ChromoChallenges Jess Plummer Brennon's Story
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Brennon’s Story

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TRIGGER WARNING: Miscarriage experience.

This is my son’s story. I can’t not tell it. I wish I had more eloquent words in writing this pregnancy loss experience.

ChromoChallenges Jess Plummer Brennon's Story

The content following the three dates is what I wrote in the two weeks following that time. I originally wanted to write a full book with everything… everything I’ve learned since having Aubby, everything that came from losing Brennon, and my intended journey forward.

But I haven’t been able to write about it in that way since. Which’s really what led to this blog. Because I’m really a short-order writer, I guess. I like chunk-delivering information because it’s easier to read. Or it could be that some things have no words after the first washes of pain’ve finished and coping puts the kabosh on tears.

Brennon’s the reason that ChromoChallenges exists, because losing him to miscarriage — I was far enough along to feel him kicking, and the manner in which he passed was accidental and not chromosomal… that I’d classify my experience stillbirth — made me NEED to write. Though Aubby’s the reason ChromoChallenges keeps going, as momming her has given me so much to share to help others.

This isn’t just a story of loss. His story might not be particularly hopeful. Maybe it is, I don’t know. I’m glad time has faded its edges some. And I’m glad memory has somehow left me two clear instances of his face and of his feet that I cherish.

Maybe it’ll help others get through such times. I hope it helps others just to know that our babies are still with us. Our loss babies look upon their births right there with us, somehow helping us get through the hardest days of our lives.

Believe what you will, take it for what you will. This is just me sharing the feelings and experience I had that day.

Dec. 4, 2017 — Balanced chromosomes

My husband and I received the call we’d been waiting almost two weeks for following a long month of anxiety leading up to the amniocentesis appointment. My husband saw my expression change just before he was due to head out the door for a client, so waited to hear the verdict. I answered the phone.

The Genetic Counselor began. She started by telling me our baby had a deletion that appeared benign since my own genetic array showed the same. My heart began to sink, but she continued, “But he’s also got a balanced translocation. Congratulations!”

I started to cry. I thanked her over and over, we hung up. I cried on my husband’s shoulder. “I didn’t hurt him,” I sobbed. Meaning my genetics.

“No, my heart, he’s healthy,” my husband replied.

Dec. 5, 2017 — Miscarriage at 17 weeks

I went to work the next morning floating on air. I was so happy to finally be able to share the news about the results with the couple of coworkers following my pregnancy progress.

One of them congratulated me. Another other broke into a toothy smile, and we happily exclaimed and swapped stories. Beyond the relief, I still had my dark cloud and warned, “But I won’t be completely comfortable until I hear his heartbeat at my OB appointment after work today…” They replied, “You’re just worried now. The results were good! Don’t worry, mama.” Maybe I was just being a dark cloud.

The time to go to my appointment came, and my husband picked me up from work since we only have one car between us. After stopping home to pick up our daughter and relieve the home nurse, we went to the appointment only ten minutes late.

After we were led back to the exam room, we talked things over with the nurse. She was happy for us. And then the doctor came in, asked if the results were in yet. We answered yes and told her the good news. She asked if I was released from Maternal Fetal Medicine into regular OB care, and I agreed.

And then the time that changed things as equally as the amnio results came. My doctor proceeded with the doppler to check my belly for fetal heart tones.

There were none to find.

She kept trying, knowing how much we wanted this pregnancy after what we’d already gone through to then with the survival of our daughter. She checked my belly back and forth about four different times. Three extra squirts of jelly to keep trying.

During this, which almost didn’t quite feel unexpected, I felt my insides turn stone. I felt my face draw and freeze. I stared at the ceiling, wishing what I already felt was true just… wasn’t. That everything was mistaken and would stop telling me his doom and that he was alive. But I knew. I’d known for days. Suspected, rather.

Miscarriage signs

I was 17 weeks pregnant with my son, but my breasts hadn’t started leaking. I had expected them to do so soon, based on fullness and cues I recognized from pregnancy and later nursing my daughter. With my daughter, I’d started leaking at the end of 16 weeks. I’d already become a little curious how long until it would begin.

Two days prior, a floater nurse we’d had previously, who needed hours, had commented that Sunday, “You too small!” I was small with my daughter, so felt a little annoyed at being criticized, but my son was growing on target and even I wondered at my belly girth not having increased just a little more in the past couple weeks to then. My nerves quivered.

The night before and morning of this last OB appointment, I’d had two large bowel movements. That was extremely unusual, since I become very constipated when pregnancy starts. Bowel movements of that quality and sensation have always indicated the onset of menstruation. I became mildly concerned.

