Monday, October 4, 2010

Mom to Lucia Paz Yingst
Died December 21st, 2008
Stillborn December 22nd, 2008
Philadelphia, PA

I remember the day I conceived Lucia. It was a warm Spring morning and the breeze blew across my face. We had been trying for a few months, thinking it would be hard to get pregnant. It only took us four months. I was simply ecstatic with this uneventful, lovely pregnancy. I always wanted to have two daughters, so when we chose Beatrice's name, we also chose Lucia's name as well. We were also incredibly excited to find out she was due on my birthday, January 4th. I had predicted many months ago, that my second daughter would be born on winter solstice. My first daughter was born at 37 weeks, and I assumed this baby would be a little early too. 

On December 21, 2008, a Sunday, there was something about the lack of movement that was disturbing me. Had it been one day or two? Did I feel her yesterday? I couldn’t remember. Chasing my 20-month old meant that I seldom pay attention to movement during the day. I had attended a baby shower earlier, and thought I felt some shifting, but honestly, that seems all I have felt for Saturday and Sunday—shifting. Her bum would suddenly be hard and in front. And so many people told me that it was simply that she was running out of space. I was 38 weeks. I kept justifying all these different reasons for not feeling her kicks, but the truth is Friday, I know she was wiggling, and Thursday, I was in the hospital being monitored for what was a slightly elevated blood pressure during a routine midwife appointment. She passed the non-stress test in 20 minutes and my bp dropped right away. Her heartbeat was beautifully loud in the little room.

Sunday evening, after I sat for a while, I began prodding her, moving her head, trying to get a reaction from her, but her body felt limp in my belly. I searched my belly for a heartbeat with a stethoscope. Nothing. My husband told me that it is difficult with the stethoscope to hear the heartbeat. I called the midwife. She told me to come to the hospital to be monitored. In my mind, I kept thinking that I was going to look like a fool to come in and be monitored for my healthy baby. But still, something nagged in me, until it broke into a fast run of anxiety. I was just so anxious at this point, so nervous of that which could not be spoken. I asked my husband Sam so many times, “Is she okay, Sam? She is going to be okay, right?” And he tried to remain optimistic, but I think we were both scared in the same way. We didn’t want to speak of what could be.

To say this was completely off of my radar is an understatement. I had prepared myself for the most horrible possibility of, say, having to have a c-section, rather than natural childbirth, but the idea that she could possibly die had never even entered my consciousness. We sat in PETU waiting for the nurse to come check her heart rate. When she came, she searched and searched. And I began to cry. She said, “Ah, honey, sometimes I can’t find the heartbeat, let me get the ultrasound tech.” The team came in, and when there were three, and my midwife, I think it began to hit me that something was really wrong. The tech and the doctors introduced themselves. They started. “Here is her head.” And I saw her head, and then the screen panned down to her little ribs. Nothing.

“There is no heartbeat,” I said it first, I think. And the doctor said those words that I never wanted to hear, “That's right. Your little girl has passed away.”

I held onto my husband and we wept and wept. There was something about that moment that was so incredibly primal. I remember thinking that I will now always be that woman whose daughter died. It is strange what goes through your mind in those moments. After a minute, I asked all those questions, “Why? How?” And then they began saying that it is nothing I could have prevented or done. It was not my fault. And that I may never know what killed my daughter. Then, they explained I had to be induced. I had to bring her into this cruel world. “Can’t you just do a C-Section and take her out?” Birth seemed so unbelievably cruel. The midwife explained that then I have to recover from major surgery. I had to deliver her vaginally.

I was terrified of this process and terrified to eventually see her. Everyone left us to talk about our options, which were really to be induced, naturally or with epidural. They transferred us to the labor and delivery area. The nurse came in alone after the doctors and midwife left, and gave me a huge hug. “Ah, honey.” And I cried on her shoulder. There is no measure of time, or space, during these times. I could have been in that room for three seconds or three hours. It was the same.

I decided to have an epidural with Lucia. My husband said he couldn’t bear to see me in physical pain on top of everything else. I wanted to be home with Beatrice. I wanted to erase the last 72 hours, and go back to the time when I know she was alive and ask them to induce me then. I wanted to erase the pain. And yet, there was part of me that wanted the pain. I wanted to physically be tortured, for that is what I felt inside. Tortured. I looked at my gigantic, 38-week pregnant belly. Torture. I still felt pregnant. I still was pregnant. My womb was now a coffin for my little girl. Every so often, I would feel what felt like the baby shifting, and think, “They are wrong. They are wrong.” But I would just cry. They don’t get that wrong.

I think I have completely blocked the phone call to my family. I am grateful to not be emotionally strong enough to remember that pain. I do know that I kept saying to them how sorry I was. I often said the safest place for Lucia was in my belly. But then, the worst thing that could happen, happened in my belly.

They put Cervadil in over night, and when I was ripened, as they said, they would begin with Pitocin in the morning. Ripened. I kept thinking about that word. “Get some sleep,” my midwife said. It was the darkest, longest night of my life. It was winter solstice. I drifted off for a couple of hours, expecting to wake sweating in my own bed, but I woke in the hospital again. My twin sister came in the morning to attend Lucia’s birth. My mother stayed with Beatrice. I didn’t want my daughter there to see me in such a black place. As I reflect on that day, I wish Beatrice would have gotten to meet her sister and my mother would have met her granddaughter, but it was the best decision for me at the time. I was in too much turmoil and couldn’t bear not being strong for Beatrice.

