Today is hard.
Today is emotional.
Today is painful.
Today is sad.
Today is happy.
Eight years ago today, I went into induced labor. The night before I took sleeping pills to help me sleep. Now I was in pain and wanted it all to go away. I did not want to feel the pain of delivery. I knew my baby was going to be born sleeping and I felt as if my world had caved in on me. Each breath came, thank God that is an involuntary action of our body because I would have forgotten to breathe if it was up to me. When the hard labor started, the nurse offered drugs and I took them. I did not want to feel this pain. It was not pain with a happy moment at the other end. It was pain on pain. God in his humor always had Bruce Lee on the TV in the hospital for my husband to watch while I was in labor. I did not want to hear the karate-chopping noises this time. I took the drugs because they would help me sleep. But my sleep would be temporary, unlike that of my child. The doctors and nurses in their desire to keep me healthy had hooked me up to an IV for fluids. No baby monitor necessary for there was no heartbeat to monitor. My nurse was so wonderful, so sweet, and so compassionate. She knew this would be a delivery with no crying baby at the end of it and yet she cared for me just as she would any other patient. In fact, she acted as if she was my own loving mother. She had compassion in her eyes with everything she did for me. I told her I was sorry that she would not have a happy day when she left work today and she told me that it was her job to be there for me and that she treated all her patients as if they were her own daughters and I was no exception.
I was awoken from my sleep by the intense need to pee... all those fluids were be pumped into me as I slept and my bladder just kept filling so I guess it was inevitable. I called for my nurse since I needed her to move my IV bag to something mobile. But as I stood, I felt another sensation. I told the nurse and she had me lay back down. She checked and then called the doctor. It was time to deliver. My emotions were all over the place. On one hand, I was ready. I wanted my lifeless child out of my body. On the other hand, I was not ready. This would sever my tie to my baby. It would end my body's pregnancy... a pregnancy that was only half way done. What would my baby look like? Would it be a boy or a girl? They had not been able to tell on the last ultrasound.
The doctor (I can't remember if it was a full fledged doctor or a "student" -- after all a student could handle this one, it is not like they could kill the baby...) came in and told me it was time to push. I did not want to push. I was not worried about the physical pain, I was pretty sure there would be none. But the emotional pain. The mental pain. I was not really ready to meet my baby this way... but it was time and I did not get to chose whether it was time or not. That was out of my control. Everything was out of my control this time. And let's not forget, I was in pain from the need to PEE! I pushed as instructed. It only took that one push. Out my baby came, still enclosed in the sac. We still did not know if it was a boy or girl and I still needed to pee. My heart was so heavy and I did not want to walk to the bathroom anymore. I did not want to go anywhere. I just pee'd right there. I apologized to my nurse. She had been so nice and here I gave her more mess to clean up. She was so loving. She and the doctor told me not to worry and agreed that I did indeed need to pee like I had said.
They had taken the baby to another room to clean it up before bringing it to me. The nurse came in first to tell me it was a boy. Another boy... my son would have been so excited to have a little brother to play with. My daughter would have been a little mother to him. The doctor came in and told me information I had asked for them to give me. Before I held him, I wanted to know what to expect. We knew he had died some time before the delivery and I wanted to know what I could expect for what he would look like. I was not sure I wanted to see him if he was too far gone. I won't go into the details they told me. I will just say I wanted to hold him and we decided it would be best to swaddle him and I would leave him in his swaddling and hold him that way.
The younger nurse that brought him in to me tried to smile. It was kind of her to try but her eyes were full of tears and she had to quickly excuse herself. She was young and clearly this facet of the job was not as familiar to her as my motherly nurse. As we looked at our son, I was in awe. He was 20 weeks gestation and technically he could have been aborted. (In fact, that was the other option I was presented with... the doctor told me I could go to a "clinic" and have him "removed" if I did not want to go through delivery.) But he was all there. He was fully formed. All he needed was a little longer bones and a little more meat on them. I remember commenting to John that he had a finger nail that needed trimmed. How could anyone abort a child like this? I have never felt that abortion was appropriate but this -- this was beyond bearable to think of... HE WAS ALL HERE. HE WAS NOT A LUMP OF CELLS! He was a baby! Our baby who needed a name...
We talked a little bit and I came to the conclusion that since he was in heaven singing praises with the angels that we would give him the name of an angel. Gabriel. I asked John to think of a middle name and when we both though separately we both came to the same conclusion. John it was. So here we held Gabriel John. The hospital mortician came in and gave us our options. Because I knew before I went to the hospital what the outcome would be I had already made arrangements for our son's burial. But did we want an autopsy? That was harder question. In the end we chose to have it so any information we could glean form this loss (our third loss) might help if we had another. He left us with our son and we were told to take our time. How do you decide when you have held your child enough. I told them I was done and we put him into the basket they wheel babies in the hospital around and called the nurse. She was busy. After a few minutes I could not bear that he was sitting in the corner of the room alone so I had John bring him back to me. How was I supposed to say goodbye? He was not in this body but this was all I had. How could I say goodbye? I never even got to say hello! I let them take him. Then it was time to move me...
