Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Labor and Delivery of my Beautiful Baby

Psalm 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.


The doctor inserted the cervadil, which simply makes your cervix thin out so a baby can come through it. For some people, this alone can trigger labor, although it certainly isn’t the most common outcome. We didn’t think I’d be in that outlier group, and fully expected to be in that hospital for a good long while—at least a day or more—before anything began to happen.

But once again, I was the exception to the rule, and labor kick-started almost immediately! I began to have huge contractions every two minutes, sometimes even closer, but the pain was manageable in my typical “go big or go home” mentality. Because of all the hard work I’d put into the natural childbirth classes, I stubbornly insisted on bearing this pain without medications. I was in labor-mode, not allowing myself to think about the reality of this situation or how emotional it was. By that point, I was still in such a state of shock that I had almost forgotten why we were here. So we marched through the halls, pretending like we were every other happy couple about to have a baby, stopping and hunching over when the contractions came.

Somewhere in all of that pain, my family and Jeff’s mom showed up at the hospital. It was surreal seeing them there under these circumstances. I was very convinced this was a bad dream. I sat down in my bed, and my dad sat in a chair next to me and began to pray for miracles. Nobody knew what else to say or do. For such a normally chatty group, everyone was painfully quiet.

Totally numb, all I could think to say was, “I’m going to become a very bitter and angry person when this is all over.” My mom very quietly but firmly replied that I would not.

But I couldn’t even imagine how I would live past this day, I couldn’t imagine how I would feel when the loss of my daughter finally entirely hit me. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever smile again. I knew I would be forever changed.

Needing to feel useful, my family asked what they could go out and get us—they felt a need to help in some way! I hadn’t felt the urge to cry until that moment, when I replied that I would need my suitcase…because it had Grace’s coming-home outfit in it. Because, she would still need an outfit—to be buried in.

In the evening, the contractions became horrendous, and the nurses begged me to get an epidural. But, I had wanted to keep this one goal of going med-free, this one tiny part of my plan in tact, and refused the epidural again and again.

But eventually, it dawned on me that there was no real reason to avoid pain meds. There would be no reward at the end of this journey, no living healthy baby who would benefit by having no drugs in her innocent little body. Nobody was going to praise me for my pain tolerance; I wasn’t going to get cards of congratulations. When I had conversations with other mothers later, nobody was going to ask me to share my birth story, and I’d never get to brag about the experience of going epidural-free—nobody would want to know about the birth of a dead baby.

And I realized that my fear of epidurals’ risks—becoming paralyzed or even dying because of misplacement of the needle in the spine—were no longer an issue for me. If I died today, I thought, it would be better than having to live the rest of my life without Grace.

“Oh God, why her? Why couldn’t you have taken me? I would have gladly given my life for her! I would have done anything for her! A child should not die before her mother, “my soul cried out to Him. I felt so empty, so worthless.

I finally took the nurse’s suggestion to “stop being a martyr” and got the epidural. (I think everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.) And compared to my emotional pain, I couldn’t even feel the pain of the needle going in. I think I must have been the easiest patient the anesthesiologist had ever encountered. The whole time, though, tears were flowing down my mom’s face and the doctor asked, “Why are you crying?! You should be excited!” I guess the doctor didn’t get the memo.


Unfortunately, instead of making this nightmarish journey more bearable, the epidural only made things worse. What control I had felt with managing my own pain and having something to work through to distract me from this horror, was taken away from me. Not only did I become confined to lying down in a bed because of the epidural and Foley catheter, but I also had more side effects from the epidural than I had ever heard of anyone experiencing before!

First, I began to shake uncontrollably. The shaking was so bad that I had to have my mom and mother-in-law hold down each of my legs because it was using all my energy to try to keep them still. I felt completely out of control of my body and mind– I felt like a mental patient! Then I started to swell. I hadn’t swollen at all during pregnancy, so this was shocking. My feet blew up and turned purple. My face was huge and puffy. My fingers looked and felt like they would burst.

Then I got a fever of 101, so I had to get antibiotics. From there, the drugs continued to multiply. I started to itch—all over—it was unbearable. Everyone kept telling me to sleep, but the itching (on top of having everyone in the room staring at me) made it impossible. I felt like I had bug-bites on literally every millimeter of skin and I was scratching ferociously. So, I got an anti-itch drug in my IV. That didn’t work, so they tried a different one. Now, I had been lying down for some time, not able to sit up because of the epidural, so I got heartburn. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and the stomach acid was eating me alive. So, I got heartburn meds.

As everything became more and more chaotic, nurses were telling me to get some sleep so I could have energy for pushing. They had no idea. In their world, things were moving along smoothly. In my world, everything was crashing down. When I closed my eyes, I kept feeling like my soul was being lifted out of my body. In my mind, I could look down and vividly see my lifeless body lying on the bed below—it was as if I was willing myself to die.

