Last year I did a project in honor of my daughter, Lorelei, who was born sleeping on April 30, 2012. Every day in April, I wrote something to her about my- our – pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experience. I thought I would share it via blog this year. As the month progresses, I will edit this post until I have added all 30 days of entries.
30 Days of YOU
Day 1 (5-15 weeks):
We wanted another baby so badly- when we saw those two pink lines, we were incredibly excited! Although we hadn’t seen you yet, we loved you so, so much. When we finally got to see you at our first ultrasound, you were SOOO tiny! It’s incredible how much you love something you can barely see. As you grew, so did my tummy, but I was so, so, so VERY sick ALL the time. I lost about 30 lbs due to morning sickness and not being able to eat, but it didn’t matter because YOU were worth every hour spent bent over a toilet.
Day 2 (17-21 weeks):
Do you know how scared Mommy was when a nurse called to tell us I had a certain protein present in my blood that would mean one of two things…Do you know how relieved I was at that next ultrasound when they told us it was the “fixable” of the two possibilities? Then, do you know how scared I was when we found out you had a hole in your belly? Or when they told us your “insides” would be on the outside and you would need surgery as soon as you were born…AND you would have to spend time in the NICU, where OTHER people would be taking care of you, and I wouldn’t be able to hold you whenever I wanted to? Did you see the tears in my eyes when I saw your beautiful face on the ultrasound, wondering how something so horrible could happen to someone so innocent? Did you see how I left my body and floated out of the doctor’s office in tears and shock because I knew somehow it was my fault? I was scared for you. I felt guilty for not protecting you the way a mother should. I felt guilty that maybe you didn’t get all the nutrients you needed because I was so very sick ALL the time and I couldn’t keep down the prenatal vitamins. Through all of it, you were perfect to me and you always will be.
Day 3 (22-29 weeks)-
After learning more about your gastroschisis and meeting the doctors who have seen it so many times before, I felt like I could breathe again and just enjoy watching my belly grow with you. I loved feeling your strong kicks and the way you rolled around and kicked to the beat of any song. I knew you would be musical when you grew up…or maybe love dancing, like your big sister…maybe both. When we saw that first 3D ultrasound, I said, “Aw! She has chubby cheeks just like her big sister did!” You really did look like your big sister in many ways. I also knew you had a good amount of hair, judging by the old wives tale…five-alarm heartburn!
Day 4 (30-32 weeks)- You were perfect in every way. In my mind, you still are. You are immortalized by the deepest love. I dyed & decorated an egg for you today. Your name is on it, as always. Tomorrow is YOUR holiday. Easter. You would have loved Easter. Every year, I can picture you in a pretty white dress with pink flowers, holding your basket, hunting for eggs. It’s the holiday that hurts the most, as you were born not too long after Easter. Just know that Mommy loves you. You stay planted firmly in my heart, where your roots run deep and your beauty blooms forever.
Day 5 (32 weeks): We started buying clothes and toys for you. Sissy picked out your first toy (a Minnie Mouse blanky) and we bought your first jammies. I got preemie size because you were measuring smaller than you should have been, and I knew you would be born at 37 weeks since we had an induction scheduled. You never got to wear those jammies or play with the toy Sissy got for you. The jammies wouldn’t have fit you, though, because you had a growth spurt near the end. You were longer at 37 weeks than your big sister was at 40 weeks. You would have been tall like mommy!
Day 6 (33 weeks): The first picture is my favorite one of you in Mommy’s belly. I never had a professional maternity photo shoot, so I had to do something. My phone and the bathroom mirror had to be enough. I love it for what it is. You and me. The second picture was taken on Easter Sunday 2012. You were born a short three and a half weeks later. That’s why Easter is the most special holiday to me and why it hurts the most.
Day 7 (34-35 weeks)- Weekly NSTs and ultrasounds, daily prayers, constant kicking, and wiggles. It was going so well! Despite your gastroschisis, you were doing SO well!
Day 8 (36 weeks)- Picture #2 is the day we went in for our routine weekly ultrasound. When they checked your heart, they told us you were in tachycardia and we would need to have an emergency C-section. Picture #3- They admitted us to Labor & Delivery, started me on an IV and told me I had to fast to prepare for surgery. I was smiling because I was so excited to meet you! Yes, I was also scared. They monitored your heart and movement all night. Your heart rate leveled out and had “only” one more spike. The next morning, two doctors came into the room and told us they were sending us home because your heart rate looked okay now. We BEGGED them to take you anyway, just in case. They refused, saying you MUST be exactly 37 weeks because of the gastroschisis. No sooner, no later. Still, we pleaded. No luck. Picture #4- So, we went home. I posted this picture and said, “Well, she’s still in there! LOL I’m glad, though, because I would rather go through induction than 6 weeks of healing time for a C-section. LORELEI GRACE FELIX, 36 weeks 3 days.” HOW STUPID did I sound? How SELFISH! Losing a child sure does change your view of EVERYTHING. To be continued…
Day 9 (36 weeks 6 days)- April 30, 2012.
