But as I sat down this afternoon to write out Stella's birth story, I felt I needed to write this one down first. I guess because I know there are mothers who need to hear it.
I'm writing this not so you'll pity me or feel bad for me. Don't you dare feel bad for me.
I'm writing this not to show how strong I was because I assure you, I was weak. Very weak.
My reason for writing this is two-fold.
First, to give a glimpse into what it's like to go through such a horrible life event. Right now there are so many mothers facing the same, awful, grim prognosis for their child that I faced with mine. And those mommas want to know what lies ahead. I don't blame them. If you are one of those mothers, I don't want you to feel like you're alone in this because believe me, you are not.
Which brings me to the second reason for sharing this story: to show how I, a weak and scared first-time mom, made it through this process. The only answer I can give is Jesus. In my weakness, He is made strong. He is my Help, my Peace and my Comfort. He alone is the reason I made it through to the other side of this in one whole piece.
Oh, before I forget. If you're reading this and thinking, what in the heck is she talking about? Here are some blog posts that will help you out before reading the actual birth story:
*in memoriam: Isabella Marie
*five things I learned from the life and death of a baby
*don't give up on God
I'll be honest. This was 6 years ago so many of the details have been lost with time. But this is how I remember it.
It was a Wednesday morning that I went in for a routine OB appointment. The nurse was having a hard time finding a heart beat. Let's be honest, I already knew the night before that I had lost the baby. A mother knows these things. I just knew. My doctor did an ultrasound to check things out and as we expected, no heart beat. She was 25 weeks gestation.
From there I had the option of allowing my body to go into labor naturally or to induce labor. My doctor recommended we induce and being so naive to anything about anything, I agreed. Looking back I may have done things differently, but what happened is what happened. There's nothing I can do now to make things different. And I'm okay with that.
We checked into L&D on the following Tuesday morning at 7:30. Getting everything going was a long and boring process. Paperwork, getting things situated in the room, hospital gown, IV hook up, getting blood drawn. It felt like hours before my doctor actually arrived and we began the induction. Now, because I was only 25 weeks and because this was my first pregnancy, they couldn't just give me pitocin and go from there. My cervix had to first be ripened which was a long and gruesome process. Every couple of hours the nurse had to put a couple of pills up next to my cervix that would cause it to open slowly. Very slowly.
For basically the whole first day we did nothing but wait, and watch the Olympics and eat. I was hooked up to an IV from minute one, which was a dumb idea. I had to pee like every 10 minutes which meant rolling that dumb bag on a hook with me every single time. By the end of that first day, I don't even know that I had dilated at all. I'm not even kidding. It was awful.
I hardly slept through the night. Like I said, I had to pee constantly, the bed was super uncomfortable, the nurse kept coming in and waking me up and let's be honest, I was very anxious.
Now, when you're in labor with a stillborn, they put some kind of sign on your door (at this hospital it was just a picture of a leaf) to notify everyone who comes in about the situation. At one point an L&D nurse came in, probably about 2 am, to tell me that she had just gone through the same thing only a few weeks prior. And that she understood what I was going through. Now, I get it. It was comforting to know that she wasn't alone, that there are other women dealing with a similar loss as she. But it really was not the time or place to tell me. Not while I was in the middle of labor with the baby I had lost and was about to lose. I'm not the most emotional person in the world so I just shrugged it off, but I remember thinking, what if she had come in and said that to someone who was far more emotional than me? But I guess that's beside the point.
At some point in the morning, I remember the nurse checking me and being dilated to 1 cm. Wow, what progress right? And I can't even remember if they had begun to give me pitocin yet or not. My doctor showed up soon after to make his rounds and convinced me he needed to break my water to help things move. Yikes. That was so super painful and way uncomfortable. And as it always does, it helped to really bring on contractions. Very intense contractions. And yet, I still wasn't progressing.
I wasn't ready to get the epidural. For some reason I was really hoping I could just get through the whole ordeal without one altogether. I had initially planned for a hypnobirth and some crazy part of me was still holding on to the hope that I could have that.
