Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mom to Caroline Elizabeth
Born Sleeping October 20th, 2010
Knoxville, Tennessee

I decided that I thought it would be a good thing if I went ahead and told my whole story.  Maybe sharing this will help me; maybe it will help someone else who is questioning God’s involvement in such a tough world.  If nothing else, maybe someone will learn that they are truly not alone.

I had a text book pregnancy, aches and pains where there should be aches and pains, swelling where there should be swelling, “some” weight gain ;), flutters, excitement, elation, nervousness.

I began attending my weekly OB-GYN appointments at 36 weeks, and got good check-ups at each one.  My blood pressure was perfect; her little heartbeat was perfect and strong.  She kicked and moved and LIVED inside my womb.  They would check me each week for changes, and I would only have a little bit more cervical thinning, nothing more.  I tried to have patience for her to get here in God’s time, but I just couldn’t wait to have my sweet girl in my arms.  I finally resolved to know that we’d be waiting for induction day, which was set for October 21.  At my weekly appointment on October 13th, the doctor told me that because of my anatomy, there was a 50/50 chance that I’d have to have a C-Section.  I was disappointed, but had peace that God had me and this baby’s delivery in His hands.  My husband and I continued to pray that God would handle this delivery in His perfect will.  We decided to discuss all of our options with our doctor the day before our induction at our next weekly appointment, but we didn’t make it to that appointment.

We were going about our normal lives on that Tuesday, October 19th.  I was already out of work on maternity leave.  My husband had to work, but was planning on being off starting Wednesday the 20th.  I stayed home and “played house.”  I folded and re-folded her clothes; I did loads of laundry, cleaned like crazy, made to-do lists, and daydreamed of what our lives were going to be like in just 2 short days.

Before my husband got home, I sat on the couch reading and cramming on breastfeeding.  Trying to make sure that I did my best to be the best Mommy I could be for my precious gift.  We ate dinner as soon as my husband got home, and then went upstairs to piddle in the computer/craft room.  We were up there just talking and sharing our evening together, then I saw some lights flicker out of my left eye.  This is something that isn’t just completely out of the ordinary for me since I have migraines and this is normally a sign of one to come.  These light flickers looked a little different though, and there were two of them.  I told Arthur that I thought that I was going to have a migraine, but we just continued to sit and enjoy our evening.  We sat for maybe 2 minutes after me seeing the light flashes and I stood up and said that something was wrong.  I knew that something wasn’t right.  I rushed into my bedroom to drink some of the ice water that I had in there, and laid on my left side, begging to feel some movement, SOMETHING, ANYTHING.  Her Daddy lay right behind me, clinging to my giant tummy just like I was.  We were begging and praying that we’d feel anything at all, but we didn’t.  So he got out his flashlight, and put it to my tummy…one thing that Caroline always responded to, and still nothing.  So we decided it was time to call the doctor.  I called, and got the answering service, since it was 10:30 by this point.  The doctor called me back and advised me to go on to the hospital to labor and delivery.  We rushed to the hospital…the longest 15 minute drive of my entire life.  Her Daddy and I clung to my belly just begging for some movement during that drive, and thought we MIGHT have felt a couple of tiny movements.

When we got there and checked in, the nurse took us into the triage room, and began trying to get a heartbeat on our sweet angel.  My husband stood beside me strong and brave.  I lay there not saying a word, begging God in my mind to just let me know that my little girl was okay.  The nurse tried to find her heartbeat for at least 20 minutes, but there was nothing.  She called the charge nurse, who tried for about 5 minutes, and said that we needed to get the doctor there.  I asked her if my baby was dead, and she told me that she couldn’t know for sure.  I asked her if I should be worried, and she said yes.  With that, I looked at Arthur and told him that I was sorry that our sweet girl was dead.  The nurse asked if she should keep trying to locate her heartbeat, or if I wanted her to just wait for the doctor.  I opted to wait for the doctor.  I knew no more poking, prodding, or listening in agony was going to change the outcome.  When the doctor walked in the door a few minutes later, you could tell that he knew she was already gone.  He got out the ultrasound machine, and confirmed the worst news I’ve ever gotten in my entire life, the worst news we’ve ever gotten in our entire lives.  There was my girl, my beautiful, perfect, promise of a future, still.  Still.  Where her little heart had been so active before, stillness.  I lost all feeling.  All I could do was squeeze my husband’s hand and stare at the ceiling.  I couldn’t believe it.  How could this be true?  My angel baby had been alive just hours ago.  She had kicked me just a little while ago.   SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BORN IN JUST 2 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!  How could she not be alive anymore!?

