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.