"There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say it is well...
Jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won, He is risen from the dead...
I will rise on eagle's wings, no more sorrow no more pain"
This song is so close to my heart. My heart sings it loud...
This post has taken awhile to write, but for a few days now Zoe's song has been playing through my head over and over. Her second birthday in Heaven has just passed. We celebrated her birthday on August 2 by going down to the river where we held her memorial service and putting many different colours of rose petals in the water. Daddy bought his baby girl the best he could find. We thought there were only two colours in the bag, but as we dug deeper, we came out with more colours. The water has never looked so beautiful to me as it did that night.
As the day went on, I saw scene after scene in my mind. You can read the events of her birth that I wrote out a short while after she was born here:
Zoe's Birth Part 1 and Zoe's Birth Part 2
Right now, I write the scenes in my memories...
Waking up in the morning, heading to the bathroom. There was blood and my womb hurt...my heart sank and hot tears poured down my face. I knew she would be born that day. I wanted to hold her in my arms, but not yet, not in this way. I wanted to see her sweet face, but not this soon. The phone call was made to our doula. She would meet us at the hospital. My mom comes in, tears running down her cheeks as she walks through the front door. We stop to pray together before leaving. It is still not too late God. Never too late for a miracle. The breathe of life breathed into a tiny body restoring what is missing. She gives me a tight squeeze and tells me how much she loves me and this little one. Driving up to the hospital, my stomach was in knots. What would our baby look like? How would the birth feel? I knew that now, not only was there physical pain coming, but there was a raw, searing pain that was present. I could not get away from it. I didn't want them to take my baby from my body. She deserved to be born just the way she was supposed to have been in only a few more months. I was so angry with death. I was so angry for the life of my baby being stolen. I didn't want to think about them taking her away after she was born. Each footstep into the hospital was agonizing. I did it only because I felt I had no choice. I didn't get to have a say in this one. I wanted to turn and run. Talking to the lady at the admitting desk, I hear myself saying that I am there to deliver my baby who passed away a few weeks ago. What? Are those words really coming from my mouth...this can't be real.
We make our way up to Women's Health, the unit where babies are born every day. I cringe inside hoping desperately that there are none in the nursery we have to walk by. We are greeted by coldness. I keep my eyes averted from the window that proudly showcases live babies. I know that without a miracle, my baby will never be joining them there. The nurse seems so cold and so uncaring about what we are there for. I don't know why. The bleeding is getting heavier, there has been no miracle. We are sent to another room to wait. T.V. making useless noise, I have no idea what is on or what it is talking about. The room feels small, too small. It is getting harder to even breathe. I want to leave. My Doula sits beside me, I ask her questions like does she know what the baby will look like when it comes out. She is not sure, but says another doula friend of hers said that the baby's are well preserved in their momma's tummy. As many times before in the last two weeks, I feel again that I am a walking tomb. I feel it now more than any other day, but yet I desperately don't want my time with her to end. At least if she is in my womb she is warm and safe. I am praying, God I can't do this on my own.
The time has come, the Dr is here. We see the him. More questions, do I even know the answer to these? I have to bare myself for him to check me, I am laid open to my very soul as I lay there on the bed. Vulnerable, heart broken, desperate, angry, lost, empty and scared and trusting that my God has me safe in His arms. I don't understand, not at all, but I trust.
When we are done with the Dr. we are told to come back when the bleeding gets worse or once the baby is born. He has been kind. He leaves and there is only more coldness from the one that I thought was supposed to be trained to support me as a patient. A patient about to deliver her dead baby any time. We are told we can go home. The time of birth is unknown. The rest of the day blurs with tears, many more tears than I ever thought I could cry, falling from my red and swollen eyes.
My heart is in agony. How does one "get through" this. What are the "proper ways to grieve"? How do I accept birthing a baby I will never bring home? I don't have a clue! There are no guidelines or instructions for grief. It is what it is, it comes when it wants, it drowns you at times.
The late afternoon approaches, the contractions that have been sporadic all day start to become more regular, they intensify. As I prepare our meal, I stop many times to lean on the counter, rocking through contractions, knowing she is closer to leaving me until I meet her in our Heavenly home. My tears fall soaking sleeves as I pointlessly try to wipe them away. How will I bear this? God, How can I do this? I can't...I just can't. And yet I know I will, because I have to. Because He gives me strength, hope and love. We have finished eating, I could hardly eat a thing. I don't want to eat. I don't want to do anything but change events to keep my little girl growing healthy inside me.
The contractions are stronger and regular, though not as strong as with my other kids...I wonder how close I am to meeting my baby. I have to go to the bathroom. At least I think I do. My kids are laying on my bed watching a show. Oblivious to what was going on as I walk past them and into the bathroom. We had told them in the morning before we left for the hospital that probably today would be our baby's birthday. I didn't want them to worry.