12am- I fell asleep to your hard kicks and frisky wiggles.
6am- I woke up only to realize I didn’t remember you moving since I went to bed…Day 9 is proving to be the hardest yet…*breathe*…ok…I tried everything I could think of to get you to move, but nothing was working. Daddy and I jumped in the car and rushed to the hospital 20 minutes away. I called Labor & Delivery to tell them we were on our way.
When we arrived, we had to wait what seemed like a lifetime to be seen. It may have only been a couple minutes. I just don’t know. When they finally took us to triage (this part is very fuzzy because it was so…traumatic) They rolled the ultrasound machine in, I lifted my shirt to expose my quite large, round belly, which you had lived in for 9 trying, but beautiful months. I don’t remember how long the tech tried to find your heartbeat before she got a very concerned, solemn look on her face and called for someone else to try. The OB doctor on call tried, too. It felt like a millennium. At this point, I guess I knew that you were gone, but I was still so hopeful. Hope was fading fast with each silent second that passed. The ultrasound tech left and the OB doctor gently put down the ultrasound wand, as if the world would shatter if it made a sound. (Ironic, since, “Silence,” would be our theme song for the next few days.) The words that DID shatter the silence began a journey- one spiraling out of control to the deepest chasm of darkness and despair. We could have NEVER prepared ourselves for those five words and for the Forever that would follow.
“I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”
THAT is what broke the world. OUR world. No one else noticed. Well, the doctor who spoke the words noticed. He had a shattered world of his own. He offered his sympathies as he, too, knew the sound of Silence. He admitted that there is nothing anyone can say to make it easier and that he wouldn’t even try. I am still grateful that particular doctor was on call that day.
Sobbing and a lot of disbelieving, “No’s,” filled our tiny triage cubicle. Still, I tried to make you move. They made a mistake, right? We were going to be induced the next day, meet you, and then you would be whisked away to surgery so your tiny belly could be fixed and we would all live happily ever after. A mistake. It had to be.
It wasn’t. You, my beautiful, perfect baby girl, said, “goodbye,” before we ever said, “hello.” I wish I had known before you left, so I could have said, “goodbye,” too.
We were given two options- either to be induced or have a c-section.
“If you have a c-section, you will have a visible scar to remind you every day.” One of our doctors made what I thought was a valid point at the time. Since then, I know that it wouldn’t matter because the scar your death left on my heart is a constant reminder that you are not here. It’s much worse than any scar seen on the outside. NOTHING…no, doctor, not even induction…would make it any easier.
Despite any other opinions, we opted for induction. We were escorted to a room and settled in…as much as one can “settle” in the midst of such a heartbreak. I was given IVs (extremely painful ones- “gentle” was probably not in that nurse’s vocabulary). Then came the induction drugs. Nothing happened for hours, then I started getting uncomfortable. Light cramping then BAM the painful stuff.
Since it wouldn’t affect you, I took every pain med they offered me, except for an epidural, and begged for more. I don’t think I was trying to take away the physical pain. I was trying to drown out the anguish I felt in my heart. Mental and emotional pain surpass ANY physical pain. So much so, that they can cause physical pain. I’ve felt that strain on my heart from missing you- a real pain that makes me grab my chest.
During pushing, I gave up at one point because I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. I said something about it not being worth it. Don’t worry, baby girl, you were SO worth it! Mommy was just drugged out of her mind. Drugs and emotional distress made me say some crazy things.
One final push.
I can’t really describe the sound Silence makes when a baby is born without a heartbeat. It’s the loudest, most ear-splitting, gut wrenching sound you will ever not hear. I know that makes absolutely no sense to some of you, but others know exactly what I mean.
You were a perfect 5 lbs 8 oz, 18 1/4 inches long. You were pink, warm, and looked very much alive. We wrapped you in blankets, took your hand and footprints, held you, and spent time getting to know your beautiful face.
Before bed, I rocked you in the rocking chair and sang, “You Are My Sunshine,” to you. I could barely get it out through my tears, but it was important for me to sing to you at least once outside of my belly.
That night, and the next, I slept with you in my arms. You were SO snuggly. So soft. So much a REAL baby.
May 1, 2012
When I woke up the next morning, you were WARM! Was it possible?! Had you come back to us?! I excitedly checked to see if you were breathing. I could have sworn I saw your chest rise and fall over and over.
I had been mistaken in my foggy-heartbroken-just-woke-up state of mind.
