August 3, 2014

Your Story: Part 2

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Dear Jackson,

I really miss you.  So much.  If you were still with me, you would be 28 weeks, almost 29 weeks in my tummy.  I know a lot of friends who are pregnant and every time I see their beautiful pregnant bellies, I think about you; I think about how big my belly would be right now!  Oh dear friends, please don't feel bad or weird about me, I love seeing your pictures and how far along you are and I pray for you and your sweet babies!  Jackson, I like seeing those pictures because it reminds me of you, and I love being reminded of you! I think some people think it may hurt me or make me mad, but it doesn't.  Sure, I feel a little jealous that I didn't get that time with you.  But I try to focus on the love part, not the part that makes my heart ache.

The day we found out you were gone was the saddest day of my life.  The day you were born is a close, close second.  But there is something about knowing that your baby's heart has stopped, but physically still with you, that shakes a soul.  It happened with your sister, Lily, as well.  But when we found out she didn't have a heartbeat, I knew I still had you, and I had to be strong.  With her, I didn't realize how heart wrenching losing a baby really was, because you were there to help me through it.  When I heard those words about you, part of me died.  Instantly.  I will never, ever get that part of me back.

The morning after my water broke, I woke up crying.  I had gone to bed crying, so this wasn't too shocking.  I felt mildly crampy, which worried me.  I had felt this way a lot while carrying you, so I tried not to think about it.  It didn't work.  Your father kept trying to console me, he had no worry at all.  His faith in us was so strong!  I forced myself to shower, I forced myself to eat.  When I got dressed, I remember thinking, "What should I wear to hear that my baby is gone?  I'll never want to wear it again, the outfit will be doomed..."  Such a silly thing to think.  But true.  Once again, we headed to the hospital to figure out what was going on with you.  Each drive to an appointment was awful.  Will this be the time?  What will be wrong?  What will they say?  What will we hear when they put that Doppler on me?  I kept trying to tell myself that it would be like every other time.  That we would get there and we would hear you and be relieved.

But I knew that something wasn't right.  The amount of fluid that came out of me the night before signaled something very wrong.  I remember thinking that they shouldn't have sent us home that night.  They should have kept us.  Now I realize that there was nothing they could have done to prevent it all from happening to you.  To us.  They gave us the gift and peace of being home and hopeful one more time.

I prayed for the entire 5 minute drive to the hospital, I told God that whatever happened, I was ready.  I didn't want to say goodbye to you, but I was ready.  You know what?  He gave me PEACE.  Isn't that crazy?  I felt PEACE, just a few minutes before part of my life ended.  Your father parked the car, I wiped my tears, and we walked up to the sonogram office.  We passed a few people, and I couldn't help thinking that I wish I could trade lives with any of them...the sick ones, the older ones, any of them.

When we got into the office, they weren't quite ready for us.  We saw the doc that helped us with your anatomy scan just the week before, she looked busy.  You father and I read one of the magazines in the office, something about how much it cost to fly to different cities in the US.  He was trying to keep my mind at ease.  I felt sick, and I felt weird.  That was you, starting to tell me that you were ready, I think.  They called us back to the room.

I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to go back into that particular office, or that particular room.

The tech there wasn't all that friendly to begin with.  She had been gossiping with a co-worker the entire time we sat in the office.  I secretly hoped we wouldn't get her.  I don't know why?  Maybe I knew she would be the one to find out?  She curtly asked us why we were there, and then told me to lay on the chair.  Up went my shirt.  On went the gel.  There was the Doppler.

You came up on the screen.  She moved the Doppler around a bit.  I saw a little bit of the colors that showed blood flow, I almost felt hope.  But, then I looked at you.  Your little body was laying completely flat.  I distinctly remember how straight your little spine looked.   I had never seen you lay that way before, you were always moving, always turning.  Then, she got up.  We had only been in there maybe a minute.  I knew that wasn't good.  I'm not sure your father what your father thought, but I knew.

The doctor came in, same one from last week.  She pulled up the monitor.  She didn't even have to do the Doppler herself.  She didn't even have to look at the monitor for long.  She asked me what happened the night before, I told her.  I think our doc, Gottzman, from last night prepped her a little already.  Then, she said the words that will forever be etched into my heart and my brain and the very core of my soul.

"I don't see any fluid around the baby..."

