See Her Story Part I below.
Today, seven years ago...
I open my eyes to see a nurse putting something on my door. She leaves and I ask my husband what it was. He tells me that its a mourning leaf and that it will let them know before entering the room that there is or will be a death. The contractions are long, hard and painful.
I wake up again and ask what day it is. I can't believe that it's only the 21st. The nurse tells me that I need to push and have the baby. She said I'll only get worse and that the baby hasn't had a heartbeat since yesterday. I ignore her. I wake up again to see my mom, my brother-in-law and my best friend in the room with us. Besides a saline I.V. and antibiotics I don't let them give me anything else. Since I'm not on any pain medication I don't understand why I can't stay awake.
My mom has cold towels on my head and whispers that I'll get through this and I'll be okay. I didn't know there was a question. It was my baby that was in need not me. My husband comes over and everyone else leaves. He tells me that he knows what I'm doing and that it won't work. That she can't be put back and that because of this my infection is getting worse. He said that was why I was slipping in and out of consciousness. He said he was sad too but that he couldn't lose us both. As I drifted back to sleep I thought that he was overreacting and should be more concerned and focused on the baby not on me.
I spoke to people here and there but didn't remember much, until...I overheard the Doctor (not mine, another from our HMO who had the next shift) talking to my husband as I was waking up.
Doctor, "She's getting worse. The antibiotics aren't working as well as we hoped they would."
Husband, "What are you saying?"
Doctor, "I don't think she's going to make it much longer. If she keeps the baby inside I'm afraid you're going to lose them both."
Husband, "I've already spoken to her and she doesn't want to..."
Doctor, "There is one thing. Because she has been going in and out of consciousness you can make the decision for her."
Husband, "I can't make her push."
Doctor, "No, but you can give us permission to sedate her and take the baby. Then she'll at least be able to recover. You don't want to lose them both do you?"
Husband, "Okay get me the paperwork."
Me, "Wait a minute, I'm ready."
I figured that if my baby was going to enter this world alive or not, I wasn't going to be knocked out. I was not missing the birth of my own baby. I wanted to give her more time but the choice was no longer mine. My mom was brought back into the room and I began to push. The Doctor warned me that she had probably died the night before and that I should prepare myself.
My beautiful baby girl was born at 10:10 a.m. She was 21 weeks and six days gestation. She was 9 3/4 inches long and weighed 13 oz. She was breech. She cried. Then she was immediately given to me.
The Doctor explained to me that she was too young to survive. I begged the Doctor to help her. She said that they could stick a tube down her throat to make her breathe a little longer. She said that it would be painful and traumatic and that she had absolutely no chance of survival. I loved this tiny baby and I didn't want to cause her any more suffering. Not if she had NO chance of life. Not after my own body that was supposed to protect her had just betrayed her with this abrupt eviction. I didn't argue.
Two nurses asked for my daughter to clean her up and...NO. I didn't know how long she would be alive. She could take her last breath at any time. They looked to the Doctor for instructions. She told them that they were to "Do whatever I wanted." Turning to me she said, "Keep her as long as you want. Do whatever you want. Call if you need anything." Then she walked out.
The nurses brought me warm blankets for her and cried every time they came in to replace them. From that point on the staff was more supportive than I had ever experienced. Nurses frequently checked on me.
She was perfect. My heart was so filled with love that I was afraid it would burst. I had never experienced this instant complete unconditional love before. I felt very blessed. I knew my baby would die (though my heart secretly hoped they were wrong and she would miraculously live) but I was grateful for this time however short it may be. I was grateful for having experienced pregnancy, giving birth and this love that made me feel at peace. I felt a oneness with her, with God, with the universe. I stared in awe as I cradled her in my arms.
It's now about 1:40 p.m. and I notice that her breathes are slowing. As I continue watching, the seconds between her exhales and inhales seem like hours. At 1:55 p.m. she exhaled for the last time. I waited. I begged. I cried...and still she wouldn't take even one more breath. I cried hysterically. My husband held her and prayed. And cried. He gave her to a nurse. I told her to give her back. I needed to hold her to keep her. I screamed for her. I pleaded and cried. She cried too, apologized and left the room with her. (I feel that I needed/wanted more time with her BUT my husband did what he thought was in my best interest and I understand.)
A nurse came in and asked if they could take pictures of her. I was appalled (inexperienced as I was). How could they photograph a dead baby? Mine? I said no (A decision I have always regretted.) She brought me a heart shaped box. What is this? She explained that it was made for these situations. I opened it to find a tiny (it would have fit her perfectly) dress, booties, a hat and a little blanket. This was beautiful and thoughtful and I still treasure it.
I was forever changed by her. She made me complete. I learned to love unconditionally. To feel intensely. To cry until I'm empty. To control my emotions better. I learned who my real friends were.
That day my heart was more full of love and joy than ever before. That day my heart was broken and crushed like never before. She will forever be a part of me. She is remembered by the people closest to me. I will be with her again in the resurrection.