The Olive Tree

Denika Anderson, MA, SBD

full-spectrum doula serving the Twin Cities & western WI

theolivetreedoula@gmail.com | (612) 865-3778

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© 2019 Olive Tree Doula, LLC & Denika Anderson

Oliver

I have three children. The first is nearly three years old, independent, stubborn, and passionate, just like mama. She came into this world when she was ready (read: at 36 weeks' gestation) and already on fire (read: spent three days in the NICU). She is my mini-me, and she will do great things someday.


The third is six months old. She's a snuggler and a mama's girl and is happy as long as she has your full attention. She is my rainbow baby, and my pregnancy with her was more or less uneventful. She was perfectly happy to stay snuggled up in my uterus--it took three different induction methods before she finally decided to make an appearance at 39 weeks.


My second child, unlike my other two, will not grow and develop a personality and show us all his quirks. He died and was born at 13 weeks' gestation. His name is Oliver.


My pregnancy with Oliver was intense from the start. My hyperemesis was awful and he gave me a little scare at 6 weeks when I started cramping. Once I got to my 11-week scan, though, I figured things would slow down a bit. We were nearing the end of the first trimester and, although I would need progesterone shots to prevent preterm delivery, I expected the second trimester (at least) to be a little boring.


Oh, how wrong I was.


The OB on call unceremoniously diagnosed Ollie with an enlarged bladder and told me that I would be referred to a perinatologist who "might be able to save the baby's life." No one had told me his life was in danger, or that an enlarged bladder had a high fetal mortality rate, especially this early in the pregnancy. No one told me much of anything at all. Some frantic googling while I sat in the least comforting consult room ever told me more than I would ever be told.


I called my mom and my mother-in-law (who was watching my oldest) to tell them what was going on, choking back tears all the way. I think I yelled at a scheduling assistant at the perinatologist's office (if you're reading this, I'm sorry). I spent the whole weekend consumed by anxiety.


My first appointment with the perinatologist confirmed that Ollie did, in fact, have a bladder outlet obstruction, and that he was almost certainly male. When I got home, I researched more, found out about some procedures that might save him, and called back with a million questions. Another appointment was scheduled for a week later.


Five days later (at 12 weeks, 3 days), I felt him kick. Five tiny punches in my lower right abdomen.


Two days after that, waiting for my next appointment, I prayed for a heartbeat. Just a heartbeat and I'd keep fighting.


There was no heartbeat.


I texted my mom and my mother-in-law, and posted in my mom group, three words: "the baby died." I couldn't manage more than that at the time. I'm a writer through and through, and yet, I was at a complete and total loss for words.


I met with one of my clinic's OBs the next day. She suggested a D&C. I countered and said, "I want to meet my baby. Please, let me meet my baby." I had researched heavily (because, when I can't write, I read) and asked to induce my miscarriage via misoprostol. She agreed to prescribe it, but warned me that, especially this far along and without my body starting to miscarry naturally, I would likely need a D&C anyway. I know she was trying to reduce my suffering, but God, I would have done anything to get the chance to hold my tiny boy.


The following day, I took the misoprostol at 9 a.m., and waited. All day.


I finally felt my water break at about 5 p.m. and began to labor. I alternated between laying on the futon in my daughter's room and sitting in our strangely large bathtub.


At 6:34 p.m. on November 10, 2016, Oliver Shiloh Anderson was born. I had been pushing most of the time that I was in the tub, and I looked down to see a tiny arm. I couldn't look any closer by myself. I called my husband up and only then was I able to pick up my baby.


He was so tiny. He fit in one hand.


I ended up in the ER that night because my bleeding never slowed down. I waited in the ER lobby for three hours before I was finally taken back and given fluids and copious pain meds.


Over the next few days, we made our memorial plans. We bought a tiny wooden box, a planter, and some hyacinth bulbs. We wrote letters. I crocheted him a tiny hat and cut swaddling fabric down to size.


I did end up needing that D&C, which I got the morning of the 17th.


On November 17th, we buried him. He now sleeps in a big blue planter on our patio.


I conceived again six weeks later, and the following September, my rainbow baby was born.


But my Ollie boy, he changed me. He opened up new depths of feeling for me. I have never before known such pain or such joy as I have since he was born.


He made me brave. I have already lost a child; what else do I have to fear?


He made me strong. I committed my baby's body back to the earth and the Divine. I have never done anything so hard as that.


And, he's the reason The Olive Tree exists. I was able to fight for what I needed in Ollie's birth, and I'm grateful for compassionate, empowering medical providers who gave me exactly that. I was able to hold him, to take pictures of him, to care for him, and to say goodbye on my own terms.


Every mama deserves that.


I have often heard that, as long as mama and baby are okay, then nothing that happens during birth is really that bad, even if it ends up being traumatic to the mother. This is a load of crap, and it's especially awful for loss births. If you birth a living child, you have a whole lifetime to make memories with that baby. Your birth should be empowering and joyful, but even if it isn't, you do still have the opportunity to make more memories with your baby. In a loss birth, though, you have maybe a few days with your baby, if you're lucky. You deserve the world in those days--you deserve to have everything you could possibly give to your child, every opportunity to bond with your child and cement their place in your heart.


That's my hope here, to give you the support you need to have the birth you want and to make memories with the baby who is not long for this world. And, most importantly, I want to help you find peace, no matter what.


So, welcome. I'm sorry you're here, but you are not alone.

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