Monday, July 16, 2018

Robert Allen's Story Part II: The Storm Begins

I don't think I slept much Saturday night. Too much was going on and too many things to think about. I wanted my baby fiercely. This pregnancy hadn't been planned but that didn't translate into unwanted. We knew we'd be facing a situation that we'd never dreamed of or prepared for so how could we know what to expect or how to plan for it now?

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" 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.

When they had brought Robert Allen back to us after cleaning him up he was wrapped in a Winnie the Pooh rob and a small red, fleece blanket with a stitched border of stars. He also had a small, white knit hat that was tiny...and still huge on his little head. They also gave us a memory box that someone had hand painted with a picture of Thumper so that we would have a place to keep our very few momentos. We had his "crib card" that never was on a crib and a hospital birth certificate with his footprints. I asked if they would put his hand prints on it also, but the nurse said they had pressed his hand and foot prints in a molded heart. I thought that would be fine, but it's another regret that I have that I didn't insist. The hand prints just didn't turn out very well or very clearly on the heart and I hate not being able to really see how tiny his hands were.

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...

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Robert Allen's Story Part I: The Storm Clouds Gather

I am writing this for me.
So I can remember the days, weeks and months of this ordeal.
The troubles and fears,
As well as the hope and joy.
It is the story of the baby I met only briefly.
Who's entire life was lived in my womb.
The baby that I never knew but I can never forget.
He is my sorrow and my joy.
He is my son.
My little Robert Allen.

Kailyn is our first Rainbow baby. She is the bright spot, that vision of hope and healing, that comes after the storm. But before we could have our rainbow, we had to face the storm. One that was so powerful and devastating that, at times, I wasn't sure that I would make it through. Like most storms, it was preceded by calm and even joy. 

In March 2006 just 4 1/2 months after Cori was born we were surprised and excited to learn that I was pregnant again. This pregnancy, just like Cori's, was not planned but I was thrilled. I had really enjoyed having Cori and Joe so close together (they're 13 1/2 months apart). So knowing that Cori and this baby would be about 15 months apart was exciting for me. I had also figured that this baby would probably be our last. I had always wanted 5 kids; 3 boys and 2 girls, with the youngest being a girl. That was my plan and I liked it. I wasn't concerned about the pregnancy. I had already had 4 uneventful ones and didn't expect this one to be any different.  

It started out easily enough with just the routine complaints for me in early being sick all the time. And at my first appointment at 10 weeks we brought all 4 kiddos to hear the heartbeat. It was the last time I ever did that. I remember all of us squashed into this tiny room while the midwife tried to find the heartbeat. The baby was being stubborn so it took a minute or so, but finally, there it was, nice and strong. No worries! Everything was great! We were thrilled, excited, joyous, etc. as were our kids! Another sibling for them, another baby to love and cuddle! Exactly one week later it all went downhill.

I won't ever forget that day. It was a Tuesday. Nothing particular happened that morning to make me suspect anything could be wrong. I had experienced a little cramping that day, but only a few times and I really didn't think anything of it since I had those same feelings in all my pregnancies. Just the uterus stretching or something, I thought. That evening I had to run to Wal-Mart to drop off a prescription for Sterling. As I was walking into the store I felt a gush of liquid. I knew it was blood without even looking. I debated whether to just leave or drop off the prescription and decided to go ahead and drop it off. It took a few minutes and all the while I could feel the blood coming out and I was just hoping that no one else could tell. Once I was finished I hurried out to the van and called home over and over again, but no one answered. I figured that Rob and the kids had gone outside and couldn't hear the phone. I pulled into the driveway, got out of the car and yelled for Rob to hurry and come. He came from the backyard carrying Cori and I started to cry. 

It was kind of strange. It was like I was watching someone else go through this and I can distinctly remember thinking, "Why am I crying? I'm not sad. It's just a miscarriage. It's not that bad and it happens sometimes." But I was crying so hard that I couldn't talk. Poor Rob was terrified and kept asking me what was wrong and finally I was able to get out that I was bleeding and thought I was having a miscarriage. He yelled for the kids to get inside and I went to call my doctor's office. It was after hours so the Dr. on call called me back and asked me some questions. Yes, I'd had some cramping. The bleeding was like a period and was bright red. No, I didn't want to go to the ER. I figured that if I was miscarrying there was nothing anyone could do anyway so why go. He told me to call my doctor in the morning and let her know what was going on, she might want to see me. I had a meeting that night at Church but decided to go despite what I thought was a miscarriage. Life moves on, these things happen. Besides sitting at home and dwelling on it wouldn't change it.  

