Friday, October 15, 2010

Mom to Payton Alexa
January 21st, 2010
Denver, Colorado

My husband, Dustin, and I were married on January 4, 2007. A year later, we were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Tatum. We wanted our two children to be close in age. Therefore,15 months later, we decided to expand our family. My doctor changed my medications and advised us to wait one month before conceiving. Giving myself a shot twice a day in exchange for a healthy baby- no problem.

In the mean time, I began to think of a way to tell Dustin when I did become pregnant. As this was a family affair, it was important to include Tatum. On-line I found a “Big Sister in Training” t-shirt. Perfect. Not knowing how long until I would become pregnant, I ordered a size bigger.

On Memorial Day 2009, (unknown at the time) Payton was conceived. Weeks later, on June 6, I buckled Tatum, still in her pajamas, into her car seat and drove to the drug store to purchase a home pregnancy test. Soon after, I stood in the bathroom in disbelief the test had a 'Plus' sign. The test had to be defective! I buckled Tatum in for a second time and drove to another store. Different store, different test, certainly I would get correct results. Back in the bathroom, the second test read “Pregnant”. This test had to be defective! A third test read “Pregnant”. Oh my!

Still in shock, I some how managed to cook breakfast. Before waking Dustin, I quietly slipped the t-shirt over Tatum’s PJ’s. It wasn’t until after breakfast that he finally noticed. He made a comment about it being a little early to start her training. I answered, “No. She only has about 9 months to train”. Dustin responded, “What? Are you…?”. Yes! According to three pregnancy tests I, We are! We were having another baby! Spud was born! We were ecstatic!

We were so excited to tell our family and friends. That morning my mom was watching Tatum so we decided to tell her using the shirt. When we dropped Tatum off, I made a big deal about not letting Tatum get her new shirt dirty. When we returned my brothers, sister-in-law, and niece were also there. Dustin and I were surprised no one said anything about the shirt. I again made a big deal about Tatum’s new shirt. Finally! (ah, it was so hard not to blurt it out), my mom asked if we were trying to have another baby. We happily told her we weren’t trying, we were having another baby! Once at home, we called or sent a text picture message to everyone else.

Soon after, I developed morning sickness that lasted all day and sciatica. I was in physical pain and couldn’t sleep. I was also moody and irritable; any little thing set me off.

Finally, our eight-week appointment arrived! There on the sonogram screen we got our first look at Spud. Spud looked perfect! We were already madly in love!

At our 12-week appointment we got to hear Spud's heartbeat for the first time. 160 beats per minute. Perfect!

We anxiously awaited our 18-week appointment. We decided to learn Spud’s gender. We sat in the waiting room each making our finally prediction. Dustin was sure Spud was a boy because this pregnancy was so different from the first. I thought we were having another girl. Minutes later the doctor confirmed Spud was developing wonderfully and Spud was a girl. The only thing of concern was that Spud was in the breached position. The perinatologist reassured us it was normal for babies to be breached and 60% of babies turn on their own.

Dustin was disappointed we were having another girl, but overcame it. One night, not long after, he decided since we were having another girl who wouldn’t be a football player, she would at least be named after one. He decided her name would be Payton, after Peyton Hillis. Payton, hum?. Payton is the female version meaning ‘from the warrior’s village’. I thought Payton was cute for a girl and we could continue our tradition of naming our babies after Denver Bronco players. Payton was her name! Although we never told anyone, to everyone else she was Spud.

The pregnancy progressed well. I was considered high-risk because my history of a stroke and high blood pressure and medications. My OB called me the most low maintenance high-risk pregnant woman. Due to the medications the plan was to induce me one week before my due date, Payton would be born on February 8! It was a difficulty pregnancy for me. I continued to have sciatic pain and occasional vomiting. I wasn’t able to sleep. I was irritability! In addition, we added the stress of buying a new home. I craved shrimp scampi and wine. Wine likely because I already had a challenging toddler. I didn’t give into the wine craving. However, I did eat shrimp according to my doctor’s recommendation of no more than two severings per week. Despite it all, Payton continued to develop and grow perfectly.

