He flipped the switch and the room darkened. “Maybe now we will get a clearer view” he said.
I stared at the screen and it was still. Nothing. No movement or fluttering at all. “There is no heartbeat is there?” I said, fighting back tears.
“What do we do now?” I cried as he wiped my stomach clean and helped me up. What a horrible day I had picked to come to my appointment alone. Just a few hours ago I had been shopping online for her crib bedding and now she was gone. Do I go to the hospital? How can we help her? Defibrillator? Heart transplant? What? Tell me what to do and we will do it, I thought.
He gave me a hug and with tears in his eyes he told me, “It is not your fault. Nothing could have prevented this. Her heart just stopped. It may be something chromosomal. And there does appear to be some fluid around the base of her brain. It is a Friday and you definitely need some time to grieve so I want you to go home, come back Monday morning for another ultrasound, and then we will schedule your delivery at the hospital to get her out. Once that happens we can test her chromosomes, look at the placenta, and order some blood work to get a better understanding of what happened. Is there someone you can call so that you aren’t alone?”
“Okay. I am going to step out now and will be back in a moment. Why don’t you try to give your husband a call?”
I placed my head in my hands and began sobbing. Why was this happening? I am sick to my stomach and the room feels like it is spinning. After a few minutes and a couple of deep breaths I managed to wipe my tears, grab my Blackberry out of my purse, and dial my husband. I interrupted him in a work meeting but he left immediately to come and get me. Thank God I had left my 3 year old at his grandma’s house this morning. I had brought him to a few of my appointments before and at this time felt very relieved to know he was safe and happy and that I could just focus on what was happening at the moment without worrying about him.
The nurse brought me a bottle of water and a new box of Kleenex. She hugged me. I could feel that she was truly sorry that this had happened to me. She held my hand for a moment while I cried and then said she was going to go keep an eye out for my husband and left. I felt so sad and lonely. My husband finally arrived and after a moment in the room together we left out the back hallway of the office and drove home.
He put his arms around me and we sat on the couch talking and crying with the TV off and the blinds closed tightly. How do you deal with something like this? I was 22 ½ weeks along. We had seen her in ultrasounds many times, felt her kick, named her Paige, and were so excited to have rounded out our family. It was going to be the four of us. It was going to be perfect, or at least as perfect as anything here on earth could be. Earlier in the week we had won the bid on what was to be our first home. 1654 square feet to call our own. It had 3 bedrooms and a den. There was going to be enough room for all of us. But now there are only 3 of us here and it doesn’t feel right.
This was a high risk pregnancy. We knew that going in. That is why I had been getting weekly progesterone shots and was on a sort of modified bed rest. Our son was born prematurely at 29 weeks and our biggest worry was that she too would make an early entrance into the world. Never in my wildest dreams did I envision miscarriage.
I became a Christian in my early 20’s and since then God has always been on my side. I communicate with Him on a daily basis. I read my Bible and pray. I thank Him when I rise in the morning and throughout my day for simple blessings like my son’s laughter, a pretty sunset, or a good cup of coffee. I also pray for family, friends, and things I want or need and ask for peace within my heart when His will is done. I normally feel very blessed to have the life that I do. It is not perfect or without hardship by any means, but overall I definitely have a pretty great life. However, this does not seem like it could possibly be His will. How could it be? My heart is aching and I just don’t understand.
Getting pregnant was not easy for my husband and me. I had prayed my heart out for months because I longed for another child. We tried for a long time with no result. I finally was at peace with the fact that it wasn’t the right timing. After all, our time is not God’s time and if another child is what God wanted for me, then He would make it happen. So, I made the choice to be content with the family that I had been blessed with and we stopped trying. A few weeks later I found out that I was pregnant. I couldn’t believe it! My prayers had been answered. At least that is what I thought at the time.
But now I am left here wondering why He would allow me to become pregnant and carry this baby for 5 ½ months only to take her away from me? It doesn’t seem fair. People trying to comfort me have said things like, “She is in a better place now,” and “Take comfort in the fact that you will see her again one day because she is with the Lord.” I feel horrible saying this, but it does not make me feel better. Not right now. Not even a little bit. I mean, of course I want to think of my daughter being in heaven surrounded by His grace in a perfect and wonderful place. Don’t we all want that for our children? But the fact is that I am not in heaven yet. I am here. I know it is selfish, but I want her here with me. She should be here with me.
