The end of March 2007, my husband and I decided to try for our first child. It didn’t take long.
He pretty much looked at me and I was pregnant. I think it took us a week to conceive. I was grateful for that as some couples take months or years to get pregnant. The stars aligned and sure enough, the home pregnancy test was positive! The subsequent Doctor’s visit confirmed that I was indeed expecting our first child, due January 4th 2008! We shared the news with our immediate families on Mother’s Day but decided to wait to tell the world.
My pregnancy was great. I was only ever mildly nauseated… and usually when I was hungry. I only ever felt ill enough to throw up once in my first trimester and even then when I dropped the laundry basket and ran for the bathroom, the feeling had subsided after a few moments. The day my second trimester started the nausea stopped like turning off a light switch!
At 18 weeks we had a routine ultrasound (my only one) and we saw our beautiful child’s face and hands… saw & heard the heartbeat and watched as our child kicked their feet! The tech asked if we wanted to know the sex… but we decided to let it be a surprise. We left the hospital with beautiful photos of our baby… and decided it was okay to share the news with the world.
The well wishes poured in as our baby continued to grow and started to move and kick. My husband would spend hours talking to our child and waiting, hand on belly, for those amazing strong kicks. This child was active and rolled and kicked constantly. We painted the nursery and bought a crib and change table. I had decided against baby showers until the baby arrived… a decision, later on, I was grateful for.
At around 33 weeks my belly got large really fast (we only noticed this afterwards). The doctors never said anything, only that my baby was right on schedule and everything was fine.
My husband and I started our pre-natal classes in November of 2007. One class a week for four weeks. The afternoon before our third Wednesday evening class, I arrived home from an appointment about 1pm. All of a sudden I felt ill. I was tired and I ached from head to toe. I laid down and slept the entire afternoon waking at 4pm. I felt better after that. When my husband came home I explained how I had felt and we decided I had over done it that morning… we had dinner and went to our pre-natal class. During the class the baby kicked twice at 8pm and 8:30pm. Both times I smiled at my husband and gave him the thumbs up. We both felt better about the situation. (The baby had slowed down movement-wise but everything I read assured me that, that was normal for the third trimester.)
That same evening I woke at 1am with an annoying pain high up in middle / right side of my back. I sat on the edge of the bed and waited for it to subside, thinking I had just slept in the wrong position. It was uncomfortable to seep in ANY position at 34 weeks… I never once thought they were labor pains… labor pains were low and around the front like period cramps… not just under your shoulder blade. I tried to rest, but the annoying pain came and went and was still there. My husband woke and tried to help by rubbing my back…but nothing seemed to help. We decided that I should call Telehealth to get some advice, after reading in my pregnancy book that my symptoms could mean a kidney infection.
I called Telehealth and they came to the conclusion that it could be a kidney infection, but advised me to call the hospital and see what they wanted me to do. By then it was 3am and the pain had gone away. I called the hospital and the OB nurse said they were really busy with two women delivering babies… but if I wanted I could go to the ER. With the pain gone now, a nasty winter storm blowing, and it being 3am… I decided to go back to bed and go see a doctor in the morning.
I woke at 10:30am, my husband already at work. I felt normal, but decided that I would go to the ER and be sure I didn’t have a kidney infection. I had my Dad drop me at the ER while he did some running around. He wanted to stay with me, but I assured him I was fine and he could come back and get me after.
The nurse in triage took my temperature and wrote down my story from the night before. As she was leading me into the ER, I realized that I had not felt the baby move yet today… but I wasn’t worried about it. I mentioned it to her and she said, “they slow down at this stage”.
The doctor came in and examined me. Everything seemed fine. He used a doppler to hear the heartbeat but was having trouble finding it. He thought the baby was in a bad position. He arranged for an ultrasound. When the tech came and got me, for the first time I started to get nervous that something was wrong. I tried to call my husband, but the tech said she couldn’t wait… so I had to go have the ultrasound. …alone.
I never saw the screen during the ultrasound and the tech never said a word. She asked me to wipe my belly off, and wait in the other room, while she got the doctor. I knew in the pit of my stomach that something was terribly wrong. All I could do was pray. I closed my eyes and waited. Then I was taken back to the ER. Along the way I stopped and called my Husband… he was on his way. I waited for the Doctor in the ER…
“When he came into my little room he sat down beside me and said “this is the day I hate my job, we looked and we can’t find a heartbeat.”
When he came into my little room he sat down beside me and said “this is the day I hate my job, we looked and we can’t find a heartbeat… I am terribly sorry.” “Is there someone you want to call?” I just sat there stunned… not at all the way I thought I might have reacted to the news that my unborn child was dead. No screaming… no ugly cry… just tears on my cheeks and silence. I started to shake as the doctor explained that I would be sent to another hospital and induced into labor and I would give birth to my child – stillborn. Then it hit me… I still had to give birth… I wasn’t ready for this. How could I do this??
As the doctor left the room I saw my husband come around the corner into the ER. We locked eyes, and all I could do was shake my head …”no… the baby is gone.” We sat there in that cold sterile room.. tears in our eyes… asking each other HOW… WHY…. HOW? Everything you read about tells you how you are in the clear after the first trimester??? How could our baby be gone?
