By Marty Mueller
HAND of Santa Cruz Co.
In late 1998, my husband Tony and I, after many long months of going back and forth trying to decide if we were up to the challenge of parenthood at our ages, came to the conclusion that we would never regret having a child together and we should at least try.
I was 41 and Tony 38; I have a teenager from my first marriage. This is a second marriage for us both.
Troy was conceived two months after we began trying. We were thrilled and thought it must have been “meant to be.”
My pregnancy went smoothly, no complications. My weight and blood pressure were good. We had an ultrasound and amniocentesis at 16 weeks. Our baby was genetically normal and everything looked great!
Tony was so happy, he was going to have a son! I was so happy at the thought of the new life we would share. Troy was due in early October, 1999.
After many long months of anticipating our son’s arrival, the unthinkable happened just days before he was due. On Sept. 22, 1999, while at the doctor’s office for one of my final weekly visits, my doctor and I were shocked to find my baby’s heartbeat was not detectable.
An ultrasound confirmed that there was no heartbeat and my baby was dead.
I was so stunned I couldn’t even move. Although I could barely talk, I somehow managed to call my husband at work and ask him to meet me at the doctor’s office.
Once he got there, seeing the pain in his eyes, I fell apart. How could this have happened? What did we do wrong? We racked our brains to try to think about Troy’s movements within the last 24 hours.
I’d noticed a slowing down of movement but I remembered reading that was normal as the baby prepares for birth! I’d noticed rapid hiccuping a few days before but dismissed that as normal too. We were totally and completely devastated! We didn’t even know such a thing could happen so late in a pregnancy.
In a daze, we went to the hospital where labor was induced and we waited. Troy was stillborn in the early hours of Sept. 23, 1999. He was 8 pounds, 2 ounces and looked perfect! His color was so good that our doctor commented that he had only recently died.
He was so beautiful and looked so normal that both Tony and I found ourselves whispering in his ear, “wake up Troy” in a desperate attempt to make what was happening only a terrible nightmare. But is was all too real. He was gone.
We spent the day holding him knowing that this would be the only time we would ever have with him. Our nurse lovingly cleaned him, dressed him and took photos of him in our arms. The chaplain came and we had a religious ceremony for him.
By the end of the day, still in a dazed state, we released him to the mortuary we had selected. His little body was cremated a few days later. We keep his ashes and his pictures in a place of honor in our home. I am confident, that day was and will always be, the saddest day of our lives.
Analysis of the cord and placenta found no abnormalities. Ultimately, his death was ruled a “cord accident.”
When he was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck but that does not necessarily mean that was the cause of death.
We learned that while one percent of all babies are stillborn, one tenth of one percent are stillborn due to cord accidents. What that really means is doctors don’t know what causes death for these babies but they think it has something to do with the umbilical cord.
Not having a reason why we lost our precious little boy has been extremely difficult; it is still difficult to accept so many months later.
Sadly, our heartache continues as I have been unable to conceive successfully again. We’ve had a miscarriage and many, many months of disappointment. My doctor tells me that we should give up trying. At 44 years old, the odds of a successful pregnancy with my own eggs are ridiculously low.
A few months after our loss, we went to a HAND meeting. There we met loving special people who were personally familiar with our tragic loss. We learned that losses such as ours happen, doctors don’t tell you about it but these people sure would.
At one of the meetings, I shared my photos of Troy which I had digitally retouched and improved. My goal in digitally retouching them was to create photos of my Troy that I could display and comfortably share with family and friends without worrying that they were too graphic for public viewing.
Other parents in my HAND group were so impressed that they asked if I could do the same thing with their precious baby photos. I gave it a try.
I found that with each baby photo I worked on, I felt a sense of joy. It felt good to be able to bring out the beautiful child underneath the discolored skin and offer back to these suffering parents just a little bit of what had been lost to them.
The retouched photos were so appreciated by my HAND friends, and I was so pleased that I could ease their pain just a bit, that I began to wonder if other parents outside our group who had suffered similar losses would be interested in having the same thing done with their photos.
With that in mind I have created a web site offering my digital retouching service to other bereaved parents. The web site address is BabyPhotoRetouch.com. It is a site offering my photo retouching service as well as a site memorializing our lost babies. We would be honored if you would take a look. May God give us all strength for our journey through our grief.