After some time, I realized we had to begin the horrible work of telling our families.  Thankfully we only had to make those two calls, his parents and mine.  The saddest truth is that everyone was expecting the, “We’re on our way to the hospital…having a baby!!!!!” call.  Gosh, were they in for some tough news.  Her Daddy strongly called his parents, I could barely hear him speak even though he was sitting on the bed with me, “Dad, we lost Caroline.”  I’m not entirely sure what else was said after that, but after a couple of minutes, it was time to notify my parents.  He volunteered to make that call too.  He called and got my mom, “Gwen, we lost baby Caroline.  I’m so sorry.”  Somehow I spoke to her, though I don’t remember anything that was said.  I just knew that they were on their way…

How could such a sweet and precious gift be ripped away from us?  Not just me and her Daddy, but our families.  Our parents wanted their grand daughter.  Our extended families couldn’t wait to get their hands on her!  How could this baby that had been bathed in prayer and cared for with the most love and caution by this excited mom-to-be? I think we all questioned God’s loving kindness.

I was numb.  I didn’t cry (yet).  I looked the doctor in the eye and told him to knock me out and get her out.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care for her, or loved her less…it was that it was just simply too painful to imagine giving birth to my sweetest angel and her not actually being alive.  I couldn’t bear the thought.  The doctor lovingly advised that it just wasn’t what was best for me.  He said that it would be best for me to be induced and have her as naturally as possible, but that I would be allowed to have all the pain medications available and necessary.  My husband wasn’t really interested in me having to go through the actual act of giving birth either, but we resolved together that we had to do what the doctor was telling us.  So they prepared a hospital room for us.  (It turned out to be the very room we had toured months earlier when we were so full of hope for our miracle…the biggest/most private room, at the end of the hall).  They gave me the option to walk or use a wheelchair, I was angry.  “I will walk.”  I said in my most stern voice possible.  So I did.  I walked the saddest walk through Labor and Delivery I ever thought possible.  I passed rooms with pink and blue ribbons and heard the sounds of babies crying.  The sounds I knew I wouldn’t be hearing.  The sounds tore my heart out.  I was jealous.  I was angry.  We made it to the room, and I got into the bed.  The next little while was a blur, we sat in that big and cold hospital room and waited for our parents to get there while the nurse got all of our information into the computer.  We just talked.  We didn’t cry.  We just talked.

Then our parents began getting there.  I heard sobbing in the hall, sobbing that could only come from someone who was feeling intense pain…then it hit me, THAT WAS OUR FAMILY.  It was our family who was losing their minds with grief in the LABOR AND DELIVERY HALLWAY!  It still just seemed so unreal. 

When I saw my parents, I finally began to cry.  Just seeing the looks of devastation on their faces brought home the reality of the situation.  I hated that they were hurting so badly.  I felt like it was my fault that they hurt so badly…I felt like they didn’t deserve to have to be so unhappy.  All I could do was tell my parents and mother-in-law how sorry I was.  How I hated that we’d lost their sweet granddaughter.  I was sorry, just so so sorry.

The next little while was kind of a blur to me because (thankfully) I was given some medication to help me sleep while I progressed with the Pitocin.  My husband and the family were left to their own devices, and I feel a little bad for leaving them hanging, so to speak.   We all just made it through the night and next day the best we could.  We had visitors, the pastor from my parents’ church came, our pastor came, we had prayer, we had tears.  We were all still trying to fully understand what was actually happening to our family.

Throughout the day, I progressed, and more family arrived.  We didn’t actually see any visitors other than immediate family.  The hospital was nice enough to make available one of the birthing suites next door for our family to be together.  So most of the family spent the day in there, just passing the time.  Waiting.

We had to make some difficult decisions during that day…funeral…burial…casket…embalming…etc.  It was mind blowing.  I didn’t ever think we could possibly POSSIBLY ever have to think about such things.  I mean, just a few hours ago, we were having a baby…to come and live with us…a living baby.  Burial outfit!?  What happened to “going home” outfit!?!?!?   My mind was completely blown.  I didn’t have a dress for her to be buried in.  I hadn’t bought her baby dedication dress yet because I was waiting to see when our church was going to schedule the dedication service so I would have the right size outfit.  I cried.  I sobbed because all I had in “teeny weeny new born size” was happy-cuddly onesies and brightly colored outfits…nothing befitting a funeral.   I had no idea what funeral home to use, if we would embalm, would we have an official service, again…all things I couldn’t fathom we’d have to decide.  All of that fell into place; thanks to my wonderful father-in-law…he took care of so much for us.  He came to the house, took care of our dog, and “cleaned.”  He made it so our entire house wasn’t “baby-fied” when we got home…I mean; I still had some of her laundry in with ours… we were HAVING A BABY!

