This is probably the hardest thing I have ever written about. And I pray with all my heart that it remains that way fr the rest of my life. I can’t and I don’t want to try to think of anything harder.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
We all know that our time in this world is finite and whether we are here for one second or a hundred years it is fleeting. Those left behind in the wake of a loved ones passing always wish they had had more time.
This is Lily’s story.
My PCOS meant having a baby was going to be hard work, but after 3 rounds of Serophene (Clomid) we were on a roadtrip across Canada when we discovered that it had worked and we were going to be parents! We called our little baby Widget, and immediately Widget was loved.
Four weeks ago, on Thursday morning, David and I woke up to a living nightmare. I was cramping and bleeding. All signs pointed to a miscarriage at 14weeks 4days. We were devastated! But that day we were handed a miracle: More time.
In the following weeks, my belly grew, symptoms changed, I really felt the glow of motherhood! I even began to feel movement. David and I talked to Widget more and more. And my hands spend more and more time on my belly wrapping our little miracle in the best hug I could give Widget. I continued crocheting the baby blanket I was making to bring our first baby home from the hospital in.
At 17weeks 1day we were given the all clear from the OBGYN we had been referred to. Everything looked good and Widget and I seemed perfectly healthy.
On Monday of this week, our Widget was at 18weeks 1day. I passed some goop, and thought nothing of it, different kinds of goop are a normal part of pregnancy. That day at work, I found myself doubled over with cramps a couple of times. Again, cramping and growing pains are a normal part of pregnancy and they’re usually only a problem if accompanied with blood.
Tuesday there was more goop, and I couldn’t make it through the first two hours of work without constant and painful cramps while standing. I called my midwife and told her what was going on. She said the best place for me to be was at home in bed. She wasn’t too concerned, and she said that if things were not better by the morning, we’d reassess the situation. I used my fetal Doppler to find Widget’s heartbeat and just like always the little monkey made it into a hide and seek game! I loved how stubborn and feisty our little Widget was!
On Wednesday things remained the same. When I wasn’t cramping, I could feel little movements that reassured me that Widget was fine. I called the midwife. We have a midwife team, so sometimes I talk to one and sometimes I talk to the other. On Wednesday I talked to Karen, she is the one we have spent the most time with, but she wasn’t the one I talked to on Monday and Tuesday. Karen made time in her schedule to have me come in for a look at 1:30. When I got there, none of us were overly concerned with what was going on. After doing an internal exam, things changed. My cervix was 2cm dilated and the amniotic sack was bulging through the opening. Karen sent us to the ER. She called for the OBGYN on call to come and meet us there.
At the hospital they rushed to get us seen and in a very short while, David and I were faced with the first of many impossible decisions. I was in labour. Things were progressing. We could opt to put a stitch in to close the opening, keeping the amniotic sack and the baby in. But this procedure was not without risks. First it stood only a 50% chance of working, and in the process they could end up nicking the amniotic sack, and that would be the end. With me having contractions, the stitch could end up not holding and it could potentially end our chances of me having another baby.
No one who worked with us in the ER was very optimistic. And it really didn’t make our decision any easier. My sister met us at the hospital and we discussed our options with her. After what felt like an eternity we decided not to do the stitch because the risks seemed to far outweigh the chances for success. We went home to “wait it out” and see if the labour would stop or continue to progress.
I stayed off my feet in our apartment except when I had to use the washroom. We propped up my legs and bottom to hopefully help gravity stop the progress, even though the contractions continued to progress. Around midnight we decided to get some sleep. We had propped up the end of the bed so that I would still be in an inverted position. At about 2am I was woken up by cramps. We began to time them and they were averaging between 5 and 7 minutes apart. We made the decision to return to the hospital. I did not want to end up having our baby at home.