Day 10 (May 1, 2012)- I will always remember your first and last bath. It’s one of my favorite memories of you. I ever so gently cleaned the ink off of your hands and feet. I could not apply much pressure because your skin was so fragile. I can still smell the Johnson & Johnson’s baby lotion. I rubbed it all over your arms, hands, chest, and in your beautiful, dark, wavy hair, Your skin and hair were SO soft! We dressed you in one of the outfits daddy bought for you. You looked so pretty in pink. You were my perfect little doll baby.
Day 11 (May 1, 2012)- Holding you was like looking into Heaven from Hell. You were RIGHT THERE. We could feel you, see you and breathe you in, but you were just out of reach. We were living a nightmare- a tragic story- with the most beautiful leading lady at the center of it all. It’s funny how you can be so happy and so very sad at the same time.
Day 12 (Your Hands)- Hands have been important to me my entire life. Hands can tell you a lot about a person. Hands can hurt, kill, and steal, or, Hands can nurture, comfort, and save lives. It is no surprise to me that you had some of the most beautiful hands I have ever seen. Your fingers were long and lean. Your skin was so, so soft. You had those perfectly shaped fingernails that were a pretty red color. I know they were not supposed to be like that, but they looked perfect to me. Your big sister was spending time with you, stroked your tiny little hands and asked, “Did her mommy paint her nails?” I wear your handprint on my arm so I can see it all day, every day. Sometimes, if I close my eyes and think back, I can still feel your little hand wrapped loosely around my finger. Your hands were so special, that’s the very last picture daddy took of you when he went to say his final goodbyes in the funeral home. One day, sweet Baby Girl, you will hold my finger again and lead me to the place where you created something for me with those precious hands. Until then, I hold only your memory.
I knew you would have a lot of hair when you were born because we could see it in your ultrasounds. When you came out with all that beautiful, dark, wavy hair, I was over the moon! One of my babies had MY dark hair! It was incredibly soft. I bet you would have brown eyes, too, just like mommy. Turns out you are my only baby who looks like me in every way. Every time I see a little girl with dark hair, I have to quickly leave the scene. I cry if I stare too long. I really wonder what you would look like today– dark curly hair, pretty brown eyes, fair skin…a modern day Snow White.
Day 14 (Staff): If I had to go through it, I was grateful for kind, supportive nurses, doctors and hospital staff. Some of them had seen this happen before, some had not. The sadness and pity were obvious on their faces. I don’t know if it was that blue rose on our door, or if it’s just the way they always are, but when they entered our room, their graciousness was prominent.
Day 15 (Daddy’s Girl)- YOU, young lady, were a Daddy’s girl. Every time he would talk to you or touch Mommy’s tummy, you would kick and squirm around. Daddy loves and misses you more than words could ever describe.
Day 16 (Mommy’s Girl)- It’s no secret how much I love you. Since the moment I found out you were growing in my belly, you grew in my heart as well. As you got bigger, my heart got bigger. You can imagine how deflated my heart became when you were ripped away from me. When you blow up a balloon and let it go, it flies wildly and out of control around the room, until it runs out of air and crashes to the floor- deflated, soggy, and cold. Deflated…broken…into a billion tiny pieces. I miss those nights when I would get in bed and binge-watch, “Melissa & Joey,” “Happily Divorced,” and, “Cake Boss,” on Netflix with my hands on my belly, enjoying every wiggle and kick. I would sing, “Hush Little Baby,” to put your big sister to sleep and I could tell you enjoyed it, too. Your movements would slow down, become more tranquil- as if you were dancing a water ballet. I hope your time spent in Mommy’s belly was the best it could be. I hope that you didn’t suffer before your heart stopped. My most important job was to love and protect you and I was only able to fulfill one of my blessed duties as a mother.
I was supposed to buy you cute clothes, play dress-up with you and your sister, and let you both give me “makeovers”…
I will never let you go, my sweet little girl. I held you your entire life and now I hold you in my heart, until I can hold you in my arms forever.
Day 17 (Your Brothers & Sister)- I really can’t even say much about this without bursting into tears. Even though you never got to meet your siblings, you knew them, especially Peyton, who talked to you and played with you and planned your entire life together. I think my heart is more broken for her than anyone. She was only 3 and didn’t fully understand why you couldn’t come home with us- she just knew what was supposed to happen. She knew you two would play together and be best friends forever. Even your baby brother knows you. He points to your pictures, says your name and gives your pictures kisses…as the quote says, “If loved could have saved you, you would have lived forever.”
Day 18 (Keepsakes)-
Things we bought you before we knew,
Things we bought you since;
Things we were given before they knew,
Things they gave us since.
Things you touched? Things that touched you?
Many are those things which touch us, too.
For, things are things- until they aren’t.
Things such as these ARE you.
Things become important
When that’s all we have to hold.
Though, things cannot replace you,
They are lifeless, and they are cold.
