Sunday, January 10, 2010

Calla Valentina

I knew on Friday morning something was wrong. I spent all day waiting for the baby inside me to start its usual dance routine, but after a full day of feeling next to nothing, deep down I knew.

We ended up going to the hospital at 11PM on the coldest night of the year. I brought along my measly-packed hospital bag just in case, but "in case" of what I had no idea. A nurse ran the Doppler over my swollen belly, searching for a heartbeat. At one point she took my pulse to see if the beats matched--and they did. After a sonogram by a junior resident, we knew for sure: our little baby was no longer alive inside me.

I screamed and sobbed,"This isn't real! This isn't real! What do I do now?" My husband beside me held me, rocked me, and let me know that it was, indeed, real. And really happening to US. The worst thing I could think of was now our immediate nightmare. What had I done? How did this happen? Why US? Why anyone, ever? We were given no answers, as there possibly could be none to give. While no one deserves this, it nevertheless happens.

My doctor arrived and told us I'd have to deliver this baby soon, so we decided to stay there and jump right into it. Little did I know what would happen over the next 36 hours. No one, not one woman, goes into her pregnancy thinking about her labor day entailing funeral homes and final resting places for her baby. We fear the physical pain, we decide where our babies will be born, we plan for life after delivery. We don't anticipate coming home from the hospital empty-armed with hearts broken.

Over the next 24 hours I was admitted, given IV fluids galore, pricked, prodded, and poked, and my body was encouraged to start labor. By the time I was induced at 2:15 on Saturday, it felt as though we'd been in that room for a lifetime. We were there through several shifts of nurses and doctors, all of whom were so incredibly kind and sympathetic I could hardly bear to look at them.

One by one my parents, inlaws, brother and sister-in-law, and pastor came to comfort us. The sadness in their faces matched mine, and I couldn't help but feel as though I'd caused their pain. They spent almost as much time in the hospital as we did. They were doing their best to support and care for us while nursing their own hurts and grief at the same time.

The anticipation of labor is a double-edged sword. On one side, the reality of the physical pain it produces makes me shudder, but the sweet joy of a brand-new baby on the other side of it is blissful. This time I would endure great physical pain, only to have our baby immediately taken from us. I could hold the baby, but could not take the baby home with us. She was already gone.

One of my blood tests revealed my platelet counts were low, and further tests showed the numbers dropping. This meant an epidural for pain management was a dangerous choice. A morphine drip offered my only comfort during round after excruciating round of back labor contractions. The final stages of labor were so intense I howled like a wild animal, sobbed, screamed and worked harder than I ever had in my life.

Our baby girl, Calla Valentina arrived at 10:15 on Saturday night. January 9th. Her birthday. 36 weeks into my pregnancy. From her black curly hair, to her rosebud mouth, to her tiny fingers and toes, she was perfect. She was big, 5 pounds and 4 ounces. She was beautiful. The cord and placenta were intact and perfect, too. The answers I so primally craved eluded me upon delivery. There was not one apparent reason she didn't make it.

While pregnant with Calla, I wondered how I could share my already-full heart with another child. I knew that night, instantly, how huge my heart could expand. And instantly all its pieces were shattered on the floor. All the times in my life that I thought had been sad were nothing compared to this. THIS was utter sadness and despair.

I held Calla, kissed her, examined her, talked to her. She looked like a little doll in my arms. I watched as our families and close friends sobbed, held her, and loved her too. I openly and loudly wept from the deepest part of my soul, feeling both empty and alone, and so incredibly blessed. I sobbed, "My little girl! I just want to keep her!"

Calla Valentina, our little girl. Instantly loved and missed. We might never have the answers to why she was taken from us. But she was with us. We love her. We miss her already. She is a part of our lives, a daughter and sister, a granddaughter and niece and friend we will never forget. She was my baby, if only for a short time.


  1. Oh MB I am grieving with you. Thank you for sharing what must have been, and I'm sure will be for a very long time, a deeply painful experience. I'll keep your family in my prayers. I am so sorry.

  2. Calla Valentina
    Beautiful Name
    Beautiful Child
    Beautiful Parents and Brother
    Loved Instantly
    Loved Forever
    I hope she knows that the kisses were from the whole big family that loves her - and you.

  3. Mary Beth,
    There are just no words. Tears for you though and lots of love.

  4. Oh Mary Beth......
    as the previous post so aptly expresssed...
    there are no words
    just vast amounts of empathy.
    I wonder where does all the love go?
    I think Calla Valentina will expand it into
    something bigger, like your already huge heart.

  5. I have just read your amazing story and although I do not know you, I am a friend of Amys. I feel incredible sorrow along with you. Know that friends family and yes even strangers share your grief.

  6. Jana-Marie ZakowiczJanuary 11, 2010 at 9:54 AM

    Mary Beth and Christopher...I am a friend of Amy Schweizer, I can not begin to tell you how deeply sorry I am for your loss. May your little angel always watch over you and be in your hearts. My love and prayers go out to you and your entire family. May you know that even strangers grieve your loss.

