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.

Labor

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.

Chaos


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.

Delivery

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.

Beauty


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.
















23 comments:

bcschjenk said...

Blessings to you and your family during this time. Your testimony is so powerful and your words penetrated my heart to its core. Thank you, again for sharing such an intimate time in your life.

Jeremy and Mindy said...

Heather......
I'm bawling sweetie. I don't know what to say. It doesn't matter how long it has been or hasn't been or how often I read this or merely think about you and Grace my heart breaks. Every.single.time.
I love you girl. I am blessed to have known you and be mommies together.
{{{hugs}}}

Connie said...

Heather, first let me say how powerful a witness you are. I know your heart must break every day. It was hard for me to finish Grace's story. You want there to be more. You are not ready for it to be done. But as you said, it is not, she is with our Lord. you have your own angel watching out for you always. Love to you and Jeff over the next few days and weeks and always. God's Grace will change our lives forever....Love, Mrs Fulmer

Sarah Schneider said...

oh Heather, your family's story is so inspiring.
I cant imagine at all, but you like your daughter's name are so graceful in the way you display yall's story.
I think of you often and pray for you.
Thank you for sharing your heart and life with us, the rawness and reality of it all.

tea_time said...

Heather such a painfully poignant and beautiful description of Grace's birth. Thank you for being vulnerable and transparent. Grace will be remembered. Grace continues to be loved, as are you.

Anne Gill

sarahmarie0730 said...

Thanks for sharing the story of Grace with us. I think of you often and am sending many hugs your way. Grace was a very lucky girl to have you as her mommy. Take care hon. xoxo

heathergyoung said...

Brenna, thank you for being such a loyal reader. I know it takes a lot of time to read this stuff, and takes a lot of thought and emotion to write a reply. You're incredibly sweet.

Mindy, I cried when I read your comment. I enjoyed being a first-time mommy at the same time as you. It's amazing how much an online friendship can change your life.

Connie, thank you for reading and sharing your heart with me. I do plan to write more, about Grace's funeral, and about mourning her, and hopefully about her future sisters and brothers! So, the story doesn't end.

Sarah S., thank you so much for praying for us. I don't know if there is any gift a friend can give that is better than earnest prayers. Thanks for being a sister in Christ.

Anne, you are an awesome friend. I was just telling some people this weekend about you and your thoughtfulness. I'm thankful for your emails, gifts, everything. I just packed up the box of things you sent for Grace yesterday. I hope to use them for our future children!

Sarah Marie, thank you for being a faithful reader and friend. I know this takes a sacrifice of time and emotional energy to read. I'm so thankful for your sweet comment and for showing you care.

Kim said...

Heather,

Rejoice in the Lord always...let your gentleness be evident to all...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus. Your obedience to this scripture, Yeti's obedience glows forth from both of you. The peace of God has blessed you with Grace & grace when others would have become bitter & defeated. Thank you for sharing something that is so full of life, so private & precious, and ends so bittersweet. Grace was named so perfectly b/c that is what you & Jeff have shown all of us through her life & death. May you blessed with Gods grace as the week of Nov. 4th approaches & those heartstrings tug even tighter. You are loved & lifted by many. May Grace & my precious Daddy be singing praises side by side.

kat said...

heather,
thank you. i can't say enough how much i admire you. you are inspirational; so strong & courageous & completely authentic. thank you for shining for Christ. i hope i get to meet you in person one day but if not, i know we are sisters in Christ. :)
i love heather; you & your husband are in my prayers.
-kat

Samantha said...

Heather, you don't know me, but we have a few mutual friends. Your story has been such an inspiration to me and a reminder of how precious life is. You are an incredibly strong woman and a role model to me. I cannot wait for you to post the good news that you are expecting Grace's brother or sister.

Anonymous said...

Heather,

I think about you and your beautiful Grace all of the time. You and Jeffery fill my prayers. I know these days are probably so hard for you right now, I can't even begin to imagine... Do whatever you can to get through this tough time I hope that the support of friends and family provide you with some comfort.

I'm thinking of you,
Karly

Molly Whitmore said...

