This post contains references and descriptions of the loss of my daughter which may be a trigger for my fellow sisters in loss. Please proceed with care for your current state of grief.
They say the day that something life changing happens, you draw a blank when it comes to the details of things that happened outside of that event. I remember having a very foggy and out of it feeling throughout the day of the 16th. I remember not feeling my normally, very active baby move. I remember being concerned but not scared.
When Jeff got home that evening, I remember telling him that I hadn’t felt movement through the day. We tried some juice and a piece of Halloween candy. I sat back and waited. I still didn’t feel scared. I felt like any moment I would feel my baby move.
Around 7p, I called my midwife and talked to her about what was going on. She reassured me and told me to drink a big glass of water and lay quietly on my left side for an hour. It was the longest hour of my life to that point. I lay there alone thinking that any minute I would feel a kick and I could join Jeff and Reeves for Friday movie night. It was the last time I would ever feel comfortable laying in my own bed alone.
After the hour passed, we called back to report I had still not felt the baby. They advised us to come on in and get checked out. We packed the bag we hadn’t had time to pack yet. We packed newborn clothes, diapers, blankets. We packed extra clothes for Reeves and Jeff. We grabbed the infant car seat. We talked about booking a hotel close to the hospital for Reeves and Jeff because it was 34 weeks and we would probably need to stay longer. I started to feel what I thought were contractions. I began to time them.
I felt anxiety and fear throughout my pregnancy. My son Reeves was born 5 1/2 weeks early so it was constantly on my mind that I would have this baby early. Every little pain terrified me. I can remember refusing in the weeks before October 17 to take a shower without Jeff being at home to help me if I fell. I remember crying because I was so afraid.
As we drove to the hospital, I did not feel afraid. We drove along listening the the radio. We saw the lights off the highway of a Friday night football game. We talked about that. I continued to time what I thought were contractions.
I remember walking into the hospital holding hands with Jeff and Reeves. I thought it would be the last time just the three of us. I clearly remember thinking that.
I joked with the lady at the hospital who checked us in. It was blazing hot in her office (she had a small space heater going) and I laughed with her about how much my husband was suffering. They took us upstairs and Reeves rode with me in the wheelchair.
The room was very dark. They gave me a gown to put on. As I laid down, the nurse put the heart rate monitor around my belly. We heard a heartbeat. She left the room.
And we exhaled.
Then they came back. The belt wasn’t right. They adjusted it. It was my heartbeat they were hearing.
They rolled in a portable ultrasound machine. And then another just in case. They brought in a third and another doctor.
This poor man whose name I do not remember was burdened with the task of telling us the baby’s heart was not beating. He was also the one who let us know for the first time that the baby we would soon be saying hello and goodbye to was a little girl.
As we began to adjust our eyes to the harshness of the road that lay before us, they began to talk to us about the decisions that had to be made.
I would have to be induced and deliver my daughter. I could go home if I preferred and come back in the next few days to begin this process. We needed to decide what we would do with her body. We needed to contact a funeral home. Would we like to have an autopsy?
The compassion we were shown by the nurses, doctors and staff of the hospital is something I remember very clearly. They were deeply affected by what was happening to our family. You could see the pain on their faces as they went over each question with us and addressed in detail our concerns. They paused with us as we sat in silence. Their tears flowed as ours did.
They moved us to a larger room so we could spread out and be more comfortable. They brought us a cart filled with snacks and drinks. They hung a beautiful handmade angel on our door so that the staff would know as they entered our room in Labor and Delivery that we were not going to have a living child.
Shortly after midnight, they began the process of inducing labor. I had no need to be hooked up to any machines to monitor me or my baby so I could move freely as I wanted to. I didn’t want to. I just wanted to lay there and try to understand what the hell was going on and why this was happening.
I deleted all the pregnancy apps I had downloaded on my phone. I decided I was never having any more children. I looked at quotes about infant loss. I cried. A lot. I prayed that I would wake up from this nightmare. I wondered what she would look like and how I would feel after I delivered her. I prayed for the strength I would need in the days, weeks, month ahead to care for myself and my family.
I didn’t think a lot about the fact my daughter wasn’t alive inside of me. I thought a lot about the fact that she would be gone soon and the enormous vacancy that would be left behind.
As the sun began to rise, my body still had not gone into labor. It was like even my body just wasn’t ready to let my daughter go.
I cried when our night nurse went home. She was my lifeline.
They increased the dose of the medication to induce my labor and the contractions began to come more quickly. But my cervix would not dilate.
Around 10am they broke my water. I have never felt so violated. If I think about it, I can still feel the instrument they used inside of me. As my water poured out, it felt like my body was weeping just as I was.
I still believed somewhere in my hopeful heart that she would be born alive and crying. We would all marvel at how we thought she was gone and celebrate how this beautiful little girl shocked us all.
It was only a short time later that she was delivered. The silence of the room still haunts me. It simply should not be that way. As they cleaned her up and handed her to me, the shock of what had happened over the last 18 hours finally began to sink in. My daughter, my Madison Reid, was beautiful. She was warm and perfect. There was nothing about her that made her look like she wasn’t living, except that she wasn’t.
Time seemed to stop after that. The staff of the hospital largely left us alone to spend time with Madison. We began to figure out who we needed to let know and how we should do it. We didn’t want to talk to anyone. We couldn’t handle the emotions of others as we could barely handle our own.
We made arrangements for the funeral home to come and pick our daughter up. A funeral home. Even saying it now feels horribly unnatural.
Harder than hearing the news that she was gone, harder than delivering her lifeless body, was trying to decide when we should go home. With every fiber of my being, I just wanted to go home. With every fiber of my being, I didn’t want to leave my daughter behind. I was terrified to give her to someone else to take care of. How was I to be sure the funeral home would come get her, and what if they picked up the wrong little girl?
Being wheeled out of that hospital was one of the saddest moments of the entire experience. When I left the hospital with Reeves, we were beaming as we went out into the world with our new son. I felt as though I was betraying her by leaving her there without me. But we had to go. We had to face the road that lie before us and try to put the pieces of our life back together. We had to create space for her in our family and find ways to remember and honor this little girl whose life, however brief, meant so much to the people who loved her.
I hope that we have made her proud.