Friday, May 06, 2011

Miscarriage at the hospital, WARNING contains details

Roanoke Memorial Hospital, inspired by a nurse a few years back, does something special for parents who are grieving for a lost baby.  They allow you to bond with the baby, treat the baby as important and precious, because it is to you.

After many calls, my uncle Dr. Mike Jones and family friend, Dr. Ross Hanchett, OBGYN, paved the way for me to enter the hospital emergency room expected, and the doctors who would attend me were notified ahead of time of what was going on, so the way was prepared for me to go gently in.  My uncle performed an ultrasound, and then left me in the hands of a doctor who was a great listener, and very respectful of patients' rights, Dr. Heileck.  I was induced to allowed to labor naturally.  I was allowed to be unhooked from the IV, because I was claustrophobic and it really bothered me.  I was treated with kindness, not pity, with respect, not impatience.

Here are the details, for those who want them:

I labored for 10 hours, with my loving mom for support, feeling as though I were going through a form of pains of childbirth.   I was told I could have an epidural, but if you know me, you know I would be very unlikely to take that option.  The pain was hard enough.  It wasn't as hard as having a full term baby, but it was no "cake walk."  We rocked, we sang, we cried, we prayed, we slept, we mourned, we talked and talked and talked.  Mom rubbed my back for what must have seemed like hours.  I went through a kind of transition, and just lay there, too exhausted to move or protest as I was stuck with needles, and bruised because of my weak veins.  The nurses were wonderful, my veins we just tiny and weak.  After 6 attempts and three nurses, a vein catheter was finally secured in one of my hands.  I tried to sleep between cramping pains.

After six hours, I was told I could try to push, because they could not see the cervix as the bag of waters was descending.  I pushed on my hands and knees, and was able to push most of the bag of waters out, but I was unable to finish pushing the part with the baby out, though I tried my hardest.  The doc and nurses encouraged me in squatting with my mom holding me up on one side and a nurse on the other.  I asked for a mirror, and it did help me focus my efforts.  I pushed till I was blue in the face.  But once the bag was out enough, the doc was able to move it out of the way and check my cervix.  It turned out my cervix had only dilated ONE cm.  I was completely disheartened, and felt suddenly so sorry for all those mothers out there who are routinely induced, and don't know that true labor pains are SO much easier to bear than drug induced pains.  I felt like I should be at a 6 or 7 at least, when comparing to the pains of my natural labors.

Only 2 hours later, I lay exhausted and feeling pains ranging from 9-10, but tried focusing on the empty space above me that was not hurting.  As I lay back, unable to fight anymore, I completely surrendered to all of it.  The miscarriage, the pain, the fact that this baby was not going to live... all of it.  The baby finished descending without my knowledge, born inside the bag of waters which remained intact, my total dilation unknown.  I continued to have pain, however, because the placenta was still holding on.

Dr. Heileck was wonderful, patient, and not at all pushy.  He began the work of getting the placenta, which was full of white calcium deposits, gnarled and in pieces, out as quickly as possible, because I would not stop bleeding.  Finally, in agony, I pleaded for him to stop, and asked for pain meds, which had been available all along, but I had wanted to tough it out as long as I could, and he respected that.  But extracting the placenta piece by piece felt like digging into a deep cut with a knife.  He said it may be necessary to sedate me and take me to surgery, but when the pain meds kicked in, he said, "let's just try this for a little while, and see how it goes."  The meds killed the worst of the pain, and I squeezed my mom's hand and a nurse's hand, (who was telling me everything going on every step of the way,) and breathed deeply to manage the rest.  Finally, the ordeal was finished.  I was able to lie back, and rest-- saved from the operating room, and thankful.  I thanked the doctor over and over as I closed my eyes and enjoyed being free of pain.  the Doctor seemed amused that I was thanking him after he'd been digging inside me with pinchers.  I felt emotional completeness, having completed labor, but I did miss my husband who was unable to take off work, due to a death of an employee's father.  

The doc and nurses carefully examined the baby, wrapped his 4.5 inch body in a receiving blanket, handed him to me, and promised he would not be out of my sight unless I gave permission.  I say "he," because between the tiny legs was the first thing I looked at, and was overjoyed that I could see it!  It was a boy, and they encouraged me to name him.  I named him" Luke," the name Kevin and I had agreed on long before, if it were a boy, and they made a "Certificate of Memory" for me.

