Saturday, August 5, 2017
This is therapy, ya know. Writing. Telling our story and sharing what life is like after baby loss. Here's the part that changed our lives forever... I'd just sent my application off to grad school and I was 3 days late on my period. Off to Walgreens at 6:30 p.m. at night to buy a pregnancy test. Seconds later 2 pink lines appear. Tears. I was 42 with 2 amazing boys and ready to tackle that next phase of life. My husband embraced me and was immediately excited! "It'll be GREAT, this will be our last and we'll go all out. Your boobs will get bigger, we'll have so much fun!" That helped. We choose to tell our boys at the park with pictures and a personalized poem. There were tears of joy! The boys were over the moon with the news... ok, Nolan needed to warm up to the idea. When we found out we were having a girl, it seemed too good to be true. I wanted a daughter for myself but even more for my husband... ya know, the whole father/daughter relationship is sure hard to beat. The mother/son relationship is pretty amazing and I wanted him to have that like relationship.
There was an Art fair in September that I couldn't wait to go to in order to buy these beautiful hand crafted flowers from fused colored glass... just a couple of years prior I saw them and told the artist they were perfect for a girl's room and I didn't have one. She tried to convince me that I didn't need a girl in order to enjoy them in my home. I just didn't have the right place at the time to justify buying a piece. Three different colored flowers in a purple frame is what I picked out for our sweet Vivian. My Mom & I (with my best friend at the time), picked out fabric to make her bedding and blanket to girl-ify a future nursery. I bought clothes with pink flowers; the boys picked out lil sister onesies. My Mom and I spent a day shopping in St. Louis for all things Vivian. So much fun preparing for her arrival!
I remember laying down for an afternoon nap and she was kicking away. I relished in it thinking she was so close to being on the 'outside'. I couldn't wait to take naps with her on the outside! It was surreal to think about Mom/daughter time. Nolan was looking forward to living out the title of 'Big brother' and teaching her all about basketball. Ethan just wanted to hang with her, hold her hand and play. Josh wanted to teach her all about cars . Of course she would have been artistic like her Momma. We made mental plans for her. We were expecting her.
Monday I worked on call on labor & delivery. We scheduled my induction due to cholestasis of pregnancy (such a beast!) in 2 weeks for 36 weeks. I wasn't happy about it but with rising levels of bile acids it was the right decision. I woke up that night at 1 a.m. in a blur noticing Vivian hadn't woken me up sooner with her kicks. I pushed on my belly for an hour. She moved once and I felt relieved enough to fall back asleep. I had the thought to wake Josh up to head in to monitor her heart rate, but defaulted to thinking she had recently moved head down and it was just her change of position. I woke up early to head to work and ate breakfast on the way. She hadn't moved as she normally did. I defaulted to believing she was ok. This pregnancy, this baby girl was a gift. I arrived at work and casually said to my best friend, who happened to be an OBGYN resident, that I hadn't felt her move since 2am. We went into a room and couldn't hear heart tones. We were both worried. She stepped out to get a sono machine and came back with my nurse midwife. The silence was eerie and looks of worry were heavy. They step out and and return with an OBGYN MD and again look with the ultrasound machine for a heart beat. "I don't see anything". Words that I couldn't comprehend without translation... I ask "What do you mean?" She says "I don't see a heart beat". This isn't real. The whole 'this is too good to be true' came to be... endless tears fall. To go from accepting that we'll never have a daughter to being pregnant to having a daughter to having her stolen is too much to bear. My best friend had to call my husband and tell him to come to the hospital. Thankfully my boys were just dropped off at school.
We drove home with leaves falling from the trees. It was October; symbolic of her sweet life that slipped away. We gathered our things through tears to head back to the hospital to begin the induction process. The thought of her dead body inside of me was disturbing...it wasn't something I wanted to prolong. The nurse I had chosen for our scheduled induction delayed her trip to Iowa to be with us (such a gift). The boys came after school so we could tell them the horrific news. Just how does a Mother share that her baby died inside of her?! I'm not sure how I spoke at all. I'll never forget their sad faces and immediate tears. They had bragged on their lil sister to so many. They were connected to her. We gave them the option to stay home from school the next day, but they both stated they wanted to go to school. It was later that I learned Nolan would be found in the bathroom crying saying to a friend that his baby sister's heart stopped beating. Heart wrenching! It is one thing to deal with your own grief, but yet another to muddle your way through supporting your spouse and kids while they grieve.
At 10:30 a.m. my water broke (much sooner than I was mentally prepared for). With nubain, I pushed through each nagging contraction wondering what she was going to look like. I was dreading her arrival. I read one loss Mom describe giving birth to death and that is what I feared. Her birth encompassed so many feelings.. a tangible love and the cruelty of death in the flesh... a tension of opposites. She arrived at 1:38 p.m. My best friend just made it minutes prior. Vivian was placed on my chest... warm and lifeless. Silence. Tears. I couldn't think. I could barely feel. She was a combination of our boys. She had dark hair. She was perfect and beautiful. There was hustle and bustle around me. I declined giving her a bath (I regret that). Josh held her and never before had I heard a cry so deep... wailing and gnashing of teeth just like in the bible for 15 minutes. He held her to his chest and it was uncontrollable. He described it later as a lifetime of love condensed into 15 minutes. How?! Why?!! How do we move forward?! God was so silent. I never felt His presence. Our deepest, darkest hours and we didn't sense Him.
I was grateful that my friend had arranged a photographer to come and take photos of Vivian. It was hard to have her in our space, to be touching our precious baby girl. Nothing about it felt right. After a while we had enough and we asked her to leave. The photos are priceless and my most prized possession. To be in the space of grieving parents, though, is as intimate as it gets.
"What funeral home would you like?" Oh Lord. None. We left without choosing one. We left our baby girl in the hands of 'strangers'. I was a mother. The desire to mother doesn't end. I walked away from my baby. Her heart wasn't beating but she was still my baby. I wasn't prepared for this. We had no outfit small enough to put on her. The angel gown made from wedding dresses wasn't what I wanted my baby girl to be wearing. With my heart shattered I went shopping for a preemie baby girl outfit with my friend the next day. I found one at a specialty gift shop that was pink and baby soft. The gal at the check out had no idea and asked if she had already arrived. I said nothing. Tears in the car. I had to pick out and buy an outfit for my dead daughter.
It's been almost 2 yrs. I'm writing this while holding my 4lbs 4oz Molly Bear (Vivian's weight at birth). The pain still swoops in and bowls me over. This was a good night with my boys and my man. I delighted in sitting around a backyard fire chatting with my youngest son and husband while watching my oldest son and his best friend put together a half pipe. There was joy and at the same time deep sadness for Vivian not being a part of it all. She is always missing. I just still can't get used to swinging from the joy and sadness.