We hadn't yet told many people that we were pregnant, but word was getting out and a few of the people at the meeting knew. I can't remember how it came up but one of the ladies who hadn't known I was pregnant had found out and was saying how excited she was for me and how she couldn't believe it. I just didn't know what to say so I just kind of laughed and smiled, figuring that I didn't want to announce it to everyone right then, especially since I hadn't been to the Dr yet. So I let everyone go on thinking I was pregnant. Ironically I'd had the same thing happen to me once when I had a friend who was pregnant. We'd gone out to visit a lady in our Church and I talked about how they were both pregnant and due around the same time, etc. We finished the visit and as we were driving away she told me that she'd miscarried the night before. Oops! Now, here I was in the same situation, just on the other end.

After the meeting was over, all but one of the ladies left; A woman that I liked and trusted, Sister H. At the time she was the president of our women's organization, the Relief Society. I told her that I needed to talk to her privately and so we went into one of the rooms and again, I started to cry. I told her that I thought I was having a miscarriage. She hugged me and asked why I'd even come that night, that we could have rescheduled the meeting. But I told her that I couldn't do anything about it and besides, it was a distraction. I hadn't wanted to make a big deal out of it and didn't want to embarrass anyone so I didn't want to say anything during the meeting, besides I hadn't been to the Dr yet. I told her I'd keep her updated on what the Dr said. 

That evening we called our Home Teacher from church to come over and help in giving me a blessing. He came over and gave me a beautiful blessing, but I won't go into detail. It was such a comfort to me, and based on the things that were said, I figured we'd lost this baby. But I was OK with it and knew I'd get through it. I called his wife, who was also my Visiting Teacher, who'd also recently had a miscarriage and talked to her about what to expect and what it was like.  

The next morning after calling the office, I went in to see my Dr. She is wonderful and I've had her for all my pregnancies except Sterling. The first thing she did was check for a heartbeat. I had prepared myself for this moment, for the confirmation that the baby was gone. She put the doppler on my abdomen and there was...a heartbeat?!? I was shocked, amazed, confused, excited, and thrilled. What was going on? We headed over to the ultrasound room to check it out. There on the screen was my tiny little baby, perfectly fine, heart beating away. The baby was fine after all! I was put on some restrictions like taking it easy, resting when I could and no sex. We decided to reevaluate at my next appointment. Dr. D said it was probably just some old blood and the bleeding should stop in a few days. We were so excited! The baby would be fine and all that worry was for nothing! My next appointment was in 3 weeks so I obeyed Dr. D and everything seemed to be fine. The bleeding stopped and I didn't have anymore episodes of bleeding before my next appointment. So at 14 weeks it was decided that I could continue on like normal, no more restrictions. For about a week everything was fine, but then the bleeding started again. 

I called Dr. D and she had me come in again for another ultrasound to see what was going on. In that ultrasound there was a subchorionic hematoma and I had placenta previa. We were told that I would probably bleed for a little while until the hematoma was gone, but that the baby would be fine. We would watch the previa to see if it would correct itself as my pregnancy progressed and I was to go back on restrictions, probably for the remainder of the pregnancy. After another week of bleeding I decided to call Dr. D to see how much longer the bleeding should last. The nurse said it should have already stopped so I went in again to check on baby. Everything looked fine so I was told to just take it easy and within a couple days the bleeding did stop.
Maybe a week passed and I started to relax. Then one day we were at Wal-Mart talking to some friends and I was telling them about all that had been going on with the pregnancy. I told them that I'd hadn't had any bleeding for a little while so we were hoping that everything was good. As we turned to walk back to our van, I felt the now familiar gush of blood. I remember thinking how ironic that was! I mean, what are the chances?!  