We decided not to have a formal funeral home service; that wasn’t what we wanted.  We opted for a small graveside service, something intimate and sweet.  We were going to ask my husband’s uncle to say a few words, and then we’d say goodbye.

After a couple of hours, one of the nurses came in with a Christening gown, bonnet, and blanket.  They were perfect!  I SOBBED.  They were a gift for our sweet baby girl.  THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL!  I couldn’t believe that someone who didn’t know her or us would be inclined to do something so nice.  I was overwhelmed by the gesture, the generosity, the incredible kindness.  The same nurse that brought the Christening gown, shared that one of her daughters had lost 2 babies herself, and she teared up as she shared her story, she suggested a couple of things that we could/should do with Caroline once she arrived.  She suggested that we let Caroline wear my Mother’s Day necklace and our wedding bands….THEN offered that her other daughter would come and take some pictures for us when Caroline arrived.  Such compassion and generosity surprised us, but we agreed and took her up on her offer.

After a while, I had dilated to 9.  We were just going to have to wait a little bit longer to meet her.  Rose, the nurse from that day was coming back because she wanted to be with me when Caroline came.  Iris, our current nurse was just doing her absolute best to take care of us so well…and they all did.  Finally, it was time.  I was dilated to 10, it was time to push. 

“Breathe real deep, and push as hard as you can.”  That’s what they told me to do…and that’s what I did.  I had Rose holding one leg, Iris holding the other, and my mom, husband, and mother-in-law there cheering me on.  I pushed for about 30 minutes in all, then at 7:27 pm, my beautiful girl was born.  She had her umbilical cord wrapped TIGHTLY around her neck 3 times.  Not 1 time, not 2 times, but 3 times.  I couldn’t believe it.  The doctor had to cut the cord to be able to pull her out, then it was wrapped one time around her abdomen, and then another around her leg.  She apparently never even had a chance.  But then I saw her…I could see her face.  They put her directly on my chest…she was BEAUTIFUL.  I was completely taken aback by her beauty.  She was prettier than I ever imagined a child of mine could be.  She looked like her daddy.  She had her daddy’s eyes, forehead, chin, cheeks, lips, hands, fingernails, toes….she was her daddy’s daughter.  I couldn’t believe how proud I was of her.  I was so proud to be her mommy.  I was PROUD.  We were together as a family.  It was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever experienced.  We just held her and talked to her and loved her.  Caroline Elizabeth weighed 6 pounds and 11 ounces and was 21 inches long.  She was tall like her Daddy too!

We allowed the nurses to clean her up and get all her weights and measurements.  They also got her hand and footprints.  Then we allowed everyone to hold her and talk to her.  Everyone enjoyed just getting to have the opportunity to meet her, love her, and say their goodbyes.  We had our girl for about 4 hours, then we had to give her back.  It was time to let her go.  Iris’s shift was ending and we wanted her to be taken to the nursery by someone who we knew was going to love her like we did, and we trusted Iris. 

Caroline’s life was so brief.  She never even got to have a life outside the womb.  But that little girl changed my life so profoundly.  She is always and forever going to be my first child, my angel baby, and part of our family.  Letting her go was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  I never imagined that life could feel like this.  I never imagined that I could lose a child in such a way.  But here I am, in the middle of one of the biggest valleys a person can walk through…trudging my way through.  I’m getting a lot of help from family and friends, and I’m learning a lot about my relationship with God.  I’m receiving grace from Him, and peace that passes all understanding.  While I have that peace, I do still question sometimes why this had to happen.  How could this really happen?  I will understand how all of these things will work to the good…possibly when I get to heaven with her.

Nicole blogs at
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Anonymous said...

Nicole, your story touched me and hit so close to home for me. I lost my daughter Isabella in May at 37 weeks, the same exact way, right down to having to cut the cord during labor. I also posted a blog on here. My heart is with you, lots of love, hugs and prayers to you, your husband and your family. Our angels are always with us xoxo Ashley

Jessica said...

Nicole - Your story is heartbreaking, yet absolutely beautiful. The tears will not stop flowing from my eyes right now. Thank you for taking the time to share it. I am so sorry for the loss of sweet Caroline.

Anonymous said...

It brings back memories of losing my Jeffrey 20 years ago. One week before I was due. Dont lose faith. I have a healthy happy 18 year old boy now. Take time to heal. My prayers are with you!

Holly said...

So heartbreaking! I know your little Caroline has to be just beautiful.

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