"Ok.  What does that mean?"

"...and I can't find the heartbeat either..."

"He's....gone?"

I remember seeing your dad's head drop into his hands.  He was sitting to my left, she was standing over me to the right.  I remember her putting her hand on me, maybe on my hand or leg.  I remember how sad she looked.

"Yes, I'm so sorry.  He is gone."

I can't even explain what it is like, Jackson.  I think on that day, I was gone too.  I think I died.  Honestly.  I felt nothing, but everything all at once.  It was like getting hit by a truck, but not being mercifully dead right away.  You feel it everywhere, in every bone and nerve and muscle.  I wanted to die, I really did.  I wanted to be anywhere that I could still be with you.  Even though I was ready and expected this all along, I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

I started crying just as Dr. Gottzman came into the office.  She had already heard from the tech.  She told us how sorry she was.  I told her that I expected it, but that I wasn't ready for it.  She asked if I was feeling anything and I told her about the cramping.  Her and the other doctor were close to me, trying to comfort me.  I asked her "what happens now?"

She told us that we could either go home and wait for labor to start, or we could go downstairs to Labor and Delivery and they would start it for us.

Your father was shocked.  "She...has to give birth, to him?"

I followed up with, "Can't you...take him out for me?  Is labor the only option?"

She explained to us that surgery wasn't the best option for us.  Since my water broke, both the option of waiting to go into labor, and the option of surgery, weren't great options.  She didn't have to go into more, I understood.  She chatted on about how infection could hurt me.  I only half listened.  I thought about all those stories I knew already about women going through this, about friends who have gone through this.

I already knew what I was going to do, Jackson.  I wanted to give birth to you.  I had carried you for 21 weeks and 1 day.  I wanted to end this pregnancy, this special time with you, the way it was supposed to end.  I wanted the chance to be awake and coherent, and say goodbye.  I told the doc that I was ready, I wanted to start as soon as possible.  She told us to take a moment, and then head down to L&D, she would call and let them know we were on our way.  The doctors left.

Your father hugged me and said, "I am so so sorry.  So sorry."  He was stunned.  I was worried about him.  I can't really remember what else he said.  I had a goal in my mind now, and I was determined to meet that goal.  We walked out of the office.  As I left, I turned my head and saw that tech through the window, she had been telling her friend about us, I am sure.  I saw her frown at me.  She was sad. I didn't really care.

There is something like the "walk of shame" in walking to delivery in this state.  We walked by the ob office, full of happy and pregnant women, and waited for the elevator.  There were people around us.  We didn't talk.  How could they not know our hearts had just been ripped open?  Couldn't they see that?  We rode the elevator down, and walked out, headed towards the L&D building.

I turned to your dad and said, "Well, at least I know now...."

"What do you mean?"

"All these months of being worried, of dreading this, terrified of this outcome.  Here it is.  I don't have to be afraid of it anymore."

He said something like how he wished he would have believed me all this time.  He just thought I was extra anxious, extra paranoid, but now he was thinking maybe I just knew it all along.  I assured him that I was glad he didn't believe me, so glad he had all that faith, because he kept me going and kept me sane.  God knew I would need that.  Since L&D is about 20 steps from the office, we were there already.

Jackson, I wished I was there for a different reason, any reason other than to begin the process of saying goodbye to you.  We had to check in, just like any other woman in labor.  We had to say why we were there.  We had to get bracelets.  They showed us to the room, 14, at the end of the unit where no other rooms were.  There was one of those newborn hospital bassinets in there, you would never go into that.  This bed and this cold room, would be the last place we spent together.  It was all so surreal, and so so sad.  How many woman have been here?  How many more would be?  Did this room ever see live babies?

Everything happened so fast, I didn't have time to really process all of this.  The nurse came in and starting the admitting process.  She wasn't all that great, to be honest, although every nurse after her was amazing.  She said how sorry she was, but I could tell she didn't want to be anywhere near me.  She didn't care that you were gone, Jackson.  It was the end of her shift and she got stuck with me.

The mom that lost her baby.