We hurried back home and called the Dr but since it was after hours I was told that I could either go to the ER or wait and see what happened. I chose to wait and see, again, there was nothing that anyone could do. The next day I was back in the office for another ultrasound. There was baby, just as happy as could be; moving around, heart beating away. It also showed that the hematoma was gone as well as the placenta previa. Why was I bleeding? No one was sure but baby was obviously tolerating it well. Baby was growing and was just right developmentally for it's age. The technician did say it looked like there might be a small lobe of placenta that was separated for the main portion but connected by blood vessels and perhaps that was causing the bleeding (called a succenturiate placenta). She said she'd pass the results on to Dr. D, who would let us know what she thought. That would be the last time we saw our baby alive.  

All through this ordeal Sister H. had been wonderful. I told her all that was going on and we often talked about the possibility that if it continued I may end up on bed rest. We joked that I would have to wait until after July 13 since that was when we had our annual Visiting Teaching conference at church and she needed my help. I continued the off and on bleeding and a few times I passed large clots that freaked me out, but baby was always fine, and I wasn't dilating. I had come to accept that this pregnancy was just going to be a little more "eventful" than I was used to. I had also received a few more blessings. In our church, all worthy adult males are able to hold the priesthood and give blessings. That meant that Rob and my brothers were able to give me blessings when I needed them. In a blessing the priesthood holder listens to the Holy Ghost who tells him what the Lord wants them to say. Whatever they say, it is as if the Lord himself were there blessing you. I knew that whatever I was told, it was right and from the Lord. In each one I was told that whatever happens is the Lord's will but I was never promised that the baby would be OK, which I desperately wanted to hear. One blessing in particular struck me. My brother John gave it and I was told that I'd been blessed with good doctors and I needed to follow their advice and counsel. This was so important but I wouldn't fully realize why until later. I just knew that whatever my Dr said I needed to do, I would do.  

Dr. D called within about week of my last ultrasound and said that she wanted me to go see Dr. E. who was a maternal/fetal medicine specialist so that they could do a more specialized ultrasound and see what was causing the bleeding. An appointment was set up for sometime in August but I wouldn't make it that far.  

On July 13 we had our Visiting Teaching conference. As part of it there was a slide show put to the song "His Hands" by Kenneth Cope. I had a copy of this song from preparing for the conference and I listened to it every time I had to go into the Dr for bleeding. Every time I would go I would try and prepare myself to hear that we'd lost the baby and this song gave me so much strength and comfort. The next day, July 14th, Rob was signed up to row in two races in the Sunflower State games. We had debated whether I should go and watch kids, or stay home with them, but since it was only going to be a couple hours we decided that I would go so Rob could help me watch kids while he waited to race. I will never know if that decision contributed to what followed. 

We got there early for sign in and waited for the races to start. His were both supposed to be early in the morning so we planned on being home before lunch. Due to poor planning and probably other things, the races didn't start until WAY late, like hours late! I was supposed to be sitting and resting since I was bleeding at the time. But instead I was chasing kids, walking up and down hills, carrying my 20 and 30 lbs baby and toddler away from the water. Finally Rob had his races, but that left me to chase the kids by myself, carrying Joe and Cori uphill away from the beach whenever they got too close. Finally Rob got done. At that point I was angry, bleeding heavier than I had before and so tired. I was D-O-N-E! I just wanted to get home. So I picked up my camping chair carried it while pushing Joe and Cori in the stroller up the hill to the van. I was crying and Rob kept telling me to let him do it and to just go sit in the car while he got everything. But I was annoyed that we had been there all morning and I had ended up watching kids and chasing them most of the time by myself. 

We got home and I decided to lie down and see if the bleeding slowed at all. After a couple hours it still hadn't and I'd gone through 2 pads in about 3 hours. I debated calling the Dr or just relaxing and seeing how it went. But since it was a Friday I knew that if anything happened, I would have to go to the ER, so I decided to err on the side of caution and call. It was probably about 3:30 or 4:00 by then. The nurse called me back within a few minutes saying, "Doc wants you to come in immediately." So I left Rob at home with the kids and headed over to the Dr's office. I was taken back to the room and within a few minutes Dr. D. came in and said, "I've got some bad news." And I'm thinking, "Oh my gosh! She hasn't even checked me, what could be so bad?!" She then told me that she was admitting me to the hospital on bed rest. I laughed! Sounded like a vacation to me! She said that she knew it would be inconvenient for us since I stayed home and Rob worked but that she had two reasons for doing it. One, she knew I wouldn't get much rest at home with 4 kids and two, it was the only way to get me in to see Dr. E. right away. I told her we had family nearby and a very supportive church and that we'd work it out. She sent me home to pack and then head over to the hospital.  

