Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Due date

5 months ago, I knew what I would be doing today.

I would be resting, in bed or on the couch, reading the newest Dresden file book, breastfeeding my brand-new daughter. I don't have the book yet, though I suppose I will get it someday. My daughter is in the front yard, buried under a sick apple tree. It has a fungus or something.

Her first and second name together means Divine Stranger. Could we have named her better? Her name was picked out before we knew she was dead. It was some chromosomal issue, the kind of thing that just happens and can't be prevented or helped. That's what I was told, anyhow.

She was conceived on October 22nd, the day we closed on this house and our 14th wedding anniversary. I knew the very moment, and I knew she was a girl. The first is somewhat normal for me, knowing the gender isn't, but I had no doubt. We were so happy, this baby, number 9, was the symbol of our success. The Ninja Time Lord had a good job, one with benefits and a future. We had a house, a house we owned, with LAND we could mess with and improve and play around on. Our kids were all happy and healthy and so were we. The future would be bright and easy, at least comparatively. Pretty silly, I know, but it felt that way, even if this is the first time I tried to put that feeling into words.

We didn't tell people right away. We knew some would disapprove, and we were tired of dealing with that, and we ashamed in some stupid way to tell our friends and family who were dealing with infertility and miscarriages. We knew they would be happy for us, it just felt uncomfortable somehow to point out that we were having number 9 while they were having difficulties themselves. So the news broke unevenly and awkwardly, and I wish it hadn't, because the one thing I didn't want anyone to think, not for a minute, is that she wasn't wanted. She was wanted from the moment I knew we had made her. There was no regret or sighing over adding another couple of years to our diaper time or homeschooling years or anything. We didn't wish her away for even a second.

My pregnancies have, for the most part, been non-eventful. As such, I felt no urge to make a midwife's appointment. My first one was in late February. I was almost 5 months along, about 19 weeks. I looked pregnant and I'd felt her move once or twice, but not much. It had been a weird pregnancy, a fact which I discussed at length with my midwife before she went looking for, and couldn't find, the heartbeat. It had felt different, my mood was different, but I had no real cause for concern. I mentioned that I'd put on a lot of weight very fast after having lost a bit before October. She said it was normal for someone working out and losing weight to put it all back on fast after getting pregnant...the body tells you that you must stop starving yourself and fatten up for the baby's sake. Oh well. Then she looked for the heartbeat. I asked her how long the trying should go before I got nervous.

The next morning, first thing, I had an ultrasound. My husbad went with me. The technician was a very kind 6 foot tall lady named Kelly. I told her that my oldest daughter was expected to be so tall. We were able to watch the picture on a computer screen placed up in the ceiling corner. She didn't have to give us the news. There was definitely a baby. And there was definitely no life. That was February 27th. I took my daughters to Joann's to pick out material to make a tiny blanket and pillow for the casket. We bought pink, even though I had no confirmation she was a girl.

Blanket knitted by my Right Hand Girl, pillow made by Intensity, baptismal cross, and a braid of my husband's and my hair.
The next day we went to the doctor to hear what we were supposed to do. I had some silly idea of outright refusing a D&C. What if they, we, everyone, was wrong? And even if they weren't, I didn't want to go through that. I didn't want my baby to go through that, even if she wouldn't know. I was sent to the hospital for an induction. I should go straight there, so to be sure to have a "non-hostile to midwives" ob on call. That's what the doctor said. If I waited a day or so, I'd have an ob who disapproved of midwives. We went straight there, mostly...we went by the house for some stuff and then by Joy of Tokyo to eat first. It'd been a while since I had a baby in the hospital, but I clearly remembered how they don't let you eat.

