As a neonatal intensive care nurse, Lauren Bloomstein had the care of other people’s babies for years. Finally, at 33, she was expecting one of her own.
The prospect of becoming a mother made her dizzy, her husband Larry recalled recently, “the happiest and most alive that I had ever seen her.” When Lauren was 13, her own mother had died of a heart attack. Lauren had been living with her older brother for a while, then with a neighbor in Hazlet, New Jersey, who was like a surrogate mother, but in important ways they’d grown up mostly alone.
“The happiest and most alive that I had ever seen her.”
– Larry Bloomstein, Lauren’s husband
The chance to its own family, the mother they don’t have, touched a place deep inside her. “All she wanted to do was be loved,” said Frankie Hagen, who took Her in as a teenager and thought of her as her daughter. “I think that everyone liked her, but nobody loved her like she wanted to be loved.”
Other than some nausea in her first trimester of the pregnancy went smoothly. Lauren was “the tired in the beginning, painful in the end,” said Jackie Ennis, her best friend since high school, who talked to her at least once a day. “They got what they are supposed to be. She looked great, she felt good, she worked as much as they could” — at least three 12-hour shifts a week until late in her ninth month. Larry, a doctor, helped monitor her blood pressure at home, and everything was normal.
On her free days she had organized, the selection of strollers and car seats, stocking up on diapers and onesies. After a last pre-baby vacation to the Caribbean, she and Larry went on the hunt for their forever home, the settlement of a colonial brick with black shutters and a large garden in Moorestown, not far from his new job as a orthopedic trauma surgeon in Camden.
Lauren wanted the baby’s gender a surprise, so if they are the nursery, she left the walls painted — they thought that they would have enough time to choose colors later. Despite everything she knew about what could go wrong, they seemed on the surface, the normal pregnant mother fears. Her only real care went into labour prematurely. “You have to be there until at least 32 weeks,” she would tell her belly. “I see how the babies do it for 32. Just not too fast.”
When they are in a period of 39 weeks and six days — Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 — Larry and Lauren drove to Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, the hospital where the two of them had met in 2004 and where she spent almost her entire career. If everyone would watch out for her and her baby, Lauren thought, it would be the doctors and nurses she worked with on a daily basis. She is especially fond of her obstetrician-gynecologist, who had trained as a resident in Monmouth at the same time as Larry. Lauren was not with contractions, but they and the OB-GYN agreed to schedule an induction of labor — he was on call that weekend and would be sure for the process of the delivery itself.
Inductions often go slowly, and Lauren work stretched far into the next day. Ennis spoke with her on the phone several times: “She said that the feeling was good, she was just really uncomfortable.” At one point, Lauren was overcome by a sudden, sharp pain in her back, near her kidneys or liver, but the nurses did get her epidural and the stinging stopped.
Inductions are associated with higher cesarean-section rates, but Lauren has progressed well enough to deliver vaginally. On Saturday, Oct. 1, 6:49 pm, 23 hours after she checked into the hospital, Hailey Anne Bloomstein was born, with a weight of 5 pounds, 12 ounces. Larry and Lauren’s family had camped out in the waiting room; now they swarmed in the delivery area to ooh and aah, wonder how Lauren seemed to glow.
Larry drifted around in his own cloud of euphoria, a telephone with a camera in hand. In a 35-second video, Lauren keeps their daughter on her chest, stroked her cheek with a touch practiced. Hailey is bundled in the hospital issued, pastels and flannel, unusually alert for a newborn; she studies her mother’s face, as if trying to make sense of a mystery that will never be resolved. The delivery room staff bustles in the background in the low-key way of people who believe that everything has gone exactly as it’s supposed to be.
Then Lauren looks directly at the camera, her eyes full.
Twenty hours later she was dead.
Click to read the whole story at ProPublica.