'We had to grieve alone': father learns of baby's death via speaker phone amid COVID-19

Photo: Facebook / Supplied
Photo: Facebook / Supplied 

A young couple has shared the devastating reality of strict coronavirus protocols, which forced them to be separated as they learnt their baby had died. 

After days of heavy bleeding, Sarah Brown Gliem of Pennsylvania, lay on the exam table in hospital, alone. Her husband, Jared, was on speaker phone.

"We got the news no parent ever wants to hear ... again. There was no longer a heartbeat."

Ms Gliem's powerful photo of Jared, grieving on his own outside the examination room, has been shared around the world.

"My husband and I are hoping that something good can come from our hurt,"she tells Essential Baby."Maybe more empathy? That's a good place to start."

In a blog post, Ms Gliem, mum to Collin, wrote of the heartbreaking events leading to the loss of their second baby, whom they have named Cameron. The pair's daughter, Chloe, was born still in 2018.

"It took us almost 15 months to get pregnant again," she writes. "Fifteen negative pregnancy tests, clomid, injections into my belly, three failed IUIs, blood draws, testing, meetings, and then bam… positive." 

The teacher says her anxiety was "worse than ever". 


"Every time I went to the bathroom I checked for blood, each ultrasound was enough to make me puke. The thought of silence is terrifying."

As a "rule-follower", over the past few weeks Ms Gliem says social distancing "has been my thing. "I needed to keep this baby."

Thursday 19 March was a day like most others. "I worked from home, watched a lot of TV, and was having a relatively quiet day," she says. But when she went to the bathroom her heart dropped. "Blood," she says. "A lot of blood. Everywhere."

"Something's wrong with the baby," she told her husband. "We need to go."

Going into hospital, Ms Gliem explains, was like something out of the Twilight Zone. "We were greeted at the entrance by employees standing behind ropes used in crowd control," she says, adding that she answered all the "typical questions" about travel and coronavirus symptoms.

"After four hours, we learned that baby had a great heartbeat, my cervix was closed, and 50 per cent of women bleed and go on to have a perfectly normal pregnancy. We left with the instructions that if the bleeding got worse to return to the ER and to follow up with my normal OBGYN in the morning."

But the bleeding continue - and the cramping intensified.

"I knew that things were bad and I had myself prepared for the words- 'I'm sorry but there is no heartbeat.'" she says. "At least we could have some information as to what was happening inside my body to our little nugget."

But when Ms Gliem walked into the clinic for an ultrasound, her heart sank. "Jared wasn't permitted even in the waiting room because of COVID-19," she writes. "As I was checking in I was asking if he could come back with me because we thought we were having a miscarriage. When they said 'no' I began to sob."

Instead, Jared watched through the glass door.

"I snapped his picture when he wasn't looking because he is the one reason why I can be Chloe's superhero. I wanted to always remember that in times of trouble that no matter what we had each other's back even if we weren't together and let's just be honest. He looked silly sitting in the floor during the corona outbreak."

Ms Gliem notes that the picture was never meant to change the world. "It was meant as a reminder for us.

"He had NOBODY to comfort him," she writes. "Imagine sitting in a hallway crying because you found out your dream of becoming a parent to a breathing, warm, growing child was gone again."

As well as grief, Ms Gliem says she felt deep rage. "I was just so angry. Angry that people can't stay home, angry that people aren't taking this seriously, angry that I didn't get to hug my husband when we found out that this baby was gone too."

After sobbing in the car, Ms Gliem posted the photo to Facebook. "To say we are devastated doesn't even begin to describe it," she wrote. "This was us. We didn't get to grieve together, we couldn't even hug and tell each other it would be okay and we would survive this. Instead I was comforted by our doctor, got dressed, and finally got to see my husband and Cameron's daddy.

"I understand the precautions, but it doesn't make it any easier."

The mum is begging people to stay home. "The next time you want to go out because it's not that serious, just remember that a father couldn't look one last time at his baby, and a mother had to get the worst news about their child alone."

Ms Gliem tells Essential Baby that she hopes sharing their story will help others to realise they aren't alone.

"There are millions of people suffering in silence on a normal day. Nobody needs to suffer in silence and right now of all times it is so important to focus on maintaining healthy self care to ensure that we come through this healthy and well."

Visit Pink Elephants for resources and advice around coping with miscarriage during COVID-19


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