That was the first time I felt embarrassed.  You see, what no one tells you about losing a baby is that it is embarrassing.  My body failed.  I couldn't keep you in there.  I couldn't protect you.  I am a weak human, and I have no control.  Millions of women have healthy babies every day, but I am not one of them.  Not only was my heart broken, my life completely shattered, but my pride was too.  It was the first time I felt that terrible feeling.  Utter and complete failure.  Having to be around people that know my utter and complete failure.  Knowing that from now on, people may be afraid of me, afraid to talk to me, afraid to share baby stories or pregnancies with me, not know what to do about me. That nurse showed me that, I saw it in her eyes.

She couldn't stick the IV in me, she must of poked me 10 different times before she figured out she should get someone else to do it.  Your father had left the room to call my parents and break the news to them.  I was all alone with this woman.  I went into shock and just sat there, letting her poke me.

Dad came back in and held my hand.  His face was heart breaking, I have never seen him look like that.  His heartbreak and sheer sorrow for what I would have to go through, what we would have to go through...it was all written on his face.

The admitting process took so long.  I asked him, in front of her, why it was taking so long.  I knew it was mean, but I didn't care.  I was tired.  Tired of answering questions, tired of getting poked, tired of not being alone with your father so we could process this.  Talk about it.  Our baby, you, had died.  Couldn't we have some quiet time?

Your grandparents came in.  My mom was crying.  She sat down next to me and took my hand and put her head down on it and just sobbed.  Your grandmother wanted you, so much.  Your grandfather just looked tired and broken.  This is the man that cried last week when he found out he was having a grandson, he was over the moon happy about you.  Their dreams were shattered almost as much as ours.  A future with you, gone.  We all lost a lifetime with you.

That nurse just sat there, she didn't leave to give us a private moment, she kept me asking questions.  Your grandmother kept crying.  I kept crying.  But we weren't alone, I couldn't break down the way I wanted to.  I couldn't say what I wanted to.  For some reason I felt I had to be strong.  Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to answer all those stupid questions. At that point, I just looked at your grandparents and told them to wait until this whole admitting process was done.  I should have asked that nurse to leave us for a while.  We needed that time together to grieve.

Finally she finished, and the doc, Dr. Bellantoni, came in.  He was much nicer, so sweet.  He said he was sorry that they "rushed" me down here and he wasn't going to force us to do anything we didn't want to do.  We told him we were ready for this.  He explained again why that was best, and what would happen for them to induce labor.  He told me over and over it wasn't my fault.  He told me he couldn't wait for the day we would be back for happier reasons.  We just had to get through this first.  We would run the show, we just had to let him know what we wanted.  He was wonderful.  He would help us through this, help us understand this thing that has happened to us.

They gave us some quiet time.  Your uncle Jonathan came to be with you, with us.  Together, with your grandparents and all the family that couldn't be with us, we processed that we would need to say goodbye to you.

At that point, sweet baby, I just settled down for what I knew would be a long and hard process.  Yes, of course I cried a lot when we first got there and settled, I was trying to wrap my mind around you not being with me anymore.  I remember thinking I just wanted to be home, I wanted this to be over with.  I wanted to be over it.  Over you.

What I didn't realize at that point was that I shouldn't have rushed the process.  Once we got home the next day and you were really gone, all I wanted was to go back and have you in my tummy again.  The physical separation almost killed me.  It should have killed me, honestly.

That was the worse day of my life.  But the next day wouldn't be much better.  However, you and I, we were surrounded by our family that loved us, and there were tons of people that couldn't be with us that were praying for us at that point.  Not that this terrible thing could be fixed, but they were praying for us, your parents and family who love you so so much, to get through it safely and as best as we could.  I learned so much from having you with me those 5 months, from carrying you and worrying about you, and I learned so much from losing you too.  You have taught me more about life and love than anyone on this Earth.

As terrible and unlucky as I feel about it sometimes, I also feel so incredibly lucky.  The love I have for you is so different, so special and surreal, and so out of this world, from what most moms feel for their children.  Because they get to live with their children.  I know and understand the beautiful and special bond of love between a parent and a child, I know it so well.  I ache with it.  You and me, our love knows no limits, literally.  It stretches across time and space and Heaven and Earth.  That is a special kind of love!  While I don't get to hold you and be with you and watch you grow, I have the privilege of knowing that you are safe, and will be for eternity.  You are waiting for me and I can't wait to be with you! This love that knows no boundaries, it has changed me.  I hope it changes the world, sweet Jackson.

I love you.  And I miss you.