The story of Loren Joseph
My pregnancy was uneventful from the start...no morning sickness, felt great the whole time, and we were so thrilled to be welcoming another new life.
On Friday 9/17 at the 34 week midwife appointment, all was well except for the first time I had too much amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios) and thus it was tough to palpate the baby. Midwife Carol made some dietary recommendations and we planned to meet again in one week.
I started having light and infrequent contractions Saturday evening (9/18) which continued well into the next day. I called my midwife, went to see her for an exam, and she was concerned to find my cervix 1 centimeter dilated and very soft. My midwife and I prayed about the course of action to take, then bypassed the local docs and called up to Swedish Hospital in Seattle. The perinatalogist there wanted me to try and stop the contractions by taking 600mg ibuprofen (every six hours) which would dimish the amount of amniotic fluid thus lessening the uterine contractions. If the contractions did not lessen within two hours, I was to come over to the hospital that night for an ultrasound. Well, we had tickets to a play that afternoon, Late Nite Catechism, a parody of growing up Catholic, and I was not about to miss it! So, notebook in hand, contractions coming often and being written down, I laughed my way through the very funny show. Carol had told the perinatologist my plans and he thought I was nuts, but later I was so grateful to have had those two hours of humor. The ibuprofen did nothing to stop the contractions, so late Sunday afternoon, Carol and I headed over to Seattle's Swedish Hospital. I figured I was having pre-term labor and would stay overnight, get it under control, then head home, thus Ray stayed at home with the kids.
We arrived at Swedish after getting priority loading on the ferry, and after meeting perinatologist Dr. Chuck Petty, I received a dose of terbutaline to try and stop contractions - unsuccessful.
I was so thankful for Carol's presence! I was moved to antepartum, where the nurse tried several times with difficulty to get Loren's heartbeat to pick up on the fetal monitor. Dr. Petty planned an ultrasound AND an amniocentesis as he said many times pre-term labor is caused by intra-uterine infections, which the amnio would pick up. I was very hesitant about having one done, but he advised me it would be best, so I agreed.
The ultrasound tech had lovely long hair and a grumpy attitude. She scanned my belly then told me we were having a boy! What pleasure I felt...I had been correct all along in my intuition! She left the room soon after beginning the scan, which I didn't even notice as I was still excited about the gender. The radiologist came in and he started scanning, asking me to turn way over on my left side as he "could not get a
good view of the baby's head." I thought this meant the baby's head was too far down in my pelvis, but in reality that contradicted what I knew...that due to the excess fluid, the baby was floating around in my uterus. This was the first indication in my mind that something might be wrong, but I had NO time to process it when the radiologist said "here is his nose, here are his eyes, and normally you would expect to see a head behind them."
What a lousy way to announce the devastating news of anencephaly! I was stunned! I put my hand over my ears and cried out to tell him to stop! I
wanted to hear this from Dr. Petty. I immediately turned to my midwife and said, "Carol, this is all my fault, I cannot lose a child; this is all my fault, this is because of the medication I took early in my pregnancy!!!!!."
She tried to comfort me as she told the radiologist "You just can't tell her something like that without any reassurance; she is a former neonatal ICU nurse!" He kept saying "I'm sorry, this is the worst defect you could have."
While the ultrasound was being done, nurses tried twice to place an IV. After the diagnosis, I hyperventilated, got shocky, then received a strong dose of anti-anxiety medication immediately...basically, I freaked out! Plans were made to allow contractions to continue.
I called Ray and told him to "come now!" I explained that our baby was a boy and he would die. He quickly called a friend to come be with our older children, Ean (8), Erin
(5), and Kate(2), and woke them to tell them he was going to Seattle to be with Mommy, that our baby was sick.
Ray arrived at 2:15AM and he held me as we cried together. We stayed all that night in antepartum, trying to choose a name for our son. We decided to call him Loren Joseph - Loren in honor of his Dad (it is Ray's middle name), and Joseph after Jesus' earthly father.
