Our Baby

Before I can continue on with my story, there is something else I need to share with you.  Matt and I wrote this together and it is with his permission that I share this with you.

**********

At 1:48am on the early morning of Sunday, March 20th, we got to meet the little baby that we had already loved more than these words can explain for the last three months.  It’s hard to explain a love that has never seen or touched the object of that affection, but we loved our little baby as much as anything can ever be loved.

He was a boy and his name was Luke.  Little Luke passed away about a week before Sunday, five months before he was due.  We do not know why and we are likely never to know, and we will certainly never understand.  We have asked a million times over why this precious little soul was taken from us so early.  But it would be unfair to question why this happened so unjustly without questioning why we have our little miracle, Elizabeth.  He did not deserve to be taken so soon, it was unfair that he was not given the chance to lead a full life, and our hearts break that we could not prevent his passing.

He was so small that it was hard to believe, but he was our little angel.  While small, we could still touch his little hands and feet and we were able to hold our little boy, even if his soul had passed earlier.  We gave him a name because he existed and he was loved, even if it was for a time far shorter than he deserved.  Luke was one of the first names we ever agreed on when discussing potential names for Elizabeth before we knew she was a girl, and he deserved to be treated with the same affection, thought, and love.  The memory of our little boy can never be taken from us, even with the precious little time we were blessed to spend with him.

Luke would have been a wonderful baby, a delightful toddler, a lively child, and an admirable man.  We are mourning the loss of all of these stages in his life.  We don’t just miss a baby, we miss an entire lifetime, a dream of what should have been.

We were surrounded by a loving group of nurses who took care of us for three days under very difficult circumstances, and made sure that Jen was as comfortable as possible at all times.  They didn’t have to show us the kindness and mercy that they did, but we will be forever grateful to those ladies who watched over us like angels during our difficult ordeal.

We could have chosen an ‘easier’ path, one that would have made a successful life for Luke’s future brothers and sisters more difficult,  and would have allowed us to ‘forget’ and move on faster.  But we owed it to Luke’s life and legacy that we did not abandon his memory or allow his passing to negatively affect the family that loved him so much. We never wanted to ‘forget’ anything about Luke.   Jen was a champion for her little boy, choosing the difficult path at every step of the process, at times causing additional pain and discomfort.  She was his Mom until the end, protecting and caring for his little body and soul with all of her being.  Thank God, Jen made it through healthy and safe, with no expected long-term health repercussions.

We firmly believe that Luke is with God now.  His Mom said that in these situations, while heart-wrenching and tragic for us, little Luke knew nothing but warmth, comfort, and the undying love of his family.  He felt no pain or suffering, his only feeling was of peace.  He was conceived in love and carried in love, and while his time with us was tragically and devastatingly short, he was blessed to know only love.

We are trying to return to some semblance of normality, though it will be difficult to imagine for a while.  We do not believe that Luke would have wanted us to lose sight of our responsibilities as Elizabeth’s parents, and to care and provide for our precious reminder of how blessed we truly are.  We truly believe that Luke will always be with us, and is at rest and at peace.  We did not have a formal service for Luke.  We are comfortable knowing that he was loved inherently by God and his entire family and we have felt the numerous thoughts and prayers sent in this difficult time.  This note will serve as Luke’s eulogy, which I doubt we could have ever made it through in person.

Life will go on and our family will slowly recover and get back to normal.  Matt is returning to work on Thursday and Elizabeth’s playmates and Jen’s friends will be spending time here the rest of the week.  Right now it feels like neither of us could speak a word of this without tears or breaking down, but we will get there.  Please allow us the time and kindness that you all have shown so far to continue.  Slowly we will be back in touch and we sincerely and honestly appreciate all of your kind words and prayers more than any of you could know.  Thank you for your love for our little Luke, he felt it the whole time.  In closing;

His name is Luke and all he knew was love.

The Middle

This part is much harder for me to write about. (And a warning, it occasionally gets a little graphic, with blood and stuff.)