It is Saturday now and this weekend is going by so slowly. I have a permanent headache from crying so much and Tylenol isn’t even beginning to bring me any inkling of relief. I barely slept at all last night. My mind would just not let me rest. I was in bed with my husband and son who were both sleeping soundly and outside the rain was pouring and the thunder was rolling (which seemed fitting – almost like God himself was letting me know that He too was hurting for my loss) yet despite all of this, I could not find rest. I do not feel hungry. Nothing is able to distract me. Not even for a short while. I have been mostly just lying on the couch holding my belly. She is still physically inside of me and I can feel her there, but she is not alive and my heart is broken.
I am so full of emotions right now…
I am scared. Scared of being induced, scared of actually delivering her, scared of seeing her, scared of holding her, and then scared of having to leave the hospital without her.
I feel guilty. Guilty because my body gave me no warning signs to let me know that she was having problems, guilty that my body wasn’t strong enough to support her and keep her alive, and guilty that I just want to be alone right now even though I have family and friends that want to be there for me.
I am sad. Sad for myself, sad for my husband, sad for my 3 year old who just doesn’t understand at all, and sad for my extended family and friends who are sharing a part in this with me.
I am worried. Worried that the hurt and pain won’t ever subside and that I won’t ever be able to really be happy again.
And lastly I feel confused. I just don’t understand why this happened?
Monday morning finally came and we went to the doctor’s office. The second ultrasound confirmed what we already knew. She was gone. They had a room waiting for us at the hospital so we went over there to begin the process.
When we got off the elevator, walked to the desk in the birthing center, and said my name, they all looked down. At first I found it to be strange that none of them looked up at me, but I guess I can understand. It is a completely uncomfortable situation and to be perfectly honest, right now I do not know what to say to others as much as they do not know what to say back to me. Finally a nurse came from around the corner of the desk. She had a welcoming smile on her face and a motherly look about her. She led us to our room. There was a small sign on the door that read, “Quiet. No Visitors.”
I got undressed and into a gown. She took my vitals, a brief medical history, and placed an IV.
Then she sat by my bed and explained to us how this process was going to work, what to expect before and after delivery, and that any and all feelings we had were okay to have and okay to feel. She explained that at 22 weeks gestation she is a “real” baby and that she had a life and a purpose here and that she was going to be treated with dignity and respect. That is what I wanted most of all. You hear about women having abortions in their second trimesters and that the remains are just disposed of. I didn’t want that for my little girl. She wasn’t a tumor or a piece of waste. She is my daughter and I love her with all of my heart. I know that others may forget about her as time passes, but I never will. She is a part of me.
We got to meet with the hospital chaplain before labor was induced. She stayed with us for almost an hour. She talked with us about our family, faith, and the grieving process. It was nice to be able to get all of my feelings off my chest and validated. Just then my mother showed up. The chaplain prayed with my husband, my mother, and I and then she left. The three of us didn’t talk much. We tried, but there just weren’t many words to say at the time. It felt strange to talk about current events and when we talked about the baby we just cried. So for the most part we just sat there quietly and together. I think we were all trying to find that place of strength within ourselves to prepare for and help get us through what was to come.
The nurse came back in with the doctor. He explained to me that since the baby was not alive and her safety was not a concern that I could have whatever pain medication I wanted or needed since this was already a very emotionally painful time for me. Why add insult to injury? He inserted 3 crushed up Cytotec tablets into my vagina. This was to induce labor. He said it can sometimes take up to 3 doses of this medication to actually get to complete dilation. The nurse said that they could administer the second dose in 4 hours if needed and that nothing much would probably happen with this dose but to call for her if I felt any discomfort, wanted any pain medication, or needed anything else.
I was starting to get really hungry. My stomach was hurting and I had a headache. I had drunk a glass of Ovaltine around 6:45 that morning, but had thrown up 3 times since then. I wasn’t able to eat anything but clear liquids now, so I ordered a lemon flavored Italian ice. I ate it faster than I had ever eaten anything before. Either it was simply delicious or I was starving. About an hour later I began to feel a lot of pressure in my pelvis. I was up and down between my bed and the bathroom for a while and soon my labor had progressed to the point where I had to really concentrate on my breathing to get through the contractions. I called for the nurse. I was in pain. I asked her for some medication. She administered a shot of something into my IV. It did nothing. She put on a glove and checked my cervix for dilation. She said she wasn’t sure what she was feeling and went to get another nurse for a second opinion before calling the doctor to come back in. She didn’t think that I could have progressed so quickly. None of them did.
