Kristine Neiman

This past September 5, 1996, I was on the way to see my ailing father who was dying of lung cancer in the Intensive Care Unit of our local hospital. I was 36 weeks pregnant, having a healthy, wonderful, strong pregnancy with no complications. I "had done all the right things!" and was hoping that my Dad would live to see his second grandson (we knew he was a boy), but it didnít look good.

I was hit head-on by a driver who failed to yield the right-of-way. When I was hit, I punctured my left lung and had difficulty breathing immediately. I had both of my seat belts on. I donít remember if my stomach hit the steering wheel, but the EMTís were there within a few minutes and I was removed from the car on a back brace. I wasnít having contractions and my back and left collarbone were damaged so I couldnít feel any abdominal pain, movement, etc.

We got to the hospital where my Dad was within a few minutes. My husband is a police officer for the city above to us and they called his dispatch from the accident scene. He later told me that he saw my car being put on a flatbed (it was totaled, as was the other drivers car).

Iíll try to make this short. They called in the on-call Ob-gyn, I was still not having contractions, my water hadnít broke, I wasnít bleeding (I was about an inch dilated, but I had not seen my own ob-gyn that week so I could have been there already) and the heart monitor was reading fine. The nurse on duty could feel the baby moving and I started to feel contractions about every five minutes or so, even above all of the pain from my other injuries. These contractions only lasted for about half an hour or so and there were no other circumstances which told the doctor he "needed" to take the baby then.

We had an ultrasound, everything looked "fine", his heart rate was still strong, unchanging, there seemed to be no damage from the accident or a tear from an abruption, and I was sent back to a room on ICU, NOT the maternity ward. They gave me a slight does of Demerol and I tried to sleep, but I wanted the monitor facing me so I could watch his heart rate. As my older brother and his wife were leaving, the babyís heart rate seemed to falter a little and dip below 95 or so. He had always had a strong heart rate (around 140) and it had been steady for about 4 hours. The ICU nurse came in and I explained that I didnít think his heart rate was right. She said that the doctor had told her it may drop because of the Demerol, but I insisted she call down a nurse from maternity. When the nurse finally got there his heart had slowed to below 81 and never went back up. He just faded away. By the time the doctor came back they couldnít find anything and I was checked internally again for bleeding, which I was by then.

The doctor was very soft-spoken and he came over to me and told me I was going to have a c-section. I asked if they thought the baby was dead and he said yes, but never told my husband so he wasnít prepared. I donít think he would have told me had I not asked. Talk about awful bedside manner!

They inserted a chest shunt for my lung, a catheter and prepped me all within the ICU room because they were trying to save him. I had the c-section and I remember most of it, but I know I will never forget that awful silence when they took him from me. They tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him. After I woke up, I looked over on the table he was just sitting there, all by himself, all wrapped up. They handed me my beautiful, fat boy (6 lb.ís, 12 oz., and almost 22 inches long at 36 weeks!). I never, for one second, did not want to hold him. I put his little fingers in my mouth and looked under his cap to see this round little head of wavy dark brown hair. My husband likes to say that it was the "proudest and saddest day of his life" when he held his son. Jared looked so much like him itís almost unbearable to look at my husband sometimes.

It all seemed like a horrible dream for the next couple of days. My father never knew that I was in the hospital, or that anything had happened (he was on a lot of medís), and passed away early in the morning one day later. My Mom said he seemed to get a little better actually, but I like to believe that he was called to help take care of Jared.

After a few weeks of not REALLY knowing what had went wrong, the autopsy report said that there was a tear to my placenta and it had abrupted, which caused the babyís death. Both the Ob/gyn and the respiratory doctor who was there for the surgery said that it was so unusual that there was hardly any bleeding, and that there was no stool in my amniotic fluid from the baby being stressed. I like to believe he was not in any pain and just fell asleep. He did not sustain any internal injuries, he was perfect, a "well-nourished, full- term infant." They say they never saw the tear on the ultrasound.

I still have a lot of unanswered questions. I am suffering from a severe amount of guilt. "Why didnít I KNOW something was wrong?", "Why didnít I MAKE them take the baby right away?", "Was I paying enough ATTENTION driving?", etc., etc., etc. I donít know when Iíll be able to forgive myself, the hospital, the doctors and even the woman who hit me. I know it will just take time, and time heals all wounds. We have hired an attorney so I may find out from another doctor/hospital if they did everything right. I know this will not bring back Jared, but it will sure be nice to never let him do this to another family.

Thoughts of another pregnancy linger as a distant dream, which is now filled with much fear and trepidation. Every future pregnancy will be HIGH-RISK and I am just not willing to take the leap of faith to possibly fail another pregnancy right now, even though I desperately want to be a mother. We would have been such great parents. Jared was spoiled before he was even born. Maybe we will try again later this year.

You can send email to Kristine at [email protected]
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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW