Tuesday morning, I dropped the kids off with a friend and went to the city cemetery office. The woman there was really polite and sympathetic as I chose a burial plot. The cemetery we’re using has an infant section with an angel statue, so I picked a plot near the center right by some benches. And it was relatively easy to think of the purchase as a to-do list item until she printed out the paperwork that showed Tiny Baby’s name on the map of the cemetery.
I sobbed on the way home. The day was hard from there on out.
In the afternoon, I went down to the OB’s office to start the induction process. I cried in the waiting room; a lady sitting near me moved over to ask if I was okay. I said no and kept crying. When I explained what was happening, she cried with me.
Dr. L told me I needed to sign a form that I was voluntarily terminating my pregnancy. Because of the way Utah law is written, Tiny Baby’s birth was considered to be roughly equal to an abortion. After I signed the form and Dr. L went to get the laminaria (fun fact: ultra compressed dried seaweed can be used to prepare for induction of labor), I sat sobbing in the exam room. I kept crying while Dr. L and the nurse inserted the laminaria – it meant things were really happening. I couldn’t undo it, and even if I had decided to wait longer, the outcome would be the same. I’d still lose my baby. Dr. L gave me a prescription for Percocet for the cramping that went with the laminaria and for Cytotec to take during the night. He said not to eat after dinner, since labor always comes with the possibility of throwing up.
Jarom and I got home about the same time and packed up the kids’ things. We took the kids to Krista’s and she fed us dinner – which was delicious and I wish I’d had room to eat more of, as we’ll see later. We even had Oreos and milk before we went to Jarom’s parents’ house. His dad gave us each a blessing in preparation for the ordeal we’d go through the next day. Then we headed back to pick up my prescriptions and get some sleep, since we were told to be at the hospital at 5am.
I wasn’t sure if I could take my ZzzQuil with the Percocet, so I skipped the sleeping medicine. Between that and the level of anxiety/dread I was at . . . I couldn’t sleep. All night. Which was not a great start to the day.
As we were getting ready, Jarom and I decided to put on some shark temporary tattoos that Evan had gotten from my cousin Jennifer. We wanted to keep some reminder of how quirky and fun our life really is.
Once we got to the hospital, it was hard to go up to the labor & delivery ward. I stopped a few times along the way and cried in the hallway just before we got to the nurses’ station. They took us to a room at the far end of the floor, as far as we could be from other patients and at the opposite end as the nursery. As soon as we got into the room we sat down on the couch and sobbed. The nurse was obviously emotional too as she gave me a hospital gown and told me to take as long as I needed to change.
Between then and 7, the only things that happened were: getting stabbed 5 times in an effort to get a single IV in (to provide calories to give me energy, as I wasn’t allowed to eat), and having both my parents and Jarom’s parents arrive.
Eventually they gave me another dose of Cytotec and Dr. W came by to see how things were going. At 10am, he inserted a catheter balloon to force dilation. I started bleeding a lot – Jarom said he was scared he would lose me and Tiny Baby. The doctor had the nurse run and get the anesthesiologist to give me an epidural because he was worried I’d need an emergency C-section. Fortunately, after getting the epidural, the bleeding stopped. Downside: I was now not allowed anything to drink. Around this time, the calorie IV ran out and it took the pharmacy 4 hours to get a new one up. Keep in mind I hadn’t eaten since the night before, I’d lost a bit of blood, and I’d been up for well over 24 hours. Every time I tried to doze, some machine in the room would start beeping or a nurse would come to ask if I needed anything. I was tired, hungry, stressed, emotional, and grouchy.
So I cried, which made my head hurt. It already hurt from the lack of sleep and food, plus the uncomfortable hospital pillow (why didn’t I think to bring my own?!). My dad gave me a head and neck massage that gave me enough relief to take a nap – although it sounds like I only dozed for 15 or 20 minutes. I did wake up feeling much less grouchy, though.
When the nurse checked me around 4pm, she said I was dilated to 4 cm and they could start Pitocin at 5 (there was a required timeframe between the Cytotec and Pitocin to avoid overstimulation of the uterus). I was watching the clock closely and was devastated when she came back at 4:30 to tell me she had miscalculated the timeframe, and I’d actually have to wait until 6 for the Pitocin. By that point we’d been at the hospital for almost 12 hours.
Somewhere in there I was given the green light to have clear liquids again, but after only a few sips I threw up. Lame.
