As most of you know, we’ve been expecting a beautiful cleft-lipped baby girl this February. You also probably know that she arrived a month early, still.
Helen was perfect and so is her story.
Friday, January 11th we had a normal prenatal appointment with our Midwife. Helen’s heartbeat was 135 Friday morning and my belly was 35 cm, measuring right on time. This was supposed to be the last time I saw my midwife, Leah. We were preparing to deliver at UVA so that we would have access to feeding specialists to assist us if we had trouble giving Helen bottles. My first appointment with UVA was that following Monday and I was sad to say goodbye to my midwives. After my appointment, Mom, Dad, Anna Beth, and I drove to Harrisonburg to stock up on some things at Costco. We ate Chipotle and drove home.
Saturday, January 12th some good friends had prepared a beautiful shower for us at the farm. We were surrounded by friends. There was so much love and excitement in that room. Helen and I were prayed over and I felt a great peace and confidence. We could handle what lay ahead with Helen. I distinctly remember exclaiming out loud, “This girl is moving!”
That night, after we put AB down I was so restless. I couldn’t sit still, yet I couldn’t work. We were trying to to get the house ready for a newborn and I wanted to clean, organize and cook, but I couldn’t focus to do that either. I went to bed early to read. I quickly fell asleep, but before I did, I wrote this down from my book “God never calls you to a task without giving you what you need to do it. He never sends you without going with you.”
I didn’t sleep for long. That night Tim and I were both awake and restless. I know now, that’s when she left us.
Sunday morning, January 13th we woke up to beautiful, perfect, spotless snow covering the ground. Church was canceled and I was looking forward to a day of nesting. Mama and I did laundry, cleaned out closets, sanitized and organized pumping parts, cooked, and cleaned. I couldn’t stop. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice she hadn’t moved inside of me all day. I cleaned until bedtime and then slept so well. Tim was working on the built-in bookshelves he had started a couple weeks before. He was well on track for them to be finished before she arrived.
Then Monday came. We happily said goodbye to Mama and Daddy as they headed back home, saying “Next time we see you we’ll have a baby!” We took Anna Beth to our friend’s house and she was excited to play in the snow with her little friends. We were anxious but excited to finally make the transition to our UVA doctors. We first met with a lactation consultant to talk about exclusively pumping. I was so nervous about this and just wanted more information. We left feeling prepared. All this time, our baby hadn’t moved and I hadn’t noticed.
(This haunts me. Sometimes I think maybe if I had been more attentive things would be different. I’ve learned that meditating on that not only isn’t helpful, it’s debilitating. This is my first lesson in my ongoing training of the discipline of self-control. “and we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5)
We made our way to the next floor for our appointment with Maternal and Fetal Medicine. I had my fists up ready to fight. I didn’t want to be labeled high risk, because I was told I wasn’t. I didn’t want to be induced, because there was no reason, as far as I knew. I didn’t know this was the least of my worries. I didn’t know that everything I feared wouldn’t be necessary. I didn’t know that in less than in 36 hours I would be delivering my baby girl.
The resident was friendly, welcoming, and full of joy. I remember her asking me all sorts of questions about my pregnancy and previous pregnancies. Her reaction was always so positive. “Great! Wonderful! Good!” I was encouraged and confident that I indeed didn’t need to be under the high-risk physician’s care. I remember telling her I wanted to deliver with the midwives and that I didn’t want any medical students in the room. I remember her slathering the gel on my full, round, belly and moving the doppler all over. First in the middle, then to the side. She asked me where the heartbeat had normally been and I told her we weren’t sure if she was head down. I’m not sure why I wasn’t alarmed yet.
She left the room and came back with a small ultrasound machine. The screen was glitchy and they couldn’t get a solid picture. She did confirm that her head was down. My big fear dissipated. Then the doctor came in and a new fear arose in my heart. He walked us to the ultrasound room. We knew it was over.
I laid down on the table as silence surrounded us. Tim sat in the chair against the wall. It was far away, too far to hold his hand. We watched the screen without taking a breath and with our own eyes, we saw her little heart, clear as day, we saw her four, perfectly formed chambers, still.
There was silence for what seemed like an eternity. The doctor held my hand to help me up. He didn’t let go. Then he spoke. “When was your last appointment?” I answered truthfully that I had just been seen on Friday. Then the words were uttered, “There’s no easy way to say this… but things have drastically changed since your last appointment. There is no heartbeat.”
The next few minutes is a complete blur. He kept talking (they really shouldn’t do that). I have no idea what he was saying. Something about “No one knows why this happens… schedule an induction…deliver here or with Augusta…whenever you’re ready…the next few days…we’re so sorry…take as long as you need…”
We sobbed. Ugly. Loud. Heartwrenching.
Somehow we found the strength to walk out of that room and to the car. We climbed into the Jeep in disbelief. “I don’t understand. I don’t understand. She was fine. She was perfect.” The ride home was mostly silent. I remember pounding my fist against the window as we descended down Afton mountain. I remember the silence and I remember the stillness inside me, but that’s it. Everything else is gone from my memory.