What happened the day my daughter died

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Everything started to fall apart early Friday morning. Diane’s water broke on Monday, but the doctors believed she and the baby could last to the 24-week mark, when our baby girl’s lungs would be better developed.

But by early Friday morning Diane was in pain and the doctors found evidence of an infection. That meant our baby, Evangeline, just days away from being 23-weeks, had to come out.

So Diane started texting people, starting with me. But I had been up most of the night writing, then up early to feed Victor. I put Victor down for an early nap around 11am, then fell to sleep myself.

I didn’t get the message until 1pm, when her father banged on my door. By that time the doctor had confirmed the infection and was inducing the delivery. If, as he suspected, the infection had spread to the baby she wouldn’t survive. So Evangeline’s best hope was the delivery.

When I finally walked into the delivery room I still believed there was still a chance Evangeline would have made it. That I would see her tiny body in an incubator. I was preparing myself for months in the neonatal critical care unit.

When I walked in a nurse asked who I was, I told her I was the father of the baby. She asked Diane if it was okay if I came in. I looked around the curtain and saw Diane was sitting in the middle of the room on the birthing bed, doubled over so her face was in her knees. She yelled “yes”, and there was pain and exasperation in her voice, and that was when I knew our baby was gone.

I had missed the delivery by fifteen minutes.

Just inside the door was a small work station, and a doctor washing his hands. He turned to me and put his hand out, he gave me his condolences, then explained that Evangeline had died during the delivery. That she was just too small, and had basically been squeezed to death.

But my attention, since I had entered the room, was mostly taken up by a cart next to the wall. On it was a tray, and on the tray were a few stainless steel bowls, and in one of the bowls was a grey and purple mass. Almost a bubble. For the next hour I would be convinced, irrationally, that it was what was left of my daughter.

I went to my girlfriend, rubbed her back and told her I was there. She was angry, for less than a minute, that I hadn’t been there earlier. I looked at her sitting there, her two gowns soaked in fluids, the blanket and matting she was sitting on covered in blood.

I stared at it and wanted to cry. That, I thought, is what’s left of my daughter — just last week I watched you in an ultrasound kick in your mommy’s tummy, and gulp down fluids into your belly. I have an image of your profile on my desktop, I watched you move. I felt you through your mommy’s tummy just the day before.

I knew, from the ultrasounds, she had my lips and her mother’s cheekbones. And now she was in a bowl in the corner of a blood soaked room filled with automatons performing the exact same actions they made nearly every day. Just getting the room ready for ‘next’. When I looked over at the tray someone had placed a green towel over the bowl.

I left to get my girlfriend something to drink. But mostly just to be alone. When I came back the cart had been moved to the hallway. I was convinced it was Evangeline when, of course, it wasn’t. But in that moment I got so angry that my daughter had been left alone, and that I wasn’t doing anything to fix the situation.

It was then, just as I was walking into the delivery room, that I realized what was in the bowl was the placenta.

Immediately I wanted to know where they had taken my daughter, but at the same time I didn’t want to push Diane. I wanted everything to move at a pace she could be comfortable with.

Roughly thirty minutes later, while we were alone, I asked where they had moved the body. And Diane, still in a haze from the pain killers, and still in shock from what had happened, told me that, not only did she not know where Evangeline was, but that it was possible she had been breathing when they removed her from the room.

I left the room and found the doctor and asked him to tell me what actually happened.

One hour before the delivery Evangeline’s heart rate was exactly where it was supposed to be, the ultrasound showed her moving exactly how she was supposed to move. She was healthy, the area around the cerclage wasn’t, so the decision was made to induce.

During the delivery Evangeline struggled and ended up coming through the birth canal bum first. And that’s when she died.

Shortly after I went back into the room the doctor showed up and asked if we wanted an autopsy done. Diane looked at me, I don’t think either of us could take the image of Evangeline’s tiny body being torn up. I told the doctor our daughter had been through enough.

