Tuesday, October 26, 2010. It was my mom's birthday. It was supposed to be a day where I had my boys call and sing 'Happy Birthday' to my mom over the phone. A day where I'd look toward the weekend with excitement as Halloween comes closer--my boys can't wait for the fun. Instead it was a day of pain. Great pain.
I had only slept about 2 hours the night prior. I'm not one for sleeping well before major events, especially if something is on my mind. Monday night was no exception, obviously. I flipped around in bed thinking all night long. Thinking about my baby. About how this was the last night with him in my belly. Thinking about all that had happened in the last few days. I cried throughout the night.
I finally got up around 8:06 AM. Alex continued to hit the snooze. I told him I was going to take a shower. I caught sight of myself in the mirror before I stepped into the shower. It dawned on me. This was the last time I would see my pregnant body. This time when I looked at my swollen tummy, I didn't see 'fat'. In the last few weeks, I'd been complaining that I thought this would be my biggest pregnancy yet. I had only gained 2 lbs but with two prior c-sections and everything stretched out in that area, I thought I'd be bigger.
In the past I'd been 'all baby.' When I was pregnant with Benny, no one could believe how big I was. It was early September and he was due at the top of December. We were at a fair in Tennessee and had stopped for a moment to watch one of those guys who guesses your age, weight or birthday. The older man saw me and said he would guess my due date. For fun and because we knew he would be wrong, we agreed. He said, "One thing--you're not carrying twins are you?" I said, "Nope!" He guessed mid- October. I said, "Try December 7." He couldn't believe it! He said that he had 9 grandchildren and was never wrong. Just goes to show that being all baby can really throw off when people think you're due.
I was standing in front of the mirror thinking about all of that. Feeling so guilty and ashamed that I had worried about my appearance just a few weeks ago, I can't lie--probably even a few days ago. Afraid that people would compare me to my sister-in-law who IS carrying twins. Our due dates were 2 weeks apart. She is very tiny and even though I'm thin but taller than her, I feared that people would think I looked like a big clod and that she'd be all tiny and cute. I beat myself up for thinking these things. How dare I worry about something so ridiculously stupid. And all that time my poor innocent baby was growing wrong.
This morning I didn't think I looked so big anymore. As I stroked my belly holding my dead baby, my fingers naturally formed a heart over my belly button. The boys and I have this 'heart' thing that we do. I started it with Sammy when he was little. I showed him how to make a heart shape with his thumbs and forefingers. He came up with the idea to put our hearts through each other's. Benny now understands this simple exchange of love and will frequently come up to me and say, "Heart me!" and hold out his hand for me to put my heart of fingers around his arm. Whenever we do that his smile warms my heart.
I guess it was only natural that my fingers should now form a heart on my stomach for Baby Jacob. He'll never say, "Heart me, Mama!" but I hope he could feel my heart today. It's always been something between my boys and I and at least I can say that all of my boys have received 'Mama's heart'.
After showering I stared at my clothes. What does someone wear to something like this? I opted for comfort but paused as I looked at the colors of my shirts. Should I go with something cheery to brighten my mood or something dark to match my depressed state? I went with a baby blue turtle neck.
I packed my bags. My Bible. A journal, pens. Some bills that needed paid. Water and crackers for afterwards if I was starving. A pumpkin-flavored Pop-tart for Alex. My cell phone. A box of kleenex. A small plastic Eeyore toy that I had bought a month ago for the baby. It was the only thing I had bought for him so far. A picture of my mom. A picture of my boys. A 'sock-a-dile' that I had just made Sammy about a week ago. She was purple, fuzzy and wears a silly grin.
I felt very anxious and crabby. It didn't take me long to get things ready and I snapped at Alex when I couldn't figure out what was taking him so long to get ready. We loaded up a ton of toys, the diaper bag, snacks and my bags and drove the boys to the lady's house who was going to watch them.
We have only left our boys with one person other than my mom. She is "Miss Pam" to the boys. She is a dear friend from Texas that we met in our dance group. She watched the boys while we were in practice and we trusted her completely. The boys grew to love her as do we. Aside from her, we've never left the boys with any kind of babysitter. We've always taken the boys with us everywhere. Part of the problem is that we've moved so often that it's hard to make friends and to find people that you trust. This move in August was our 5th move in 7 years. We barely know a few neighbors. I called our landlord Monday night and asked if his wife was free to watch the boys. We get along really well with them and they love our boys.
He was so helpful. His wife was unavailable but called a neighbor who offered to help. Normally, we would never have taken our beloved children to someone that we didn't know. We had to trust our landlord that this woman was the best there was. We had to trust that she would care for our children. Somehow we just knew that while Alex could have taken the boys to the hospital and tried to entertain them all day, it wouldn't have worked. He needed time to be with me and we needed to be together with our sweet little Jacob as his mommy and his daddy. I cried as I hugged Sammy and Benny goodbye. They were already happily chattering away to Miss Martha. She reassured us that the boys would be in good hands.
