*January 24 of this year marks six years since Alisha became a mother to her son Amari. She has graciously shared the heartbreaking story of the beautiful boy who made her a mother.
After many miscarriages, a surgery to fix a fertility issue and finally a round of IVF, I was pregnant with my miracle baby who had been a work in progress for close to 5 years.
My due date was January 16, 2016. I had a very healthy pregnancy, other than the worst heartburn I have ever experienced. My due date came around and I felt great, a little nervous but mostly excited to finally meet my baby I’d waited so long for.
January 16th passed. My last OB appointment was on the 19th where an induction was talked about between myself, my husband (now ex) and the OB. I wanted to wait until I was 10 days overdue to be induced however it wasn’t clearly understood as I received an unexpected call from the hospital on the 23rd asking where I was.
My OB had booked me in as I was one week over due. After a discussion with the maternity nurse she said it was fine to wait a few more days but that they wanted to have me come in for an NST to see how baby was. We arrived there a few hours later and were told that “baby is doing great”. Baseline fetal rate was 120 bpm with the normal accelerations and decelerations a fetus has when moving. The OB on shift recommended an ultrasound to measure the amniotic fluid which would be preformed the next day. We left the hospital with the instructions to wait for the medical imaging department to call once they were ready to perform the ultrasound.
I woke up around 7am on the 24th. An hour passed and no phone call. My lower back had started to really bother me to the point I needed a heating pad and was sitting on an exercise ball. By 9 am, still no call so I them called myself. To my surprise, when I called to inquire about the ultrasound, they had no requisition pending for me. Frustrated, I called the maternity ward and luckily the same nurse that performed the NST answered. I explained what had happened and she said that there was a shift change at the hospital with the OB’s and that the new OB would have to order the ultrasound. She asked for my patience as it would take a bit of time to arrange.
She called me back around 11:50 am saying they were ready for the ultrasound. I called my husband and he came to pick me up. By this time I knew that my body was in the very early stages of labour. We walked in at 12:26pm, excited that the time was finally coming to meet our baby.
After checking in at the maternity ward, we went straight for the ultrasound. My husband knew the technician and we had a nice conversation all while breathing through contractions. The technician noted that the baby had “struggled” a bit (and recovered) but that they would let the maternity ward know. After a complaint to the College of Physicians it was determined that the radiologist failed to do so.
After the ultrasound I was put into triage. It was a full moon and there were many other women in the room with us. Doppler on my tummy, counting and breathing through contractions I gazed out the window. There were seven geese on the roof top. At approximately 1:30 -1:40pm the nurse, whom we’d seen the day before, came to check the fetal heart monitoring strips and the tone quickly changed. She yelled at the top of her lungs “I’ve got a decel here!!!” And in no time at all, a whole team surrounded my cot, flipping me from my left side, then on to my right and then left again all while placing an oxygen mask over my face and removing my pants and underwear and checking my cervix. I was one cm dilated so the OB recommended an emergency C-Section.
I was wheeled from the maternity ward to the outside of the OR and walked in when it was ready for me. A mixture of emotions overcame me. Little did I know what was about to transpire.
My husband waited outside as I was given a spinal. I sat on the edge of the table which had nice warm blankets. After the spinal was administered the nurse placed the doppler on my stomach. She moved it around from one side to the other. When she found the heartbeat it was 96 bpm (much lower than the baseline captured the day before). I was guided to lay on the table and they prepared the curtain and my body for the surgery.
My husband was invited into the OR and sat to my right. The moment we had dreamed of was finally here! We waited to find out the gender of the baby so now that it was happening we were elated.
The anaesthetist’s voice was behind me and he was giving a running commentary. He asked if he knew what we were having and we said “No”. He said “Looks like you’re having a Martian baby” and shared that the baby had passed its first bowel movement of meconium. I felt the pressure when they removed the baby from me and we learned we had a son. My husband had a daughter from a previous marriage so our family was complete with this precious gift. Waiting to hear our son cry, my husband began to panic a bit. My friend had her baby the month before which was very traumatic and her son had to be resuscitated. Knowing this had just happened to my friend and her baby was fine, I was cool as a cucumber and kept reassuring him that everything was going to be okay. I heard the code pink be called and they took our son to the paediatric ward, my husband followed.