With the urge to push, I can feel my baby's head ready to be delivered. I am scared. Really scared. With bleeding troubles after birth in my previous pregnancies, I didn't know what to expect. We called our doula again. Together we decided that probably by the time she got in to town, the baby would be born so there was no point in her coming. In my heart, I wanted her to come, but didn't want to inconvenience her. It was the wrong choice. I should have had her come in. She wishes she would have just come in. I did too.
We call the hospital. The unkind nurse answers the phone on women's health. She says some of the ugliest words my heart heard that day..."When you come to the hospital, bring the products of conception with you." WHAT??? These "products of conception" as you call them, is MY BABY!!! A BABY! Not just some leftover science experiment. My head is screaming. Tears pouring out. We reached out for help and support and found none from this woman. I am scared. the scenarios play out in my mind. Of course fear brings the worst images to mind.
If we deliver at home and I bleed too much, I could die. If I bleed too much, the ambulance has to come get me. How scary will it be for my kids to see mommy being loaded onto a stretcher to go in an ambulance if it comes to that...I don't want to die with my kids watching T.V. just outside the bathroom door. God please help me to not fear. Help me through this. Hemorrhaging is not something I have any interest in doing again much less having my kids see me in all that blood so we opt for the hospital just in case.
We get to the hospital, we are sent to women's health...would she still be working. I prayed not. As the elevator doors open, my hands holding the pink paper are trembling. I want to throw up. I want to close my eyes and scream. I want to scream until this all goes away and I wake up from this nightmare. I am trying not to move much, breathing carefully so as not to push the baby out while I sit in the wheelchair. The same nurse with coldness is working. She sends us away. "Go to Emerg. You don't belong here." There must be some mistake. Maybe all the rooms are full. A glance down the hall tells me no, they are not. We don't understand why we are being sent away so coldly but we turn around and head back to the elevator. I don't belong here...here is where they deliver babies who will live, who will open their eyes. Babies who will go home with their parents dressed in a cute little outfit and snuggled into a carseat covered with a warm, soft, fuzzy blanket.
We get to Emerg. The doors open and we have to explain yet again why we are there. Inside my head it all sounds like a recording. Words without meaning. We are taken to a room. I climb onto the bed and our baby girl makes her entrance into the world "En Caul" which means her amniotic sac didn't break during birth. This is supposed to be good luck and mean that the baby will live a long happy life. Not this time. Good thing I don't believe in luck. They are having trouble controlling the bleeding again. The placenta will not deliver. Her umbilical cord breaks under the pressure they are putting on it, slight as it was. Fearful looks being shared by the nurses now. The atmosphere in the room changes. Staff are rushing, they keep pulling out chux pads and replacing them underneath me. I feel the warmth as the blood and clots still come. I am scared. Thoughts rushing through my head. What if I die here tonight? I would get to be with my babies in Heaven, but I would leave behind my babies on earth. I can't leave them, not yet. My Zoe is safe, she is loved, she is happy, she is dancing before her Heavenly Father.
If I don't make it, what is Greg going to tell the kids? How will they bear this on top of losing their sister? Will they remember how much I love them? Will they remember my hugs and kisses, my laugh, my mothering? Or will they only remember the sadness of the last few weeks...I don't feel like I said a proper goodbye to them before we came to the hospital because I didn't want them to worry.
So many thoughts. I pray for peace. I pray for comfort. I pray to push all of the worry and scared thoughts away. I pray that I will make it so I can hug them again and tell them just how special they are to me. So much blood again. The smell fills my nostrils and makes me nauseous. Hospital smell...the blood...the smells of that night are forever in my memory. I know He will never leave me nor forsake me. I know I am safe in His arms no matter what the outcome.
I am to be sent for a D&C to stop the bleeding. A stretcher at the door. A transfer to women's health. Then a message again, I am not to go there. She says again that I don't need to be there.
Another jab at an already bleeding and broken heart. Why is she so against me being there? Maybe it is not that, but it sure felt like that in the moments of dealing with so much more.
The placenta delivers and the bleeding slows...D&C averted. Thankfulness, peace, comfort, longing to hold my baby and see her face. It is time. What will she look like? Will she look like her brothers or sisters? Will she just be an individual all unto herself.
I feel a bit of the excitement of a new mom about to gaze on the beauty of and marvel at her newborn child like I have three times before. This mixed with the sorrow of knowing she will not move. She will not cry, she will not open her eyes.
The nurse opens the amniotic sac. "Oh, she is beautiful" the nurse says. "She is so tiny and perfect. Look at her ten little fingers and ten little toes!" I am watching Greg's face to see his reaction to her. I watch his heart melt as he sees this tiny creature, so perfect. I have seen that look 3 other times and my heart knew it well. The look of pride, love, awe and joy all mixed into one on the face of a man becoming a new father. I am glad that he loves her so much too.