About an hour after the delivery we let the nurse know we were ready to see Evangeline. She brought our baby in, wrapped in the same style of hospital blanket they had wrapped our son in 2.5-years ago. They had dressed her in a pink, wool dress.

They hadn’t finished cleaning her yet, so there was blood on her forehead. She handed Evangeline to my girlfriend first, she was very tentative. Very quiet. The nurse left us alone. We opened the blanket a little, exposing her entire face and her arms.

Evangeline’s right hand looked like it was grasping at something, so Diane put her finger in her hand. I took a picture. It looks like they’re holding hands.

I held my daughter for ten minutes. Maybe longer. I walked to the window so I could see her in the sunlight. I told her she would have been great. I told her I was sorry I couldn’t do more.

She was so small. She had long, slender fingers, her mother’s cheekbones, I think she had my nose, even though they were closed I could tell she had big eyes, she had full lips and her oldest brothers smirk.

She was just too small… another five days and it would have been different.

I stayed in the hospital with Diane that night. I didn’t want to, I really wanted to just go off by myself and grieve. But I stayed because she wanted me to. Originally the doctor wanted Diane to stay until Monday, but early Saturday morning a nurse told Diane she might be able to go home later that day. And that was it.

My step-father drove us home Saturday afternoon. I made sure she was safe and sound in her home before I went home and started to write. I wrote an update on my other blog, and I cried. Afterwards I went to Diane’s and we watched 007’s Casino Royale, and then I came home and slept until Sunday afternoon.

Before we left the nurse gave us a box with Evangeline’s possessions in it. The dress, her hand and foot prints. Some other stuff — I haven’t looked in it yet. There’s also a purple silk butterfly in it, the wingspan is about the width of a coffee cup.

When a woman is on the maternity ward, after losing her baby during childbirth, the nurses tape a butterfly to the door so they know.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, CSG, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Mental Health, Ottawa, Pregnancy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to What happened the day my daughter died

  1. bats0711 says:

    I am just so so sorry Gabriel. Your whole family are in my thoughts.

  2. thordora says:

    Oh Gabe…I don’t have the words. You are all in my thoughts. I am so very sorry.

  3. Melanie says:

    My heart goes out to you both. Stay strong.

  4. chaoskaren says:

    Took two attempts to read this because I couldn’t stop crying for you all. I’m so sorry Gabriel, my thoughts are with you. All the love in the world xxx

  5. Jeannee says:

    I am so, so deeply sorry! I have been praying and shall continue to do so ….

  6. So sorry. Sending love and care to you.

  7. Gabriel... says:

    Again, thank you everyone for your support, you’re making this process a little easier.

    I’m working on a post about what happened after we got home. Diane’s parents still haven’t spoken to her, and it has now been a week since our daughter died.

    My parents have also been acting oddly, not as stupidly as hers, but still odd. Anyway. Thanks.

  8. petrona says:

    I’m so sorry for you and Diane. You are both (together with Evangeline) in my thoughts.
    Hang in there.

  9. Oh dear god, my nin-JAH!

    You know I’m not well. So, I’m not out and about in the blogosphere when “the evil sickness” befalls me (like right now.) However, I had been wanting to drop by based upon your journalistic titles of late. Gotta have those good hooks, yanno? But this is NOT a good hook.

    Sick or not, both symptoms caused by either that or reading this (excuse me while I take that Grovol now) I almost started crying all over baby MacBook’s keyboard. And yes, I felt sick to my stomach. Without a lie. You know we share the nin-JAH Code of Honour. However, it was not from the graphic writing. Why should Dr. PA have a problem there? It was the emotional, and the sometimes (for me) visceral feelings that can accompany what I feel.

    Breached births are extremely complicated, and even quite dangerous in terms of mortality rates. Toss in the other issues and that just made things all the more difficult. I know. My scientific mind is cold comfort. It’s not helping this situation at all.

    Would a twisty-turny, perhaps, bizarre form of sympathy do? I think you know this as well.

