August 12, 2014

Your Story: Part 3

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PSA - There is only one picture of my baby that I feel comfortable sharing and it is in this post.  It's a picture of his little hand, on my mothers finger.  I just wanted to warn you, because the image is heart breaking and if you don't want to see, then please stop reading.  I won't be offended, I promise.

Dear Jackson,

I've been having a really hard time this week.  It started on Saturday and I can't really pinpoint why?  I just feel so sad, so lost without you.  I had been finding my way, finding a new ground to walk on, and then it felt like the whole world was pulled out from under me again.

Maybe it's because I knew today was coming.  Today marks 2 months since your birth.  It's your two month birthday and you aren't here, snuggling with me like most babies are at two months.  So, since I am sad already and it's the 12th, what better day to finish your story here on Earth.

After we got admitted, we settled into the hospital on Wednesday June 11th.  The doc "gave" me something called Cytotec, to start the whole birthing process.  He explained what normally happens in cases like mine.  He told us that the medicine takes 10-14 hours to work, that moms usually don't need to dilate more than 2-3 centimeters since babies at 21 weeks are so small, he and the nurses all said that the pain would feel more like menstrual cramps then active labor pains, and he told us that normally the babies and all that is "in" there all comes out together (without getting too graphic).  When I asked if an epidural would be needed, he told me usually no, it doesn't get that bad.

Jackson, nothing about your mother and her body is ever normal or usual.  It gets a bit tiring, but it's the truth...

The doctor gave me the meds.  He met with your father and I, and our family.  He really took the time to sit down with us, answering the whys and the hows the best he could.

Your father wrote, "Safe and healthy delivery for mom" on the "Goals" board in our room.  At this point there really wasn't much risk for me, since we decided to be induced, but we were praying that it wouldn't be more complicated from here on out.

All the nurses that came in to take care of us, after that first not-so-great one, were absolutely amazing.  Even the techs and the charge nurses that came in were sweet and so sorry for us.  For the most part, everyone treated us exactly how we should have been treated in such a sad situation.

They put up a card on our door with a tear drop on a leaf...

This told the nurses and everyone who came into our room that our family was dealing with a loss, not a birth.  Gone, but not forgotten.

That evening after everyone had come and left, and then come and left again...your father and I talked about your name.  Before you died we were debating on the name Jackson David, your father really loved it and I really loved the name Jack.  Since the name I loved could be your nickname, we had almost officially decided on it.  Then, we got this terrible news and knew we needed to name you and the name seemed so perfect at that point.  Our first baby.  Born in Heaven.  Jackson David.

Oh the dreams we had for you!!!  You were going to be something so wonderful.  Like the president.  It's such a strong name!  We had visions of you growing up and changing the world with that name.

The doctor and nurses started to come by and ask us all these questions about you that we weren't sure how to answer.

Do you want to see him after he is born?

Do you want to hold him?

Do you want us to take pictures?

What would like you like us to do after he is born?  Keep him and take care of it all for you?  Call a funeral home?

There was a little bit of a debate at first as to whether you were "old" enough for us to have the right to makes some of these decisions.  The official line between miscarriage and stillbirth was 20 weeks, and that was also the official line on whether or not we had "rights" to you.  If you were less than 20 weeks, we wouldn't have a choice in much of the process after you were born.  Honestly, it was all a jumbled line of paperwork and junk that I just was not ready to think about.  I wasn't prepared.

I understand that no one wants to be prepared for something like this.  But the downside of that is we make rash decisions that we may regret later...

Your dad and I talked about a lot of this.  Yes, I wanted to see you and to hold you.  I just had to.  I carried you for 5 months of my life, dreamed about you and your future and our future together, and felt you moving in my belly...I had to see this wonderful miracle that you were even though you were already gone.  Your father, he wasn't so sure.  It was hard for him.  To him, and even to me, you really weren't here anymore.  He wasn't sure he wanted to remember you in whatever way we would see you.

To be in this position, even having to make these decisions at all, was just about the most heart breaking thing that anyone ever has to do.  I kept thinking, how the hell did we get here?  Is this really happening?

