My 24 Week Angel

I never knew true pain until Oct 3rd, 2020 came, changing my world in a direction I didn’t know we could travel in. I had what women describe as a textbook pregnancy. I got pregnant on our first try and continued to work as normal as a Police Officer, with mild tiredness the first 12 weeks. I wore my heavy-duty belt and protective vest, which did help hide my growing belly. I did not tell work I was pregnant and due to my fit stature, most did not know unless I shared the news in private.

On Friday, October 2 2020 I decided to hand in my Doctor’s note and was so excited to tell my predominately male bosses the exciting news, nervousness running through me yet glowing as I was nearing my 3rd trimester. My shift ended at 10pm and I knew it was my last day wearing my Police gear for the remainder of the pregnancy and my maternity leave. Oddly enough I felt guilt that night because it meant leaving my co-workers to battle without me during this exciting time in my life, but I knew I had this purpose and I reminded myself of the new chapter I needed to complete at 35 years old.

at 9:45pm I entered the women’s change room and folded my uniform for the last time. Prior to leaving I had this shockingly quick, short painful contraction that ended just as quick as it started. I remember grabbing the bathroom stall wall quickly because it was an alarming feeling. I quickly checked my pregnancy app to read about what a Braxton Hick felt like. Sure enough at week 24, this type of feeling was described as normal and common. I exited the change room and mentioned it to my 2 male co-workers in our common area. I was told how normal that feeling was and to just go home and get rest. Seeing as though this was my first pregnancy, I didn’t know what was normal and what was not, so I had faith that everything was okay and I was right on track.

The next morning, I completed my baby shower invitations and my registry. Prior to sending them out through email, I headed to the restroom for the 10th potty break of the day. I had stood up and noticed a piece of clear gooey like substance on my leg. This was also so new to me and I didn’t feel right about it. I quickly sent my sister a picture of the substance and she immediately knew what it was my mucus plug. I was in disbelief because I thought I didn’t have many symptoms or labour pains, so I thought this can’t be happening, my baby is perfect and I had just seen my OB a few days prior for my regular check-up.

Out of precaution, I drove myself to the Hospital to see the OB Triage center just for reassurance. I felt nervous walking up to the window and explaining what had happened the night before and the piece of possible mucus on my leg. I felt comforted immediately because the nurse said reassuring things and that nothing sounded too alarming. I did a quick urine sample and before I knew it the on-call OB was there listening to my story. The baby was on the monitor and had a good strong heartbeat and movement as per our normal. The OB wanted to take a quick look just to be 100% sure we were on track.

While I was laying down for my examination, I heard a gasp from the OB’s mouth and he popped up, asking where my husband was? I looked at his face, saw sadness and his eyes swell up with tears a bit. His voice cracked and he said, you are about 5cm dilated and have bulging membranes. I had never heard that term before and was in denial. I asked if he could please stitch me up to avoid labour from furthering. I learned that at 24 weeks it was too late for the stitch and my labour was too far along.

I was then being injected with 2 different medications, Magnesium and Potassium to help prep the baby’s lung and brain for pre-term delivery. I could not reach my husband due to a work appointment, so I left the dreadful call in my mom and sisters’ hands to make on my behalf. I was instantly being prepped for an ambulance ride to a trauma center across our border City and over to Detroit, Michigan.

The frantic nurses were working so hard to slow things down because within minutes I started feeling contractions come and things now felt real. I tried remaining calm and used humour as I do at work to minimize trauma and keep people smiling. I denied what was happening and knew my baby was okay and healthy, but only 24 weeks.

A total of 45 minutes went by and my husband had made it in time before the Ambulance came and the nurse was prepped for our journey to the USA. Due to COVID and having to cross the border my husband had to follow us and I prayed he could cross the Detroit border without a hitch.

By this point my contractions were so strong and painful I feared that I was going to birth in the ambulance. Val, my wonderful nurse held my hand and assured me I was not going to deliver in the bus and we were minutes away to DMC Hutzel Women’s center in Detroit.

To my surprise, the staff and delivery room were just amazing. They had me calm and an epidural put into place to help slow the labour. I was informed that my water had not broken at this point and that the baby was feet first, which presented a huge problem. I needed an explanation for the problem part because why was it that every time I heard the news it seemed stacked against us? I then learned that because I was only 5cm dilated and the baby’s feet were first that if my water broke, the feet would start falling out and the head would not fit through the 5cm opening. I was told I needed to keep the baby in for 48 hours to allow the meds to start working and give the baby a chance of being so premature. I stayed hopeful because I was calm and the baby was still showing fine and moving well.