The nurse hands her to us. We gaze upon the beauty of our child. She IS perfect. She is beautiful. She is ours. Part me, part her daddy. Hands, fingers, feet and toes so tiny and yet perfectly formed. The hot tears are mixed with smiles, as we are awestruck with the intricacy that God creates in human life. She is warm still. I snuggle her up to my shoulder, close my eyes and just breathe. I don't want this moment to end. I smell her scent, a mama knows this by heart within moments. My heart is torn between wanting to gaze at her memorizing every single detail of her face and being so that I don't forget her and wanting to hold her close to me and not lose a moment. To see a baby not move and be so flaccid is unnerving. It is foreign and seems so wrong, but this moment with her on my shoulder is so very right. She is close to my heart where her memory will forever stay.
I take her away from my shoulder and hand her to her Daddy. He holds her with such tenderness and gentleness, it brings fresh tears to my eyes. He doesn't keep her long, knowing how little time we have with her, I think he wanted me to have as much time as possible. I hold her tiny fingers on mine, and her tiny feet. Never have I seen something so small, yet so perfectly formed. We tell her we love her over and over. I tell her how much her brothers and sisters would have loved to have met her and held her. We sang to her. I want to sing the song that I had sang to her all those weeks in my womb
Psalm 23 (sung by Temple and her husband in this video)
I can't get the words out though. Every time I would try, I fresh tears would come again. I am not supposed to be singing this to her while she lays dead in my arms. This song was supposed to be a blessing of sorts to sing over her while I was in labor and when she was born. The words are still true, the promise remains the same, I just didn't think that the valley of the shadow of death would be so real and relevant.
Our nurse comes in to say she is done her shift and will be leaving. She says again that she is so sorry for our loss. A new nurse is taking over now. The new nurse comes in to introduce herself and see how we are doing. We nod, words won't come. My sweet girl, my little angel...oh how I wish this could be different. The time hands keep moving on the clock, but my world is standing still and spinning around making me dizzy all at the same time. Another half hour passes and the nurse comes in to see if we are ready yet. Ready for what? Oh yes, ready to give you my baby's lifeless body so you can take it to the lab. Ugh...my stomach is turning again. We have discussed autopsy and genetic testing with the Dr. and agreed to it. It seems so wrong to allow it, but she is not in this body anymore and we felt if it could give us some answers for next time, then it was what needed to be done. That didn't make it easy.
We say no, we are not ready. Not yet. A bit more time. Not that it changes anything, but I needed one more moment to try to etch the details into my memory forever. I don't want to forget. How do these tears keep falling? So many, I thought my body would have run out long ago. Another half hour, the nurse is at the door again. Are we ready yet? It is starting to seem like they are trying to hurry us along. Maybe the room is needed. Are we ready? What does ready mean, what does it feel like? I don't have a clue.
We each took turns and held her close to our hearts one last time, whispering I love you's and saying our goodbyes. The nurse is here waiting to take her away. So incredibly hard to hold her little body out to be taken away. It is done.
It is late and now I am sent upstairs to Women's Health for the night. I am utterly and completely exhausted, yet I can't sleep. I lay in bed watching the clock hands move. I hear babies cry and mommies try to comfort. I hear nurses moving about, I hear deafening silence in my room. No baby cries, only my own sobs. A big room, by myself, but it feels like the walls close in. It is again hard to breathe. They ask if I want something to help me sleep. No, I don't, but I take it anyway, just to escape from this night if even just for a little while. I look down at my gown, traces of amniotic fluid still on the shoulder. All I have left of her. No blanket she was in, nothing else to hold, so I hug the pillow tight. Oh God, please hold me. Please make this hurting stop. He tells me He loves me and will carry me through. Then I realize, for Him to make the hurting stop, I have to not love her still. I have to erase all of being her mommy from my memory. I don't want that, so I accept that this hurt and this emptiness in my heart is forever a part of me. Because I love so deeply, I welcome it to be part of my life from now on. In the emptiness and hurt, He is there and His tears fall with mine. His tears are tears of sorrow for me, but tears of joy as He watches her dance in His presence. He watches her twirl and sing and worship. What a beautiful sight. So with that vision in my head, I sleep.
In the morning I wake early, after only a couple of hours of sleep. I get chills up my spine as I hear the cold nurse's voice at my door. She tells the Dr she has no idea about where I delivered.
I just want this to be over so I can go home and be with my family. I am released to go home. She tosses my hospital card onto the bed carelessly. I get dressed and wait for my husband and kids to come get me. I desperately want to pack the gown into my bag and take it home. It may be silly, but it took everything in me to turn and walk out of that room leaving it behind on the bed. All traces of her existence will soon be washed out. I leave empty handed and broken hearted to go home and begin a new "normal" of learning to live with loss all over again. Each time has been individual to itself.
Now it is time to face the phone calls, the people and life. We are not ready, but by His grace we can and we do.