They left me alone for over an hour to bond, and I drunk him in.  I tried to memorize every teeny tiny finger, every teeny tiny toe, his little perfect ears that were still pinned back to his head, his almond shaped blue eyes, that had not yet finished forming, his little mouth that was also unfinished, opened, and sported teensie little lips.  His round little tummy, and the tiny, gnarled cord, the tiny collar bones and ribs, so perfectly formed, the legs so adorably tucked up in the fetal position, the primitive muscles so easily outlined.  His hands pressed together, with his head resting on them, like he was just a little baby going to sleep.  

I fell in love with this little miracle of life, yet as I looked on, I could see him slipping away.  Each minute he was exposed to air, his body darkened, and lost fluids.  He began to decompose almost immediately, because his skin was not thick enough to prevent it.  Mom and I tried to hold on to each passing moment with him, as he quickly slipped away from us.  The nurse came and asked if we'd like her to take pictures, and I eventually agreed, though I knew the pictures would not capture his true form at the first moments I met him.  They brought me a couple of tiny gowns and asked which I would like to have for him, and I got to choose a crocheted blanket, as a keepsake.  They asked me what I wanted to do with the body, and I said I wanted to take him home.  They gave me a tiny casket, and they gave me literature both religious and non, to help aid the grieving process.  The nurses and aids all called him "Luke" and said he was beautiful, even when his form had changed, and he was not anymore.  Our last nurse gave us a sympathy card, just from her, and they gathered a beautiful white cloth envelope of keepsakes for us, and encouraged us to honor this baby's memory.  Kevin arrived before checkout time, and was only able to see the bare remains of what used to be our baby, but it meant so much to me to have him with me, even for just a little while.  

That night I slept soundly, and cradled all my kids in the bed with me.  The next day, I got up, showered, and set about the plans of what to do with the baby's body.  Through tears and disagreements, saying things we didn't mean, then having to compromise and reconcile, we finally decided on a plan.  

My parents-in-law and we took the tiny casket, a blanket, and some literature and keepsakes, and met my mother at the family cemetery.  My husband and his father dug a little hole directly over my brother Seth's grave, just big enough for the tiny casket.  We sat on a blanket provided by my mother-in-law, and put the casket in the middle, decorated by tiny flowers the children had picked, and the crocheted blanket and some pretty things the hospital had given us provided a lovely centerpiece.  We prayed and sang a song, and thanks to smart phones, we even had the music to go with it.  We sang, "I Know That My Savior Loves Me."  Or at least we listened, and the children sang, and we teared up between the words.  We read the following poem provided by the hospital: (Passed around because we could hardly read it without breaking down.)

In the most beautiful of gardens
Most carefully tended,
There is an occasional rosebud that never opens.
In all respects that rose is like all the others,
But some unseen cause keeps it from blooming.
It wilts and fades away without coming to its radiant unfolding.
What happens in nature's garden occasionally also happens in God's family.
A baby is born,
Beautiful and precious,
But with some unseen, mysterious band sealing
That life so it never comes to its rightful unfolding.
This child, too,
Gradually fades and is gathered back into the God's heavenly garden of souls--
Where all imperfections are made perfect,
Where all injustices are made right,
Where all mysteries will finally be explained,
And where all sorrow will finally be turned to joy.

Haylee Christine Shepherd
May 9, 1997

The feeling was one of comfort and warmth, not hurt or grief.  We all smiled and felt love for one another, and felt the loss, but also the sweetest peace.  Then all of the children took the casket, and together walked it to the grave.  Kaylee and Peter laid it in the ground, and they all threw flowers on it, then each child got to shovel a mound of dirt into the hole, then Kevin and Grandpa finished the rest.  One little perk, was that the baby's casket rested directly on my brother's vault.  
I felt good about it, and did not wail or cry, only shed a few quiet tears every now and then.  

Next we went to the location we're building our house, and planted two apple trees, one to pollinate the other, and will eventually be dedicated to our little Luke, a tiny rosebud in God's garden of souls.  The children got to play with their cousin, and I got to talk to my sister in law, and try to find some kind of normal.  