The night passed without much happening.  The doc gave me the meds every 4 hours, each dose upping the chances of labor starting.  I didn't feel much until about 4 or 5 in the morning on Thursday.  Your father and I even slept a little bit, between doses.  I had my last night with you being a part of my body.  It was so bittersweet.  By the morning though, I was ready.  I wanted to go home.

The pain started as cramps.  Easy peasy.  They had told us that they would give me ibuprofen, and then oxycodone or something like that if the pain got worse.  So, around 4 am I took some ibuprofen. That was right after they had put a dose of the Cytotec in me.  Things started moving fast after that.  The pain grew to the level of my usual cramp pain, which is pretty painful.  I've been prescribed serious painkillers for those before, so eventually your dad called for the Oxy-stuff to help me through.

About an hour later, that painkiller hadn't scratched the surface of the pain I was feeling.  This was worse than cramps.  The docs and nurses started talking about some more serious stuff.  The word "epidural" started making it's way into the conversation, which scared me to death.  I thought I wouldn't need that?  Did that mean I was weak?  I can't take this "normal" pain??  They gave me something called Nubain which was nice for a while.  It took away all the pain and actually made me sort of fun and loopy.  But that wore off fast.  

By the time they came around again at 8 am to give me more Cytotec, I literally crossed my legs and tucked the blanket around me and told them no.  I couldn't handle it.  It hurt so bad, and the pain was coming in these crazy sickeningly painful waves that I can only assume are contractions, no one was going anywhere near my body with any medicine unless it was through my IV.  I refused to let them put more of that crap in me.

The waves of pain got so bad, that I was starting to pound on the bed, and say not-nice words.  Your poor father, and your poor Uncle Jonathan who had stopped in to see how we were doing, were worried.  This wasn't a good sign.  Why was I in so much pain?  I knew you were coming, Jackson.  They didn't need to give me more of that stuff, it was almost time.  The midwives were now helping me since our doctor had to go into surgery, and they were trying to talk me into an epidural.  I started crying.

I kept thinking that my heart was literally going to break.  It felt like it was slowly ripping apart, and my body was ripping along with it.


The pain was just making me that much more emotional.  And the talk of epidurals was scaring me...

It's not that I am against epidurals at all.  If this was a normal birth, dear boy, and I would be able to take you home afterwards, I would have signed up for it hours before.  But epidurals scare me, and they had told me I wouldn't need it.  I wasn't prepared for it.  Now they were telling me I did.  You were making me contract painfully, and that wasn't normal, and they wanted to fix it for me.  At first I kept refusing, and crying, and they gave me Dilaudid, which is pretty much a king of all pain meds.   Your grandparents came back to help us through these next few hours.  I was pretty drugged by that time.  Then the docs came in and tried to give me that stupid medicine again and I woke right up and said no.  No way.

They finally talked me into the epidural.  They told me the pain was worse than what they had thought it would be, and that you and I still had a long ways to go.  So I let them.  They hooked me up.  I didn't feel a thing after that, even all the way through your birth.  It was painless.  It wasn't long after that...

Around 11:30 am, I started feeling some pressure.  I thought I just had to go to the bathroom, but the new doc for the day came in and she told me that you were ready.  It was time.  It happened so, so fast.  They told me to push, which I thought was very comical because I couldn't feel anything to push.  She and our nurse, along with your father, they coached me through it.  It was so surreal.  All this time thinking and worrying about giving birth, and here we were doing it.  There was really no more fear at this point, because we already knew you were safe where you were.

Then, around 11:50, you were born into the world, sleeping.  You were so tiny.  I remember my first glimpse of you, just a bundle of long arms and legs and a little sweet mouth open in an "O" shape.  Then they took you away and wrapped you up.  I was so confused.  So dazed.  So...I can't even explain it.  It was so silent.

Our nurse brought you over to me and asked me again, "Are you sure you want to hold him?"

