My sweet Olivia. Her birth story is actually the complete opposite of what I thought. Who cares about natural versus epidural versus cesarean as long as you got a baby in the end, right? But I didn't get my baby.
While this post may be painful to read and the pictures may be difficult to see, this isn't for you. I think I need this to help the healing and grief. And so I won't forget a single detail of the last hours spent with my perfect little girl.
It all started with my weekly 38 week appointment on Tuesday, February 4. I was actually 37 weeks and 3 days. I felt surprisingly good. I had experienced sharp low abdomen pains and pelvic pressure the day before, but the doctor said that was to be expected. We had received a bit of freezing rain that morning and more was anticipated. Even though Josh had been up all night with a stomach bug, he drove me to the appointment. We agreed that he could just stay in the car, as he didn't want to get sick in the waiting room. Since it was just a weekly appointment, all they were going to do was check to see if I had progressed, measure my belly, listen to her heart beat and send me on my way.
I walked into the clinic and was informed that they were not opening due to weather until 10am (my appointment was at 8:00). I told them we could reschedule, then a nurse walked up and said Dr. Scott Bailey, a doctor I had met previously but wasn't scheduled to see that day, was there to see anyone who happened to show up. Dr. Bailey ended up being a blessing from God; a man who has an amazing gift of comfort and love.
I waited for a bit, then they called me back. I had gained an additional 2 pounds, making my total weight gain 22 pounds and my blood pressure with 110/62. Right on track. Dr. Bailey walked into my room and greeted me with a smile. I thanked him for seeing me, despite the bad weather. He asked how I was feeling that week and if there were any problems. I, of course, said everything was going fine. He then asked about my thyroid nodule and felt around my throat, saying he knows I'm worried about it but that I am in good hands with the doctors at UAMS. He then measured my belly, but I don't remember him saying the measurements. He then grabbed his Doppler to find her heart beat. He went straight to the spot where we could always hear it. And, silence.
He moved the Doppler around a bit, searching and searching but couldn't pick anything up. I knew something was wrong because, from our very first visit, her heartbeat was always strong and easy to find. He then took me into the next room to do an ultrasound. I could tell he was trying to ease my panic by being calm and confident. I told myself "Josh is going to be so jealous that I got to see her on the ultrasound!" but I also had a pit in the bottom of my stomach.
On the ultrasound screen I easily saw her round head then chest and abdomen. Dr. Bailey scanned back and forth, but within a few seconds that pit grew overwhelming larger. I broke the silence, saying "I don't see much movement." Dr. Bailey replied, "Neither do I sweetheart." He then went to point out her heart, indicating no beat or movement. It was so quiet and still in that room.
He hugged me and then left me alone to send a nurse to go find Josh. I sat there with my hands over my face in utter shock. No tears. Just complete disbelief. Questions raced through my mind: When did I last feel her? What could have happened? What did I do? Wasn't she completely fine less than a week ago?
Josh walked into the room and I could tell he had been sleeping soundly in the car. He had wrinkled sleep spots on his face where he had his hand pressed against it. His expression was one of shock and fear. I had to utter the words, "She has no heartbeat."
Dr. Bailey then moved us to another room where we held each other and sobbed. Deep, sorrowful weeping. The doctor sat down with us, hugged us, and said comforting words. He suspected a knot or tangle in the umbilical cord, stating it happens maybe 1 in 1000 pregnancies. So rare.
And when we were ready, he then gently talked us through the steps of how I would go through with delivery and how recovery would be. He prescribed me a pill which would thin my cervix and start contractions. He told us we could stay at the hospital, or go home and wait. We opted for the latter.
We got home and stood in the kitchen, holding each other and sobbing some more. My mom, dad, and step dad were already on their way. At 10am I took my first pill; I was to take a half dose every 6 hours and if nothing happened by the next morning I could start taking them whole. Until my family arrived, Josh and I sat in silence. For hours it was so quiet. We kept stating the same things over and over: I can't believe it. I just want to feel her kick. This is unfair. I am so mad. How could she be taken away now?
My mom and stepdad finally arrived. More silence. More crying. More holding.
The whole day we just waited, filling our time with mindless tasks. Puzzles. Baking bread. Watching House of Cards. The word was spread to family and friends, and prayers and messages came pouring in. I took another half pill at 4. Then another at 9:30. Josh and I laid down around 10 to close our eyes.
At 11:30 I woke up with low abdomen cramps happening every 4 minutes or so. When I got up, I knew my water had broken. I woke up Josh asking him to get my mom and that we needed to go to the hospital. I took my time taking a shower and packing my bag. We arrived at the ER around 1am. Then made it to a room by 2. I was complete effaced but only dilated 1.5cm.
It took a while, but I finally got an epidural. While I originally planned to go drug free, this was far from the original plan. All I really wanted was to sleep through the whole ordeal. Once the medicine kicked in, I was able to do just that. I feel asleep around 4 am, with Josh right beside me. At 7:30am my sweet nurses Shannon and Anita checked me and said I was completely dilated; that I was ready to have my baby. Josh quickly called my parents who had returned to our house to sleep, thinking it would take at least 5 hours or so to dilate. Luckily the hospital is less than 10 minutes from our house. The staff began prepping me and by the time I was ready to push my mom was walking through the door.
The whole time the room was eerily quiet. Just Anita encouraging me when to push and telling me I was doing it perfectly. I remember trying to use all the techniques I had learned in my pregnancy fitness classes. To breath. To engage certain muscles.
I couldn't feel a thing.
After about 40 minutes, the doctor came in. I pushed a few more times. Sweet Olivia was born asleep at 9 am on Wednesday, February 5, 2014. The cord was tight around her neck. Something that happens so often, yet is rarely fatal.
Josh and I got to love, hold, kiss, dance, and sing to our precious baby girl for 8.5 hours. We dressed her in a sweet sleep gown and cap. And because of a wonderful organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, we were able to take priceless photos of time spent with our angel.
Around 5:30 Josh and I kissed and said goodbye to Olivia, painfully handing her over to our amazing nurses. I don't quite remember leaving the hospital. Between the pain medicine and the overwhelming sorrow I don't remember much after kissing Olivia. I know I got home, crawled into bed, and Josh and I cried ourselves to sleep.
Looking at these pictures give me peace and prove that she was real. That she was our precious little girl, that I am a mommy, and that she was perfect in every way.
I love you Olivia. I my heart aches to hold you and kiss you.