Mom to Harper Grace
July 8th, 2008
Front Royal, Virginia
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 That is my life verse. A verse I have treasured ever since I became a Christian many years ago. I knew that choosing to accept Jesus as my personal Savior didn’t mean that I would suddenly lead a charmed life, free from heartaches or suffering, but I truly never thought I would have to go through what our family did in 2007-2008.
My husband and I both wanted a large family ~ we consider children to be a blessing and we were very much enjoying seeing the 4 children we had grow up . Our first child was born in 1994 and 3 more children follwed her. Between 1994 and 2007 , I suffered 3 miscarriages, all relatively early in pregnancy and while we mourned the loss of each baby, I was okay.
In 2007 I became pregnant for the 8th time. At my 16 week prenatal checkup the doctor performed an ultrasound and was unable to find a heartbeat. Our baby, a son we named Isaiah, was gone. I had never suffered a miscarriage this far into pregnancy and it really hurt. We planted a beautiful bush in our backyard in his memory. My husband and I both knew that we wanted to try again, our family wasn’t complete. We were blessed with another pregnancy that Fall and I was due the following July. I was guarded with my emotions, afraid to get my hopes up until I got past 16 weeks. My middle daughter was so excited when she found out that this baby was a girl. She was finally going to have a little sister. I adore being pregnant, feeling a new life growing and moving inside is a feeling that is indescribable. My OB was a pretty hands off type of doctor and at the time I really appreciated it since I am not one who is big on lots of testing and medical intervention. All the testing that I had done came back normal and my office visits were normal so I had no reason to think anything was wrong and didn’t mind him being hands off. The only real indication that I had that something was wrong was pretty late in my pregnancy. I remember thinking that the baby hadn’t been moving a whole lot. I drank a big glass of juice and laid down on my side. Nothing really happened and I brushed it off as she must just be sleeping. I got up and went about my day and put it out of my head.
At my 38week checkup the regular nurse was on vacation and the nurse subbing for her asked me about movement. I told her that she seemed to have slowed down in her movements and she must be running out of room. I don’t recall her saying anything to the doctor and when he listened for the heartbeat, he heard it, so I figured everything was fine. My due date was July 9th and my OB offered to “spring” me early since he was going out of town over July 4th. I asked him if there was any medical reason to take the baby early and when he said no, I told him that I would rather the baby stay inside for the full 40 weeks unless it was medically necessary for her to come out. He was a bit rude and said that he had never been refused when offering to deliver a baby early and went ahead and scheduled the c-section for July 8. I remember sitting in his office when he was going over the risks of a c-section and I will never forget him saying to me that there is always the chance that I would need a hysterectomy if I started to bleed and they couldn’t stop it ~ but that it would be okay since I got a baby out of the deal.
The Saturday before we were due to have her, my husband said he should probably put the carseat in my van. I asked him to wait. Looking back now I wonder if I had a gut feeling that a carseat was not the way we would be bringing our daughter home. The morning of July 8 was really pretty ( isn’t that ususally the way it is before something terrible happens). We kissed our children goodbye and said the next time we see them they will have a new sister. We arrived at the hospital and settled in and began to get ready for the c/section. I had delivered 2 of my children here and was familiar with the nurses. We joked around a bit and then started to nervously joke around when they put the monitor around my belly and were not instantly able to find a heartbeat. I could feel the panic beginning to creep into my body. I rememeber the glances the nurses took at one another and the reassuring pats on the arm “don’t worry sweetie, sometimes the baby is in an odd position and it is hard to get the heartbeat ~ let me go get another nurse who is good at locating the heartbeat” I started to silently cry, tears just rolling down my face. I was trying to keep a calm demeanor while inside I was becoming hysterical. The doctor came in and tried to find the heartbeat by using the ultrasound machine. He never said he was sorry or anything even remotely kind. He said very matter a factly that our daughter was gone. I remember watching the monitor and there was my perfectly formed daughter, totally still and silent.
The scream that came out of me was one I am sure woke the patients on the floor. My husband and I held each other and just sobbed. This wasn’t supposed to happen and it definitely was not supposed to happen to us. Why? A question that I still struggle with and one that will not be answered until the day I am reunited with our daughter in Heaven. The next few hours passed in a blur. I was given some extra heavy drugs before my c-section and honestly don’t remember much of it. I do remember the silence in the room when they delivered her.
My husband had to go home and tell our children that their sister had died. My two middle children are the ones that came to the hospital. My oldest doesn’t deal with grief very well and didn’t want to come to the hospital so she stayed home with our 3 year old. We all cried together and they left before I was taken in for my c-section. We decided that we didn’t want them to see Harper. I didn’t want their last memory of their sister to be of holding her lifeless little body. I hope they understand that we were just trying to protect them and not hurt them anymore than they already had been.
Harper Grace entered this world silently on July 8,2008. She weighed 5lbs 9 oz and was 20 inches long. Harper was absolutely perfect ~ adorable little nose, ears and mouth, she had long fingers just like her sisters’. Harper had a nuchal cord x 5 and also a true knot in her cord. The thing that was giving her life also took her life. I prayed that she didn’t suffer. The thought of her being in pain or trouble and I wasn’t able to help her was not something I could stomach. My best friend drove up immediately from Pennsylvania and was there waiting when I came out of surgery. She held Harper and rocked her for a long time. One of our ministers from church came and dedicated Harper and prayed with us. My husband’s dear friend was one of the first people there and stayed with him and prayed with us. My whole world had been turned upside down in less than a day and suddenly I had this peace wash over me. The hurt I felt was deeper and more intense than anything I had ever felt in the past but I was okay. I knew that God had us in the palm of His hand and that He was going to carry us through this journey. I knew that this “plan” was not meant to harm me.
The days / months ahead were long and they were very hard. We leaned heavily on God through it all and our family was blessed beyond belief in so many ways. We were blessed to be able to have the privilege of being chosen to be Harper’s parents and until the day we see her again, we rest in the knowledge that she is in really good hands, those of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ.
You can contact Kristie at KLeach4112@aol.com