancy.  We had two with our first child at 41.5 weeks & again at 42 weeks just to make sure there was still enough amniotic fluid that late in the pregnancy.  We didn’t want to know his gender at that point, so I really didn’t pay much attention to the screen.  We didn’t have any ultrasounds with our second child.  So when I saw our little baby on the screen it took a minute for me to register what I was seeing.  Then it dawned upon me that I was seeing what looked like a small unmoving ball at the base of my uterus.  I knew then that our baby had passed away.  I looked to husband and shook my head, indicating that it wasn’t what we had hoped for.  I asked the ultrasound tech about it, she confirmed that what I was seeing was our baby, but that she couldn’t relay any findings to me and that I would have to wait to speak with the doctor.  We were wheeled back to our hospital room and waited for the doctor.  He came in, much less upbeat this time and I told him that we understood what we had seen.  He let me know that although we were 14 weeks along, our baby only measured at about 11 weeks.  He offered his condolences and recommended we go home and let my body do what it would do.  Feeling sad and defeated, we went to pick up the boys.  As soon as they opened the door, our oldest bounded up to me and asked if there was a baby there.  I replied that no, there wasn’t in fact any baby in there and that my body had been confused.

our oldest bounded up to me and asked if there was a baby there.  I replied that no, there wasn't in fact any baby in there and that my body had been confused.

At about 11 pm, strong cramps kicked in, the kind that I have during labor.  My body called me to assume the same position I did during my first two labors, getting on my hands and knees and swaying my hips back and forth.  I tried to sleep in between contractions, but they soon picked up so I spent most of the night laboring in our living room.  I intentionally released any thoughts beyond labor; I didn’t want to think about the passing of our baby, it was time to focus on giving birth.  As the night progressed, the contractions got stronger, longer, and closer together.  By early morning, it was all very intense.  I woke up my husband.  He was very encouraging and helpful, just as he was during our first two labors.  It started to feel like the period of time before our other children were born.  I started pushing during contractions, but it was hard.  I didn’t know how hard I had to push or if this was the right time to do so.  I got in touch with my midwife friend and told her about my concerns.  She told me to listen to my body and push when I feel the urge.  Labor continued to get more intense and eventually I did get the urge to push.  I was on my hands and knees and pushed during contractions.  Blood started coming out, which I found encouraging.  I continued pushing for what feels like perhaps a half hour, but it could have been more or less time.  Hard to remember.  Eventually I pushed and there was a large gush of fluid.  I heard my husband break down with emotions, but I was pleased that my water had broken.  That happened about two hours before our first was born and about ten minutes before our second was born.  I was happy because I assumed that meant our baby would come out soon.  I looked down to see what had come out and to my surprise our tiny baby was laying there on the floor.  I recall saying with great emotion “Oh hi, baby”.  I started bleeding steadily so I picked him up and sat on the toilet.  I don’t recall crying at the time, I was emotionally numb.  I guess I was in a bit of shock and still had physical aspects to deal with.  By this time it was 8am.  I sent a text to our friend saying that blood was coming out like a faucet on slow stream.  She let me know that my body was trying to expel leftover bits of the placenta and recommended a homeopathic remedy to help with the process.  The kids had just woken up so Rich took them out to get the remedy, while I sat on the toilet, our baby there with me.  The bleeding continued like that for an hour or so.  I spent the time holding our baby & looking at him.  He was a mostly formed little person.  All of his facial features, little arms, legs, fingers and toes were all there.  Sweet child.  The bleeding eventually slowed enough that I was able to go lay in bed, bringing our baby with me.  There I laid for hours, sleeping, crying, and looking at our baby, who we had named River.

I had called my parents shortly after he was born to let them know what happened.  They mourned with me and shortly after my mom called back saying that she was about to start the drive from Arizona to us in California.  I tried to tell her that she didn’t have to.  She replied that she knew she didn’t have to, but wanted to.  One of our neighbors was having a birthday party so thankfully the boys spent the day outside, having fun with friends.  I spent most of the day laying down, sleeping and crying.  A significant amount of blood was still coming out, as were chunks of placenta.  I also spent some time in our rocking chair with sweet little River.  I held him and sang to him the same song I sang to our other children as babies.  I wanted to share those same experiences with him.  My mom arrived some time in the evening.  I was so happy to see her.  Firstly because she is my mom and I love her so much and secondly because she experienced two pregnancy losses in the third month of pregnancy.  She gave me the biggest hug.  I told her the emotional pain hurt so much and asked how long it took her to stop feeling that pain.  She reassured me that it would fade with time.  Eventually we all went to sleep.  I woke throughout the night.  Our second born woke up at some point so I picked him up and brought him into the rocking chair with me.  It felt very healing to hold one of my living children and I felt deep gratitude for him being there in my lap, warm against my body.


The next morning my husband and I got ready to go bury River.  We chose a local canyon as the place to lay his body to rest.  We started our hike, mournful, not knowing where we would bury him.  It was beautiful there.  There were bright yellow flowers everywhere and people happily hiking.  We found a quiet spot off the main path and decided we would bury him under a large tree.  I held River while my husband dug the hole.  It was a hard time emotionally.  The labor of digging a hole that he knew our baby was going to be placed in must have been very challenging for him.  Place River in the Earth was something I very much disliked doing.  I didn’t want to put him there, knowing that it meant we would have to say goodbye to his body.  My husband eventually started filling the hole back in with Earth.  I laid some flowers on top that we picked along our walk there. I sat there on the ground, crying, not wanting to leave.  It felt so hard and so wrong to walk away without him, but eventually we did.  I picked more flowers on our way out, which still hang on our wall today.

Shortly after Rich & I arrived home, my mom had to head back to Arizona.  We all went about our days as usual.  Getting right back into the swing of things.  I struggled with my emotions.  I wanted to be happy and present for our kids, but also wanted to mourn the loss of River.  I wanted to smile and cry at the same time, not knowing which was right.  A friend of mine suggested that both emotions were appropriate and should be felt.  She said that when I was with the kids, I could feel the happy feelings.  And at night or when I was otherwise alone, I could feel the sad ones.  Despite this, I noticed that the kids were off somehow.  They were being affected by what had happened, too.  It didn’t feel right to have been dishonest with them about what happened.  That same friend told me that children are so aware of the world around them.  She said that they both needed to understand what really happened, especially our second born since he was still so young and still partly attached to the spirit world he came from.  He was connected to the loss of River on a deep level.  We had planted seeds a couple weeks prior to this all and had been watching them grow.  Many of them sprouted and started growing into young plants, some grew taller and stronger than others, but some didn’t sprout at all and some sprouted, grew for a short time, and then died.  The kids and I observed this and we discussed the varying outcomes of life for the seeds.  I then explained what really happened to our baby.  I apologized for being dishonest and explained that I didn’t know what to say at first.  We spoke a lot about it and they still ask today from time to time why River died.  My oldest son was very curious about the physical details of it all.  He wanted to know what River looked like and also asked if we could dig him up to see.  I acknowledged his curiosity, described what River looked like, but let him know that we would be leaving his body in the Earth where it belonged.  My younger child had a very hard time emotionally.  He was so excited to become a big brother, always bringing toys to my belly and speaking to River during the pregnancy.  He cried a lot during the months following his passing.  Although he was only two, he was mourning and often seemed to feel better when we spoke about it.

Written by Christina