Throughout the pregnancy, Payton was much calmer in-utero than Tatum ever was. I imagined Payton to be my easygoing, calm child. I would rub my belly and joke that she might be my favorite, as if I could really have a favorite. I knew Payton would be smart. I wondered if she would be studious. I wondered if she would she be serious or witty like her father. I often imagined what Payton and my relationship would be like. I was certain we would be close, enjoying many quiet moments snuggling together. I imagined what Payton and Dustin’s relationship would be like. I was certain Dustin would dote on and spoil Payton as much as he did Tatum. I imagined what Payton and Tatum’s relationship would be like. I was certain Tatum would be an attentive big sister, wanting to help with anything. Payton would look up to her big sister. However, as they grew, Tatum would become competitive. Payton, being the laidback one, would have taken it in stride and let Tatum win an argument or two. Unless that is, they were arguing over clothes or boys then Payton would have stood up for herself.

Dustin mentally prepared for what life would be like raising two beautiful daughters, particularly when they were teenagers 25 months apart. I imagined calling my cousins for advise on mediating arguments between Tatum and Payton. Tatum was excited. She would lift up my shirt to “see mommy baby” and kiss my tummy. Everywhere we went Tatum went on what I called baby hunting, pointing out every baby she saw.

Dustin and I planned our future and talked about “our girls”. We intended on planting a vegetable garden and the four of us working on it together. We planned on watching the girls play together in our new backyard. We envisioned trips to the zoo, museums, and family vacations. We planned to rock both girls while reading bedtime stories.

Everything was going great. With just weeks to spare, we moved into our new house. Dustin painted both girls rooms and set up Payton's crib. At our last perinatology appointment, the sonogram showed Payton had indeed turned and was in the head down position for birth. (This appointment was 12 days before we learned she had died. I often wonder if she got tangled up in the umbilical cord while turning). My biggest fear was eventually I wouldn’t be able to get the girls on the same nap schedule (how stupid was I?!).

Dustin is the only person I have ever told. The Sunday before we lost Payton, I had a moment where I didn’t think I had felt her move in awhile. I thought it was because I had been so busy I just hadn’t noticed, plus she was always calm. I sat down on the couch and soon I felt her move. Oh Good! She is going great! Nothing to worry about (or so I told myself)! Looking back this was the last time I know for certain I felt Payton move.

Later that evening I started having contractions. Over the next few days I became increasing anxious. The contractions were more often but not to the point of needing to go to the hospital. I was anxious Payton was going to come early (at least that was what I told myself). No, I didn’t want her to come early. I wanted her to stay in my womb a little longer to gain the last few pounds. I wanted her to stay in my womb until her room was ready.

The morning of Wednesday, January 20th, I had a contraction strong enough to wake me from sleep. My 36-week appointment was later that afternoon. I was so anxious! Friends tried to reassure me it was normal to have some contractions at this point. Yes, contractions are normal at this point. Deep breaths Elainna, take deep breaths! There is nothing to be concerned about, Payton is doing great. She is moving and getting ready to arrive. Still I dreaded my doctor appointment. I have never dreaded a prenatal appointment before. Looking back, I subconsciously must have known something wasn’t right. At one moment in the day, I was sitting at my desk and had a flash of calling Dustin from the doctor’s office because I was in labor. No not yet! Breathe Elainna! Now, how I wish I had to call Dustin because I was in labor.

The doctor appointment was different, even weird, right from the start. My OB was ready to see me right away. I’ve always had to wait past my appointment time (once or twice over an hour), but not today. My doctor asked how I was doing. “Good. A little anxious because I’ve been having contractions”, I told her. She said it was normal and asked if I had time for a nonstress test. Yes, I had time. She asked me to lye back and lift my shirt. She placed the cold jelly on my stomach and scanned the Doppler. She didn’t immediately hear a heartbeat. For a mila-second I was fearful something was wrong. No Elainna just breathe! I joked that she (Payton) liked to play hide the heartbeat. The doctor said she was going to get the sonogram cart. I thought it was weird she didn’t try the Doppler again.