And I knew I hadn’t felt any rolls since November 30. The week and a half leading up to that day, I’d been tracking him at two to three per day. That was the most damning to me, though I’d been told off and on that I shouldn’t be able to feel him yet. I’d felt my daughter and son, both, at 13 weeks. I’d worried at not having felt anything from December 1 until the appointment.

Worst pregnancy announcement ever

That’s how I found out my greatest fear had come to pass.

Being some of the roughest news possible from my corner of existence, I could not let it go unmarked. Not with what I knew I was about to go through; from the time my daughter was three months old, I’d followed a balanced translocation (BT) support group. Unfortunately, in BT, miscarriage is not uncommon. Although his loss wasn’t due to his chromosomes, I was distantly familiar with the events that would follow after reading so many posts about just this kind of night.

My husband walked me out of the doctor’s clinic back to the car. My vision swam from crying; that was the beginning of crying that wouldn’t stop for four days. I remember watching the glimmer of streetlights and reflections in the dark passenger window as we drove to the hospital. I thought about the absence of life within me. My heart cringed in my chest, my throat burned with words unsaid, and I reached across the console to hold my husband’s hand. Tears fell.

We arrived in the parking lot of the Local Hospital we already knew too well from our experiences with our daughter. In December 2015, we’d spent three weeks getting to know those halls. For a couple days the month before that, we’d gone there to deliver our daughter. That hospital’s one of my least favorite places, which then felt like an even worse place to go after not hearing our son’s heart tones. We entered and told the front desk operator what had happened not yet even a half hour before at the OB. The front desk nurse checked me in, took my vitals, and led me to an exam room.

I received a brief ultrasound in the emergency room followed by a lengthier confirmatory ultrasound in Radiology. I kept hold of our two-year-old daughter in my arms and my husband’s hand for comfort. When I wasn’t holding them, I muffled angry screams and my cries into the sheet covering my exam gown.

Fluorescent lights in hospitals are always too garish for such times. The white walls and linens always impress upon me the forced (or chosen?) unfeelingness of such places. We were mostly left to our own devices while the ER staff discussed among themselves. But for the constant knowing what happened that the doctor just hadn’t forwardly said, our wait in the small room was deceptively pleasant in its muffled quiet.

Eventually, the doctor did come and asked how I came to be there. I told him the symptoms I’d noticed. He said, “I’m sorry to say, but it’s not looking good.” Not looking good? I already knew what wasn’t being said. I’m certain he knew I already knew. I’d been anxious about just this scenario all the day prior after hearing the good news. The OB appointment was supposed to be my relief.

A short while after that doctor, another doctor came in and repeated the message, and then began to give me my options. Options. What are options when the only things that made them options were no more? They were not options to bring my son safely into the world, but ways in which to access my body to get the body he’d left behind out of it.

I’d observed the outcomes of such scenarios for two years in following my support forums so, save the emotional fallout now being learned, I’d already worked through the thoughts to know what I needed. The second doctor said a D&E, or dilation and evacuation, was the first choice available, but I wanted sure my son had the best chance to come intact. Or I could deliver at home, to which I said no because I couldn’t fathom having him there. I asked, “Is induction an option?” She said yes. I said, haltingly, before I could be interrupted by more tears, “Then that. Induction. Immediately. Please.”

After two and a half hours in the hospital ER to confirm fetal demise, I chose to share the news with my Facebook page, as I shared when my daughter was in NICU. Posting as a way to cope, because it gets the emotions out where I can see them. I reach out best in words. My husband says it’s the writer in me.

When Aubby was in my belly, I was given the Worst News of my life. And she defied it and has given me the best news since.

I have had an extremely trying week. I was waiting on the results of an amnio. Yesterday I received the best Good News of my life — the amnio results showed a boy, with my same balanced translocation… Like me, but a boy.

Today I received the worst. The amnio killed him. His measurements now did not progress further than that date. OF COURSE I’M THE FUCKING 1% that amnios end. And I hope to god the last rolls I felt weren’t his death throes.

I am being induced tonight. At 17 weeks, though he stopped measuring past 15 to 16.

We’d named him Brennon Eroch Plummer. His name was perfect. The chance my husband and I had taken had a perfect result: healthy. Up until that goddamned amnio, he was perfect too.

I love you, Brennon Eroch Plummer. I will meet you soon, son mine. I love you.