    I am a surviving twin. My mother lost my twin in utero. The issue has plagued me ever since I found out as a child. Not just a plague of questions, but a plague of pain, guilt, also lonliness. So maybe on another level, I too know what it’s like to lose someone who was expected to be born.

    Love you as always. Love to the rest of the family as well, from Auntie PA
    Purple nin-JAH

    PS – Oh, one more thing about families acting odd, or strange. This can be an unbelieveably painful situation for some people. Moreover, even greater if it’s right after delivery. The baby’s here. The baby’s not here. Very traumatic. So, I don’t think people’s actions and/or reactions, whatever they may be, would be out of line, right now.

    Everyone needs to take time to deal with this and grieve. We all do that in our own ways. Hopefully, you can all support each other through this process, and even beyond. That’s very important, too.

  10. Hi, me again. I wasn’t even logged on as again…sick, not on blog. This is me, people.

    More importantly nin-JAH, if I missed something in my comment that wasn’t correct or didn’t make sense, feel free to correct me. It’s only because I hadn’t been reading posts following up to everything. But I think I got it?

    Okay, I need to rest. So do you guys.

    I know we hate the platitudes, and people telling us what to do, but: “One day at a time?” Feel free to slap me. But I’ll slap YOU if you don’t at least try. You’ve still got my nephew so busy there. Nonetheless, get as much rest as you can, dearie.

    Purple-ninJAH, Auntie PA, Dr. PA

  11. PAZ says:

    I’m sorry. 😦 I just recently lost someone very close too, a person who was family to me, of course it’s VERY different from your loss and circumstances. I can only imagine what you must feel loosing a daughter, but I can–at least to some extent–empathize with your grief. My heart goes out to you guys.

  12. Jill Townsend says:

    I am so very sorry for you and Diane. I will keep you both in my prayers and remember Evangeline’s sweet little life here and her new one as an angel. I know this is such a blow. Love reading your blog and was so excited about her impending arrival. Higher Power be with you both. Much love – Jill T

  13. Finola says:

    Just heartbreaking and I am so very sorry.

  14. I am sooo very sorry for your loss.

    While you may feel alone at times, you are not alone on this path – there are many who have come before and many who will come after. Your life will not be the same. You and she will grieve differently, and it may be hard to hold on at times. Unfortunately, this is all normal, and normal will never be “normal” again.

    I hope you have a good support system… or are building one.

    *hugs to both of you*

    And for the record, Evangeline’s sunset is beautiful.

  15. Lydia says:

    I’m very very sorry for your loss.

  16. darkentries says:

    I’m sorry.
    I hope you both find ways to get through it.

  17. Gabriel... says:

    Thanks again to everyone for your support. So far it has been difficult finding people in ‘real life’ who have been willing to help me get through the grieving process… Diane and the kids have been staying with me for the past two weeks so I can concentrate on keeping her occupied, and give her a break with the kids, but keeping her occupied has meant leaving my own grief for another day. Neither extended family has been particularly helpful, to put it mildly. It’s closer to reality to say they’ve been… ignorant or ignoring us.

    …I’ll figure it out. Thanks again, everyone, for the comments.

    • Anonymous says:

      I googled this because I lost my daughter last September, in a similar way, during birth, and I feel it could’ve/should’ve been prevented because she too was healthy. I’m sad, I’m missing her, and I just don’t know where to turn because real life goes on, and people who were there for us after it happened seem to think it is all ok now, or understandably don’t know what to say, but it never will be ok. I want to offer you comfort because you are not getting much. We, also have been ignored by our parents, although for a different reason a few years before this happened to us. So I relate to another thing you are going through, and I will say those were the 2 hardest things in my life, besides aprior divorce, all different, and all difficult. I hope that we both figure it out. Losing a baby girl is so heartbreaking.I am hurting and feeling alone, and I hope again that we both can make sense of the loss…or something. You are stronger now, and I guess so am I, but I know we’d both just rather have our daughters. Best to you!

  18. Pingback: What happened the week after my daughter died | …salted lithium.

  19. Pingback: We need help. | …salted lithium.

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