I felt a much needed closure, and ready to begin a healthy grieving process, and that is what is now going on.  Little by little, I can start to feel the full impact of my loss.  I waffle between apathy and unimaginable hurt.  Of course Kevin is going through his own grief.  He reminded me yesterday that this baby was a part of him too.  I saw him tear up many times, I saw him push through emotions, and I know he is grieving, only quietly, the way a man often does.  

It is not the same as if I had lost a living child, the pain is not constant and shocking, but it is acute, and sometimes shoots through me with such effort that I break down secretly every night, and every morning.  I have not had the courage to go to the basement where all the baby stuff is still sitting.  

Literature I got from the hospital reads, "Don't take my grief away from me."  In order to let others know that grieving is healthy and necessary, and not to always try to comfort or avoid  emotional subjects that could make the grieving person upset.  There are times I want to FEEL something!  Anything!  I want so much to get these feelings OUT!  So many people don't want to listen, because they don't want to see me cry, or cause me pain, or don't want to risk something coming up that they won't know how to handle.  I know, because I've been that person.  But being on this end makes me feel differently.  Now I understand that it's okay to face the issue head on.  It's actually a relief.  

Today I got to talk to another mom who's been through this.  It was reassuring that she could get through it and be okay.  Still, we both teared up as she remembered her experience, and I was honest about mine.  It felt good to tell someone what I'm really going through.  I am finding so much love all around me, I'm so blessed, I hope I can BE that love for others in return.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


Today, at 19 weeks gestation, my unborn child was found to be without a heartbeat.  I am praying for understanding, praying for answers, praying to know God's plan for my family.  I keep thinking of the large pack of newborn diapers we had been given, and the newborn clothes.  All the boxes and bags of supplies we'd saved for this little one...I suppose I will pass them on.

I feel such a variety of feelings, numbness, pain, regret, guilt, and I know more is yet to come.  I will fret about whether or not I will ever have another child.  I will mourn, and I will question why... I will pray, and I will hold my other children tighter, appreciating even more, that the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.  Today I opened a book that came in the mail, and chapter one read, "Remember who your children are."  ...And who they really belong to.

The children didn't cry, but they were sad in their own way.  I could see more hurt on Peter's face than I expected, sometimes he'd crawl up and rock himself in the rocking chair, looking so quietly sad.  Other times he smiled and reminded me of funny things just to see me laugh, his face glowing so brightly.  He told me, "I have good news Mommy!  You don't have to worry, we'll have a new baby, but It's going to take a long time."  Then he drew a couple pictures of me with a baby in my tummy, with a smile on my face.  One of the pictures showed a smiling unborn baby, and one showed just a ball.  He gave them to me, hoping I would take heart, and have hope.

Kaylee wanted to be held a lot, and wanted to be happy and reassured that everything, especially me, would be okay.  But sometimes she hid her face in my arms, and when I told her it was okay to be sad, she wanted to know why everyone wasn't crying.  I felt the strength of prayers.  I told her I did cry, and will cry some more, but I feel Jesus giving me comfort, and I feel God's love so strongly, it's like I'm in His arms.  He is blessing me right now.

Kendon knows nothing, and wouldn't understand if he were told.  But I am comforted each time I nurse him, and I don't think that's terrible to admit.

Right now the dormant baby is in my belly, waiting to be removed.   I can't sleep, I can hardly eat, just waiting for what will inevitably come.  I want to meet my baby with all my heart, to hold him or her in my hands.  I want to have some closure.  I want to know all the details of what the baby went through.  I want to know if it was a boy or a girl.  I want to know what God was thinking by, giving us such an unexpected and joyous gift, then taking it away before we could enjoy it.  I know, I know, we can't understand the mind of God.  We don't know His plan.  But somehow, I still want to.  Some of these questions and desires may be answered and fulfilled, some may not.  I am going to have to be okay with that.

Kevin is taking it like a man, feeling the way men do.  He is doing this his own way, worrying for me, and not allowing any sympathy for himself.  Yet he too has lost his baby.  And of that I am keenly aware.

It may seem brash and uncooth to speak of miscarriage in such detail.  In our society it is not discussed much--it is awkward for our friends and family to deal with.  So many women go through it, and yet we still don't know how to handle it.  We want to make sense of it, and we want to help one another feel better about it, but in the end, we just have to get through it and let time do its work of healing the pain.

I don't feel so different, I don't feel anything much, but the reality still hasn't hit me.  I know it will soon, and I'm bracing myself.