Dr. W came in to talk to us around 6:30 to ask what we wanted to do if there was a problem with the delivery. Of course, under normal circumstances, if the baby isn’t doing well during labor they do a C-section. In my case that would have had increased risks for me as well as the possibility that I’d have to be out completely under and miss everything. Jarom and I decided to just do a vaginal delivery and let things happen how they would, with the exception that any immediate danger to my health would be addressed as needed.
Between then and 7, we had more people arrive at the hospital – the photographer, our bishop and his counselor, and a volunteer bereavement counselor whose infant son died years ago. We didn’t know how much longer labor would last, but wanted to have everyone on hand in case things went quickly.
The absolute worst moment of the day was when the nurse came in to check me and adjust the fetal heartbeat monitor. I’d been told earlier in the day that it was harder to pick up the heartbeat on such a small baby, and the monitor had been readjusted several times already as I shifted around. This time, though, the nurse was moving the monitor all around to try picking up the heartbeat. She called in another nurse to give it a go. Then they got out the Doppler, both of them dancing the instruments over my stomach and feeling my pulse to determine whether they were hearing the baby’s heartbeat or mine. They kept looking at each other solemnly, desperately, and I cried and I cried. We had heard the heartbeat so recently, and we were so close to delivery.
One of them went to call Dr. W. While she was out, the other nurse kept looking for the heartbeat. Suddenly I felt a lot of pressure and told them something was happening. Jarom looked down and said the baby was coming out. The nurse called for help, and the nurse that had gone for Dr. W. barely made it back in to have me push once to get Tiny Baby’s head out. As I did he gave a tiny squeak – Alive! He was born alive!
The doctor came in, the nurses were doing something, I have no idea what was happening during those long seconds when Christian was lying on the bed. Our time was precious and I didn’t understand why no one was doing anything with him. When the nurse asked me if I needed anything, I said, “Yes. I want the baby. Now.” We’d been very specific about wanting to hold him immediately! They quickly wrapped him up in a blanket and gave him to me.
He was tiny. But perfect. My mom ran and got the bishop and his counselor and my dad and father-in-law, and together with them Jarom gave our baby a name (Christian Lawrence Hillery) and a blessing. It was something we really hoped we’d be able to do, and I’m glad we got that chance.
We delayed cord clamping to give Christian some extra oxygen, and I think it made a big difference. Once we were ready Jarom cut the cord, and he and the bereavement counselor washed Christian off. They dressed him in a tiny outfit and hat and gave him back to me. He wrapped his tiny fingers around mine. Christian’s little heart was still beating, so we all took turns holding him – his parents and grandparents. I wanted my parents and in-laws to have that experience, but I also selfishly wanted to keep all of Christian’s time to myself.
We had the nurse check a few times for a heartbeat, which grew more and more faint. But we got almost an hour and a half with him, when our expectation was an hour at most. It was a peaceful hour and a half.
I don’t think I really cried during the actual delivery or when Christian was alive. Once he had passed away, the bereavement counselor did footprints and handprints; I finally got something to eat. After the counselor was done and I had eaten, Jarom and I spent some time alone with Christian. And I bawled. I was so sad to lose him. Everything had gone as well as we could have hoped, given the circumstances, but my baby was still gone. I’d never get to see him grow up, and soon I’d even leave his little body behind, never to hold it again.
So we spent as long as we could with him. Our parents came back in and everyone had as much time as they wanted with Christian. Slowly, I started to feel like I’d be ready to go home soon. The epidural gradually wore off, my body began giving in to exhaustion (both emotional and physical), and I wanted to grieve at home instead of in the hospital.
When we were done, the nurse took Christian, bundled up in his blanket, and I was wheeled downstairs. I cried while Jarom got the car – I was leaving the hospital, leaving my baby behind. And after I got in the car I sobbed. Absolutely heartbroken. There was nothing left I could do, no way to change the past, no new baby to bring home to feed and clothe and grumble about getting up in the night with. It was over.
We came home around 2am to a spotless house. I don’t know how many hours it took, but some dear friends had spent the day cleaning. I gratefully and exhaustedly climbed into my bed and slept until 10.
I woke up feeling . . . okay. The bereavement counselor gave us a beautiful box of mementoes – the hand and footprints, the measuring tape, soap, and lotion they used on Christian, a tiny stuffed animal they took pictures of him with, a lock of his hair, the bracelet he wore, and casts of his feet and hands. We’ll add the outfit he was dressed in as well as the beautiful hand-sewn blanket we wrapped him in.
It was nice to look at the box this morning. And for the most part, today was good. I am so grateful we got to spend time with Christian, that he was born alive and we had family with us. I’m glad he’s part of our family.
But writing this has been hard, feeling again the sting of saying goodbye and of leaving the hospital without him.