It has been less than a week since I’ve learned that our sweet little child will not be joining us Earthside. Last Tuesday we went in, all kinds of excited and hopeful, for our mid-pregnancy ultrasound. I was approaching 22 weeks and it didn’t occur to me that there would be any reason for concern at this stage. We have three boys and were very excited to learn if this new little one was another incredible boy or finally a girl. What we found instead was no heartbeat.
This last week have been empty and full, and I want to tell you my story but also much of the tender mercies that my very kind and aware Father in Heaven has been giving me all along the way. There have also been things that went as I expected and those that I did not expect at all. Perhaps this post that is still so fresh and intense, will help some.
After finding out the news, my tendency is to let things take a more natural course, and avoid artificial intervention unless it is clearly needed. I have tremendous faith in my body and its abilities and I wanted to wait for things to complete on their own. But after taking a day or so to begin to let things sink in and process, and look over the facts, it was clear that this baby had passed a little while ago and labor had not started. I had some odd “pains” very low in my abdomen off and on for the previous month, but not enough to even cause me to think they were contractions. Looking back I think it was my body’s way of attempting to initiate labor but never really “took.” While I am a birth professional, I am new to this city and don’t know very many doctors and am not familiar with the hospitals in the area. I’ve been on more of a “family leave” from attending births and the on-call lifestyle for some time. This was very intimidating to me to not just automatically know who to call and where to go.
So I went to the resources I did have. I got on stillbirthday.com to look around, but this time for me. It was a different experience but I am so grateful for the site and the work that Heidi Faith and many others do on there. It primed my understanding of decisions I would come to make, and also confirmed other bits of information I had only previously suspected. I was still unsure which path to pursue but was open to whatever was best. I had been planning another beautiful home birth for this one and hired the perfect midwife for me. I was so excited. And then so crushed.
The radiology clinic said they would let her know about the results. I figured they would get them to her in a day or two. Within 20 minutes of leaving the clinic, just as we were settling in at home my phone rang and it was my my midwife, Alicia Witt. It meant so much to me that she didn’t hesitate to reach out to me. I lost another baby at 12 and a half weeks, exactly 7 years minus 1 day ago from that day we found out, and the midwife I had at the time responded very differently. The way Alicia handled this situation was actually very healing to me in ways I didn’t expect I still needed.
She had said she would still attend this birth, even at home which touched me deeply. And assured me that she would be there through the process. But the more I looked over things the less a homebirth looked possible. The baby looked to have passed at around 16 weeks and I was already 21 by the time we had the ultrasound…. that was just a really long time without my body naturally taking care of things.
DyAnna Gordon, a dear friend of mine that is a midwife in another state, and was my original birth educator with my first child, had attended a medical induction that week with another mom only about 18 weeks. It was a similar situation and she shared with me vague and respectful details about how honoring and sweet the hospital staff had been. She also asked me if I wanted her to share the “bad stuff” too which I did — I wanted to learn everything I could about what I was potentially about to experience; the good, the bad and the ugly. In talking with her I started to be able to visualize a respectful, compassionate and possible hospital setting to help me through this process. My mind had originally gone to the idea of the hospital being impersonal, sterile and hours of people watching in the ER waiting room. No thank you. I am so grateful I opened my mind up to a new possibility.
I was also able to chat with Elizabeth Petrucelli, a bereavement doula through IM, to try to sort out possibilities and options. These women were so key in my journey in helping to guide me to the best possible scenario for us. Time almost seemed to stand still, holding my chat with Elizabeth while watching the comments populate on a private group that I shared our sad news just the next morning after finding out. I couldn’t sleep and had been up since 3 am and I was so strengthened by the comments, stories and support that was just pouring out. I am a social griever and work through things better and more fully when I feel safe to reach out and receive back love, sympathy and help.
I felt prompted to reach out to a birth doula I hardly knew except through Facebook for a referral to a hospital and maybe even perhaps an MD that could help with a medical induction. What I received was perfection in the form of a doctor. This doula had texted an OB she knew well and within hours we had things set up for the next day. I was on the phone with Dr. Sally Wareing that afternoon talking about details and realizing that a medical induction was likely not the best course. This was one of the many tender mercies. If you’re going to have to go through something like this, having compassionate and like-minded people around you makes all the difference.
As we consulted it was looking like a scheduled D&E was the best course of action. I could hardly believe I was looking at scheduled surgery but at the same time felt a great deal of peace about it. Dr. Wareing was so present, even on the phone, and so full of compassion and respect. My head and my heart were reeling with everything and her calm demeanor was just right.
So we prepped and arranged everything — the kids went up to my brother’s house for what I was hoping was just that day, and I fasted for the obligatory 8 hours prior to surgery. All without a single contraction, cramp or spot of blood.
This amazing doula, Dianne Hamre, met us at the hospital even even shot some pictures of us to have something to remember it all by. These pictures are very bittersweet to me and I’m thankful I have them. We understood that the baby would not be in any condition for us to see him or her due to how long it had been as well as the type of surgery I needed. That has been very hard but I’m also glad I knew ahead of time. My wonderful midwife, Alicia Witt, was helping another mom out of town and getting to see her after I was home and settled was so sweet and helped to complete part of the cycle for me. I am glad it worked out that way.