"Yes" I took you.  You...well, to me you were so beautiful, but it just wasn't you, little boy.  You were gone.  You had sustained some injury in the birth process.  The doc explained to me later that since you had been "gone" for over 24 hours, the natural process of death had started in the womb and since you were so I me you were beautiful but to the world, it would be too much, to graphic to share.  I moved the blanket around and looked at your tiny little body with your 10 fingers and 10 toes and your little face and belly, and then...I just couldn't do it anymore.  My heart was in pieces and I couldn't hold myself together anymore.  I couldn't believe it but here was the awful evidence of the truth, my baby died.

Your father had seen you at birth, but during this time that I was holding you, it was too much for him and he had stepped away so we could have this moment.

It was just so silent.  You were in Heaven, and I knew at that point I would never really see the real you with my own eyes until I get there.  I gave you the tiniest of squeezes, and I said goodbye to you, and they took you away.  We knew from the moment we heard you were gone that no amount of ceremony or ashes or grave sites or anything would make it better.  I could feel your life engraved into my heart and soul, and honestly that was enough for me.  It was enough for all of us.

Your grandparents came in and said goodbye to you too.  And with that comes the one picture of you that I feel comfortable sharing.  The picture of your teeny tiny hand on the finger of your grandmother, the woman who had been wanting you and waiting for you almost as much as I was...

Your fingers were so little.  Just like mine.  I could see a bit of me in you, and a bit of your father too - even though you were so small.  You were so real, this little package of reality that had been living in me.

I just couldn't believe that you were gone.

In hindsight, I wish I would have held you longer.  I wish I would have memorized every part of your little body.  I wish I would have gotten a picture of me holding you, all wrapped up.  These are things I wish I could change, but because everything happened so fast, I didn't have time to figure it all out.  I just wasn't prepared enough to make any rational decisions about it all.  But then, I think, that wasn't really the you that I know and would remember.

The rest of this time was a blur.  The placenta that should have come out with you did not, not a normal situation in cases like ours, but oh well.  The silver lining in this tragedy is that it did come out eventually, about an hour later.  If it hadn't, then I would have had to go into surgery to remove it, and at that point we just wanted to get the heck out of there.  So a small blessing came to us in the form of everything happening as it should in the end, which it comes to a 21 week stillbirth.   Your father and I, our anniversary was the very next day.  We wanted to be home, together, in our own house to celebrate our life and love, and you.

I can't explain how it felt to walk out of that hospital without you, sweet Jackson.  The nurses gave us a box, full of your "stuff"...your blanket, the hat they put on you, your bracelet, a card, some was numbingly painful.  I kept thinking, "I should be leaving with a baby!!"  As we got in the car, tears started pouring down my face.  The physical separation from you was harder than I thought it would be.  There was this ache in my very core, and that ache has never gone away since that day - June 12th, 2014.  Your birthday.  Your "angelversary".

Dearest Jackson, I am just not sure why this had to happen to us.  Why did we have to say goodbye so soon?  What was the point of your short and sweet life, if you weren't even able to live it?  I just don't know.  I know that God has a plan, and He will use me as a vessel for that plan.  I'm not exactly happy about that, but I will do the best that I can with His strength and guidance.

I am so happy and honored to have been your home for those 5 short months.  While it was a scary and stressful time, it was also the most amazing 5 months of my whole entire life.  You are still with me, that perfect image of you as a healthy little blonde haired, blue eyed baby boy...and every day that goes by I love you more and more.  I can't wait to officially meet you and hold you one day in Heaven.  I know that Gods plans for me are to be here, without you, for now.  But I can't wait for the day that you and I get to be together.

Jackson David Bland.  Footprints.  11:50am.  06/12/14.

One day soon, your family & I, we will say goodbye in a official and ceremonial way.  I want that part of the healing process to be special, and to mean something.  I want it to be worthy of the amazing little soul that you are.  I'm thinking about dedicating a day of kindness in your honor, and spend the day doing good things for people.  I may invite our friends and family to join us in that, if they are interested.  I want to honor and share how your life and the love we have for you has altered the world for the better.  You have made a difference in me.  You have changed me.  And I have to find a way to thank you for that.

Thank you for being my son.  Thank you for changing my life.  Thank you for watching over us.  Thank you, little Jackson, for being you.

Love you & Miss you.