When I got home, Rob was doing the dishes and I told him what Dr. D. had said. His first reaction was wanting to know why. It would be very expensive and we'd already spent a lot on ultrasounds that had, he thought, been unnecessary. I got frustrated at this point and was in tears. I said that I know that we'd spent a lot, but I'd been told in my blessing to follow the advice and counsel of my Dr. and that's what I intended to do. I think he felt bad at that point so we made some calls to arrange for one of our moms to come get the kids and take them back to her house while Rob and I went to the hospital.  

After getting checked in I was told that I had to stay in bed. No getting out for showers or even to go to the bathroom, I would have to use a bed pan. (ewww!) At this point I was still bleeding fairly heavily and passing large clots. I remember them checking my iron levels to make sure that I wasn't losing too much blood. As we were waiting for Dr. E to come I felt a gush of liquid and when I sat up or pressed on my belly more would come out. I suspected that my water had broken, but I didn't say anything. I guess, I figured I didn't want to overreact if it wasn't amniotic fluid, plus fluid and blood feel the same coming out so I couldn't be sure. Awhile later, Dr. E came in and asked about my history and what had been going on this pregnancy. I told him everything and he said, well, let's get an ultrasound and see what's going on. They brought in the portable ultrasound machine and turned it on. Within seconds he said, "Oh my! That's not good...Did your water break? 'Cause there's no amniotic fluid." I told him that I thought it had just a little while ago. The next words from him would change our life forever, "If you don't go into labor on your own in the next 24 hours, we'll have to induce you." We talked to him for quite a long time. I can't remember all that was said. I remember him telling me over and over again not to blame myself or feel guilty, that this wasn't my fault. And I can remember saying that I didn't do guilt, that I knew it wasn't my fault...etc, etc. Looking back I must have seemed so uncaring and callous, but the truth is I didn't feel much of anything. I just felt shocked and disconnected from myself, as if it was all happening to someone else. The true grief wouldn't hit me until later. At that point I think I was just trying to survive and process what this all meant for us.  

We talked some more about what to expect, how the baby would look, that there was no chance of survival at not quite 20 weeks. He told us that the baby may or may not be born alive and that usually by this point in pregnancy they could identify the gender fairly easily, which was important to us since we didn't know yet what we were having. After he left I still just felt numb...we'd come to the hospital to be on bed rest to save our baby and now, we were preparing to lose our baby. So many question, so many things to consider. Do we have a funeral? A cremation? Let the hospital take care of the remains? Do we let the kids see the baby? What about pictures? If the baby is born alive, can we give it a name and a blessing like all other children born in the church? LOTS of things I'd never considered before now because we'd never been here before. 
After Dr. E and the nurse left, I was laying there and I started to feel like I was going to pass out but not quite like that. It was like I was disoriented or drugged. It was something I had never felt before. At the time I had no idea what was going on, but months later I would figure it out; it was my first panic attack. I called in the nurse who took my blood pressure which was slightly high. But she said that usually that doesn't make people feel like they are going to pass out. That's what happens with low blood pressure. I asked what was happening to me and she just said that sometimes that's just how the body reacts to stress. I calmed down and she left, but moments later it started again. I was freaking out, I felt like I was going to die and it was just too much. I turned to Rob and told him, "I can't do this. I can handle losing our baby, but I can't do it if I have to feel like this. Please give me a blessing." As soon as he did, I felt so at peace and didn't have another panic attack until months later. 

At first I was having some contractions but they soon stopped. We had the most amazing nurse that night named Diane! She was so understanding and concerned. She kept coming in to talk to us, to discuss with us what was happening; answering the questions we had, to the best of her ability. Some things she didn't know about but promised to have a social worker come by and talk to us the next day. I remember at one point being able to hear the heart monitor from the room next to us. There wasn't one on me. I guess since they knew I would lose the baby one way or another it didn't really matter if its heart was still beating. It honestly didn't bother me, but I mentioned it to the nurse in passing. And in an example of how considerate she was, before I knew it, the sound was gone. In another example of her ability to sympathize, she asked if we wanted to hear the baby's heartbeat. I said yes. And there it strong and steady. She also told us that if at any point during the night we wanted to talk or hear the heartbeat, to just call her. I am so grateful that we were blessed to have that nurse that night. Someone who wasn't embarrassed or unsure of how to handle the situation. She was just what we needed.  

