Mom to Lydia
Stillborn November 6, 2014
On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, I was driving to my regular OB check-up. My 34 week check up. I enjoyed some extra time with my toddler son that morning, thinking how our time was limited since his sister would be here soon. It had started to hit me how soon the baby would be here – with a planned c-section date of December 12, it was just over 5 weeks away.
It all seemed different with the second baby, for which I felt a bit guilty. With my son, we had 3 showers by this point to celebrate him, the nursery complete, lots of books read, and finished a birthing class (which turned out to be not very helpful when he was born via emergency c-section). But now, we had just finished putting Lydie’s room together, getting the furniture rearranged in her tiny little room on Sunday. I wanted to figure out how the furniture would go, because I wanted to start decorating. I kept telling myself our baby girl would be here before we knew it, and I didn’t feel ready yet.
But on the morning of the doctor’s appointment, I told my husband that I planned to wash all her clothes that weekend. That’s one thing I was prepared for – the clothes. I went out and bought a “little sister” onesie the day I found out I was having a girl, and since then, I had filled the entire nursery closet with finds from consignment sales and BabyGap and Carter’s and Gymboree. I kept telling myself to stop, that we didn’t need any more, that Lydia was completely outfitted until she was 2. But those girls’ clothes are so damn cute and so adorable, and her closet and dresser were stuffed full.
While driving to the doctor’s appointment that morning, I had the thought, “I can’t remember the last time I felt her kick.” This scared me; she was usually so active in there, kicking and doing somersaults. I actually complained about it, rubbing my belly and telling her to take it easy. My doctor said she’d never seen a problem because a baby kicked too much. I was at the point that it sometimes didn’t even register when I felt her, it just happened so much. I wondered, “When did I last feel her move?” I told myself what we always hear; babies settle in at the end. I was being paranoid, and I’d feel better when I heard her heartbeat.
In the exam room, my doctor started telling me all the usual stuff. She understood how much I was struggling with the second c-section, diagnosing me with a bit of PTSD from my son’s traumatic birth, and she started telling me again how it would be different this time, how I’d have a good experience. And then she went to find Lydie’s heartbeat. And it wasn’t there. And it wasn’t there. And it wasn’t there. And I couldn’t breathe. I think I knew. She took me back for an ultrasound, and it was all my worst fears, her heart wasn’t beating. She brought another doctor in to check, and she confirmed it. She asked me how soon my husband could get there. And I had to call my husband, who had big important meetings all day, and tell him our daughter’s heart wasn’t beating anymore. And ask him to come to where I was. Right away.
Yet there was no urgency. There was no “you’ve got to come to the hospital right now!” What I wouldn’t have given to hear that we needed to get this baby out right now. I called my mom next. And then my sister. Everyone else was hysterical; I hadn’t yet shed a tear. Total shock.
We came home to our empty house and stared at the wall and stared at each other and asked what the hell we should be doing. I have never felt more helpless in my life. My family all rushed in, and they helped me pass the time before we had to report to the hospital. My sister helped me pack a hospital bag. I didn’t know whether to bring that “little sister” onesie I had been so excited to buy. I didn’t know how any of this worked. I had to go give birth to my baby girl, whose heart wasn’t beating anymore.
My doctor had told me she could perform the c-section, as planned. But the whole point of the c-section was to protect the baby. She would be at risk – a low one, but a catastrophic one. And ultimately we decided not to chance that, even though I had so much anxiety about a second c-section. But now, unfortunately, we didn’t have to worry about risking our baby’s life. She said we could try for a vaginal birth, and she’d watch my uterus very carefully. And that she didn’t want me to have to recover from a c-section when I needed the time to emotionally heal.
So that evening, we reported to the hospital where I was given a lot of drugs and induced.
I found it pretty ironic that during this pregnancy, I had to give up the idea of ever having a vaginal birth. And I told myself many times “it is what it is.” And then this baby, my sweet baby girl, was somehow giving me that experience that I thought I’d never have. And now I didn’t want it at all. I’d give anything to not be in this position.
The anesthesiologist came in and he sat down and took my hand and said, “I’m sorry for your loss.” And I lost it. It was one of the first times I heard that, and I realized that this is my reality now. I realized that this is just the beginning. The night before I had been telling myself, “just get through this. This will be the toughest thing you ever have to do.” But perhaps living without my child is the toughest thing I’ll ever have to do. It actually felt fitting to be having some physical pain to go along with all the pain in my heart.
