I debated about whether or not to write this tonight. The girl is in bed, the husband at school, and I am left in then quiet to remember. I am tired enough to fall on my pillow and cry myself to sleep, but it’s so early in the night. I need at least an hour before I can feel good about going to bed and not think I’ll wake up at an unmentionable hour in the night. So do I just watch TV until I fall asleep? Do I just ignore the feelings welling up in my throat, threatening to make an appearance? Or do I just sit, remember my baby, and share him with the world. Sure, it will hurt to write about it on his birthday, but it will help to heal also. And so here you have it – the day I spent at the hospital having my precious stillborn son one year ago tonight.
The day started early…in the 6:00 hour. We were told to show up at the hospital here in town at 7am. We start the day exhausted yet feeling peace with facing the day. We hug my parents goodbye, tell them we’ll see them soon for a visit, and head to Chick-fil-A for a comfort breakfast. We decide to be on our own time table. I mean, really, what would they do if we showed up after 7? Are they really going to lecture the couple having a baby they don’t get to take home? So we show up on our own time and terms.
I’ll run through the majority of the day quickly. We had many people come visit throughout the morning bringing “happies” for the room. We got flowers, a bag of comfort foods, Firehouse Subs, Chick-fil-A, and lots and lots of love and hugs. We remember the hospital chaplain coming by and totally sticking his foot in his mouth and making us extra thankful for people that /do/ say the right things. I even remember laughing a good bit that day. My nurses were amazing…Angels, really.
Right, the labor. So shortly after we were admitted to the hospital and they got the IV set up and whatever else things they had to connect me to, they started me on a pill that was supposed to dilate my cervix and get my body ready to give birth. The thing about this pill, though, was that you really can’t know how fast it will work. Sometimes you start on it, and you have your baby within hours….sometimes is over 24 hours…so when it got to be mid afternoon and I hadn’t had much change in my body, I started to lose a little hope. My nurse or maybe the doctor…? I can’t remember…But one of them checked me and didn’t seem hopeful that I would be having our baby that day. I can’t remember right now how often I took the pills…or if they also had me in pitocin at the time…others of you out there might remember from me telling you last year. But the point is, I was both trying to mentally prepare for a stillbirth while sitting in the hospital but not actually having any type of time frame for when I would really get into active labor. Not fun.
So some more hours pass…friends bring dinner…and I remember feeling contractions while I was eating. They weren’t strong enough that I couldn’t eat or have conversations, but I definitely noticed them. They check me again after dinner and I can’t remember anything about numbers of centimeters, but there was hope at this point. The contractions kept getting stronger and closer together…the pills were working! I finally felt like I was going to have a baby that night…And I don’t remember feeling any particular way about it. I think the Lord was just totally covering us with His peace and understanding that I couldn’t even think long enough to have anxieties about the labor.
So, I am laboring. Breathing through contractions. No big deal. Tim’s parents get into town from Iowa and stop to give us hugs before they head to a friend’s house to rest until they get the word that James is here. By this point, I think it’s about 8:00 at night.
*Disclaimer* From this point on, things get messy and gross and I’m not planning on skipping any details that I can remember, so if you don’t want to know, don’t read on. 🙂 We all know how this story ends anyway.
Alright, for those of you that enjoy the details, here they are. The Baileys leave, and I immediately feel the need to go pee so I go to the bathroom as fast as I can…only to find out that I not only needed to pee, but I am losing blood in pretty significant amounts. Every time I contracted, there was a gush. And let me tell you – the contractions were close…and this was no small gush. So I tell Tim, worried, and he calls in our nurse. She comes quickly, we tell her what’s going on, and she chats with us a bit, mostly positively, and reassures me that “This probably just means you’re going to go really fast.” She called the head nurse just in case. Keep in mind, all the while..every couple of minutes…I am contracting and gushing. At this point, I’m uncomfortable with how much blood I am losing. I get pale and shaky and feel nauseated. The nurses get me cleaned up, change my sheets, while Tim stays right by my side, reassuring me that everything is going to be okay. I get warm blankets, fluids, and still think “Am I going to die too? Right here? Tonight?” I look up at Tim, clearly frightened by what’s happening to me..around me…and all I need are his sweet, deep eyes to know I’ll be okay.
I can’t remember exactly when in all of this that I get my epidural, but it’s definitely after the blood starts and definitely before James comes into the world at 11:36 so I figure it must’ve been around 9:30 and that I was probably sitting on a towel while they did it to catch the blood. That’s the most sense I can make of the memories anyway. So excitement happens and then I’m numb to the contractions, which is what I wanted. I wanted a natural birth with our James until we found out he was gone, and then I didn’t want to have the physical pain to remember along with the emotional pain.
They check me again around 11:00pm and tell me that it looks like I can push pretty soon, so my nurse leaves and call my doctor to come. No one there but Tim, our midwife Deb, and I…It’s quiet…it’s peaceful yet disconcerting. It was like I still felt like something could go wrong and at the same time /still/ thought he’d come out screaming.
The doctor and nurses come. It’s 11:30. I push. I breathe. I push. Breathe. Push. Whoosh. 11:36pm. Silent baby boy. I smile. I exhale. They take him to clean him and I look at Tim will all the love in the world and genlty say “I wanna see him.” He tells me they’re just cleaning him and wrapping him and I will see him soon. And then I saw the most perfect child. My baby boy. No squirms. No cries. No life. Yet, I’m happy. I am holding my son! I study him. Every inch. Every crease, joint, and fingernail. I don’t want to forget this. Lord, please stamp these images in my brain forever. We do prints and imprints. We do sweet laughter about how I can tell he has Tim’s hands and my nose and chin. I revel. He’s perfect in every way.
We wail. We sob. We love. We cherish. We enjoy. We take in every second. We share him with grandparents. We snuggle him and wrap him.
It’s getting close to 3am now and we do the hardest thing we’ve ever done. We say goodbye. One last kiss. One last smell. We hand him over….she walks out the door…And I have half a mind to scream at her and sprint down the hall “No! Wait! I need another minute…another hour…” But the truth is we knew we’d have to give him up sometime…so there he went…he took my heart with him. Tim and our nurse help me to the bathtub. I sit there, numb. I don’t care about being clean. I don’t care about warm water to relax me. I just want to take my baby home. Tim curls up in the hospital bed. I join him. I cry while he sleeps as the sun comes up. I can’t sleep. I kiss him, cover him, and make my way to the couch where I start to share my baby with the world.
I loved you then. I loved you still. Always have. Always will.