After my water broke, nothing much changed for a while.  Eventually, we got practical details taken care of, like Elizabeth care and the dogs, and Matt came back to the hospital.  With my computer, thankfully.  I spent all of Friday and Saturday dilated to one to two centimeters, with no real contractions.  Eventually, they started some pitocin and I started dilating a little more.  Friday night, I was given a sleeping pill and I slept pretty much all night.  Matt went home to sleep, so that Elizabeth could sleep in her own bed.  I woke up once on Friday night to hear another baby being born.  After, some of the nurses came to check on me, found me awake, and I accepted a shot of pain medicine which made me fall back asleep.

On Saturday morning, Matt brought Elizabeth to visit me for a little while, which was so nice.  Then she left to spend the day playing with one of her best friends and to have a sleepover at his house.

Time gets a little fuzzy for me during Saturday.  I had been there so long already with nothing much changing, but it also felt like no time had passed at all.  There were no windows in my room, so night and day didn’t even seem any different.

At some point on Saturday, I started bleeding, a lot.  Nothing to be concerned about or anything, but I would sit up and gush enough blood and clots that the nurse would search them to make sure it was just blood.  But I stayed at about one centimeter until they started the pitocin.

I don’t remember when, but at some point I started throwing up violently and I got a really painful shot in my hip to make that all stop.  (It worked.  But my hip still hurts like crazy when I sleep on it at night.)

I ate dinner on Saturday night, and since I was still at two centimeters, I asked for a sleeping pill.  I fell asleep, but started being occasionally woken up by contractions.  (At one point, I had the thought “wow, it is weird that this pain keeps coming in waves.  It starts, then goes away, and then it is back.”  Then I thought “duh, Jen, you are in labor, contractions.”)

At about one thirty in the morning, I could no longer sleep, so I buzzed my nurse and told them I wanted to discuss my options for pain relief.  Mostly I wanted another pain shot, but depending on what was going on, I was also entitled to an epidural if I wanted one, so I wanted to see where we were.  The narcotic pain shots helped, but they didn’t really make me not feel the pain, I just didn’t care anymore.

The nurse came in and said that I could have the epidural if I wanted, but she’d check me first.  She checked and told me that I was about four centimeters.  And then she said “I think that’s…let me go get someone else to check.”  Another two (or three?) nurses came in and one of them checked and said, yes, that was.  They said that I should push.  Matt was standing by the head of my bed and holding my hand.

I pushed, once, and our baby was born.

The Beginning

On Thursday, I was tired and didn’t feel great, so I went to bed without my normal house clean up.  I don’t think my not feeling well was anything related, just that we’d had a big party that day and I was tired.

On Friday morning, I woke up at 6:00 in the morning when Matt went to work, like I’ve been doing lately.  I tried to go back to sleep for a while, then I flipped on the television and got my doppler out.  I hadn’t checked with the doppler for a while, about a week, and I was getting concerned that I hadn’t felt movement for a while.  (I felt the first movement at about thirteen and a half weeks, but it was never consistent, so it wasn’t something that I could count on yet.)

Normally, it takes me about thirty seconds to find a heartbeat with my doppler.  This time, I tried and then tried again.  I put it away for a few minutes and I turned on to my side for a while in the hopes that would help.  Then I tried again.  Then I took a shower.  Maybe standing up would help?  Then Elizabeth got up, I put her in the bed with me, turned on a movie for her, and tried one last time.  Then I called the doctor’s office.

They said that oh-it’s-too-early-for-a-home-device-and-too-early-for-movement-etc-etc-reassuring-things, but of course I could come in and they’d have a nurse confirm a heart tone for me.  But they close at noon on Friday, so I’d better be in before then.

Ha.  We left ten minutes later.

I went downstairs and looked at the giant mess.  In my head, I specifically said “now this is why you clean every night.”  Because I knew I wasn’t coming back.

I sent Matt a quick email because I knew he wasn’t at work, he had gone in early and then left for a doctor’s appointment.  He called me a few minutes later and said that he got out of his appointment early and he wasn’t too far away, he’d meet me there.