The staff at the hospital were all wonderful. Prep for surgery went smooth and once they put the drugs into my IV I slipped off. It felt like to me I closed my eyes in one part of the room and woke up just looking at another wall. I had no memory of the surgery I just felt very, very weak. Apparently surgery lasted a good hour longer than expected and my poor husband was a near-wreck (for him) in the waiting room. I’m so thankful that he had our doula there to chat with him and keep his mind occupied. He is not a worrying kind of man, and keeps his emotions close, but I could tell he was very concerned. I’ve never seen him like that before with me.
It was very hard for me to open my eyes and felt like as I blinked 5 and 10 minutes would skip by on the clock I was really in and out. I remember they were trying to get me up to sit in a chair as they urged me to go home, and I was just thinking I felt so pushed, and rushed. I fainted there for a moment and then what felt like only moments later I was being put into a wheelchair where I remember feeling even more dizzy and faint. My body all of the sudden felt very strange and it was alarming. I remember saying, “Something isn’t right! I don’t feel well. I’m going to pass out!!”
I woke up laying down flat, with hard and cold against the skin on my back, but it was in a good way. I was on the floor and it felt nice. Solid and sturdy. They told me I had passed out again and even seized that time. My husband and the nurse had caught me as I fell. They had to hunt down a stretcher board and my husband along with 3 other men lifted me up to another bed. They told me I had lost a lot of blood, 2000 CCs which is about 40% of your entire blood volume, and with my passing out and seizing I would not be going home. That worried energy I picked up coming off of my husband had at least doubled, maybe tripled. You wouldn’t know it to look at his face though. But I knew. I wanted to hold him and tell him I was alright but I couldn’t. Not just from my lack of ability to move much, but because I knew I WASN’T alright.
Our hospital room was very small and he had a recliner to sleep in and never once even suggested he leave me there to go home to bed for a better night’s rest. He slept awful and I slept worse, totalling maybe 4 hours between 2 chunks of sleep. But between the IV fluids and the helpful staff it was what we needed.
We were finally released to go home in the early afternoon and I was brought right to bed and there I stayed. Getting up to go to the bathroom was the only thing that was necessary or possible for me to leave and it was arduous every time. I needed my husband just to help me walk between the bed and the bathroom.
They said it will take a month before I am fully restored from the blood loss. The surgery is normally just 2-3 days of recovery and you are, physically speaking at least, back to normal. I feel like losing all of that blood is completely overshadowing everything and even delaying a bit of my emotional healing process, and especially for my husband. He’s had to be so present for me, that he can’t “fall apart” himself and really let go and let himself FEEL it all.
I process things very quickly and intensely and move on quickly. Not without genuine feeling and emotion but just faster than some others do. I’ve been letting the emotions and feelings of this all just wash right over me, passing right through me and flowing in and through my heart and my head. I don’t feel “stuck” in any way, and mostly it’s just SAD. I’m sad that I won’t get to meet this little person in a handful more months. I’m sad that I didn’t know that there was a baby that had passed inside of me for so long. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know, too. I feel like less of a mother somehow, which I know is a lie, but I feel it. And I allow that feeling to talk to me as long as is necessary and then I let it go. I cry when I need to cry and I smile when I want to smile.
I have found great strength and joy in “receiving all things with thankfulness” as one of my favorite verses says. Not just the stuff that’s good and easy and your “blessings” but everything. And realizing that EVERYTHING is meant to work towards our very best good. We truly can have joy in the hard times and can have peace when everything is telling us otherwise.
I also know with everything inside of me that my Father in Heaven has been mindful of every part of this experience and has sent angels, seen and unseen to be with me. I walked into that hospital far more strong and at peace than I should have been, and I know I was escorted in by angels, more than I could count. I am very loved, I am very treasured, by the God of the entire Universe and He has been taking care of me. I will praise him in this storm, for He is the God that giveth and the God that taketh away. And I will only ever be able to praise Him for His goodness. I know not everyone who reads this will understand but for me it is real, and even a tangible help that I have been given.
I also know that I will not only get to see this little one but I will get to have him or her as a part of my family and get to know them. I believe they are very close and will be throughout our lives. I believe this baby was sent to us, at this time, to help us through this life. Like a guardian angel that is very specifically and especially tied to us.
Christ has told us “Peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) And sometimes that peace comes through those who have been sent to help us along our way.
I heard this song for the first time yesterday and felt it was just for me. The lyrics echo, nearly word for word, just how I feel and want to feel through this whole experience. I have found that I am finally to a place where I am willing and even happy to go through whatever the Lord would have for me, and try to take it on without resistance. I have come to know that He is perfect, and Good and always, always has the very best in mind for me, here and now as well as in the long-term. I hope this video will bring you a measure of the courage, peace and joy that I did for me:
UPDATE at 3 weeks after our loss: We found out through testing that this sweet baby was a boy and have named him Jacob. We grieve that we didn’t get to know him in this life but know we will at some point in the continuum of life. Thank you so much to everyone for your prayers, thoughts, concern and stories. Prayers are powerful. They have been felt and they are very real. We are so humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude for the support that we have had during this time.