My doctor scanned the sonogram from bottom to top of my abdomen. On the screen, I immediately saw or didn’t see the beating of the heart. What I saw was blackness where the beating heart should have been. I asked, “why isn’t her heart beating? What does it mean?”. But I already knew. Ironically, my heart was beating faster and I was sobbing. My OB didn’t answer but scanned again. She asked when was the last time I felt the baby move. “I don’t know. I’ve been having a lot of contractions but I’ve felt her move”, I frantically told her. She called in another doctor. Both doctors stood there looking at the screen for what seemed like forever.

No heartbeat. She turned to me and said she was sorry. I cried, “but, I don’t understand. I didn't have any trauma to my abdomen. I didn't fall. I don’t have any bleeding”. My doctor said, “I’m sorry. Sometimes these things happen and we won’t know why until after the birth”. What? Birth? I have to go through childbirth? A scene from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ played in my head, in which a pregnant woman had to give birth to a dead baby after falling in the shower. Oh God no! “But I don’t understand. I didn't have any trauma to my abdomen. I didn't fall. I don’t have any bleeding. Please don’t make me go through delivery. Please tell me there is some other option. C-sect, anything?”, I cried harder. My doctor apologized and said due the risks of c-sections it was not advised. Oh God no!

At this point, she asked where Dustin was. Dustin had been to every prenatal appointment. This was the only appointment he had ever missed with either pregnancy. I called his cell phone but he was in a meeting and unable to answer. The doctor looked on-line for his work phone number while I kept trying to reach him. Minutes (maybe seconds, it felt like hours) later, he called back. Some how I told him the baby didn’t have a heartbeat. He asked what did that mean. It meant she was dead. I was surprised and appalled at how easy the word dead came out of my mouth. He then asked if there was anything that could be done or maybe there had been a mistake. No, she was dead. Dustin rushed over to the clinic.

I waited for Dustin in the doctor’s office rather than the exam room. Once he arrived the doctor and staff gave us time alone. I sat in a chair, Dustin kneeled with his head in my lap. We sat that way; sobbing and holding on to each other for who knows how long. I kept repeating, “I don’t understand. I didn’t have any trauma to my abdomen. I didn’t fall. I don’t have any bleeding”. Dustin kept repeating, “I’m sorry”. Eventually he asked what we had to do. I told him I had to give birth, to give birth to our dead baby.

By now, the clinic was closed. My OB came into the office and gave us our options; go to the hospital now or wait until morning, either way the baby would have to be born vaginally. Dustin and I both agreed that prolonging the inevitable would only make the pain worse; it would not bring back our daughter.

After some time we left the clinic. We drove home to pack some clothes and toiletries. On the way home, we each called our parents to let them know. Dustin arranged for his sister to watch Tatum. We each called our employers to let them know we wouldn’t be in for a while. Each employer said to take as long as needed. I thought, how long was “as long as needed”? When my heart wasn’t broken into pieces? When the world stopped spinning out of control? When I woke from this nightmare? When was “as long as needed”?

When we pulled into the garage, I could barely gain the strength to get out of the car. When I finally did, I walked upstairs to our bedroom. It was there for the first time since learning Payton was no longer alive; I saw my reflection in our dresser mirror. Oh God! How can I look pregnant but the baby inside of me was dead? "Dead baby, dead baby, dead baby", my brain kept screaming. I dropped down onto the bed, unable to stand with the weight of it all. I felt so betrayed by the image staring back at me, so betrayed by my body.

The entire drive to the hospital my mind kept replaying the scene from ‘Gray’s Anatomy’. We arrived at the hospital at 6:30pm. Dustin’s mom was already there waiting. A nurse quickly ushered the three of us into a room off to the back left corner of the ward. I thought, yes quickly get the hysterical woman away so she doesn’t upset anyone else. But really I was thankful not to be near happy women having healthy, alive babies.

Once in the delivery room, the nurse asked if I wanted to get started or wait until the next shift started at 7pm. I was in no rush, this wasn’t a happy birth, so opted to wait. Soon my mom and brother arrived. At some point in the evening, Dustin’s father and his wife arrived. I sat on the couch sobbing and repeated, “I don’t understand. I didn’t have any trauma to my abdomen. I didn’t fall. I don’t have any bleeding”. Those seemed to be the only words I could form.