Shortly after my post was complete, the door opened again and a wheelchair was led in. I stood, held my gown closed, and shuffled to the wheelchair and sat. On the way through the nurses’ station outside the ER room, my Inner Cynic had a last hurrah for the night. My voice croaked and mocked the situation that was just happening to me. Because, by that point, I felt numb like I wasn’t really there. “My, what a day I’ve had! I managed to hurt my foot standing up at lunch, I burned my mouth on my lunch, I’ve lost my child, and now I have to deliver him. What a day, yes?”

It was hard for me to want to look at anything, but I ended up just staring at the floor as it rushed past. My husband and I were shown to the Labor and Delivery floor by way of a staff elevator. I was put in the last room of one of the hallways.

I was glad to see my OB when she came. She’d mentioned possibly being able to help after her clinicals were over for the day. I found it ironic that she should be there for my son who had died. She’d refused to waste time seeing me when I said I still needed her support during my pregnancy with Aubby during transition to specialist care. The necessary staff that needed to see me, did. I mostly ignored them except to answer questions in monosyllables. My eyes were almost swollen shut from crying so much. I felt like something being dragged away by a breeze, hollow and sad.

At 11PM, I was given 200 micrograms of Cytotec (misoprostol) to begin induction.

Dec. 6, 2017 – Pregnancy loss

After the first dose of 200 mcg of Cytotec, I knew it was going to take more of it to get things moving. My response was a slight curdle and two small period-like twinges, but the doctor overseeing me didn’t want to go that quick. The second dose of 400 mcg at 5AM brought some cramping, but nothing active.

My husband left sometime in the early hours before our daughter’s day nurse would show up at our home for the start of her shift. He said he’d be back. I lied telling him to not bother rushing, that he should get better rest at home. I wanted him to stay, but it was better our daughter be home during this.

For the third dose when I said to go up to 600, they had wanted to double it to 800, but I guess my OB agreed with my preference since the buildup was steady, if somewhat slow. I was also given sleeping pills and Tylenol as chasers each time. Considering how I was goaded into an epidural with my daughter at that same hospital, I’m still convinced they preferred sedated birthing processes.

It was the 600 micrograms at 11AM, out of 800 maximum available, which finally kicked my labor into gear productively. I wasn’t entirely certain it was going to work and that I’d need the full amount of Cytotec before it would be over, but it didn’t become necessary. Occasionally I felt an “opening up” feeling that I hated… Each time I felt it was a reminder that I wouldn’t be taking my little one home. But each time that happened I also felt a presence in the room, stronger each time, and I was comforted. Take it for what you will, I know my son’s spirit was there with me, and he was light and utter peace.

At some point I resigned myself and stopped fighting the emotions. Let him come, I thought, I will meet him, and maybe find peace. Letting go of being pregnant with him was difficult. I wanted to keep him so bad, but I knew it was already over. It was already over, so I had to let him go. Resignation made the process easier to deal with and maybe made it go a little quicker. But the thought chasing me then was, I’m so sorry, my little love…Hurry and come. Put me, put us, out of this misery

I’d expected to sleep the day though. I’d had a double dose of sleeping pills with the 11AM allotment of Cytotec. But instead I was awake. I stared at the ceiling until it began to wave like lake water. I looked out the window and hated the cheery brightness. This day had no right to be sunny. I stared across the floor and occasionally up at the blank TV screen that I didn’t want on anyway. And I watched the clock in the corner of the room. I cried, and the peace would calm me. Between 11AM and 12:25PM, I’d started contracting every 1 to 5 minutes for about 20 seconds.

Finally my husband came back, maybe around 12:45PM. My contractions had picked up to every 2 to 3 minutes and up to 30 or 40 seconds each. I know it wasn’t much later that I delivered. I very much remember what time that was. I’d been marking the minutes that passed because I didn’t want to miss the moment my son was born. That was important to me.

At 1:10PM I started feeling actual movement. The contractions were getting closer, every 90 seconds to 2 minutes and up to a minute each. There was a shift in my pelvis, but also a dropping movement, a feeling I remembered from when I labored with Aubby that’d prompted us to go to the hospital. I felt alarmed. I rang the nurse and told them he would be coming soon.

A few minutes later the nurses arrived and asked how I was feeling. I told them I was feeling what felt like real contractions. They even saw me through one contraction, which had forced me to grabbing the bedrails and lengthening myself into a position I wasn’t entirely familiar with but felt my body recognized as something. I wasn’t entirely certain what actual birth felt like because of the epidural I’d had previously.