It was then that a song started playing in my head again. It was the same one as earlier, but this time it grew louder. “You made the world and saw that it was good, You sent your only son, for you are good, What a wonderful maker, What a wonderful savior, How majestic your whispers, And how humble your love…” I still didn’t know where it came from. I didn’t know who sang it, and I was shocked that my brain was reciting the words to a song that I thought I didn’t know. And it didn’t stop until we left the hospital. “With a strength like no other, And the heart of a father, How majestic your whispers, What a wonderful God.”

Midway through the night, the nurses decided to speed up the labor even more, so they gave me pitocin. Around that same time, my epidural began to not work. I could feel contractions all through the right side of my body, especially in my leg. I dealt with the pain for an hour, and then got the anesthesiologist to come in and fix the epi’s placement. Another hour went by, and it didn’t work. Well, my nurse was nowhere to be found, and I didn’t want to wake my mom and and mother-in-law who were finally asleep in the cold, hard floor of my room. But I was fully feeling every contraction! Minutes later, my IV machine started sounding its alarm because the epidural medicine bag had completely emptied.

This, of course, is when my body decided to begin its “transition”(a.k.a. the most painful) stage of labor. In horrific pain, I watched the monitors as my contractions would speed up to the highest peak in seconds, last for a good two minutes, with no real breaks in between. I got someone to run out and get my nurse, and they refilled the IV bag. Sadly, after the refill, the epidural STILL wasn’t working, and I was telling everyone around that this was the WORST pain of my life. What infuriated me was that I couldn’t even get up to walk through it; I had to lie there and allow it to torture me! I was dilating quickly, so the anesthesiologist had to run in, and (much to my severe dismay) take out the epidural and completely re-place it.

In all of that pain, I hadn’t even noticed that my water had broken. I looked down to see the soaking wet bed, then stared up at Jeff. I wanted to communicate to him all the disappointment I felt, knowing that instead of having some exciting TV-drama sort of water-breaking moment—out shopping or at church or at dinner with friends—my water had to break like this, under these sad circumstances. This just wasn’t fair.

The nurses told me that I was progressing unusually fast, and that in the future I should prepare myself for speedy labors with my next babies. Minutes later, they checked me and with surprised faces, said I was completely dilated and I could push when I felt ready.


Well, you can never feel “ready” to push out a dead baby. Dread and horror flooded my entire being. So I told myself I’d just hold her in. I simply would not be pushing her out. I couldn’t. I would just hope to wake up from this nightmare, in my own bed at home, and find that my baby was peacefully sleeping and kicking away inside me.

When I felt contractions, I would try to ignore them. Of course, only about seven minutes went by before I could feel the baby coming down, whether I was ready or not. The doctor and nurse came in, Jeff held my left leg and my mom and mother-in-law held the right, and it took only 10 quick pushes to get the baby completely out.

And when she came out, Grace didn’t cry. (I’m so deeply envious of anyone who has ever heard their baby cry.)

This is when the doctor saw the cord wound tightly several times around her long, beautiful little leg. Her source of life—the umbilical cord —had become her cause of death. The doctor handed me Grace, and I began to wail. Loudly.

I can’t even remember the depth of the pain well enough to describe it here, for I’d never experienced anything like it before, and I haven’t even experienced it since. It was by far the saddest moment of my entire life.


I cradled her lifeless body gently in my arms.

Her skin was torn in places and her lips were a dark crimson red, because she’d been in my womb too long without oxygen. It is unbearable for a mother to see her child like that—to think that any part of her child is imperfect, to imagine that Grace had gone through any pain. I wanted to bandage her skin, I wanted to hug her tight enough to warm her up, I wanted to breathe life into her limp body!

But those thoughts are too heavy for any human to bear.

And that’s why God blessed me with a hint of joy. For, she was my BABY and I was a proud MOTHER! I got to hold her! It was something I’d waited my entire life to do! She was a precious, gorgeous, perfect gift and I got to ADMIRE her!

At seven pounds, she was a chubby little girl for being born two weeks before her due date. She didn’t look tiny or fragile—she didn’t even have that “wrinkly old man” face that so many newborns have—she was completely beautifully feminine, with a soft, full face. Even with the feminine features, we could tell she had more Jeff-genes in her appearance than Heather-genes. Like Jeff, her lips were full, her nose was rounded, her earlobes were meaty, and her eyes turned down at the corners. She inherited the look that drew me to Jeff when we were teenagers! She would have gotten away with so much naughtiness with an innocent, adorable face like that!

