Sunday morning came and with it another dose of cytotec that really started labor for me. During labor the nurse asked if I wanted to move next door to a room more suited to delivering. I remember not knowing or caring and wishing that she wouldn't ask me to make decisions at that point, like it really mattered to me which room I delivered in? But I said I would move. As far as labor went I can only say it hurt! And the emotional pain, knowing that there was no way this baby could survive made it that much worse and I didn't want to hurt. In my mind there was no reason to feel all this pain without having the promise of the reward at the end so I did something that I would change if I could. I choose to have stadol to relieve some of the pain.
See, I actually prefer natural labor with no pain medication. Sterling was the only one of my children that I had any type of pain relief (epidural), but the rest...nothing. Except this time. Worse decision EVER! Not only did it NOT really help with the pain, it made me SICK! I felt incredibly dizzy, nauseous and was throwing up. In addition to that I would feel like I was burning up! It was miserable!!! Eventually after an hour or two it wore off and before I knew it, it was time to push. Since the baby was so small, I didn't have to dilate all the way to 10 cm. I also didn't have to be delivered by a doctor since the baby wouldn't live, so the nurse delivered me. I remember not really wanting to deliver the baby, because then it would all be real, not just a possibility. I would no longer have my baby. At least while the baby was in me, I could pretend that it was fine, that the baby was alive. And I knew that for at least part of my labor, it was. During labor, I felt my baby moving and kicking for the first time. I had felt on previous occasions what I thought might be movement, but these movements, strong as they were, there was no mistaking it. So bittersweet...the first outward sign of life from my baby would occur just before his death. So unfair.
Our sweet little baby was born after one push at 10:45 am on July 16, 2006. When he was born he was still fully enclosed in the amniotic sac and with the placenta attached. It was an amazing sight to see. And I felt fascinated by seeing this tiny human inside the sac still. I leaned forward to get a better look while the nurse was trying to cut open the sac to get the baby out. Rob said something to me about moving back and I said, "No, it's just so fascinating!" At the time, I really didn't feel anything, just awe and fascination. I can only assume it was shock and still trying to process everything that was happening because I really loved this child and wanted it! It wasn't that I didn't care, but I just couldn't feel much of anything right at that moment.
When the nurse was able to cut the sac away she checked for any sign of life. A heartbeat, breathing...but there was nothing. Despite having felt it move, at some point during labor my baby had died. I had wanted so much for my baby to be born alive, even if the baby only lived for a few moments, but it wasn't to be. I wanted my child to know me, to feel my love, to feel my touch and I wanted to have some memories, no matter how few, of my living child. The nurse then told us we had a boy and we spent a few moments alone with him. He was PERFECT! There was no obvious problems or birth defects, just a perfectly formed baby. But he was oh so tiny! Even if you've had a preemie, you can't imagine a child this small. At just 6.8 ounces and 8 1/2 inches long he barely reached from the tip of my middle finger to just below my wrist. His tiny, tiny hands had beautiful, perfectly formed fingers and the littlest feet imaginable. His skin was translucent and you could see the tiny bones and hints of organs beneath it. And his tiny little heel and the sweet little arch in his foot...those are things that to this day I can't get over! He was just so perfect! Tiny, but perfect! And both his little arms could have easily fit inside one of our wedding bands. It is incredible the perfection that there is in a baby at just a few days shy of 20 weeks! There is nothing missing, nothing that would make you think anything other than baby. Everything needed to sustain life is present, but on a miniature scale. His eyes were still sealed shut but you could see his nose and a itty-bitty tongue inside his mouth. I was simply in awe of how wonderfully and fearfully he was made.
There was a point where I was convinced I could feel a heartbeat and so we called the nurse in to check again, but she found nothing and I think I was probably just feeling my own pulse through my finger. Finally we asked the nurse to take him and clean him up and I was moved back to my original room.
Prior to having him, we had discussed possible names. Each time we are pregnant we pick out a girl's and boy's name and whichever doesn't get used, we save for the next pregnancy. So with Cori, our girl's name was Kailyn Almina. Kailyn was a shortened version of my mom's name, KathiLyn and Almina was my great grandma's name. But we hadn't picked out a boys name...we thought we still had time. I knew that I wanted to use my dad's name, Allen, but other than that...nothing. We went back and forth trying out several names but couldn't agree on anything. As we sat there in the day and night before our little angel was born, I suddenly knew what his name should be. I turned to Rob and said, "I've got it! I know what we should name him!" He gave me a knowing smile and said, "What?" I told him, "Robert Allen...after you and my dad." He replied, "I knew you were going to say that." Rob has never really wanted any of the kids named after him, (even getting him to agree to Cori's middle name being the same as his was somewhat difficult) but he agreed to this.
Our time with Robert Allen was really so short, a few hours maybe. We called family and friends and let them know what had happened. But mostly we held him. We didn't spend the whole time with him though which was due to a discussion with our night nurse who had explained to us that the longer the body was left at room temperature, the faster it would deteriorate and I couldn't handle having that happen. I realize now, that it wouldn't have mattered too much in that short period of time, but we did send him back with the nurse a few times so she could put him in the fridge. Which is just so sad to think that...sending you're baby to a fridge instead of the nursery. I admit, though, that Rob and I did manage to find some things to laugh about. 'Cause in my life, if I can laugh about it, I WILL get through it. And one of those chuckle moments was the fridge.