The contractions started kicking into high gear. They broke my water. And then we just continued to wait. I had been in labor a long time with my son, and I was fearful this would take all day, fearful that this part wasn’t going to end anytime soon. I just wanted to get the physical part over. So I was relieved when they told me I was ready. But my doctor wasn’t there. So they brought different doctors in. And I think I actually said “not him” out loud when one doctor walked in – a man who just tells it like it is, who doesn’t do anything to soften the blow.
But I didn’t have a choice. Lydie was coming whether I was ready for her or not. My husband, sister, and mom flanked me and held my hands. When they told me to push, I started screaming. Something like, “My baby, my baby! I’m so sorry, my baby!” I also screamed, “I’m an awful mother!” In a few pushes, she was out. They had told me I could hold her right away or they could clean her up first, and initially I wasn’t sure which I wanted. But in that moment, I just wanted her. And they handed her to me and I got to hold my sweet baby girl.
The idiot doctor announced, “It looks like something was wrong with the cord.”
My husband and I sat together holding her and kissing her and crying and telling her how much we love her. And my doctor finally arrived and sat with us.
And that’s how we spent our afternoon. Holding her and kissing her and crying and telling her how much we love her.
She was beautiful – or you could tell she would have been. I kept holding her hand, which was just so perfect. The tiniest fingernails. Five perfect long fingers. It almost felt like she was holding it back. I kept staring at that hand all day. She had these giant feet, these flipper feet. I bet she would have been a great swimmer.
Eventually, the nurse took her from us and weighed her – 3 lbs, 10 oz, and 18 inches. Tall girl. They cleaned her up.
I had almost finished my baby blanket for her. I hadn’t put the final touches on it. I thought I had more time. So my mom finished it literally, right before her delivery. We kept her in that blanket all day.
We read to her the book My Love will Find You with the line, “We wanted you more than you’ll ever know, so we sent love to follow wherever you go.”
That was how we spent our day with her. November 6, 2014. We held her and kissed her and told her how much we loved her. I told her “I am sorry” ten million times. Each time, someone jumped in to tell me it’s not my fault. But she was in my body. She was supposed to be safer in there. I was supposed to take care of her.
My doctor understood that it was too hard for us to stay at the hospital and released me to go home. We knew that going home meant leaving Lydie there and going home to an empty house. But we also knew that it wouldn’t be an easier to leave her there the next day, or the day after, or the day after that. How do you walk out of the hospital without your baby? How do you even begin to walk out of the room?
I can attest to the fact that you can do things you thought you’d never be able to do, just because you have to.
So we spent all day with our beautiful girl, the one we had all these hopes and dreams for. And it took a long time to say goodbye. I kept thinking “Just one more look. Just one more kiss. Just tell her you love her one more time.”
A nurse came in and asked us if she could rock Lydia and sing to her while we left. At first I thought, Lydie doesn’t even know you! And then I realized how stupid I am. Would it be better to just lay her in the bassinet by herself in an empty room? So this sweet nurse took our baby girl, wrapped in the blanket I made her, and rocked her and kissed her and sang to her. And when I came over to say goodbye one more time, after I kissed Lydia, she kissed me. When my husband told Lydie, “We love you so much,” she responded, “she knows.”
Now, it’s been almost three months. I relive every moment of our tragedy every day, and it feels like it just happened. The silent Doppler haunts me. The pain is still so fresh. In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. I can’t believe I have lived three months without her. And I realize I am muddling my way through this grief.
I’ve experienced a lot of emotions in the past three months. I’ve worked my way through the guilt, telling myself over and over that if I had any control over this, it wouldn’t have happened. I would have done anything to keep her safe, to protect her. I just never thought this could happen to us, after my perfectly uneventful pregnancy. Many days I still can’t believe it. I’ve done a lot of research about cord accidents. I’ve processed a lot by writing on my blog. I’ve attended therapy and support groups and met a lot of women in similar situations that have become my lifelines. Every day, when I wake up, I tell myself just to make it through the day.
Honestly, I just really miss her. And I miss the happy life I pictured for all of us.