The other nurse came in and said I was at 3 cm, 100% effaced, and had a bulging bag that was at a plus 2. One nurse quickly went to get the anesthesiologist while the other called my doctor. I was in extreme pain at this point. I was lying on my right side with my eyes closed trying to focus, when all of a sudden my water broke. Then my body just took over. I didn’t mean to begin pushing. It just happened. I couldn’t control it. I could feel the baby coming out. I yelled for the nurse and began crying. I wasn’t crying from the pain. I was simply overcome with emotion. I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening.
She pulled back the sheets, helped me roll to my back, and with the doctor’s help Paige Marie was out of my body in only a couple of pushes. I had done it without the pain medication that I was planning on and I know this might seem strange but it almost felt better this way. I had been feeling kind of numb for days, so I was happy to be able to feel everything. This wasn’t supposed to be easy. It was supposed to hurt. It hurt fiercely, and yet the physical pain was no match for what my heart was feeling. I was completely broken.
My husband and mother were on one side of my bed crying. The nurse was on the other holding my leg. I looked down and through my stream of tears I saw my daughter for the first time. Despite the fact that she was lifeless and purple she had a perfectly formed little body. She was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. The nurse carried her to the corner and wrapped her in a blanket.
The doctor was still tending to me. At only 22 weeks the placenta does not want to detach easily from the mother’s body. The doctor tried for a while with a few tools and also with his hands, but it wasn’t budging and was extremely painful. He decided to give me a few more Cytotec tablets, this time orally, to try and force the placenta out. I took them, they laid Paige in my arms, and then they left the room.
I sat there in my bed holding my daughter for the first time and even though she wasn’t alive, for a brief moment I felt content. It was a relief to have her out of my body. But now that she was out of my womb and in my arms I didn’t want to let her go. Her skin was sticky to the touch, reddish purple, and she was limp. And still, somehow, it seemed as if she was only sleeping and that at any moment she was going to take a breath and open her eyes. Oh how I desperately wanted her to. But she didn’t. I knew she wouldn’t. It was only the desire of my heart.
I began to feel another contraction and called for the nurse. Another gush of water came out. I handed Paige to my husband. I pushed with all of my might and the doctor tried again to remove the placenta. Finally with much compassion he called for anesthesia and I was given a shot to numb my pelvis so he could do his job and I was a bit more comfortable. In a few short minutes the medical part of it was over and all that was left was physical and emotional recovery. But to be completely honest, at this point in time, the latter part seemed impossible.
My grandmother and aunt came to the hospital to see my little girl. I hadn’t wanted any visitors at all, but for some reason now that she was physically here I wanted my family to see her; to see the beautiful creation that God had knit together in my womb. I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed like I had felt a few days ago. I was just saddened and my heart was burdened.
Once my family left, I held her to my chest, placed her tiny hand around my finger, and my husband and I lay there in the hospital bed talking and crying. I am thankful that the 3 of us were able to have that time alone together and I feel lucky that my husband is as strong as he is. I need him to be strong right now because I feel I have no strength left in me. Paige had to be kept cold and unfortunately the longer I held her, the warmer she got, and she began to bleed from her nose. I didn’t want to call the nurse to come and take her but I knew that I had to.
Leaving the hospital the next morning without her was awful. I hated being wheeled down the hallway to the car alone…without my baby. I had also had to leave the hospital alone when we had our son 11 weeks prematurely, but that paled in comparison to what we were facing now.
The next morning we got up and met with a director at the funeral home. We picked a cemetery plot for her and also one for each of us beside hers. We have chosen to have a graveside service with family only. We have picked flowers, bible verses to be read, songs to be sung, and met with our pastor. Yet still, I want someone to pinch me because it doesn’t feel real. In her casket I am wrapping her in a soft, lavender colored blanket, alongside a pink teddy bear, a picture of her father, brother, and I, and a letter I wrote to her letting her know that I love her deeply and now know that heaven will be that much sweeter because she is waiting there for me.
It’s hard to believe that a week has passed since this nightmare began. Today was the first day I was able to have a conversation with God again. I know in my heart that He is the only one that can restore my spirit and I need Him desperately. However, He and I have a slightly bumpy road to get back to where we once were. I feel okay saying this to Him because He is a big and loving God. I know that He knows my heart and is willing to meet me where I am and walk beside me through this valley. He did not do this to me. As hard as it can be to understand sometimes, it is the just the way of the fallen world that we live in. I am praying that in time I can come to terms with her death and thank God that I do have my faith and am not without hope. I want her back and in my arms with every ounce of my being. I miss her so much. I feel cheated because I had plans for us that will never come to be and I wish I knew when this heartache will subside. But until then, I am going to try to love myself enough to allow myself to grieve and give myself time and space to recover but I will never forget my daughter Paige.