28 April 2014

The Final Chapter: Safe in Heaven

It has been more than two months, and I am just finally getting up the nerve to finish our story here. I don't think anyone but friends and family have followed this blog, but if I am wrong, then I'll tell you about the end of our story. I've written about it in detail elsewhere, but it has been hard to put the words here, in a place that was so happy and so full of anticipation.

We lost our Shrimpy-baby, Haven Melody, a day before I reached 38 weeks. We went to the hospital during my last day at work because we were concerned that she hadn't moved that morning. After a nurse couldn't find her heartbeat and they performed two ultrasounds, we found out that she was gone. There aren't words to describe the shock and agony that we felt when we saw our little girl motionless on the ultrasound screen, where we had seen her dancing just weeks before. The next 38 hours are burned into our memories forever; Danny calling our family and some of our friends, my friend Nancy coming as soon as she heard (to be our birth coach, as we'd planned), the four rounds of induction gel, the two rounds of induction pills, so much morphine, an epidural, the Pitocin drip, my water being broken, and the too-silent birth of our longed-for baby girl. And tears. So many tears. They came, and they have not left.

Haven Melody, our "safe place" and "song," was born at 7:30am on February 16. Though we don't know her length, she was 6lb, 5oz. She looked just like Danny, as I knew she would. She was tall and slender, just like I imagined she would be. The only part of her that looked like me were her wrists and hands.

I am happy that the first words that were ever said about Haven were about how perfect and beautiful she was. The nurses were so kind and treated her with such dignity. She had her first bath and was wrapped up all snug just like any other baby. The nurses took photos of her for us, and chose a pretty knit dress and cap for her that had been made by volunteers. We have those things, and a few others, in a little box they gave us. I don't get to share her pictures often, but this is her blog, and here, it is safe:

She is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

We spent a few hours with her, holding her, telling her how much we loved her and how sorry we were that we wouldn't be able to get to know her more. "Auntie" Nancy sang her a song, and her grandparents on Danny's side held her and loved her. My mom and Danny's sister were on their way from Alberta to be with us. Letting go of her that last time and watching her be wheeled out of the room was one of the hardest moments of my life. It felt like in the movies, where a mother's child is taken away and she is out of her mind with grief. I know what that feels like now. Because there is no love like a parent's love, there is no grief like a parent's grief. They are two sides of the same coin.

A few days after Haven was born, we held a beautiful funeral service for her. We put up her pictures, and there were songs and a message. We and our little one were surrounded by love.

Almost 8 weeks after Haven was born, we found out that she died due to complications from a hyper-coiled umbilical cord. We did not expect to be given a cause, because most late-term stillbirth autopsies don't turn up any results. It is comforting to know why she died, but painful, because she was perfectly healthy and thriving until the moment her blood supply was compromised. If she had been born early, she would most likely still be here. I try not to let myself focus on that too often, because the what-ifs can kill.

We never imagined we would be in this position. Full-term stillbirth was something that happened to other people: unhealthy women, drug addicts, or people in third world countries. Not us. And yet, there we were, and here we are. I have since learned how common it actually is (1/160 pregnancies), and how many different causes of stillbirth there are (a lot). Even for women with a "picture perfect pregnancy" (my OB's words).

I have tried to come up with a word to describe the feelings we've felt in the past two months or so, but none seem adequate. Perhaps as a group they might come close: anguish, desolation, joy, fear, love, despair, emptiness, rage, aching, numb, directionless. Out of the ashes have come beautiful things too. I have learned - really learned - about grief and about true compassion. I have learned more about loving than I could have imagined possible. It caused me to realize how much people love us too. It taught me how to forgive and let go of my anger and bitterness. How to cherish the people God has put in my life, because I just don't know how long I will get to spend with them. It has made me hold Danny a little closer, because all of this reaffirmed what an amazing husband he is. I am blessed beyond measure to have a partner like him. I have learned to find comfort in God's love. What I wouldn't trade for even ten more minutes with Haven, but all of these things are her gift to me.

We miss our baby daughter so much. In closing, I'll repeat the words I said to Danny on that hospital bed just hours after we heard the news:

"It was the most wonderful nine months."

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