Lydia's Story

Friday, November 7, 2014

On Wednesday, November 5th, I was driving to my regular OB check-up.  My 34 weeks check up.  I had gotten to spend some extra time with Ben in the morning, which I had been grateful for.  It had started to hit me how soon the baby would be here – with a planned c-section of date of December 12, it was just over 5 weeks away.  It all seemed different with the second baby, for which I felt a bit guilty.  By 34 weeks with Ben, we had 3 showers to celebrate him, the nursery was complete, we had read lots of books and had finished a birthing class (which turned out to be not very helpful when he was born via emergency c-section).  But now, we had just finished putting Lydie’s room together, getting the furniture rearranged in her tiny little room on Sunday.   I wanted to figure out how the furniture would go, because I wanted to start decorating.  I kept telling myself our baby girl would be here before we know it, and I didn’t feel ready yet.  Ben is at a stage that is just so demanding, wants my attention all the time, and at the end of the day, I’d been exhausted, content to lie on the couch for an hour with Justin before crawling into bed early.  On the morning of the doctor’s appointment, I told Justin I planned to wash all her clothes this weekend.  That’s one thing I was prepared for – the clothes.  I went out a bought a “little sister” onesie the day I found out I was having a girl, and since then, I had filled the entire nursery closet with finds from consignment sales and Carter’s and Gymboree.  I kept telling myself to stop, that we didn’t need any more, that Lydia was completely outfitted until she was 2.  But those girls’ clothes are so damn cute and so adorable and I was finding it hard to stop.

So back to the morning of the doctor’s appointment.  I dropped Ben off at school, and while driving the couple more miles to see my doctor, I had the thought “I can’t remember the last time I felt her kick.”  This scared me; she was usually so active in there, kicking and doing somersaults.   I actually complained about it, rubbing my belly and telling her to take it easy.  My doctor said she’d never seen a problem because a baby kicked too much.  (What I wouldn’t give now to feel one of those take-your-breath away kicks!) I was at the point that it sometimes didn’t even register when I felt her, it just happened so much.  Still, I wondered “did I feel her yesterday?”  I told myself I was being paranoid and I’d  feel better when I heard her heartbeat.

In the waiting room, my friend texted me asking how Ben was and if we were ready for our girl.  Her son was born exactly 4 weeks before Ben and now we were having baby girls a couple weeks apart. 

In the room, my doctor started telling me all the usual stuff.  She understood how much I was struggling with the second c-section, diagnosing me with a bit of PTSD from Ben’s traumatic birth, and she started telling me again how it would be different this time, how I’d have a good experience.  

And then she went to find Lydie’s heartbeat.  And it wasn’t there.  And it wasn’t there.  And it wasn’t there.  And I couldn’t breathe.  I think I knew.  She finally found a heartbeat and as my panic started to subside, she said, "That's yours." She took me back for an ultrasound, and it was all my worst fears:  her heart wasn’t beating.  She brought another doctor in to check and she confirmed it.  She asked me how soon Justin could get there.  And I had to call my husband, who had big important meetings all day, and tell him our daughter’s heart wasn’t beating anymore.  And ask him to come to where I was.  Right away. 

Yet there was no urgency.  There was no “you’ve got to come to the hospital right now!” What I wouldn’t have given to hear that we needed to get this baby out right now.  I called my mom next.  And then my sister.  My doctor sat with me and held my hand while we waited for Justin.  I must have been in shock; I wasn’t even crying, I could just barely get the words out.  I know he rushed and got there as soon as he could, but it felt like an eternity for me. 

We came home to our empty house and stared at the wall and stared at each other and asked what the hell we should be doing.  I have never felt more helpless in my life.  My family all rushed in – my sister from Cleveland, my mom from Akron, my dad from where he was working in Nashville, and my local brother.  And they helped me pass the time before we had to report to the hospital.  I had to go give birth to my baby girl, whose heart wasn’t beating anymore.

My doctor told me she could perform the c-section, as planned.  But the whole point of the c-section was to protect the baby.  She would have been at risk – a low one, but a catastrophic one.  And ultimately Justin and I decided not to chance that, even though I had so much anxiety about a second c-section.  But this time, unfortunately, we didn’t have to worry about risking our baby’s life.  She said we could try for a vaginal birth, and she’d watch my uterus very carefully.  And that she didn’t want me to have to recover from a c-section when I needed the time to emotionally heal.  And I realized I needed to be able to hug my son, to carry my son, to be with my son without the physical pain. 

My doctor told me it wasn’t my fault, that sometimes these things happen.  That they would try to find out why but we may never know.

I kept thinking of my cousin’s wife.  She was due with her son a few weeks after Ben.  He died after 40 weeks in utero.  And she had to deliver her dead baby.  At the time, I wondered how she did that.  How do you do that?  And I kissed my own baby a little more that day.  And now I realized she did it because she had no choice.  She did it because she had to. 

I also think, when these things happen, it is so natural to be glad that it isn’t you.  It’s not that you would ever wish that kind of suffering on anyone, but it’s human nature to look at your child and think “Thank God you’re healthy.”  And I realized everyone would hear my news and wonder how I did it and and thank God it wasn’t them.

So on Wednesday evening, Justin, my mom and I reported to the hospital.  They started the Pitocin and gave me morphine – my doctor told me she didn’t want me to feel any pain at all.  And since we didn’t need to worry about protecting the baby, I could have a whole arsenal of narcotics the whole time.

