Ruby Ann Hudson

Our beautiful girl with bright red lips
7 lbs 2 oz
20 inches long
Delivered Saturday September 29, 2001
Died Thursday September 27, 2001
Stillborn (by asphyxia) due to
a cord accident around her right leg

We are proud and sad to announce the short life of our beautiful daughter, Ruby. After accompanying us for a wonderful journey of just over 40 weeks, our darling first child unfortunately died one day after her due date. Ruby passed away on Thursday September 27, 2001 and was delivered on Saturday September 29, 2001. It was a shock and we dearly miss her. Ruby will always be remembered by her proud parents and loving family, for the joy she gave us upon seeing her, and for the lifetime of hopes and dreams we had for her.

The following text relates to our experience and the circumstances of Ruby’s death. You certainly don’t have to read it, but we thought we should tell the story once so the facts are known and we can move on. We should start by saying that the love and support of our families has been the greatest help during this time and we are so grateful to have them by our side. We also want to thank the staff of Scripps Mercy Hospital, Labor and Delivery for their excellent care and support.

Many people knew our daughter as “September,” a name given when we knew our child only by her due date of September 26. As the months passed, we continued to search for a name that would describe the spirited, vibrant and colorful girl we knew she was becoming. In the last four weeks, the name Ruby came up and was heading the list but we reserved judgement. Our daughter should decide her own name, we felt. As soon as she was delivered, we knew that she had chosen her name: her most amazing feature was the deepest, reddest, most perfect pair of lips you’ve ever seen. She was Ruby, and she stole our hearts.

Everything had been going so well with the pregnancy. Every stage was by the book, every test was fine, and our girl had been progressively communicating with us by her active kicking, moving and hiccuping. Even on the fateful day, Thursday September 27, we had visited the doctor and been given a clean bill of health. We had heard our daughter’s strong and solid heartbeat and knew she was preparing to come out and see us. But sometime soon after she gave her last kick and slipped into what we thought was a long sleep.

By the late evening, after attempting to record our nightly "kick counts", we became concerned about the lack of movement from our usually active baby. We called the doctor and she calmly advised going to the hospital to get a fetal monitor. Thinking that this would be a practice run, we threw our packed bags into the car, got to the hospital, and were leisurely admitted. The nurses had difficulty finding a heartbeat so a doctor set up an ultrasound. After a while, he quietly said "I can’t see the heart moving."

We were stunned. There was no movement on the ultrasound and, when asked, the doctor confirmed that yes, that meant our baby was dead. It was a terrible feeling, as though the world had fallen away around us. The staff quietly left the room and we were alone, trying to comprehend what had happened. Our girl wasn’t going to be a child, she wasn’t going to be a woman, and we weren’t any more a family of three. We hadn’t realized just how much Ruby had already become part of our lives or how many hopes we already had for her. Now there was a giant hole in our lives, like we were standing on the edge of a chasm, and we felt lost in time.

Our doctor’s on-call colleague came in the room. There was no more testing that could be done, there was no doubt. Then she revealed something we hadn’t thought of: that Jennie still had to deliver the baby. This labor was to take over 40 hours.

We settled into another room, and Jennie was hooked up with an IV and Pitocin, a drug to induce labor. Then we called our parents, which was just the saddest thing to have to do, as Ruby was not only our first child but their first grandchild. It was horrible news, but they took it with great strength and support. Jennie’s parents -- Judy and Jerry -- were three hours north in L.A. and rushed down as soon as they could. Andrew’s mum -- Chris -- was back at our new house asleep, as we had quietly left for the hospital around midnight, thinking we’d be back soon. Fortunately, our wonderful friend, Phil Shorter, without any question despite being awoken by phone at 3am, drove to our house, woke Chris and, after she’d heard the news from Andrew by phone, brought her to the hospital. Also on the scene so quickly were Jennie’s sister Jill, as well as Jennie’s San Diego coffee-girl friends, Mary and Liane.

It was terrific to have Judy, Jerry, Chris, Jill, Mary and Liane nearby and we thank them for the many hours they put in. We also called Andrew’s brother Patrick in Cornwall, and Jennie’s other sister Justine in Nashville. Since we were so sensitive at this time, we chose not to tell anyone else. We didn’t want to leave anyone out -- we certainly had hoped to share good news with the many people who had given so much time, gifts and love during pregnancy -- but we needed some private space and all our energy to help each other.

Two days slowly passed, as Jennie was subjected to various drugs (pitocin, cytotec and morphine), blood tests, no food or drink, and eventually an epidural. Finally, after 40 hours of induced labor, Jennie delivered our beautiful daughter.

As soon as she came out, it was obvious what had harmed our baby. Her umbilical cord was wrapped very tightly twice around her right leg, binding her foot to her upper thigh, and the cord at this place was a deep purple. Doctors call it a "cord accident." At some point during the pregnancy, Ruby had entangled her cord around her leg. This may have happened early on, as early as 20 weeks, in which case the growth of her leg might have been restricted and, if she had survived, she might have had leg problems during her life. Unfortunately the cord became so tight and stretched that it cut off her oxygen supply and she suffocated.

This is a very rare situation that, as we understand it, could not have been detected or prevented. It was a random occurrence that had nothing to do with what anyone did or did not do. The term “stillborn” is used when death occurs before birth and after 20 weeks (in the US; 24 weeks UK), before this time the term is miscarriage. Ruby’s cause was asphyxia due to a cord accident around her right leg; a related term "nuchal cord" is used when the cord is wrapped around the neck. Since she died before arrival, she was technically a fetus rather than a baby, and she was delivered rather than born. She required a death certificate but no birth certificate.

We looked for statistics and came across the UK Childhood Mortality Statistics for 1999 (other data here). This report says that 0.5% of births are stillborn and 3% of stillbirths are due to asphyxia, anoxia or trauma (intrapartum). We’ve heard that 10% of asphyxia stillbirths are due to cord problems, so the chance of Ruby’s death is about 1 in 60,000 births. Fortunately this accident does not affect the chances of a future birth.

Grandma Van Meter, Grandma Hudson, Ruby and Aunt Jill

We named our daughter Ruby Ann Hudson and were able to spend time with her that evening. Despite the sorrow it was still a joyous and proud occasion. We introduced Ruby to her grandparents, her aunt Jill, as well as some close friends in San Diego. Ruby was absolutely beautiful with lots of dark, curly hair; round, soft cheeks; and a wonderfully expressive mouth which aptly featured two impossibly ruby-red lips. With that mouth she claimed her name!

Ruby was cremated on October 15 and we will have a quiet, private ceremony for her ashes later. We may spread her ashes on the ocean and plant a tree in her memory.

We are now dealing with the aftermath of our loss, taking time to grieve and recover. We feel very lucky to have a strong support network of family, friends and colleagues ... and, of course, each other. We are more committed than ever to having a family and, therefore, look forward to having good news to share around November 2002.

Thank you for taking the time to appreciate our beautiful daughter.

Jennie and Andrew Hudson
San Diego
October 22, 2001


Ten months after posting this letter, we were fortunate to welcome in to the world our wonderful son, Redford. Nineteen months later came our wonderful daughter, Roxy.