But her body looked more like me. She was measured at 21 inches long, but we both noticed that when the nurse was measuring her, her little knees were bent, so we’re almost sure she was actually over 22 inches. She would have been tall! Her toes and feet looked exactly like a miniature version of mine, and later when we were home, we measured the footprints on her “death certificate” and they were a good three inches long each. So the ultrasound had been correct in indicating she was going to get the Heather Glasgow bigfoot-ness. Her legs were lanky too, and so were her arms. When everyone held her, we all remarked how heavy and big she felt.

Her coloring—porcelain pale with light blonde hair—was like the both of us. Her eyes were most assuredly blue (since we both have blue eyes, she had 100% genetic chance of getting blue too), but we weren’t able to see them. I tried opening her eyelids, but her eyes had darkened with death—they didn’t look like eyes. And not being able to look into your little girl’s eyes is torture.

I can’t even imagine how wonderful it feels to have your baby look up at you. It almost seems too good an experience for any human being to deserve. That type of blessing isn’t even of this world. It is most certainly a piece of heaven itself.

When I saw Jeffrey hold her, I fell in love with him a million times over. He looked more handsome than ever before, holding his daughter. He was a natural, completely meant for the role of father. He was so loving and gentle, powerful and strong; he looked like he could carry her every burden. He too would have sacrificed anything for her. It tore me apart to think that I couldn’t watch him hold her or parent her ever again.

The Remainder of November 4

Somewhere in the whirlwind of everything going on, the doctor stitched me up (I’d torn from such a fast delivery and big-boned baby) and did all the doctorly things. I let the nurse take Grace to be cleaned, measured and dressed in her beautiful pink coming-home outfit. She cut a lock of Grace’s blonde hair for us to keep, and did her footprints. Meanwhile, I threw up several times (from the drugs, anxiety and sheer shock of the situation), and had to get some anti-nausea meds. The placenta was looked at —it was perfect, Grace’s blood and skin sample were taken for genetic testing—all of which turned out perfectly healthy as well; everything about her was ideal. I couldn’t stop thinking what a healthy little baby she had been. I’d given her the perfect life; her entire existence was such a blissful, happy one.

Everyone there got to hold our precious gift. She was passed around the room, and my tears flowed as I watched my mom, dad, Jeff’s mom, and each of my sisters (except Jennifer, who was regrettably in CA) admire their long-awaited newest family member. At times, I worried that they might be scared or uncomfortable touching a dead person, but they lovingly assured me that they wanted to keep on holding her.

Time stood still as we enjoyed and loved on our little girl.

I wanted to hold her forever. I wanted to cuddle her and sing to her and talk to her. But, we didn’t get enough time. She faded so quickly. Within an hour, she no longer looked like the baby I had just birthed. She turned blue, cold, stiff. We didn’t have time to argue which side of the family she looked more like. We couldn’t stare and look at her from every angle. And pictures just don’t capture it all. I didn’t get to experience the little baby “head smell” that everyone says is so sweet. I didn’t even get to see that cute little pudgy butt that had poked out the top of my belly for the last three weeks of her life. It was the one body part that I totally missed when staring at my baby.

I was desperate to be able to nurture her and breastfeed that little open mouth. I wanted to be mommy to my baby. I wanted to bond with her. There were millions of moments that I didn’t get to share with my baby. Millions. I could sit with you and list forever everything I wanted to experience with her.

Goodbye My Baby

I know that some people will continue to hold their stillborn babies for hours in the hospital, because they can’t bear to part with them, regardless of how quickly the baby’s body fades. With us, though, we knew we would see Grace again. And in Heaven, she would look healthy and beautiful. Boy, I can’t wait!

The nurses knew there was no reason for us to remain in the maternity ward with all the happy new mothers, so they allowed us to check out, little more than 24 hours after arriving.

Our parents and my sisters left the hospital, allowing us time alone in the dimly lit room to have our final moments with Grace as a family of three. No words were spoken, except for “I love you so much, Grace” again and again, and of course our silent prayers to God, pleading for as much strength as He could give us, for we simply could not do this on our own.

We placed her on the baby bed, and I made sure she was tightly bundled in that warm blanket, so her body wouldn’t get hurt when she was moved to the morgue. I knew it didn’t matter now, but as a mom, I still felt the strong instinct to protect her.

My hopes and dreams were all wrapped up in that bundle of blankets, and I would have to leave them all behind at the hospital that day.

We told her goodbye, and held hands as I was wheel chaired out. We silently left the hospital with empty arms.

But in Heaven, Grace’s soul was already in the presence of our Almighty God, experiencing peace and joy beyond human description. She was already among angels, worshiping our Father, her hands raised to Him who knew that it was best to allow her to be taken out of our imperfect world. Together with all the souls in Heaven, she now sings out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

I can’t wait to hold you again, Grace.