The Beginning of Her Story

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Told by: Kelly

I’m 37. I have four living children ages 10, 8, 6, and 3.

All of their pregnancies/deliveries were peaceful and uneventful for the most part. We had no reason to believe that our 5th baby would be any different. In fact, my 5th pregnancy was so normal, it drew no special attention at any point along the way.

I was 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant when I finally went into labor. I had been in labor for almost 7 hours when we started losing our baby’s heart beat, for no apparent reason. I was rushed to the OR for an emergency C-section, but was ultimately allowed to delivery her normally under enormous pressure to “get it done now!” I had her out in just minutes. But I wasn’t quick enough.

Our sweet, perfect Hazel was born February 4th 2014 at 3:49 am in the OR room, and handed directly to the neonatology team. I never heard her cry. I never got to look in her eyes. I never cradled her new, naked body next to my chest. I could only watch from my gurney where I was being stitched up as the team pumped her little chest and began to intubate.

My husband followed Hazel up to the NICU where they continued the process of trying to resuscitate her. I was taken to my room to deal with heavy bleeding and intense shaking. At this point I wasn’t terribly worried. I knew the doctors had it under control and it would just be a matter of time before I was nursing my baby and wrapping her in pink. Right? Two hours passed. The nurses finally agreed to let me be wheeled up to NICU to see my Hazel. I won’t go into all the details of what it was like to see my baby covered in tubes, wires, sensors. Nor will I bore you with all the medical details. But I was told that her brain was already very oxygen starved and she was experiencing brain malfunction. She would need to be transferred to another hospital to receive cold cap therapy.

The transfer team took hours to come.

She was finally moved about 8 am. I was told I could not go with her because of my heavy bleeding. But the doctor agreed that if my bleeding was under control by lunch time, I could be discharged at go see her then. In the mean time, I began to pump, hoping that I could at least take a little bottle to my baby and let her drink some of that liquid gold. Around 9:45 I received a visit from the neonatologist, letting me know that Hazel was “not responding well” to treatment.

Apparently that is code for “Your baby is dying and if you want to see her you better get going.” I made them yank the IVs out of my arm. I dressed, grabbed my bag and left the hospital with a trail of nurses waving paperwork at me and telling me to get in a wheel chair. The milk I had pumped was left in the fridge in my room.

I waited for what seemed ages out on the curb for my ride to come get me and take me to Hazel. All the while, I cried to Heaven “Save my baby! Save my baby. Only you can save my baby. Hear me, God! Save my baby!” The 25 minute drive to the hospital was eternal. I didn’t move a muscle or say a word. I sat tense, but still believing that my baby would be ok and I’d get to take her home before long. I was still confident that someday I’d look back on this day, with my sweet Hazel in arms, and tell her survival story.

Instead, I’m telling her death story.

When I got to the hospital, I raced as quickly as my aching stitches would allow down the maze of hallways to the little room where Hazel waited for me behind that tacky blue curtain. She was different. One eye was shut. The other was open just a slit. She was totally motionless except for the gentle rise and fall of her ventilated chest. I saw what I assumed to be the “cold cap” we had sent her here to receive. It sat next to her on the bed, unused. A doctor came near. I almost screamed, “where’s the cold cap!! Isn’t that why she’s here??”

Very bluntly he laid it all out: it wouldn’t help now. It was too late. She had no more neurological activity.

Her eyes were fixed and dilated. “I’m sorry,” he said. “So we’re just going to let her go?!” I demanded. Apparently, we were.

I saw it in my husband’s eyes. At that moment I had to accept what was happening, although I’m sure I was not really comprehending the full implications of Hazel’s condition. Her heart was barely beating, but she was still there. Wasn’t there a glimmer of hope? No. Not even a glimmer. I was going to lose her. So I decided that our last minutes together would be as peaceful as I could make them. I asked if I could put my arm under her tiny limp head. The nurses agreed, and actually moved her off the table, tubes and all, into my arms where I sat waiting in a large, stiff rocking chair. I nestled her as best I could around all of the tubes and wires. Soon a monitor started beeping. My husband and I ignored it. We were too locked on Hazel’s sweet face to care. But a nurse came in and noticed that the heart beat monitor had flat lined. She used her stethoscope to find a pulse. “I don’t hear one.” she said too calmly, too flatly, too coldly.

The doctor came in. He didn’t find one either. Time of death: 12:09 pm.

My baby died in my arms after just 8 hours and 21 minutes of physical agony in this world. Minutes after her passing, our children arrived. They had just missed seeing their little sister alive. As their mother, I had the duty of delivering the sad news as gently as I could, and with as much dignity as I could muster. I know that angels bore me up in that moment. I never dreamed I would have to deliver such devastating, soul crushing news to my own children.

They each got a turn to hold her, kiss her, and say a good bye. My oldest daughter brought a hat she had just finished knitting for Hazel. We put it on her. Our children left, and we continued to hold Hazel for hours. Funny, I had just delivered a baby, and we had not eaten anything all day long. Yet even as evening came on, I felt no hunger. Only emptiness.

Time wore on. If I could have, I would have stopped time so that I could spend endless hours holding my little one. But I knew I had to leave the dead to go care for the living. My children at home were hurting and they needed me. So we began the solemn, heart wrenching process of giving Hazel her first and only bath. When she was clean, I dressed her in a white gown that a social worker gave to us in a plastic bag marked “Bereavement kit: girl”. So now I was a case for social workers. I was angry at myself for leaving my hospital bag in my ride’s car. It contained all the things I wanted to put on Hazel in that moment: the blanket, the outfit, the cute socks, the hair bow. She would never wear any of it. Instead, she was wearing this donated “bereavement kit”. After I had dressed her in the white gown, her umbilical cord began to bleed all over and we had to take the bereavement kit off.

The nurse spent quite some time hunting down an outfit that would fit my 8 lb 15 oz., 21.5 inch baby. Apparently the NICU is only used to dressing premies, not large, chubby, full term babies with massive heads of hair.

They stuffed my baby into a too-small, shabby, red and white outfit. I smoothed her hair once more, laid the donated pink, crocheted blanket on her, kissed my last kiss and left my baby behind. That is not the end of Hazel’s story. It really is the beginning. But the rest I cannot tell you until I meet her again in that other world where there are no dead babies or heart-broken mothers.

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