by Callie · posted by Rachel's Gift
Thank you to Callie and Andrew for sharing your sweet Ellie with all of us.
My sweet Eleanor Hope, you were so wanted. We went through so much to bring you here. You are so loved.
On Monday, April 8, I visited the doctor for high blood pressure - a first for me. I was put on medicine and had to get bloodwork and pee into a giant jug for 24 hours (a super-fun task), but I got to hear your heartbeat, which was perfect - just as it always had been. I was scheduled for a follow up on Thursday.
Thursday morning, April 11, I got up and got ready. The appointment was something I had to tell myself not to forget about - it was just in the back of my mind. I had no idea my world was about to change. My blood pressure was still very high. When the nurse used the doppler on my belly to listen to your heartbeat, she had trouble locating it. It had taken a long time in a previous appointment, so I tried not to worry. As time went on, she asked, “Does it normally take this long to find the heartbeat?” I had to respond with a "no" as I began to cry. She used different wands to make sure it wasn’t a machine error. She brought another nurse in to try. She couldn’t find your heartbeat, either. She told me that sometimes the baby hides behind the placenta and not to worry, but that they were going to go ahead and do an ultrasound. After I gathered myself and stopped crying from sheer terror, I was sent to the waiting room. I thought that was the longest wait of my life. I was wrong.
When the ultrasound tech came to get me, I was terrified to walk into that room. In my heart, I knew something was horribly wrong. Lying on that table while she looked for a heartbeat felt like an eternity. I counted the ceiling squares in order to keep from having a panic attack. After what felt like hours, she quietly shut the machine off and told me that she was so sorry, but your little heart was no longer beating. I was taken into an exam room to wait for the midwife. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My entire world was turned upside-down in a matter of seconds. When the midwife finally came in, he told me that I’d need to go to the hospital to be induced. In my mind, this would only take an hour or two. I think my brain had just shut down at that point. I had no idea what I was in for. Your dad had worked the night before and was sleeping. I think I called him around 40 times with no answer. I didn’t know what to do. My parents were on their way down and my dad stopped to wake Andrew up and bring him to the hospital.
I arrived at the Women and Children’s Center and checked in. The receptionists knew why I was there and spoke in quiet voices as they handed me a box of tissues and told me to take a seat. On the other side of the waiting room, I could hear a family talking about how their daughter had just given birth and how they couldn’t wait to meet that baby. Sitting there felt so surreal. I didn’t even realize I had tears streaming down my cheeks until I felt the collar of my shirt against my neck - it was soaking wet.
Two nurses eventually called me back. I don’t remember one of them, but the other was Mary Catherine. She took such great care of us, Ellie. I’m so thankful for her genuine kindness. I was told to change into a hospital gown and go ahead and get in the bed. I was asked a million questions over and over. I had an IV inserted. Your dad got there just as the ultrasound tech from the hospital was confirming that you no longer had a heartbeat. The lights in the room were off and everything seemed so somber. I was still in shock.
As our family began to arrive, I tried so hard to put on a brave face. I’ve always tried to be strong in front of others. I’m pretty sure I was trying to crack jokes in order to put everyone at ease. I don’t remember a whole lot from that time. Everyone was devastated. Around 1pm, I was given my first dose of medicine to induce me. My blood pressure had also skyrocketed, so I was given constant doses of medicine through my IV. Everyone kept telling me to try to close my eyes and rest. Sleep felt impossible. How could I sleep knowing that I was about to lose you forever?
Our sweet friends Ryan and Bethany came by to see us and pray with us. I’m so thankful for them. It was so nice to hear other people talk about how much this sucked instead of trying to tell me that you were “in a better place”. I’m also so thankful for our families and how real they are. No one tried to tell me it was okay or that things would get better. They just grieved with us.
I received my second dose of the medicine to induce me. It was a little more painful this time. I started having what felt like light menstrual cramps - uncomfortable but certainly not unbearable. I remember thinking that it felt like time was both at a standstill and flying by. I wanted to cling to my pregnancy. I wanted to carry you with me forever. You were such a part of me. I wasn’t ready to give you up.
As the afternoon wore on, the pain became more intense. After receiving my third dose of medicine to induce me, I was miserable. I finally caved and asked for pain medicine. The phenergan they gave me absolutely knocked me for a loop and I was able to nap. Several sweet friends from our small group at church came to pray for us. To feel that love and support was overwhelming. I don’t remember much after receiving the pain medicine, but I do remember every moment of their visit. I slept on and off for the next several hours. People came and went. My mom was a constant - always by my side. She was such an advocate for me while in the hospital. I began feeling the most intense pain of my entire life. I begged for more pain medicine only to find out that it wasn’t time for me to have it yet. I do remember telling the nurse, “Of course I can wait for 20 minutes,” while thinking that I just wanted to die.
Around 3:45 am, my water broke. I feel like it’s depicted in so many movies as women not knowing if they’ve peed themselves or what has happened. I knew exactly what happened. After my water broke, the pain eased. I remember feeling your head. I told the nurse that I felt you and that you were about to arrive. I remember her telling me that I wasn’t ready yet, but she called for the midwife. My memory of your birth is saying, “She’s coming now” and then delivering you. I looked up to see the pain and grief on my midwife’s face. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that look. After they cleaned you up, I was allowed to hold you. You were so tiny, my precious baby. You felt weightless in my arms. Your little hands and feet were so perfectly formed. The look on your face was one of peaceful sleep. Your dad got to spend time holding you, too. What a gift it was to spend time with you.
The next few hours were of restless, drug-induced sleep. When I woke up, I prayed that it was all a horrible dream. I lifted my head to see your lifeless body, all wrapped up in a tiny baby blanket in the baby bed across from mine. When we told the nurse we were ready for them to take you, it was unreal to hear her say the words “taking your baby to the morgue” and “she will be cremated but there won’t be any ashes for you to take”. We opted not to have a service - we knew that this would be our private grief journey together.
In the hospital, I received a box called “Rachel’s Gift”. It had a teddy bear, a pink blanket, your footprints with a record of your weight, and some pictures that they’d taken of you. It didn’t feel like a gift as I left the hospital that day carrying a white box instead of a baby. I felt so cheated. It has since been a tremendous gift. I sleep with that little pink blanket every night and it’s such a comfort. Living without you has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. All I want in life is to be a mother, and you gave me that gift, sweet Ellie. I miss you more than I could ever possibly put into words. How do you have such an overwhelming love for someone you hadn’t even met? I can’t describe it. You were such a part of me. YOU were such a gift, my baby girl. You made the 19 and a half weeks I carried you the best 19 and a half weeks of my entire life. I don't regret a single second of our journey together.
Even though I don’t have you in my arms, I am still your mother. I will still celebrate Mother’s Day knowing that I am a mom. I will still grieve Mother’s Day knowing that I no longer have you with me. I will still rest on Mother’s Day living with the hope that I will see you again one day, perfect and whole.
Thank you for giving me the gift of motherhood, Ellie. Your mom loves you more than words could ever begin to say. I can’t wait to see you again, my beautiful girl.
FOR GRIEVING PARENTS
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