In the morning, I met the nurse, Debbie, who would comfort us throughout the day. She told us she could perform a blessing for Lucia when she was born as she was a Unitarian lay minister, and she was an incredible source of serenity and peace throughout the day. Both the nurse and the midwife were, actually, they seemed to know exactly when to give us space, and when to say some words of healing love.

They gave me Pitocin in the morning. I could feel some pain, but I still didn’t believe I would be able to birth Lucia. I spent the day laboring and crying. There was so much of the unknown in this birth. Debbie asked us if we wanted to hold Lucia, to see her. There were so many questions we were asked that afternoon which I simply was not prepared to answer. What were we going to do with the remains? Have her buried privately and hold a funeral? Were we going to have her cremated and added to a mass grave? Did we want a chaplain to come? Did we want her baptized?

I asked about arranging for a private cremation, so we could keep her ashes. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them, but I knew I didn’t want her added to a mass grave of lost babies. I worked out the details and surprised myself by being able to make arrangements for my daughter before I birthed her. Despite my fears, around five, I knew I was dully dilated, because I wanted to birth Lucia. I wanted her to come out. So I asked my sister to pull out my Meditating Mama—a statue I made of a pregnant woman meditating. It was to be my birthing focus point, and I made her when I was about 24 weeks along. Molded out of deep red Mexican clay, she was cross-legged with hands encircling belly. I could barely look at my statue which once meant potential, beauty, calmness. Megan and Debbie pull up chairs and sat peacefully. They didn’t sit below me to catch Lucia, or involve themselves in this process. Lucia was gone. There was nothing to protect her from now.

I suddenly felt I needed to have a beautiful birth with Lucia if this was to be my only time with her. I took some deep breaths, in through my nose, out through my mouth. My eyes searched for my Meditating Mama. And I stared at her belly, full of life. I imagined opening, and pushing Lucia through me, into the light. I waited to use the next contraction to help me. I suddenly felt strong and empowered. I was going to do this the way I imagined with intention, gently and easily.

I was composed, pushing with deliberate intention, and complete control. It didn’t take many pushes, and she came out. Peacefully. Gently. No tears. No soreness. She just came. Simply. There was no longer any fear. I put my arms out to her. I didn’t care what she looked like anymore. I didn’t care about any of those fears. I just wanted her. And she was beautiful. Her hair was black like mine, and her lips were perfectly mine too. And red, so red. At the time, I just thought it was magic how red her lips were, how simply feminine and pretty she was. Now, I suppose I realize it was because she died upside down in my belly and the blood settled in her lips. But still, at the time, I just kept kissing them. Those red perfect lips. I held her to me, and just said over and over, “My sweet girl.” I cried so much I soaked her. I kissed her nose. I lifted her eyelids, and the blues had no life. But her eyelids had peeled a bit and were a deep purple. As I sat with her, I felt the injustice over and over again like waves. What a life she would have led, my beautiful daughter. We held her for a few hours between the three of us. Debbie washed her, and her skin was peeling. She had been dead since Saturday, or Friday night.

Debbie performed a beautiful blessing for us as we held hands and surrounded Lucia with love. We held hands and talked about all of those people who would miss Lucy. We named each of them. So many names I could have continued for hours of all the people that would miss our girl, and name all the things we will miss. As I held her, I called Debbie over and asked her if she could donate my Meditating Mama to the hospital’s Birthing Suites. I couldn’t look at her again, and maybe another mama can birth life into this world with her.

When the evening nurse took Lucia for photographs, I knew I didn’t want to see her again. But my husband asked for her back. He held her for a while, and I peeked over at her. She was deteriorating, and I was disturbed to see her body wearing away. But it was also important for me. She was dead, and I needed to see her that way. I couldn’t keep carrying her with me, or in me. I had to let her go and carry the memory of our short time together. In a twenty-four hour period, I had experienced an entire lifetime with my daughter. I birthed her, was angry, loved her more than the sun, kissed her, held her, cried on her, and cremated her.

I woke up the next day in my own bed, next to my husband. I couldn’t remember if the birth and Lucia’s death was a dream, or my entire pregnancy was. We opted to test for every possible offered test for Lucy to find out why she died, and they couldn't find any reason for her death. She died and we are so incredibly heartbroken still.

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Kristin said...

You are amazing. And this is incredibly beautiful <3

HereWeGoAJen said...

This is a beautiful story, Angie. I think of your Lucy every day.

Mary Beth said...

Your story is incredibly similar to mine. I also lost my daughter at 38 weeks - but more recently, Aug if this year. I had also been busy chasing my older daughter and working full time that I had lost track of kicks. It wouldn't have mattered though. We still don't know why she died and like you, I have a feeling we never will. I'm so sorry you lost Lucia but i appreciate your sharing your story. We are all united in this terrible grief but it is so comforting to know we're not alone.

T said...

Love to you Angie - always remembering sweet Lucy....xoxo

skytimes said...

Angie, thanks for sharing Lucy with us again. I might have cried reading your story before, I cried today and I will most likely cry again sometime in the future.

This sentence touched me deeply...
"In a twenty-four hour period, I had experienced an entire lifetime with my daughter. I birthed her, was angry, loved her more than the sun, kissed her, held her, cried on her, and cremated her."

Love to you... xoxo

Jeanette said...

Thank you for sharing your story Angie.There is such grace here. x

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