I found it pretty ironic that during this pregnancy, I had to give up the idea of ever having a vaginal birth.  And I told myself many times “it is what it is.”  And then this baby, my sweet baby girl, was somehow giving me that experience that I thought I’d never have.  And now I didn’t want it at all.  I’d give anything to not be in this position.

I managed to sleep a bit more than I thought I would have, and my mom and Justin were able to doze a bit in the chairs next to me.  At 3 am, the nurse asked if I was ready for an epidural, and I looked at them both sleeping, and I asked to wait.  I didn’t want to have to wake them up and ask them to leave the room.  So at 6 am, I said I was ready, and I made my husband kiss me before he left.  I told him, “You know that I know that you love me.  But I’m going to need you to tell me that a lot right now.”
The anesthesiologist came in and he sat down and took my hand and said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”  And I lost it.  It was one of the first times I heard that, and I realized that this is my reality now.  I realized that this is just the beginning.  The night before I had been telling myself, “just get through this.  This will be the toughest thing you ever have to do. “  But perhaps living without my child is the toughest thing I’ll ever have to do.  It actually felt fitting to be having some physical pain to go along with all the pain in my heart.   

He gave me some extra drugs, I can’t even tell you what.  I just wanted to close my eyes for a bit, and that felt like some kind of relief.  My sister and my dad came.  And my dad didn’t know what to say to me.  And I realize that I’m his baby girl and he just wants to take my pain away.  And he can’t.

The contractions started kicking into high gear, and I could feel them but they didn’t really hurt, just felt like uncomfortable pressure.  They broke my water.  And then we just continued to wait.  I had been in labor a long time with Ben and I was fearful this would take all day, fearful that this wasn’t going to end anytime soon.  I just wanted to get the physical part over.  So I was relieved when they told me I was ready.  But my doctor wasn’t there.  So they brought different doctors in.  And I think I actually said “not him” out loud when one doctor walked in – a man who just tells it like it is, who doesn’t do anything to soften the blow. 

But I didn’t have a choice.  Lydie was coming whether I was ready for her or not. Justin stood on my left side, holding my hand.   Lydie’s Aunt Laura next to him, and my mom on my right side, holding my hand.  When they told me to push, I lost it.  I didn’t expect that, but I started screaming.  I’m not sure what.  Something like, “My baby, my baby!  I’m so sorry, my baby!”  I also screamed, “I’m an awful mother!”  I remember that.  In a few pushes, she was out.  They had told me I could hold her right away or they could clean her up first, and initially I wasn’t sure which I wanted.  But in that moment, I just wanted her.  And they handed her to me and I got to hold my sweet baby girl. 
The idiot doctor announced, “It looks like something was wrong with the cord.”

She was perfect, but her umbilical cord was not.

Justin and I sat together holding her and kissing her and crying and telling her how much we love her.  And my doctor finally arrived and sat with us. 

And that’s how we spent our afternoon.  Holding her and kissing her and crying and telling her how much we love her.

She was beautiful – or you could tell she would have been.  I kept holding her hand, which was just so perfect.  The tiniest finger nails.  Five perfect long fingers.  It almost felt like she was holding it back.  I kept staring at that hand all day.  She had these giant feet, these Lammers feet, these flippers feet.  I bet she would have been a great swimmer. 

Eventually, the nurse took her from us and weighed her – 3 lbs, 10 oz, and 18 inches.  Tall girl.  They cleaned her up.

I had almost finished my baby blanket for her.  I hadn’t put the final touches on it.  I thought I had more time.  So my mom finished it literally, right before her delivery.  We kept her in that blanket all day.

We read to her the book Wherever You Go, My Love will Find You with the line, “We wanted you more than you’ll ever know, so we sent love to follow wherever you go.”

That was how we spent our day with our daughter.  November 6, 2014.  We held her and kissed her and told her how much we loved her.   I told her I am sorry ten million times.  Each time, someone jumped in to tell me it’s not my fault.  But she was in my body.  She was supposed to be safer in there.  I was supposed to take care of her.

My doctor understood that it was too hard for us to stay at the hospital and released me to go home.   We knew that going home meant leaving Lydie there and going home to an empty house.  But we also knew that it wouldn’t be an easier to leave her there the next day, or the day after, or the day after that.  How do you walk out of the hospital without your baby?  How do you even begin to walk out of the room? 

I’m here to attest to the fact that you can do things you thought you’d never be able to do, just because you have to.

And I can tell you that the physical pain may be gone but the emotional pain is going to be there forever.

So we spent all day with our beautiful girl, the one we had all these hopes and dreams for.  And it took a long time to say goodbye.  I kept thinking “Just one more look.  Just one more kiss.  Just tell her you love her one more time.” 

A nurse came in and asked Justin and me if she could rock Lydia and sing to her while we left.  At first I thought, Lydie doesn’t even know you!  And then I realized how stupid I am.  Would it be better to just lay her in the bassinet by herself in an empty room?  So this sweet nurse took our baby girl, wrapped in the blanket I made her, and rocked her and kissed her and sang to her.  And when I came over to say goodbye one more time, after I kissed Lydia, she kissed me.  And when Justin told Lydie, “We love you so much,” she responded, “she knows.”  She was a really kind woman.

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