We got to the hospital at 11:03. A man in a little golf cart drove us to the main entrance. We found the elevators and proceeded to the 4th floor, Labor & Delivery. Every step was agonizing. We buzzed the doors to the Labor & Delivery section. Alex said we had an 11:00 appointment. They let us in and we walked past a 'Special Care Nursery'. You couldn't see in the windows. It was decorated with scenes from the book, Guess How Much I Love You?, I think it was. I cried. This should be a happy place for mom's. A place to welcome new life, not to say goodbye to it.
We approached the nurses station where there were about 6 nurses chatting. Alex again spoke, "We're here for an 11:00 appointment." One nurse came right around and ushered us into a room. She said, "We thought you'd be more comfortable in here." I asked her, "Do you know who I am?" She said quietly, "You're here for a D&C, right?" I said, "Yes." I felt stupid. How many pregnant women come in for appointments? If you're pregnant and coming to Labor & Delivery it's usually not by appointment unless you're having a planned c-section. Of course they would know who I was.
I changed into my gown and crawled into bed. I had forgotten how uncomfortable those stupid hospital beds were. I was cold. Nancy, our nurse, brought me heated blankets. Alex tried to get more light in the room and propped open the drapes. There was a major storm coming. It was to peak at 1:00, right during my surgery.
Let me say something about our nurse. She was the best nurse I could have ever hoped for. She was so caring, compassionate and loving. Her voice was soft and slow and gentle. She took as much time with me as I needed. I am so grateful that she was there.
I called my mom around 12:00 to talk briefly. The anesthesia nurse came in to ask the standard questions. She laughed when I said I ate right up until midnight the night before. I still felt sick. I was so hungry, nauseous and with major acid reflux--all pregnancy symptoms that continued to torture me even though my baby was dead. I guess my body didn't realize that yet. I had only felt minor cramping the night before and no bleeding.
I asked the nurse why I was doing this. Should I wait for my baby to miscarry naturally? She reminded me how the body works. That sometimes it doesn't recognize the baby's death and that this could go for 2-3 weeks. The risk of infection was there. With me already being 13 weeks it would only get more difficult and dangerous if I were to wait. I also agreed that the emotional turmoil would be unbearable if I were to have simply waited. I think about it though. I could have maybe seen him. Maybe. It would have depended, I guess, on things. But...to have had that chance to have seen him--oh, how I ache to see him. I prayed last night that God would let me see his face in a dream. Just once. I know it's probably not possible, but I thought I'd ask God anyway. Please, Lord, let me see my baby's face just once in a dream...
I did receive one unexpected gift during my time waiting for surgery. Nancy told us of a recent law passed in Ohio called the "Grieving Parents Act." She said that normally the state of Ohio issues death certificates for infants at 20 weeks or older. This new law allows parents the option of having a death certificate issued for infants less than 20 weeks. I was so touched by this. My baby existed. He really did. People need to know he was here. Ohio would know and would register him in this way. My baby was real.
In addition to the death certificate, we took the option to have a funeral home pick up his remains and cremate them for us. Again, I didn't even know something like this was available. He will be placed in a baby blue infant urn and returned to us in a day or so. I will be able to hold my baby. I can't wait to hold him...even in that way.
Later my doctor asked if we were sure that we wanted to do that. She said that when things were done, he would be "tissue in a jar." I was sickened that she said this. It's not like we were going to take him as is. I'm not sure why she chose those words. She's been so remarkably supportive. I think she just wanted to make sure that we knew we wouldn't be able to do the advanced chromsome testing. I asked her straight, "Is there really any benefit to this? Will the information help us in any way in conceiving a future child?" She said for the most part, no--that it would only confirm Trisomy 13. We said we'd had enough. If the evidence was so damning (forgive my language) on the ultrasound and our baby was dead, we didn't need some stupid test to tell us what we already knew. Supposedly Pathology would also do some tests. That was enough.
You'd think that all of this stress and anxiety would be enough for one woman to handle. Around 12:20, I was coming back from my umpteenth trip to the bathroom. Those fluids in my IV were working well. I was told by a nurse that we needed to evacuate. Tornado sirens were going off.
I'll continue more tomorrow. Today has been an especially dark day. Tears have overwhelmed me today. I have so much to say yet. For now, I'll leave you wondering about the tornado...
Thank you dear friends for your prayers and support. This journey continues down a dark and cold tunnel. I truly hope to see a glimmer of light soon. I feel so empty.