With Her Daddy’s Strength She Led Me

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Told by: Markera

I met Charles in 2001 and by July 2003, we were married. We had talked about having kids, it seemed, almost from day one.

About six months to a year into our relationship, we began to actively try and get pregnant. Since he had a daughter, I had a feeling it might have been me. I joined a gym and three months later I was pregnant!

My morning sickness was terrible. I missed work a few times. Things already started off shaky, when I took the test I was bleeding and the nurse mentioned I might have been spontaneously aborting. At the ultrasound, everything appeared normal and life went on. I finished up my wedding plans, and at four months pregnant, we had sealed the deal and were ready to settle in as a family.

One month to the day we got married, I began having problems. I was walking along with my mom in the grocery store when I told her it felt like something had slipped between my legs. I felt uncomfortable and just didn’t feel quite right. The next morning, I was discharging my mucous plug. I waited to see if it would stop, because it was intermittent. But that evening I went to the hospital and hours later finally found out my membranes were bulging out of my cervix. Breathless and afraid, this is my first child, the hospital I am at doesn’t allow family in on the labour ward, I am all alone and terrified.

I cried for hours before, and as I sat there about to be prepped for an emergency cerclage, I bawled some more. I went into the OR at a bit past 10pm and came out after 11pm. The first thing I asked was if I was still pregnant because they explained that there were high risks in putting in a suture at this late stage. I was looking at sixteen weeks bedrest. I was discharged two days later and decided to make the best of it. Being bedridden would drive me insane, but I had to. There’d be no moving around, no love-making, no unnecessary shuffling around. Two days later I was back in the hospital, strange discharge and spotting. I was told that it was a yeast infection, given medication and told to relax.

I went back that evening because the discharge increased and they admitted me for observation. I bled through the night, but the baby was fine. Three days later I was in excruciating pain. My mother was frightened and my husband was worried. I headed back to the hospital. A nurse monitored me and the pains were sporadic, at home they were three minutes a part. They gave me medication to stop contractions and ordered me admitted for observation. I continued having pain, they weren’t as intense a lot of the time, but they never truly went away. I was checked every so often and the cerclage was still closed. I wondered if I would end up spending sixteen weeks in the hospital. I wondered if things would go okay. I tried to stay calm and looked forward to visiting hours where I would hold on to Charles, not wanting to let him go. My mother and aunt and sister and everyone would pop in whenever to keep my spirits up. Sunday evening, four days after being admitted, the pains were hot.

My aunt asked my mother if that wasn’t active labour. My mother said she felt so, but they kept saying no. The pains were worse at night and I barely slept. They injected me with painkillers that wore off in an hour. I dreaded evenings. The specialist came round on rounds Monday morning, he had plans on discharging me Tuesday morning. I had gone for an ultrasound and they were waiting on the results to get back and if everything was okay, I would have to monitor the pain closely at home. They couldn’t find anything wrong. I was worried. The ultrasound made me uncomfortable because the baby’s head was locked against my pelvis and she would only wiggle her arms and legs a little bit. That night I had crampy pains like I needed to use the bathroom after my mom and husband left. My mom was worried about the crampiness of the pains, but I assured once I used the bathroom I would be fine.

I waddled in, thankful that I was in the bed by the door and sat down. When I stood up I felt something protruding. I screamed and yanked the emergency string on the wall after reaching down and stroking what felt like a head. The nurses came and claimed they couldn’t see anything, they got me in bed and rang downstairs to the labour ward. I was whisked down there in a wheelchair and immediately examined and had my stitch cut. I had dilated to five centimeters with it in. My water broke when the scissors snapped the stitch. I was bawling. I was terrified, once the water broke, I knew there was no turning back. There was nothing now that could be done. They couldn’t find a heartbeat and I was sinking slowly into despair. My first child, our first child, gone?

A nurse sat with me for a while as we waited on the doctor, the pains returned to full strength since I missed my meds for that evening. I managed to get someone to call home and my mother was there before I gave birth. She waited and worried. I was her baby. And though this was her eleventh grandchild, it didn’t matter. I was the last child and the last to start having kids, we all lived together and she and I were close. Cherith Jalynn was born at 10.50pm, one push gave us her head, one started her shoulders, and that was it. She mewed loudly and I sighed in relief. I watch them fight to stabilize her to get her to the NICU, my mom got to see her as she was wheeled past. She looked exactly like her father and was swatting at the hands that sought to keep her alive.

In the morning, one of the doctors was kind enough to come and tell me she was stabilized, that was when I went to sleep. I stayed up the whole night scared. The doctor came on rounds again and was about to tell me what he found out from the ultrasound when he saw in my notes I had had the baby. He looked at me and said, “You had the baby?” I confirmed it and laughed. He said the ultrasound showed that she was engaged. He discharged me and I gathered my stuff to go out to my family who was waiting and we headed down to the NICU.

The NICU was a whole other adventure, fourteen weeks of two visits a day, kangaroo care, fights at home with my husband as we dealt with this whole thing so new to us, Cherith triumphed and fought like a trooper through things with dire predicted outcomes. But, the blood yeast that kept returning, the grade three head bleed, oxygen blindness, asthma diagnosis from intense ventilation, and other things overwhelmed her 23 gestational age body. She did awesome during visits, her sats and stats were up. She knew us.

Monday, 15 December, five days after my birthday, we got a call in the wee hours of the morning. We sat with her for hours. My mother came and “switched off” with my husband who went to work. That was his way of dealing, by keeping busy. I went home around 7:30am feeling intensely nauseated and exhausted. I actually felt like I would pass out sitting there. At home I took a nap and awoke to the phone ringing. I was asked to come back in. Her incubator wasn’t where we left it, I couldn’t see her in the room. The doctor spoke with us and numbly I asked to use the phone. I called my best friend’s mother after calling my husband.

I only said two words, “She’s gone.”

My husband sped there, but wouldn’t hold her. At first I wouldn’t but one of the nurses I had grown close to gently blocked my attempt at exiting. She said it was important for closure. My mother picked her up, and I burst into tears. This was her first time holding her because only parents were allowed to hold the babies, though grandparents were allowed to visit.

My mother sat with her and bent over, her body wracked with sobs, I felt in that moment like I had disappointed her some how. She handed Cherith to me, and just looked at her. I was thankful to have gotten to know her, and thought of those who miscarried or had stillbirths. I knew it was hard on them, I had made a lot of friends in this experience. And I remembered to savor the days, and in that moment my heart snapped. I put her back down and opened the blanket. She had a Coke can sized indentation on her chest where the fought to revive her. I was sorry she had to go through that. But, I did ask for an autopsy. When we sat with the doctor, it turned out that she couldn’t recuperate. They said that she had been such a fighter and had given so much to overcome, she couldn’t recover.

She had me leave so that I wouldn’t see her die. That feeling that came over me, was her way of making me let go. I didn’t want to make her hang on in pain, but I didn’t know how to tell her it was okay to go. Other mothers had told me when they whispered it was okay, the babies let go. But, I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t bring myself to open my heart and let her pass taking that one piece of it with her.

She had me leave so that I wouldn’t see her die.  That feeling that came over me, was her way of making me let go.  I didn’t want to make her hang on in pain, but I didn’t know how to tell her it was okay to go.  Other mothers had told me when they whispered it was okay, the babies let go.  But, I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t bring myself to open my heart and let her pass taking that one piece of it with her.  She was born on a Monday (8 Sept – also my aunt’s birthday), died on a Monday (15 Dec), so I buried her on a Monday (22 Dec).

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