At some point, I realized we would have to bury our daughter. Cremation never occurred to either Dustin or I. I hate tiny caskets, they creep me out. Yet, here we were having to think about placing our daughter in a creepy casket. Oh, God this cannot be happening.

Not long after the shift changed, our nurse, Erica and Dr. Figgy (my brain immediately thought of Fig Newton cookies. I remember thinking I hope I like her better than I like the cookies) introduced their selves. Dr. Figgy completed another sonogram for confirmation. Dustin looked at the screen praying there had been a mistake. I turned away. I couldn’t look at the screen, in my mind I could still see the image from earlier. The doctor and nurse gave their condolences, this confirming there hadn’t been a mistake.

The doctor and nurse were both sensitive to our situation. Erica was especially wonderful. She explained everything and prepared us. She told us based on how long the baby had been died would determine what she would look like, the cause of death might not be obvious so an autopsy could be done, and we would be able to hold her as long as we wanted. She apologized if she did things that initially upset us but eventually we be glad, like take pictures. As for the autopsy? No! I couldn’t bare the thought of Payton’s tiny body being cut and dismembered. I had already killed my baby now I had to protect her from further injury. No autopsy!

The doctor explained she knew we were in a lot of emotional pain and didn’t want me to feel any physical pain. It was for that reason she didn’t want to start the induction until my blood levels were safe enough to administer the epidural. So, we had to wait. I kept hoping I'd wake from this nightmare.

Dustin called our pastor. Pastor Kim was very quick to arrive. He prayed with us and as he prayed, I felt a warm sensation start at my head and continue down to my feet. God was giving me strength. It was then that I knew I could make it through the delivery.

At around 10pm the epidural was administered. How ironic, throughout both pregnancies I told anyone who would listen I wanted an epidural. Here I was finally getting an epidural but not a baby. Soon after the epidural was given, labor was induced with Pitocin.

About four hours later, unbeknownst to me, my body was ready for delivery. All the family, except Dustin, left the room. I didn’t physically feel a thing. Erica had to tell me when I was having contractions and when to push. I remember at times I wasn’t sure if I was actually pushing or just scrunching up my face. Even though I didn’t feel any physical pain it was a difficult delivery. I heard the doctor tell the nurse the baby was stuck under my pelvic bone. The doctor did a lot of maneuvering to get Payton out. I heard the doctor say the cord was around the baby’s neck. Dustin saw her cut the umbilical cord three times. Then finally, Payton was out. No sounds, no cries, other than Dustin's and mine. Oh God she really was dead. Erica took Payton to clean her, wrapped her in a blanket, and put on a hat. Payton was placed on the table while the doctor tried to get the placenta out. The placenta was also stuck. While I was trying to push out the placenta I stared at Payton. She looked so tiny. Finally, the placenta was out.

The nurse placed Payton in my right arm. I remember feeling awkward because I always hold babies on the opposite side, in my left arm. I was afraid to harm her already fragile body, so I didn’t move her. I thought, of course holding her would be different, it needed to be different because this would be the only time I ever held her and I needed to remember it forever.

I stared down at her tiny body. She looked so peaceful and beautiful. I frantically told the nurse I needed to know if she had hair, at that moment it was so important, but I was afraid to remove the hat. Yes, she had a full head of brown hair.

I was struck by how similar Payton looked compared to Tatum at birth. They could have been twins. Payton and Tatum had the same eye shape, same little nose, same mouth, and same chin. Both had brown hair. They both weighed 4 pounds and 8 ounces and were 18 inches long. I was upset by the similarities. Payton should look different, like her own person she was.

Eventually I handed Payton to Dustin. The two of us sat there with Payton for some time. Everyone else was called back into the room. Dustin placed Payton back on the table. For a moment, I thought, I should ask if anyone else wanted to hold her but a fierce protectiveness washed over me and I couldn’t. I was afraid they would harm her delicate body. Dustin and I were emotionally and physically exhausted. Finally, everyone but Dustin left. Erica took Payton's body to another room to take pictures. As she was leaving I asked her not to take any close up pictures. I wanted to remember Payton as beautiful as she was. I didn't want, years from now, pictures to destroy the image my mind had of my beautiful daughter. 

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