~AAF for LGF 4/18/15
Day 19 (You’re The Inspiration)- Even though your heart no longer beats, you live on through those who love you. Whether it’s through art, music, or written word, you are an inspiration and you will live forever.
Day 21 (Holding You)- 3 out of 4 mothers take time cuddling their warm, wiggly newborns, nursing, changing diapers, bathing…1 of those 4 has to do a life time of loving in a matter of hours, or a couple days, if she’s lucky. When I held you for those 2 nights/2 days, I cried for you. I cried for me. I cried for your dad. I cried for your siblings. I also smiled at your beauty. I imagined what it would be like if your heart was beating and if you were wiggling around, snuggling in close…then I cried again. I also imagined what your entire life should have been like. Those couple days were some of the most special days of my life, because I was able to hold you close, breathe you in, touch your soft skin, and kiss your sweet cheeks. It’s extra special to me because that was the only time I had with you on the outside. Two days of holding you, which I will never forget.
Day 22 (Anger)- Realizing on Day 22 that I don’t have 30 days’ worth of memories of you to share is really…well it sucks. It’s not fair. It’s not right. While irresponsible, abusive people get to have all of their children- I’m left with only a memory- and not even enough to write about for 30 days. What is wrong with this picture? Who decided I shouldn’t get to keep you? Who thought your life wasn’t worth living?
Day 23 (Acceptance)- I cannot imagine that your life is worth more in death, but I often wonder if it was necessary to change lives- even just one (my own)? You have changed me- for the better, I believe. Your life and your death have molded me into a new vessel…though imperfect, love and compassion spills from the cracks. I hope it feeds others’ desire to pour out their new understanding of loss upon those who need that same counsel.
Days 24-26 (Introductions)- Know what’s hard to do sometimes? Introduce living children to people who don’t know you existed. Until I say, “My middle daughter died,” or “My second daughter was stillborn,” it’s all smiles and, “Nice to meet you.” Then, smiles fall away and the awkward fog of sympathy settles in. This will never stop me from including you in introductions. You are still as much my child as your brothers and sister- and just as important and loved.
Day 27 (Music)- There are 2 songs which I associate with you- the one in this video (Craig Cardiff’s “Smallest Wingless”) and “You Are My Sunshine”. Our NILMDTS photographer introduced us to, “Smallest Wingless,” but, “You Are My Sunshine,” is the song I sang to you as I rocked your tiny, lifeless body in my arms in that wooden rocking chair the night you were born. The second verse is especially hard:
“The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
So I hung my head, and I cried.”
I choked out the words as my tears fell into your soft hair. It was the sweetest moment I had with you- it was just you and Mommy- I will not soon forget.
Day 28 (Awareness)- Pink & Blue. Those are the colors of the Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) awareness ribbon. 1 in 4. That’s how many women/families are affected by pregnancy & infant loss. 1 in 5000. That’s how many babies are born with gastroschisis. 10% of those babies will be stillborn, just like you, my love. It’s sad to think of you/us as a statistic, but that is what we are. If the shoe fits, it doesn’t fit very well. It was uncomfortable at first, but I guess we stretched it out a little.
Day 29 (Tradition)- Tradition keeps memories alive, therefore it is very important to me. We have several traditions in your honor. We send up paper lanterns every year for your birthday. I make a cake for you- complete with a number candle, which I clean off and put with your keepsakes every year. We sing “Happy Birthday” to you- well I don’t, because I CAN’T. I cry the whole time. I try not to, but it’s impossible. Every time I step out of the shower and the mirror is fogged up, I either write your name, draw baby feet and a butterfly on the mirror, or all three. Every Christmas, grandma gets a beautiful gift for you to be placed on your memorial and we hang your ornaments on our tree. It’s the little things that make life so special. If you can’t be here with us, we will manifest your memory in every day life. You WILL NOT be left behind of forgotten. OHANA.
Day 30 (Birthdays)- Happy Birthday, to you, my sweet girl. You would have been 3 today. How we get through each year is beyond me, but we do. Maybe it’s all the touching support we get from our friends and family. Maybe it’s because we know we will see you again one day…Whatever it is, I am grateful for it. Before your baby brother was born, I had a few moments when I didn’t think my life was worth living any more. Thanks to the promises of Jesus- and the fact that I need to hold you again- I got through that. You have no idea how hard it is for Mommy to think about the birthday parties we SHOULD be having for you every year. I’m sure you would love princesses, just like your big sister. This year would probably be the first time you really understood what was going on…you could blow out your candle without being coached and tear open presents with that passion I know you would have for everything in life. Today is full of tears, but I love you, Lorelei Grace. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I had never known you. Happy 3rd Birthday, my Little Love. (Lorelei would be 4 now as of April 30, 2016)
(Blogger: Ashley Seymour Felix)