It was hospital policy to take a woman like me -- ones who did not get to leave the hospital with a live baby, to the antepartum floor rather than the postpartum floor where babies were everywhere. Yes, this was a good idea... or was it? Kindly they wheeled to a room at the end of the hall. The one with the "most comfortable bed on the floor", the nurse told me. As they wheeled me down the hall to that room, I passed room after room with fetal heart monitors going. Oh how I longed for that noise to be in my room! As we approached the room, I saw an oak leaf "card" stuck to my door. I would learn later that this told all hospital staff who entered the room that I had delivered a sleeping child so that they would use the proper words and tone with me. They would not look for a heart monitor. They would not ask if the baby was moving around in me. They would be more somber and express their sympathy to me. They would wheel my lifeless son back to my room if I called for him. This is what the oak leaf on my door told them to do.
I was afraid to ask to see him again. Would I be able to give him back again? I wanted to hold him so bad. I never wanted to let him go. I wanted him to come home and play with my two other children who did not understand anything other than that the baby in mommy was dead. My daughter heard that plain as day when the doctor said "Your baby is dead" at the ultrasound. How was I going to be strong for her when I got home? How was I going to help her when I was not sure how I was going to make it though this myself?
The story goes on and on from there. People not knowing what to say to me and saying the worst things they could say to me. "Maybe it would have had a defect", "It is better off", "You can have another"... platitude after platitude. Friends brought meals. When my husband had to leave the state for his job 3 days later a dear friend took me and my kids in for several days. It was perfect. I could cry and sleep when I needed to while her kids that were the same age as mine played with my children. Meals were cooked for us and I got hugs when I needed them. I had a copy of Gabriel's foot prints with me when I wanted him to be closer. Dear friend, THANK YOU for the gift you are to me and my family!
People sometimes are horror stricken by my openness in sharing what happened. But I can't keep quiet. It is not a secret. It is not anything I should be ashamed of (even if I hate that the autopsy showed that my body threw blood clots in the placenta that is what killed him). I feel like hiding it would be allowing Satan to minimalize Gabriel's life. I don't want Satan to be able to hide that these babies are just that -- BABIES! Not lumps of cells or disposable lives. They have fingernails that need trimmed... they have 10 fingers and 10 toes. I don't want Satan to keep me quiet or I can't allow God to use me to talk to others who need to know they are not alone. After losing Elisha and Noah as well, I learned that silence prohibits me from helping others. I would never have CHOSEN this ministry but I will take it. God wants me to be there for others. As friends have friends that go through miscarriage they come to me and ask how they can practically help. What should they say? No, I don't want this job -- I HATE this job. I wish this job was never given to me. But, if God wants me to have this job along with the beautiful job of raising my children and teaching them how can I say no? As Job said, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" I don't deserve the good things I have in life but I willingly take them... I have to take this too. And if it means living the pain so that others may feel a tiny piece of comfort, than that is what I have to do.
So, yes, each year on this day, I change my profile picture to a picture of his gravestone. Each year I remind everyone I can of his life. Because even though he never took a breath of air, he was a LIFE and every bit as important as the 3 children in my house (Which is why today is happy! I have 3 beautiful children here with me!). My other two children, Elisha and Noah, who were miscarriages before were also lives just like Gabriel. When I delivered Elisha I saw his/her body as a "bean" in the sack. Yes, I believe life starts at conception. I am saddened when I remember that had I delivered Gabriel one week earlier, I would not have been able to bury him. He would have been considered "biohazard". One week earlier and there would have been on option of an autopsy and no death certificate issued. But that one week earlier he still would have been every bit as much a baby and every bit as much developed.
And, as Natalie Morgan has so beautifully brought out in her viral posts, my vagina is not a magic portal for living beings that suddenly turns a lump of cells into a human. As she pointed out, NARAL wants to say that the silly Doritoes commercial "humanized fetuses" and that this is wrong... well sorry NARAL all 6 of my children are HUMAN!! No, I will not boycott Doritoes for the fact that a silly (and funny) commercial made the little human seem too real for those who wish to believe that they are not real babies. And no, I will NEVER think that abortion is ok at ANY point in a pregnancy. And NO, I will not just shut up and "get over it already"!
Today I cry.
Today I go to the cemetery.
Today I eat Doritoes.