The OB and the assisting doctor carried on a conversation about ordinary things as they stitched me up. I laid there grateful that my baby was here and I would get to see him very soon. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my life was about to turn into my worst nightmare.
I was wheeled into the recovery room and waited. I am not sure how long I was there for. Hospital staff came in to check me every so often and I would ask about my baby and was given very generic answers. “They're working on your son." Sounded promising.
Finally, I saw the doctors holding my baby and my husband behind everyone. Their faces were not happy ones. “I’m so sorry, we couldn’t get him back” I was told and I watched my husband fall to his knees on the floor, crying.
They handed me my son. He was 7.1 oz and the most beautiful little boy I had ever seen in my life. His lips and skin were already blue. He had fresh blood coming out of his left nostril (from the tubes they’d used in an effort to bring him back) and a slight gap between his lips. I studied his little body, his fingernails had already turned colour. This boys eyelashes and little face was that of a perfect angel. Every feature of mine we wanted him to have, he did. And every feature of my husbands we wanted him to have, he did. Literally too perfect.
I didn’t cry at first because I was in complete disbelief. How did this happen? A full term baby that was perfectly fine earlier that day? We are at the hospital. Wasn’t this a safe place to have a baby? I never had known anyone to lose their baby.
Back up in my room on the ward, we had to request to be moved away from the other rooms where babies were crying. This ended up being a severe trigger for my PTSD and anxiety in the following years. I remember just wanting to sleep, and I did just that. I would open my eyes to see new faces in the room coming to comfort us and would close my eyes and pass out again for I didn’t want to deal with my life.
In this tragedy I learned of things that only parents of angels know. Parents that lose their babies get beautiful keep-sake boxes to put clippings of their baby's hair in, as well as a cute little toque and delicate blanket. I learned of Cuddle Cots and Now I Lay me Down to Sleep - which is an organization which trains photographers whom donate their time by coming to the hospital to take photos for the devastated families. My biggest regret is listening to my husband and not getting pictures with him. I am forever grateful to have the images that I do of him though.
We left the hospital on the 26th and let me tell you, leaving the hospital without your baby is a feeling no one should ever have to feel. I hung my head in the wheel chair, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone.
I immediately deleted all my social media for I didn’t want to deal with sharing the terrible news.
Amari Mankatala was born sleeping on January 24th, 2016.
His autopsy noted every organ and specimen examined was “unremarkable”, meaning perfect except when it came to his lungs. Another thing no parent shouldn’t have to do, read is a report of their babies dissection. Amari suffocated to death due to “limited resources” and a delayed emergency C-Section at the hospital (took 70 mins).
Though he didn’t get to have one breath here on earth, his impacts have been profound. I didn’t want my milk to go to waste so I pumped and donated to preemie babies, I remember bawling my eyes every time I did this thinking about how I was supposed to be nursing him. I found yoga several months later which changed my life. I have realized that this was part of his purpose, to change my direction in life to lead me to my life’s purpose helping others in a healing space. I never returned to my successful career in banking and pursued opening a studio in Abbotsford.
I am a very open book and share my story of infertility and child loss. Unfortunately, I have met many other bereaved mothers and fortunately been able to understand and comfort them the way only another mother of an angel can.
My husband and I purchased a Cuddle Cot (devices used to preserve body so family has more time) which is now at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. His tragic loss expedites a much needed review at the hospital in which changes were made including the Doppler staying on the fetus which being prepped and waiting for surgery. I donate blood in his memory every 3 months and will be making my 9th donation in March. I also have plans for an annual butterfly release in which all proceeds will be donated to a deserving cause. Lastly, since I cannot buy him the newest toys and games for his birthday, I started giving that money back. Last year I sponsored two local families with a grocery shop. This year I will be delivering a hot meal to homeless in the community.
Amari means strength. I had no clue and am so grateful that would be his greatest gift to me.