  7. beautifully stated- you're words and experience have brought me to tears- again, thinking of you all......................

  8. Oh, sweetie. I am sooooooo heartbroken for you. I only wish I could be there for you. Just know that your "angel" will always look out for you.

  9. I'm so so sorry. I know I can't possibly understand everything you and your family are going through, but I will be thinking of you.

  10. I am so sorry Mary Beth. I just wish I could reach through my screen, give you a hug, and take some of the pain away. There are no words. Please let me know if Tim and I can do anything for you and your family. Meghan and Tim Beringer

  11. Mary Beth, Your post brought me to a stream of tears...I am so sorry for your loss. While I cannot imagine what you are going through during this sad time, please know that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

  12. Mary Beth,
    I do not know you but my daughter-in-law, Jana sent this to me. My heart is with you since the same thing happened to me. I felt like I was reading my story. I know what you are feeling and I will pray for your healing. My daughter Stephanie would now be 20 years old. I will never forget her but the pain does become less as time goes on. A year after Stephanie left us I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. As I said before, I will pray for you and your family. And know that you really do have an angel of your very own watching over you.
    God bless you and help you through this time.
    Lucy Sullivan
    If you would want to vent or talk please go ahead and get my number from Jana who is a friend of Amy's.

  13. Mary Beth,
    I am sending you prayers and hugs. I am so sorry you have to endure such a horrible loss. Know you are in my thoughts.
    Katie McGann Dolan

  14. Oh Mary Beth, my heart is hurting for you and your family. Your post brought me to tears and I wish your pain could disappear. My sister-in-law has been through this and she shut down for two months. I am so glad you are talking about it and I hope that helps you get through this difficult time. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Love, Krista Johns

  15. I don't have any answers for you, and I'm not sure I even have any words that will be of comfort. But I know that you are an amazing writer, and an incredibly strong woman to be able to put your tragedy into words right now. And I hope that that will be a source of healing for you and your family as time goes by.

  16. Mary Beth and Christopher,
    Prayers, thoughts, words and tears can't possibly help enough to make a difference in your grief... Please know that so many people have you in their hearts at this time and are available for you whenever you need anything. Don't hesitate to ask...
    Jennifer Mernitz

  17. Mary Beth
    Words can not describe how I feel for you. I know that the pain is strong, but know that your family and friends are there for you at all times. It will eventually get better. My cousin Coleen went through a very similar situation and I always look at her with amazement, then a mother of two, now years later she is a mother of four. Truely Billy and my thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones. Love: Megan Dangler Bissmeyer

  18. There are simply no words that can be a balm for the soul of a mother who has lost her child. At times there is a small amount of strange comfort in knowing that your heart is aching with the throbing pain that echoes in the hearts of so many other mothers. Berry Beth, I am so very deeply sorry for the extreme loss of your sweet baby girl. I hate that you are beginning this journey, it is a hard one but I pray you have the loving support of many by your side and I pray that you find comfort in Gods supportive embrace. ((Many, many hugs))

  19. I am so sorry for your loss. The hole this leaves in your heart will never really heal, but the hard edges will get softer with time. Through the hole will blow the warm wind of your love for your daughter, and her love back to you.

  20. Dear Mary Beth and Chris I attend the UU church and when Rev Joel shared your loss, I wept for your pain. I am a parent also and I never take for granted the miracle of birth. I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad that you did have rich filled moments with your angel and I pray that will sustain you and comfort you as you grieve her. I send peace and healing to your family.

  21. Mary Beth -- my heart aches and aches for you, my oldest, dearest friend. I love you so much and have been thinking of you and praying for your family constantly since I first got word of your heartbreaking news. So much love to you, my brave beautiful Selma. Love Sue

  22. Mary Beth--There are no words I can find to express my sorrow and my sympathy for you and your family at the loss of your beautiful little Calla. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Sarah Hayes--UUCB

  23. Mary Beth,
    I have always known you are a strong, amazing woman...and even in this most unfair, heartbreaking situation I hear that strength. Words and even thoughts don't seem appropriate, so I am sending love, and hope to you and Chris. Love, Jessica Ulmer

  24. Mary Beth, I came here through Angie (still life)'s blog... I was STRUCK when I saw your sweet baby's name Calla Valentina... my baby's name is Valentina Grace, she passed on April 25th, 2010 and was delivered 2 days later, 39 weeks, stillborn with no cause of death. I just suffered my second loss in a year, lost my sweet "Little Bee" at 7 weeks, this weekend. I am still going through the physical throes of miscarriage, and wondering if I will ever hold life in my arms after another labor. I am so sorry to know you this way, but so looking forward to following your writings. <3 I am so terribly sorry for your loss.

  25. This was the same... for me, my husband, and my beautiful Gabraella. The terrible excruciating sadness. I am sorry for you, for me, for everyone who has to feel this too. Calla Valentina is an absolutely beautiful name. A friend of mine sent me a card... she wrote a quote inside: "An angel in the book of life wrote down my baby's birth,Then whispered as she closed the book,"Too beautiful for Earth."