By 7pm that night I was at the other hospital with my Mom and Husband by my side, having another ultrasound. HOPE ran through me as I scanned the faces of the people in the room who could see the screen. Maybe the first hospital was wrong… that somehow my child was alive. But as the ultrasound tech sighed… and the tears streamed down my Mother’s face, I knew my child was REALLY gone.
We chose to be induced and to deliver that night. The baby was large and not able to help the way they normally do…it was a hard labor… all the pain high up in my back on the right side. By 7am, Friday November 30th 2007, I was pushing… after 2 hours, an episiotomy, and tearing inside & out… silently, my baby was born. I had requested that no one say “it’s a girl, or it’s a boy” I wanted to save that moment for another child. One I would get to take home with me. Quietly they took the baby to the other room, while they cleaned me up. Tears streamed down my face… it took them over an hour to stitch me up… 26 stitches in all. Despite all the physical pain, the hardest part of the birth was the silence when the baby came out… all that work for nothing.
The doctor came in and explained that we had a daughter. She was very large for 35 weeks at 8lbs 110z and 19in long. She was very swollen, and had large water filled blisters on her face and abdomen. The blisters on her face had ruptured during the difficult birth and left behind large red welts on her cheeks where the skin had rubbed away. When they brought her to me I let my Mom hold her first… I just couldn’t do it. I needed to look at her first. Despite how her appearance was described to me, she was perfect. A perfect nose… beautiful round face… she had delicate long fingers with perfect fingernails… When I finally was able to hold her, it was a moment I wasn’t ready for. The emotion of the situation hit me and I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move. All I could think about was that she was so cold… we had taken her from her warm little garden where she grew and was loved and was safe and warm… then it dawned on me, we should call her Eden. Like the Garden of Eden. The only place she ever knew. We all agreed it was a perfect name. After my husband got to hold her and we spent a little more time with her… it was time to let her go. The nurse came.. we kissed her goodbye and as quickly as she had came into my life… she was gone.
They moved me from the labour and delivery wing to, get this, the Mother & baby wing. I still remember being wheeled to my room, passing the doors of the blissful mothers and their babies… Brutal.
“an overwhelming feeling of abandonment hit me… I was leaving my baby behind, in some cold, unfriendly morgue.”
I laid awake that night listening to the cries of the babies around me longing for something to hold in my arms… this just kept getting harder and harder to bear. Little did I know that the hardest part was yet to come. As my husband, my mom and I got into the car and pulled out of the hospital parking lot the next morning … an overwhelming feeling of abandonment hit me… I was leaving my baby behind, in some cold, unfriendly morgue… In my arms, the little package the nurses gave me, which had a lock of Eden’s hair…. her hospital bracelet, the outfit she had been wearing when we held her… some books on grief… the “it’s a girl” card with her stats on it. But that was not enough. I wanted my little girl. My arms were so empty and so was my heart…this was killing me.
My recovery was terribly hard… the physical pain associated with post-child birth, the grief of losing my daughter, coming home to an empty nursery. I was in so much pain from the stitches, I could barely walk, and I was in so much pain in my heart.. it was almost un-bearable! On top of all this I got a bladder infection from the epidural, and a day later my milk came in. Was it ever going to stop…. I cried for what seemed like forever. How much more could I take.
Three days after she was born we buried my daughter in the most private (Only our immediate families) and beautiful winter graveside service I have ever been to. I will always remember how the snow seemed to fall around us in slow-motion… the sight of her tiny coffin covered in pink roses… the crisp cold air in my nose, and the warmth & love of my Husband & family around me….
I couldn’t have made it through that without my Husband and our families. Our home looked like a flower shop, every table top was covered with cards of sympathy. My refrigerator was full of meals dropped off by caring individuals. All I wanted was my baby in my arms and no one could give me that.
Autopsy results 8 months later revealed Eden had, had a slight heart attack and had fluid on her heart and in her abdomen. They don’t know if the fluid came first which caused the heart attack, or vice-versa… we will never know.
We were pregnant again by the next April… and we now have a beautiful two year old son… Miles. He is the joy of our life! We remember Eden everyday.. she is always in my heart, and on my mind.
I am still trying to come to terms with all of this. I don’t think I will ever truly understand why this happened. The one thing that helped me through this was my faith. Not once was I angry. Very sad and disappointed…even depressed for quite a while…. but I knew that God was walking WITH me, crying WITH me. God was holding me up and giving me strength. It was that attitude that kept me going.
Even now, after 4 years, I believe that God sent Eden to me because God knew I was strong enough to give birth to an Angel…. to give her life, no matter how short a time, then to give her back… God knew I was the best person for the job, and I am honored that God chose me. I still have my moments of sadness… I always will. But God is showing me the way as I search for meaning in all of this… I am not sure I will ever know exactly why Eden died, but I see glimpses in the fact that what I went through could someday help someone else. If I can share my story, and help someone else…then Eden lives forever.
Photo credit: adapted from Damian Gadal | Flickr