Last week we had a heartbreaking thing happen -- we lost our baby at 31 weeks of pregnancy. On Friday, November 18, I noticed that I had not felt her kick in a while, so we went to the hospital. After investigating, our doctor confirmed what I could already see on the ultrasound machine's screen -- our baby had died.We went home that night, and spent Saturday making sure that our dogs had a home for the weekend, tidying up the house, and packing for our hospital stay. On Saturday night, we checked into labor and delivery and began the process of inducing labor. From Saturday night through Sunday morning, our loving nurses placed pills near my cervix in order to ripen it. I began to get very uncomfortable, and at ten o' clock on Sunday morning I received an epidural that eased me greatly.
At noon we started the pitocin drip, stimulating contractions. The contractions came on fast and strong, and I began to feel them quite intensely on my left side in spite of the epidural. I received an extra boost on the epidural, which ended up coming just in time for delivery. I began to feel intense pressure as our baby started to crown. Our nurses and doctor cried with us as I delivered our little one in three pushes. She was born at 3:43 PM on Sunday, November 20. She was seventeen inches long and weighed three pounds and three ounces. We named her Eve.
As I had requested earlier, they took Eve away to bathe and clothe her, then shortly returned her to us. First my husband held her and showed her to me, and I sobbed, thinking how dead she looked. But then something in me shifted, and I began to see how beautiful she was. Soon I was cradling our daughter in my arms, so in love with this little person that we will never truly know. She had my husband's face and my dark curly hair and the longest, most graceful fingers.
My husband and I feel so blessed that we have friends and family that lovingly surrounded us during this time. They visited us regularly at the hospital both before and after Eve was born, and many of them got to hold her. I am so glad that we got to share her with them.
Soon, however, Eve's body began to deteriorate. Stillborn babies' skin is very delicate, and from our handling of her she began to look more dead. I felt okay with this, though -- it left no room for delusions that we could keep her, that she could stay with us. Sometime around 8:00 Sunday evening, the Best Husband Ever and I said our good-byes to our little girl.
After discussing our options with our doctor, we decided to have an autopsy and genetic testing done to see if a reason for Eve's death can be found. However, we are expecting there to be no known cause -- at this late of gestation, we learned, the main causes of death are cord complications, preexisting conditions in the mother, or some other obvious physical problem with the baby -- none of which were present in our situation.
Although this is a tragedy and hard to bear, we are not blind to the many blessings we have experienced over this past week: friends and family standing with us, praying, loving us, crying when we couldn't, supporting us at our weakest -- extraordinarily loving nurses who were an answer to prayer -- the fact that Eve was beautiful and largely unblemished, something that is not true for all stillborn babies -- a fast and easy delivery without complications . . .
. . . and, of course, the God who is big enough. Who knows what it means to lose a child. Who can withstand our anger and questions, should those ever emerge. Who hurts with us. Who loves us.
We are so blessed.
This weekend we held a memorial for Eve at our church. Again, our friends and family surrounded us in a profoundly empathetic way. At the service, our pastor read an email I had written earlier in the week. I had decided to give him the email to do with as he liked -- to read all or part of, or just let it inform his own words -- because it was written without any thought of being shared with the world, and so is the truest thing I can say about this experience. I've been asked to post it, and so here it is, with photos of our remembrances of little Eve to follow:
We're home now. Leaving the hospital felt absolutely glorious, but coming home was hard. Most of our baby-related stuff is closed up in our spare bedroom, which is good for now, but I know that dealing with it will be hard when the times comes.
I am so grateful for the people in our lives -- you and our other friends and family have surrounded us in such a special way. I feel so blessed. God is good.
I am especially blessed by my husband. I already knew that he is the Best Husband Ever for me, but he is proving that even more true every moment. I am so thankful that he is the one I get to walk through this with. He has been so gentle and open and giving.
We have been getting visits from friends and family really regularly since Saturday evening, but we are setting aside today to just be alone together with God and our feelings and the memory of little Eve. Tomorrow we have a doctor's appointment and perhaps some more visits. We'll be spending Thanksgiving with J's family and my mom, and we are going to have a memorial for Eve at church on Friday morning.
After that . . . I feel like that is when the real hard stuff will begin. When it's easy for other people to heal and move on, but we (or even just I) still feel so much sadness. Our nurse at the hospital gave us some reading on grief, and one of the papers said that we should expect the grieving process to take up to two years. I can't imagine. It feels too long.
I also don't feel like that takes God into account. Of course we are still early on in the process, so maybe things will get much worse than I can imagine...but I can't help but trust God. I feel like Edmund in the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when monsters are howling around him and the White Witch is shrieking condemnation and hate at him...and Edmund is simply gazing at Aslan. Because that's all that he can do. Because that's the best that he can do.
I don't know if that makes sense...but I know that God promised that He will never leave us or forsake us, and now I find that that is the only sure thing I have right now. Because the life-giving attention of our friends and family will fade, because they are only human. Because J might heal from this far faster than I do, leaving me alone in experiencing these feelings. Because I might lose J, too (this is a very big fear right now). Because nothing in this whole world lasts except God.
I don't know why the promise of God to never leave us never felt real until now. Maybe I relied too much on feeling Him emotionally instead of trusting Him in all ways (intellectually when emotion failed, as it always does). Maybe I never really believed that He would back up His promises. I don't know...but now I know that nothing else is permanent except His promises. It's so comforting.
So far we have been pretty protected from asking the "why" questions -- Why would God let this happen? Why isn't He good enough/big enough/loving enough to give us back our daughter? I don't know -- those questions just seem empty. We can't know why God let this happen. But I also don't believe that God will waste this. I mean, I feel like He predominantly uses hard things or "bad" things to shape us, to draw us close, to change our hearts so that we can change the world, even if just in some small way.
So while I don't know if there is a particular meaning or reason behind Eve's death, I don't feel like this opportunity will be wasted by God. I know that I already feel my faith being strengthened by this (at least in some ways...in other ways, it's easy to doubt...but I wonder if those doubts will ease as I heal) -- and I know that God has been using infant-related hardships to shape our church family over the past year or year and a half. My hope is that Eve's death will help draw my parents and other unbelieving family members closer to God so that He can heal their hearts and lives. And those are just the things that I can see from here -- who knows how far the ripples of this could spread. I am hopeful.