They said they’d be back when my symptoms were more productive — bleeding and pressure. But I knew he’d be there soon. I knew it like knowing I was hungry or that it was time to wake for the morning. I saw they didn’t believe me, could see they thought I was overreacting, that if I was really having him I’d be in much more pain. I knew they would be no help for me, not that I expected them to be. Delivering my daughter in that hospital was also a test in self-reliance. “Alright then.”

Delivery

I watched them leave and resented it. But they’d only checked on me twice before then, anyway, at the point I was admitted and the points I received pills. I watched the clock while I babbled nonsense at my husband while he held my hand, perched at the edge of his seat in the chair at my side. The bed didn’t have enough room for him now. Each shift I’d had made me want to open my knees. Five minutes later the blood came… I’d warned them.

Delivery was almost overwhelming. Outside I kept repeating, “No” or “This is wrong” over and over. Inside, I felt No and Wrong over and over. My heart beat in my ears. I knew in the most visceral sense of all that it was happening no matter my opinion, as I felt my pelvis shift to allow his passage.

I felt three shifts. Each took my breath from me, just the feel of them. They scared me, and I was also surprised by how much they didn’t hurt. That the process hurt no more than a typical period felt criminal to me, and I was incensed by it as much as the entirety just saddened me. But I know my body simply knew the way.

I contracted, finally, for 20 minutes. Then the contractions faded, and I waited… I worried he was stuck, since they didn’t come again… But 10 minutes later I realized I could finish pushing him myself. I did.

My husband and I were alone, which was appropriate. I’m glad we were. Bringing him… the sensation felt so Wrong. Wouldn’t have mattered if I’d had “real” pain meds (aside from Tylenol and sleeping pills), I’d have felt every single bit of that. Which I did. It felt like a soft Barbie doll, or a wet kitten, coming out. But not so skinny or long, not plastic. It wasn’t anywhere near the pain of my worst periods.

Just as I felt him deliver but before I felt him rest on the bed below, my gaze shot up to the clock: 1:52:09. That’s the exact moment. I caught it, that moment.

After he was out, the adrenaline of it all left me shaking and my back ramrod straight. I couldn’t bear to look under the sheet and thin blanket at what I’d just done. The tears came again in a whole new flow. I told my husband, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to.”

My husband held my hand. He witnessed my disgust and self-loathing and the heartbreak I held for us both. There was a part of me that wondered what was going through his head as he’d watched me bring our son. As he once watched me when I brought our daughter who lives. I can’t imagine what he must have been thinking.

Arrived and goodbye

I rang the nurse: “He’s here,” I croaked. “What?” “My son. He’s. Here.” They should have believed me those 37 minutes earlier. But they sent the nurses back again.

But he was out. Within the sac, he was first placed on a hospital baby blanket – those faded pink-and-blue striped squares that aren’t quite soft anymore — after the nurses scrambled to get together a cart for delivery. Though if they’d listened to me, they wouldn’t have needed to scramble.

The birth had gone well. The nurses helped clean me up. They watched for excessive bleeding, as I passed some small-orange-sized clots following delivery. The birth was unexpectedly easy, natural and unmedicated… All things that I guessed this hospital didn’t allow unless the fetus was already dead.

I was amazed at how I found myself — profound loss, but still content in at least getting to meet my son. Who I’d actually delivered in the amniotic sac, though I guess his gestational stage didn’t leave much surprise for it. He was small enough that everything just slid out all at once.

It looked like a side of meat. I didn’t realize at first that it wasn’t just a small placenta and wondered where he was. I hadn’t witnessed exactly what had come out yet. The cart was wheeled away from me to the counter area across the room. I reached out grasping at empty air, asking he be brought back to me. Silent screaming, simply my fingers reaching.

Then the delivery cart was near. I grasped it, and my husband pulled it around the bed to me. The nurses gathered like a nativity scene gone wrong – it was December after all – in how the three wise nurses gathered around my son. And my husband sitting behind me looking on. And my son’s body virgin to the world, while his soul that must have been in the room colored everything holy. In my mind’s eye, everything felt like vast, shining blue. With a little purple, a little gold, a little green streaked through. But blue. And somehow I felt like Brennon was there letting me know he was alright.

I remember my eyes fixing on the sight of the sac, the last safe place he occupied. A nurse prepared to release the sac with a blunt-tip medical scissor. I said, “Tough ole bird, eh?” as it unexpectedly took a few saws to get through and her effort kicked up my Inner Cynic. But then amniotic fluid? blood? spilled out, and my tone went away.

The nurse more carefully unwrapped the package my body had brought. But for our actions and my tears, quiet pressed down. I felt a little dizzy. Sad. I looked away. But I couldn’t look away. I saw his slight form slide out as well, much like the tide.