I packed Elizabeth a snack for breakfast and loaded her in the car.  My doctor’s office is in the same building as the hospital and only four minutes away from my house.  I signed in, putting “heartbeat check” on the line for Doctor You Are Seeing.

I waited about a half an hour, while Elizabeth played with her toys and ate a little of her snack.  Matt walked in the door about one minute before they called me back.

I explained to the nurse again why I was there.  The hardest part is explaining that I have an actual doppler at home.  They don’t seem to understand it is exactly the same kind of equipment that they are holding in their hand at the moment.

The first nurse tried, but only managed to pick up my heartbeat and placenta sounds.  She went and got a different nurse.  I explained again that I have a real doppler, the earliest I’ve found a heartbeat with it is eleven weeks, and yes, I’ve found one with this baby before this.  And no, it isn’t one of those cheap machines that is basically a stethoscope and only works from twenty weeks on.  This nurse told me that my kid didn’t like her because it was hiding from her and she’d go see if the doctor wanted to try or if they’d just move us across the hall to the ultrasound machine.  She came back a minute later and moved us.

The technician came in with the first nurse and they decided I was far enough along for the abdominal ultrasound.  They brought up the picture, both on their screen and the big screen mounted on the wall.

And it was still- so still.

I looked at Matt and shook my head.

The tech’s face got very blank.  She looked and looked and looked and then finally said, “I am not seeing any cardiac activity, I am going to go get the doctor.”  The doctor came in almost immediately and apologized and they ultrasounded some more, trying to see if there was anything to see. There were several pockets of fluid around the placenta, but since the baby measured about a week behind, we don’t know if they were there first and were the cause, or if they developed after.

We talked about what we could do.  We had three options.  Wait.  Induce.  Or D&C.  Waiting sounded like torture to me and to Matt and also carried with it lots of risks of bleeding out at home and such problems.  D&C also carried some problems because of how far along I was and how things were situated.  I had pretty good risks of bleeding too much and of uterine scarring which would cause us more problems with any future pregnancies and increase our risks of bad things happening in the future.  Induction was the most involved, but the safest health-wise.  And we preferred that it offered us the opportunity for some closure.

We then had to decide when to induce.  Since it was Friday, it was best to either do it immediately, or wait over the weekend.  It was helpful that Matt was already there and that since the weekend was coming up, he could be there the whole time without having to take too much time off work and he’d be able to use the time off that he did get for when we got home.  (Which he did.)  We decided to do it then.  Neither of us wanted to go home and just sit there, knowing.  We walked over to the hospital side of the building with paperwork and sat in the waiting room.  We debated which friend to call to pick up Elizabeth, based on what was going on with each of them (one had a sick kid and one had a broken foot and a scheduled birthday party- they ended up getting together with each other and taking turns).  Matt and Elizabeth came up with me to the room (they gave me the best room in the hospital) and waited for a little while.  Eventually, we got tired of Elizabeth pushing all the buttons in the room, including the nurse call button, over and over, and Matt took her home to get stuff and get her to someone else.

I was started on medicine and twenty minutes later, my water broke.

An In Between Place

Officially, a loss between conception and twenty weeks is classified as a miscarriage and a loss after twenty weeks is classified as a stillbirth.  I was sixteen and a half weeks.

This wasn’t the same as a full term loss.  I didn’t come home to an empty nursery, I came home to a house with a room that we were going to clean out, with a single stuffed animal in it.  I don’t have to explain to the grocery store checker or the Chinese food restaurant where the baby is because I wasn’t showing enough that anyone would have dared to assume I was pregnant, even though they may have been suspicious.  My physical experience and recovery are much easier than with a full term birth. I lived with the hope of this baby for three months, not for eight.

However.  I’ve had a miscarriage and this isn’t a miscarriage either.  There is something wholly different in this experience.  There is something so, so different for a baby that I labored for, delivered, held, kissed, named, and called a funeral home for.  I’m in an in-between place, stuck between two definitions.