I waited almost an hour after being given the medication to actually take it. Taking that tiny pill was one of the  hardest things I've ever done. Nothing happened for a long time. My husband works third shift, so he mostly slept on the couch. I watched one of my favorite tv shows, Leverage, which was marathon-ing on tv and fiddled with my laptop till it broke. My priest visited and we discussed the technical meaning of the word "hoohah" and how amused I was by dried seaweed sticks being one of the medical options listed on the paperwork. After my computer broke, around 9:30 pm, one of my best friends and godmother sat with me and we talked and laughed (and listened to a very talkative nurse) till 12:30 am, when she left to go to bed. I woke my husband and took a bath, my first one since moving into my house with no bathtub. After I got out, my husband went down the hall to use the restroom, as he didn't want to stink up my room. While he was gone I bled on the bed, and the nurses wanted to change the sheets immediately, so I ended up having my daughter sitting in a chair.

It was fast. I didn't have time to catch her, but she didn't go far, and I held her while the nurses finished the bed. My husband came back in as I was moving back to the bed. The doctor and the nurses checked us out...she measured 20 weeks but the doctor wrote down 18 weeks on the paperwork so I would have no issues taking her with us when we left the hospital. They looked at the placenta and the cord to make sure everything was there, and doctor went digging inside me to make sure all was out. That was the most physically painful part. The cord and placenta were strong, whole, and healthy. My body hadn't stopped trying to keep her alive till those pills made it. The nurses brought us saline solution and a container to keep her in until her burial. Then they left.

You know those pictures of embryos...how they are strange and alien looking, and you are surprised they end up looking human? It's because they don't photograph well. She looked human. Tiny and unfinished, most definitely a girl, and you could tell her head didn't have quite the skull or brain it was supposed to have...it looked a little like a tiny water balloon, but her face, ears, fingers, toes, elbows, knees, eyebrows....all perfect and perfectly human. She even resembled her siblings. She had her dad's monkey toes. I didn't like putting her in the cold saltwater and sticking her in the fridge, but it's not like I could hold her while I slept. She was born on March 1st. We aren't sure when she died.

Her service was March 4th, a Tuesday. My husband and Firstborn dug the grave in our front yard. My godfather made the casket. All of my children contributed something to put in it. Tavi looked at her and said "Baby," the first time she ever said that. A friend with a great camera and some skill came and took pictures over the weekend and at the service, so we have pictures of her. It was a nice service. A lot of people came for a morning weekday service, including my parents, who drove from Memphis. Everyone was very nice.

And then it was over. The pregnancy, the birth, the service, the plans and expectations.

We planted an apple tree over her a week later. It promptly caught cedar rust and has been looking poorly, but surviving, ever since. I've planted a few flowers under, but right now it looks like a bunch of lush weeds. There is a little crooked white picket fence around it.

We want a marker but haven't been able to afford it yet, so maybe on her birthday. My kids talk to her sometimes, especially my Right Hand Girl and Big Little Boy. Big Little Boy still asks me when God is going to make her back alive. We'll never stop missing her.

I wish she were here, with me now, enjoying this beautiful cool-for-South-Carolina-in-July weather and the chirping of the chickens. I wonder how my garden and chickens would be different if I had done all this while pregnant, or if I even would have. God is still good, life is still good, even if it isn't all bright and easy. This past month and a half has been really hard for many reasons, and I don't expect anything to become easy anytime soon. But I have an expectation of joy. I still have a wonderful husband and 8 healthy happy wonderful kids, and in February, 1 week exactly before my Divine Stranger's birthday, baby #10 is due.


  1. Thank-you so much for this. Today I find myself just as you did on that February day three years ago. 17+ weeks happily pregnant with #8, due on our 14th anniversary in July. And the doctor couldn't find a heartbeat and an urgently-ordered ultrasound shows a perfect baby - in my mind at least our first girl in 6+ years - the exact size we expected her to be, but so very very still. I am here at home waiting for a week or so in hopes that my body will then be more receptive to an induction - so desperately hoping to avoid a d&c so that we can hold our precious child. Thank-you for sharing your story; it is comforting to know others have been down this road before, and encouraging to know more of what to expect in the weeks to come. God bless you and your lovely family!

    1. Monique, I am praying for you! I am so so sorry you have to go through this. It is hard.