I don't really remember a lot from that night and the next day, Saturday. It was rather uneventful and there was a lot of thinking and talking. A couple notable things did occur. The first was that we had Sister H and her husband, Brother H. come to the hospital. Rob and I wanted blessings and so Brother H came to do that. There isn't much that I remember about the blessings. I know I was told that this was all a part of the Lord's plan, and I was comforted, but I can't recall much else. Mostly I remember the feelings of peace and comfort. I also remember that in Rob's blessing he was told that I would heal and recover and be able to bear other children. This promise would become very significant to me later.

Another event was that we decided to have the hospital "cremate" the baby's remains. There were a couple things that led to this decision but the main one was the fear of the cost of the medical bills on top of a funeral and burial plot. I will say that if I knew then what I know now I wouldn't have made that choice. It's one of my biggest regrets in the whole situation. Come to find out, most funeral homes offer free or severely discounted rates for these types of situations but we didn't know that. I wish so much that we would have chosen to have him buried, but it's too late now and I can't let that regret be the focus of my life. I know that we did the best we could with the information we had. And, frankly, in a situation that we never even gave any thought to before that moment.  

The other notable event was the decision to postpone inducing my labor. Originally, Dr E had said that if I didn't go into labor on my own then they would induce me the next day. Turns out that labor and delivery was swamped the next day so they postponed starting my induction until around 10:00pm when I was given my first dose of cytotec.

Now before anyone feels the need to pass judgment on the induction of my labor I want to say this: I wanted this baby! More than anything, I wanted to go to term and have a healthy living baby at the end of my pregnancy! And, yes, I know that in similar situations others have chosen to continue with the pregnancy until it ends on its own, one way or another. To that I would say, first, we weren't even presented with the option to continue and see what happened. Dr. E simply said I would be induced if labor didn't begin on its own. Weeks later, when I asked Dr. D about it, she said I should have been given the option to continue. This brings me to point two, In my blessing I was specifically told to follow the advice and counsel of my doctors. Looking back, had I been given the choice, I know I would have wanted to continue the pregnancy and see what happened, but that doesn't mean it would have been the right decision. In a way, with how it progressed, the decision was out of my hands. Our Dr advised us to be induced and following the promptings of the blessing I had received, we followed that counsel. This decision was reconfirmed as we talked and prayed about it. Rob and I both had a very distinct impression that had we continued with the pregnancy, something bad would have happened. Whether I would have gotten sick or worse, I don't know. We just knew that this was the path we were supposed to take. This may not be the right choice for everyone, but, for whatever reason, it was the right one for us.  

Saturday night was also uneventful. We were just waiting for labor to start while trying to come to grips with the reality that we would be leaving this hospital without our beloved baby.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Decade Without You

It's amazing how fast time goes by sometimes. It's been 10 years, a whole decade, since I last held and saw my sweet angel, Robert Allen. There's never a day that goes by that I don't think of my son. I often think of the day that we found out that we would lose him. I was in shock and devastated.

I was admitted to the hospital for bed rest and for monitoring due to bleeding during my pregnancy. I had a subchorionic hematoma and it had caused bleeding off and on throughout my pregnancy thus far but had worsened that Friday so my doctor had me admitted. While waiting for Dr. Evans, the maternal/fetal medicine specialist, to come see me that evening, my water suddenly broke. When he did the ultrasound there was no amniotic fluid and he told us that if I didn't go into labor on my own in the next 24 hours they would induce me. It was hard to hear that we would have to deliver our baby at not quite 20 weeks and that there would be no chance of survival and only a small chance that he'd be born alive at all. No parent ever prepares to hear those words.

I couldn't even begin to fathom how to handle this situation or what to do. You don't go into pregnancy thinking about what you'll do if something goes wrong, you simply assume that the end will bring a live and healthy baby. Now we were suddenly faced with questions of what would a 20 week old baby look like, did we want a burial or cremation, pictures and keepsakes, bringing the kids up to see the baby, even a name because we didn't know what we were having at that point. Things that had I had not had time to prepare for or really consider. Things that if I had known what I do now, I would have done differently.