The nurse offered me some pain killers, which I agreed to and were inserted into my IV. Immediately I was high as pie. Having never done a single drug in my life and as someone who rarely even takes Motrin, whatever was given to me may as well have been heroin. In fact, it probably was some kind of opiate. It also made me incredibly nauseous, so they gave me some meds for that too.
After a couple hours of that, and still no progress, the head nurse came in and convinced me to just get the epidural. She was hoping that it would allow me to relax enough to let my body progress. And she was right.
By now I was on the "all ice diet" which is totally lame. So I ate popsicles the whole day. Which, can I just say, seems super healthy when you're in the middle of the most intense workout your body has ever been through? Anyway, some time in the afternoon I took a phone call from our pastor's wife who had lost her daughter at close to 40 weeks. She had been such an encouragement to me during the whole pregnancy and it was a little bit of a comic relief to hear her tell me that I was crazy to not have gotten the epidural sooner!
I don't remember a whole lot from that point until it was time to push, other than that I did get a chance to nap. I guess it was some time in the afternoon that I had reached 10 cm. The doctor arrived and prepped and with just a few pushes she was out. She weighed barely a pound.
The nurses wrapped her entire body up and gave her to me to hold for a while. We decided that I shouldn't see her because of her condition. It would have just been to difficult to deal with.
Probably minutes later, I had to be rushed into surgery and knocked out. My placenta didn't deliver before my cervix decided to close up completely and I could see the frustration in my doctor's face. He would need to perform a D&C. I handed the baby to Ben and they rolled me away. I breathed a few times with the mask on and was out.
I remember coming to and asking Ben how long I had been gone. And then I asked again. And then I asked again. And then I asked again. Anesthesia is a funny thing.
We held our daughter for a little while longer and spent some time alone with her. Ben prayed over me and then we handed her off to the nurses.
That night we left the hospital, empty handed. It was probably the worst feeling I've ever experienced. I'll tell you, it was the moment that the nurse wheeled me up to our car and I got in without a baby that reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew for months we would lose her. I knew for a week we had already lost her. I knew for 2 days in the hospital that she was gone. And yet it was then that it all came crashing down on me.
It's not fair for a mother to give birth to her baby and never ever get to bring her home. It just isn't.
The next few days are a blur. I felt like I had been hit by a bus and then run over by a train. I can't even tell you how many different kinds of drugs had been pumped through my body and how exhausted I was after being up for 36 hours and flooded with 10,000 different emotions and hormones. My boobs were so engorged and it was a miserable few days both physically and emotionally.
We visited the funeral home to make arrangements for her burial. They were so incredibly gracious to us and paid for the entire thing. We paid not one dime. What a blessing that was. A couple days later we had a small service for her and buried her in the Garden of Innocence. The pastor, who's wife I mentioned, performed the service. And our daughter is buried just a few feet away from his son.
At this point I could get into the details about how God worked in my life during this season. But I've already written about that part. However, there is one more thing I'd like to share relating to that.
You know how when something major happens to you, over the course of time- either weeks, months or years- you only remember bits and pieces? Little experiences, conversations, snippets of the whole. There was one particular conversation that will always stay with me. It was during a routine doctor's appointment. I was in the room with my doctor and a student of his. My doctor made a comment about how strong I had been through this whole ordeal and basically how impressed he was by that. And the only thing I could say to him in response was, "Jesus. It's all Jesus."
Because it was. None of it was me. As I said before, I was weak. So very weak. My husband wasn't even there by my side until the delivery (he was deployed to the Middle East). I had family around me and yet I felt alone, except for the comfort of the Holy Spirit and the power of Christ in me. If not for Him, if not for His peace, I don't know that I would have had the strength to make it through without totally cracking.
And yet, because of Him I did. Because of Him I am stronger. Because of Him, the Comforter, I can now give comfort and support to others who are going through or who have gone through a similar experience. All because of Him.