I asked my wonderful nurse for a bedpan because my bladder was so full by this point, I needed to potty! The relief I had after was award-winning and relaxing. I was then greeted by a couple of neonatal specialists who explained how labour was coming soon and we had to formulate a plan, either classical C-section ASAP or birth through the vagina making a small incision into the cervix to open it further.

While the options were being explained the unimaginable happened. I felt a pop, my water had broken! I told the specialist that I believe my water had just broken. A quick check inside confirmed that my water had broken and that my baby’s feet had entered the vagina as they had mentioned minutes before would happen. My options had changed on a dime and the next few minutes were crucial. We knew the baby had entered the canal and that we had moments to get the cervix cut and the neck and head out safely. By the time I had blinked there were 15-20 nurses and Doctors at my bedside all with a purpose, each their own specialty and waiting for the baby to emerge.

Seconds turned into minutes and my little baby was more stuck than anticipated. A quick cut of the cervix with some incredible pushing and Baby was out. I remained in surgery, having my cervix repaired with heavy bleeding, so I stayed focused on the back wall of the room, not moving, not speaking. I listened for roughly 40 minutes while I heard the Neo-Natal team working on my little angel. I heard a woman counting minutes, 9, 12,15,27,35. I didn’t know what this meant but I knew it had something to do with a clock and I was also staring at it. It was digital, straight ahead of me and it read 6:05pm. I then heard no more counting and silence. Out of the corner of my left eye, I saw a nurse walk toward us as I was almost done surgery. I heard her ask my husband if we knew our baby’s sex. He had replied no, we were going to have the gender reveal but just didn’t pick a date yet. I saw her whisper to him in his ear and hand him a perfect-looking baby. My husband looked over at me and with so much delight said it’s a boy!!!! Our baby was then handed to my hubby in a white and blue knitted blanket, and a cute white hat with a blue ribbon. He was still, eyes shut and looked so perfect I couldn’t believe he was mine. He also looked so identical to my husband, I just couldn’t believe how beautiful and big he looked. I was initially scared because I didn’t know how to picture a week 24 baby. I was scared, I was in shock. I just simply didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t cry yet, I didn’t know what to say. I actually thought this was not real, I am not here, this is not us.

I held my lil angel for 4-5 hours until I knew it was time for him to go. I kissed him repeatedly, spoke to him and said how sorry I was over and over. I placed self blame for his life being cut so short and not picking up on signs days before. I am sad our families could not cross the border and meet him. I am angry that everything that could have gone wrong, did. I feel like a piece of me is always missing, or I have forgotten something as I get in my car. I get to stare at his urn every day next to my bed and his beautiful portrait my husband had made last Christmas that hangs in my bedroom. I cry in the shower mostly and drive alone. I cry when I see others post their social media updates with their new baby’s birth announcements and updates.

I made an album on my iPhone with the pictures I took that day and regret not taking more. I love saying his name and talking about him. Constantly wondering if he felt pain or if he felt leaving me at all. The wonder has not gone away and I miss him every day.

Tripp Whelan Lalovich was born October 3rd, 2020 and left me the same day.

Currently today and with some surgical help, we are expecting our next baby and due at the end of May-June 2022. This week marks a huge milestone for us. I am 23 weeks along and after having a cerclage and ordered bed rest, mama and baby girl are both safe and sound. I believe that my angel Tripp is watching over us, keeping us safe. My heart aches, along with the joy that I can’t wait to share with Baby to be.

Forever in my heart, love Mama.

every story matters

The Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Centre is a non-profit registered charity that helps families connect to support on their path to healing after pregnancy or infant loss.  Families like yours can work with us and get support with a variety of services that hold space for your unique story. No matter at what stage of your parenthood journey you find yourself, your story will be heard here.

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Shelagh

Shelagh (she/her) brings with her a solid background as an admin in a variety of areas from business, academia and now with a charitable organization with the Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Center. She feels passionate about working in a role that benefits others in the community.

Shelagh was exposed to bereavement and deep grief at an early age and it left her with a profound sense of how fragile life is and how we need to find joy and light wherever we can. She feels privileged to be able to take this sense with her into her role with PILSC while putting her strong admin skills to good use.