We were blessed with a great nurse that night who tried her best to answer our questions and to help us to know what to expect. And perhaps the one thing I'm most grateful for was that she didn't act uncomfortable around us or like she couldn't wait to be finished with her shift. She also was the only one to ask if I wanted to hear my baby's heartbeat because he was still alive at that point. The most precious sound in the world to me, in that moment, was my son's heartbeat and it was the last time I would ever hear it. Saturday night I began labor and in what would be one of the most bittersweet moments of my life, I felt my baby move for the first time. So precious and yet so heartbreaking at the same time. How ironic that the first outward signs of life from my son would come just hours before his death? Yet what seems to be cruel and unfair, is one of the memories that I hold onto because it is also so precious.

I had never wanted so badly for a labor to go faster and yet, at the same time, want to never deliver because once he was born our hello's would be goodbye. But, inevitably labor had to end and on Sunday, July 16, 2006 at 10:45 am I gave birth to our son. In the time leading up to going into labor we had finally decided on names for a boy and a girl. Our son would be named Robert after his daddy and Allen after my daddy. Our precious little boy never took a breath and his heart never beat outside of my body but he was so perfect! Tiny but perfect! At only 8 1/2 inches and 6.8 ounces he was small enough to fit into my hand with his feet hanging at my wrists. Rob's and my wedding bands were so big on his tiny arms. And his feet were about the size of my pinky fingerprint. His miniature hands had beautiful little fingers and his feet...I still remember just those perfect little arches and heels! How could such a perfect little baby have been stillborn? What could have possibly gone wrong? So many questions and still, even today, no really good answers. Pathology would later determine that I'd had a 25% placental abruption but not when or why it led to my water breaking. No reason has ever been determined for why I lost my baby boy. So many questions and so few answers.

We spent several hours just holding and looking at our sweet baby. Trying to memorize everything about him. Wanting to fit a lifetime of love into hours. It was impossible. The most agonizing moment came when it was time to go home and the nurse took my son for the last time. Walking out of the hospital, childless, knowing that I would never know my son in this life was painful beyond words. It's a moment etched into my memory that still tears my heart into millions of pieces today.

We ended up taking Sterling up to the hospital later that night to meet his baby brother because he was so distraught at not getting to see him. Watching him sob, inconsolable as Rob held him was gut wrenching. How do you explain to a 5 year old what death means? How do you also explain hope and resurrection to someone who can't even comprehend time very well? Taking him there was the best decision we could have made though. To see the joy on his face as he held his baby brother brought some peace and comfort to me. I only regret that we didn't also bring Emmy, Joe and Cori. We thought they were too young and might be frightened by Robert Allen's appearance but I know better now. Emmy still talks about how she wishes she could have met and held her brother. And Sterling holds those memories and the pictures of his few moments with Robert Allen as some of his most precious. I only wish I had given the same to my other kids.

In the end, I was left with a scrapbook, some pictures and a few mementos that includes Robert Allen's bracelet, hat, robe and blanket. My son's entire life can be fit into a small, round box. With so little evidence that he ever existed it's amazing the impact he's had on my life. I miss him everyday. I long to hold him everyday. I wonder at the purpose of his life, of the whole experience. I question why God took him, why He didn't intervene to save him. I love this child, a child that I never knew, so completely and as much as the ones that I have here and I wonder how that is possible. How do you love someone you never met with such intensity that it hurts?

Ten years may have lessened the frequency with which I cry and breakdown but it hasn't changed the sorrow that I feel or the love that I have for my little boy. The grief is less raw, usually, but still there. And there are times, like tonight, where it is fresh. I expect that in another ten years I will feel much the same as I do now except that I will miss my angel even more.

I love you, my dear, sweet Robert Allen. I think you know that. I look forward to seeing you again one day and getting to hold you and see your smile for the first time. I can't wait to hear you say , "Mommy" and give me a hug and a kiss. And I know that your brothers and sisters look forward to meeting you too. Know that you are always in my heart and that I love you more than I could ever express. Happy 10th birthday Robert Allen. I wish I could be celebrating it with you instead of just dreaming of it. I miss you and love you my baby boy!

Love forever,
Your Mommy

"I carried you every second of your life and I will love you every second of mine."

Robert Allen