My contractions were infrequent and had been lessened by the anti-anxiety meds, so we decided to assist labor with pitocin. At 8 the next morning we moved to labor and delivery. I am a passionate advocate of homebirth and unmedicated, natural childbirth, but I did NOT want to feel the pain of the contractions that would bring forth our dead or soon-to-die baby, so once the pitocin augmentation was started, the epidural was also placed and stayed on full-strength until the birth. I could not move my legs without assistance. I had mild sedatives throughout the day as I had the night previous.
Due to the polyhydramnios, when my water was broken with an amnihook at 9:30AM, there was a HUGE amount of fluid that came gushing forth over and over...lots of linen changes! I had been resting when the physician, new to us and the shift, came in to rupture my amniotic fluid. He did not even tell me what he was doing, just reached in and tried several times to puncture the bag, finally successful on the third or fourth attempt. I felt like an object. Had we known what his intent was, we would have refused! We had read on the Friday before...was it only three days earlier?...that the best way to manage polyhydramnios in labor was to make a pinprick in the bag of waters to allow the fluid to leak out slowly. This prevents a prolapsed cord and placental abruption from too fast a fluid shift. I believe the rupture done as that doctor did it, suddenly and forcefully, hastened Loren's death inside of me. We will never know that for a fact as Loren's heartrate was not being monitored, just the contractions.
Labor augmentation went on all day, at one point I vomited and thinking I was in transition, got checked to discover I was only at 5 cm. (Much later I discovered it is typical for laboring moms of anencephalic babies to experience long labors as there is little head to dilate the cervix) I tried to rest/sleep, which I so needed having not slept for 2 nights, but it was tough with all the hospital noise and commotion. Late afternoon I did eventually sleep, and upon waking something felt different. I pulled up the sheet atop my legs and Loren's head was already out! At this point Ray and I were the only people in the room, with the nurse just coming back in from a break. The nurse called for the doc to come STAT, but I just told Ray to catch his son himself, which he did, then placed our son atop my belly. I can remember thinking, "Wait a minute, he isn't moving, he's mottled and blue-ish, and his cord is white. He is dead!" I did not really expect that; I assumed he would die soon after birth. That was the moment of reckoning for me...I had to absorb in a moment that this precious, wanted, beautiful baby was already gone from us. Time seemed to stop as I accepted this loss, but I know it was only seconds before I called out for water to welcome him into Heaven through Baptism. We love him so! I caressed him, kissed him, and mothered him. Ray helped weigh Loren, bathed him, dressed him, then we took many photos of and with our son. My brother Jim, who all day had felt the need to come be with us, came and held our boy for over an hour. The hospital priest arrived and Baptized Loren again.
Once my epidural wore off, we brought Loren home to Sequim, where he spent the night with us and had the chance to meet his older siblings and my sister Theresa who came to help, as well as her daughter, Emma.
Ray was the first to touch his son and the last as he travelled with Loren to the funeral home to make arrangements for cremation. He first drove Loren all around our town and neighborhood, showing him where he would've played and lived, and saying his farewell to our son.
We spent the week after Loren's death planning a funeral liturgy. We chose the reading, readers, prayers of the faithful, music, and poetry we would read. This celebration of Loren's life was held on Saturday September 25th at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Sequim, WA. with a potluck luncheon following at our home.
Loren Joseph's life, though brief, is a precious and treasured gift to all of us.
God was in the creation of Loren, and He was present all throughout Loren's life and death. His Hand was in the timing of us finding out about Loren's birth defect, in the birth process, in having Ray be the one to catch our son, in the love and support we have experienced since our baby died. We know He rejoices in the little angel that joined him on September 20, 1999
Ann Marie, Ray, Ean, Erin, Kate, ^i^ Loren, and
our newest blessing due August 2000
Loren Joseph Henninger
-Born Still but Still Born-
Our precious son Loren was born September 20th and was born again into eternal life with Jesus that same day. Welcomed tenderly into the world by his parents, Ray Loren Henninger and Ann Marie Trebon. Loved and missed by his brother, Ean, and sisters, Erin, and Kate. Thanks to family and dear friends for their love and continued support. His life has been a blessing and a miracle and he is now at peace with our Creator. Memorials may be made to the Sequim Branch of the North Olympic Library System (2210 S. Peabody Port Angeles, WA 98362) to be used for the purchase of childrens' books.