Heather you are such a beautiful person to share your story with us. I am honored to have worked with you and I continually pray for you and your family - your story of Grace has touched so many, me included...I will continue to pray for healing and a beautiful healthy baby in your future.

Our Journey, so far... said...

Thank you Heather for sharing your story. My husband and I have miscarried our only baby together and He had a stillborn daughter from his previous marriage. My heart breaks for you. I do rejoice in the Glory of God that shines through you, your family, and especially your sweet little Grace. Know that God is holding you with his righteous right hand (Is 41:10). Shelley

Kim said...

Heather - just wanted to thank you for sharing your story and that I am thinking of you so much, today especially. I wish you so many good things and hope that the Lord blesses you and Jeffrey with a child soon! Kim (aka kandb2005 from LJ)

Hannah said...

Thank you so much for writing this. Thank you Lord for gifting Heather with the ability to write so meticulously and powerfully. Grace's testimony is so beautiful and striking, it will spread far and wide. She was so cute and adorable and beautiful and I just can't wait to see her again. I use to think heaven was a place where we'd all have our own mansions but Jesus says that its a big house with many rooms. I like that better! Grace and I will get along well with her love of worship music and dancing:)
Happy Birthday Grace

Love, Hannah

Jacob E said...

Hey Heather,

I've been praying for you and Jeff today. I'm so happy you wrote these past four blogs. It's so inspiring to see your faithfulness in the midst of God's faithfulness. The fact that you are doing just as He would want you to--sharing your testimony to bring others and yourself closer to Him. I know it definitely wasn't easy but you have blessed me so much by writing this. The blog evokes so much courage and strength in the middle of unmatched pain. It pierces so deep. I look up to you and Jeff so much, Heather. Ahh if only I had words; the one that keeps coming to mind is inspiration and encouragement. You both inspire and encourage me so much! How your faith and trust in God was strengthened by Grace and how you continue to pursue after Him. It's amazing to sit back and think about all that God has done through Grace and the hundreds of people who have been humbled and even saved as a result. I love you and Jeff

-Jake

Jennifer Glasgow said...

Heather,

Thanks for writing this. It was so heart wrenching and heart moving at the same time. WOW, Grace has a great mom to honor her the way you have...tuly the best mom. I am sad I didn't get to meet Grace but I am excited that I will meet her in heaven one day. What a perfect day that will be! Love you sister!

Happy Birthday Grace! Love you

Rachael Glasgow said...

Heather,

I love you, and I am so proud of having you as my oldest sister of being such a great example of sharing the glory of the Lord. Its amazing how so many people have been so incredibly touched by Graces story and how you and Jeff have been SO faithful to the Lord in everything you do. Grace was the most perfect adorable baby, God was definitely showing off his ability to make someone beautiful on her :) She was most definitely made to worship our beautiful Lord in heaven all the days of her life. I too cant wait until everyone we know and all our family will meet her and dance with her in heaven praising God for all he is for eternity!!

I love you and Jeff so much, and we really miss you guys and i wish we could all be together more often. I am always praying for you
Love,
Rachael

Anonymous said...

Heather, you don't know me but I have followed along reading on a different website and were due in the same month. You are a brave woman and you are a gift from God. My prayers are with you and your family.

Junebug said...

I found your blog after searching for something related to the 1 Samuel 1:27 verse last night. I read your story of Grace and cried throughout the entire thing. I'm in awe of your positive, Godly attitude through this suffering--you're an inspiration to all people. I see that God has now blessed you with a baby boy--Congratulations! I'm sure he will love meeting his little sister in heaven someday. Thank you for writing this (and wow--are you talented!)--it was a wonderful testimony of trusting God, keeping the faith, and praising Him through the storms.

Anonymous said...

Just found your story searching for things people had written about being "23 weeks pregnant". I am so inspired by your strength and feel so heartbroken for you. God bless you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Your story just broke my heart. I pray that some day you will be able to be a mom! I'm so sorry that this happened.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog and it linked to your pregnancy excitement. Just from reading it I couldn't imagine a better mother. I'm truly sorry that Grace couldn't stay longer with you and your husband but know she was very lucky to have someone take such good care of her. I sobbed when I read what happened and it felt like my heart was breaking for what you went through. I am so sorry for your pain