The nurses had explained that there was a fridge out near the nurses station for the patients to keep food or drink in. And although I know it's not the same one that Robert Allen was kept in, we couldn't help laughing at the term "patient's fridge"...it just took on a whole new meaning for us...the fridge where they kept patients.
We also had a good laugh at the thought of making Robert Allen into a bobble head. See, given that he was not alive, there obviously was no muscle tone and he just kind of flopped around sometimes when we would move him. Plus, at this stage of development, his head was kind of large compared to his body. Rob made a comment about how we should make him into a bobble head doll and put him on the dash of his truck...yeah, pretty crass I suppose, but we needed to be able to smile and laugh.
The other thing that just had me cracking up was a statement made about the possibility of taking Robert Allen home and burying him in our yard. But we had 4 kids and a dog and I just had this mental image of the dog digging him up and me running around the yard screaming, "Duke, drop Robert Allen! Put him down!" That pretty much nixed any thought of that plan.
Don't get me wrong, even though we found moments to laugh, we were devastated. If you know me or my family, you know that joking and laughing is HOW we cope with grief and sorrow (you should have heard some of the things we said when my dad died). Laughter means that it will be ok, even if it's not right then. Mostly, though, in those hours that we had our baby boy, I tried to memorize everything about him. The way he looked and smelled. The feel of his skin, his tiny fingers and toes. I tried to fit a lifetime of loving and parenting into a few hours. I wanted my son to be there with me, not just his body, but all of him. I thought about all the things I would miss...seeing him smile, hearing him breathe or talk or laugh, finding out what he loved and hated, the noise, the mess, the fingerprints on the walls. The first day of nursery or primary or school. Hugs and kisses, goodnight stories, hearing him say "mommy" or tell me he loved me. Every small and inconsequential moment that I had had with each of my other children so far, I would miss with him. He would never hear my voice or feel my kisses. I would never comfort him or soothe him. O! How I longed to have just a moment with my son alive, just one! Instead I held my lifeless little boy and tried to makeup for everything that he and I had lost.
Before I knew it, it was almost time to go home. Robert Allen would stay there and Rob and I would have to walk away. We would leave as if I had never been pregnant and had never given birth. We would leave empty in so many ways.
The nurse brought Robert Allen in one more time for use to say goodbye. She took a couple pictures of Rob and I as we held him. After she left I held him some more and sang him a song that I had loved long before I even knew I was pregnant. It was a song that I had thought that if, heaven forbid, I ever had to bury a child, I would sing for them. It is called "Irene" and the story behind the song can be found here. The words are:
The wind through the cyprus made them sway,
And rolled the clouds back that winter day,
The sun shone through long enough to say,
"Your baby was here, but cannot stay."
For there are more important things to do,
And she must add a gleam to heaven’s hue
To help brighten the pathway for one and all,
For through the darkness, great men fall!
This little spirit, so pleasant and fair,
Returned to the ones who were waiting there.
And when I walk out in the night divine,
I know one of the stars that shine is mine!
She came to the earth just for a while,
Not long enough to see her smile.
For this little baby we loved so much
Was just to precious for a mother’s touch.
And so with broken hearts, we handed our son back to the nurse and watched her walk out the door. I lost it then...just sobbing. If I didn't know that it was just his body we were leaving behind, if I didn't know that we would someday have him again, if I didn't know of the Gospel plan and the eternal nature of families...I don't know how I would have left him there. As it was, it was heart wrenching!
Truthfully, I was not ok with all that had happened. I was not ok, that my son was gone, that all my faith and knowledge and trust in my Heavenly Father didn't make everything better. IT WAS NOT OK! And I was not ok with it. I suppose in a gesture of defiance, at least for me, Rob and I decided that, despite it being Sunday we would go out to eat. We don't normally go out to eat or shop on Sundays as a way to show our love and respect for our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in keeping the Sabbath day holy. But that day, in that moment, I just couldn't even think about going home and cooking or even caring that in normal circumstances we would be breaking the Sabbath day. In fact, at the restaurant I told Rob, "Heavenly Father took our baby, so the way I see it, he owes us." Now for those who find this...offensive or perhaps, sacriligious...tough. Granted, I know that I owe everything and more to the Lord for all that he's done for me. But grief changes your perspective at times and I suspect that at that time, in that situation, the Lord understood. In fact, I know he did. We were emotionally and physically drained and if eating out would lighten our burden for just a moment, then I'm sure He was absolutely fine with it because He understood in a way that no one else could, just what we were going through and what was in our hearts and minds.
I wish I could say that was my only act of rebellion in the trials that would follow, but alas, it was not. Little did I realize that the days, weeks and months ahead would prove to be even more diffiicult than what I had thus far experienced. The storm was just beginning...
To Be Continued...