Always, always

And there my Brennon was. I gasped, covering my mouth with my left hand. Looking away but not, just a back-and-forth tug-of-war with myself where I should look.

Finally I settled my gaze on his face. Small, delicate bone structure. Small nose. Gentle brow crests. He really reminded me of my husband. His features were very much like the men of my husband’s family. The great shaking I’d been feeling within calmed for that Moment with him. His face was… serene. My eyes darted over the rest of him, but it was his face that kept me, his feet that entranced me.

His little face and feet were the best formed, so gentle. I thought him beautiful, especially with feeling his soul in the room again. Telling me I need not be so sad for the so very tiny baby before me, because he wasn’t in there. It was a very calm feeling given me and I was gladdened that he wasn’t kept in the little shell of himself, precious as it was.

I clung on the side of the plastic box and looked him over. Seeing him so… rubbery?… surprised me. I’d been told not to look at him, but seeing him did not scare me. He was just, precious little thing.

I barely-there petted his head and toes. His arms weren’t right; the resident(?) commented about the cord wrapped. “Oh… So that’s why you wanted out,” I said. Based on timing, that amnio I had rued became merciful death, then, and I became grateful it did what it did instead. The severity of the cord wrapped around his upper body, strangling neck and arms, should have ended him much earlier. But I think the amnio caused enough uterine tension trauma to pass him as gently as could have happened. He suffered less.

I reached out and, so gently, barely-there caressed his forehead, his feet. I asked to hold him. The nurses moved him to a different blanket. My hands fluttered, trying to figure out which way to lift him on what served as his shroud. The nurse swooped and lifted him on the blanket into my hands for me. My world narrowed to my palms.

He was so small! I wanted to clutch him to my chest so badly, but he was too fragile. I wanted to kiss his head, but the closest I could come was to leave a kiss on the cloth next to him instead. I don’t know if I only thought it or said I love you, Brennon, but then I turned to my husband and asked if he wanted to hold him. He declined, the moment was too much. So I kept hold of him just a moment more while my mind registered it wouldn’t be much longer before what I would ever see of him was taken from me forever.

The nurses asked if I wanted a photo session with him, and much as I wanted to it felt like it would desecrate what good existed in that time. I said, “I don’t think he’s fit for a picture.” Which was true, as his skull plates were still forming and the nurses had to move his head very carefully. “And he’s beginning to cool,” I said more quietly.

I swallowed down the lump in my throat. His body was starting to cool, but I could feel his spirit in the room all day that day anyway. Calm and grown up and so peaceful, deep blue energy. He kept me company, I know he did.

In retrospect, I wish I’d at least gotten a picture of his feet. I wish I had one of his face, even if I’d have had to crop down the photo until it was pointlessly just that, only his face. I miss his face and his feet. But it didn’t seem right, even if I did wish for a more visual keepsake. And it didn’t seem right at that time to want those things when I so clearly felt him right there. Why should I have wanted a photo of what I felt right there?

I watched him for a little while longer before the feeling changed and I knew it was time to say goodbye. “Are you sure?” No, I wasn’t, as I could have spent many more whiles looking at him. But my thinking mind kept chiming in and I knew the trance was over. “What else is there?” I replied. And felt a cold sinking in me when I said, “It’s done. He’s gone from me.”

So then we said goodbye. We’ll meet again, be he returns, or if it’s another.

I did my best to imprint every detail of my son’s birth day in my mind. Because his memory is all I have. His calm face. The shape of his little feet.

I love you, Brennon. Always, always.

Closure

Now that that’s out… I didn’t share this to show off or be “poor me”. Sharing this lifted a terrible weight off my chest that’s pressed me down since that day. I think the story of his birth and my feelings that day just needed told.

Can I truly say that I’ve moved on? No. I have not moved on. I’ve also never felt I needed to. I think it’s a part of my purpose in life now. I feel him in my life, still, like checking in, and I’m okay with that. I believe that his spirit shows me how to bring compassion to others who’ve experienced the same.

I think babies lost too soon are meant to show us how to be gentle with others. They show us what life is made of, how fragile, and lays steel where once was less-than-genuine human shaped mush. But above all, there is love in loss. And that must be realized. Death isn’t punishment. It’s transformation, not the ending.

Stop trying to deny pain. Do better things than destroy yourself with the pain. Stop trying to run from who you “were” and be who you are. Transform.

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One Comment

  1. I’d heard some of Brennon’s birth, but not all of it. I wish I had been there for you, Brennon and Kit. I love you Jess. Love you, Brennon, my tiny Grandson🐦

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