The contractions were intense and almost unrelenting! I was in agony. Physical, mental and emotional agony. I knew what was happening and I was trying to come to terms with the fact that there was not much anyone would be able to do to stop what was happening. I sobbed. Back at the ER they were quick to get me a bed in the ER, and quick to get me hooked up to an IV. they gave me morphine to dull the physical pain. I was checked in on by doctors including an OBGYN and the decision was made to admit me to the maternity ward. It took hours, but finally I was moved to a private room. They did an ultrasound, and it looked like half the amniotic sack was outside the womb, and half was still snug in the womb with our baby. Heart still beating, baby still moving. We inverted the hospital bed, and tried again to get gravity to help us keep Widget in there. I was now on 100%bed rest, and a liquid diet. They didn’t want to give me hard food for many reasons, including that I might end up needing a DNC to take out the placenta when all was done.
At any time before 24 weeks a baby is born, it is not yet viable. If it is born at such a young age, it is not yet strong enough to survive in our world, and medical technology has not yet reached a point where we can save such a tiny life. Even a baby with a strong heartbeat, kicking away in utero, who is otherwise healthy would not survive the process of birth, and if somehow they did, there would be no way modern medicine could keep it alive. This was our reality.
The days blurred together. The drugs to dull my pain also slowed the labour, but nothing was stopping it’s slow progression to the inevitable. Another ultrasound showed my baby’s tiny feet just outside the safety of my womb. I didn’t need anyone or anything to tell me when more of my precious child followed. I could feel it. We were asked too many times if we wanted them to break the water and force the labour to progress. I knew that breaking the water was ending my child’s life. I knew that while nothing could stop that from happening, I could not actively make the choice to end this life. If my body was not going to keep my baby safe, that was not my choice. I could live with that. My husband was completely on my side in this decision and he totally agreed with my reasoning.
Saturday, November 7th, at about 2am the contractions were intense. They were following a rhythm again. I was sore. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, and I hadn’t slept since Monday night. My sister was by my side while David slept or at least rested. One of us deserved to rest if we could.
I can’t stress enough how much David’s love for both me and our child meant and still means to me. David was my rock throughout all of this agonizing process. He supported me, and held e through my pain, worrying more about my well being and comfort than his own. Barely sleeping, and when he did sleep doing so right beside me on a chair that folded out to a cot that was too short for his body, holding my hand. He wiped away my tears, and tried not to shed his own. I know the pain he felt though, and when his pain did make it’s way to the outside I was only too willing to wipe away his tears. I can’t tell you David’s side of this story, I can only tell you mine. What I can say is that David’s strength, his stamina, his love, his support, his constant presence at the hospital… These things made it all easier to bear.
My legs, hips, back all hurt so much. I needed to get to my feet. It was a struggle, but after quite some time, on very shaky legs, I stood and walked around a bit. It was hard and I tired quickly. After that things started moving forward. It’s all a blur of pain. All the types of pain. Though the closer I got to seeing the face of my child the less physical pain I felt, despite my decision to stop taking the pain meds.
At 6:50am, our precious daughter Lily came into the world. Her soul already gone. She weighed a tiny 6.9 ounces and was a mere 8 inches long. But holding her was holding the weight of the world. She was beautiful, and finally after quite an ordeal she was at peace. She had my mouth and my chin, but from her nose to her eyebrows she was a beautiful, delicate version of her dad.
I held my tiny daughter in my arms for six hours. Keeping her close to my heart while I dozed in exhaustion. Trying to fit a lifetime’s worth of love into such a small window of time. The truth is that no matter how much time I had, I would still want more.
The hardest thing I have ever done was leaving that hospital without my daughter, knowing she will never be in my arms again. I held onto my husband as he helped me take each step. It was cold outside, and overcast. It wasn’t raining, but everything was shining in the wake of a storm that had just passed. I took comfort in that.
I know that time changes grief. I know that we will find a new normal. The tears will still come but over time they will come less. We will miss Lily as we realize the milestones we won’t get to see her reach. Time will change things but nothing can take away our daughter or the impact her short life had on us or our lives.
Now I take comfort in my husband’s arms as we make the arrangements we need to make for our daughter, and we take steps forward in our healing processes. We each get the privilege to be both each other’s strength and each other’s comfort, as we wipe away each other’s tears, and share this journey together.
We will always be Lily’s mom and dad.