Wednesday, July 24, 2013
I realize I haven't written on this blog in a while. Not because I haven't been thinking~ but I have had my nose so deep in books that I haven't kept up with my writing.
I was asked to help someone with a book she is working on about loss. She wanted personal stories for different sections~ Still birth, miscarriage, loss of a multiple... (How sad that I could have written on all three of those topics.)
She asked me to write about Stillbirth and so I opened my computer and my memory and traveled back to September 15, 2003. I was a bit nervous. It had been a while since I thought back to that specific night and yet do you ever really forget something like that?
Here is my first draft. Please excuse my overuse of ellipses (...) and parenthesis ( ). I know I need to go to a support group to get rid of such things~ my style I suppose. I will be editing this further- Please let me know what you think. I am a bit over the length she wanted but not sure what to cut. You don't realize the layers your story has until you start sitting down and putting it on paper (or in my case- screen).
I was 27 and my bags were packed. They had actually been packed~ for weeks. I had heard that twins come early but as my husband Jeff had said, “Those babies don’t want to leave club med until they’re good and ready.”
My doctor had said we would go until 40 weeks (which she said was considered two weeks overdue with twins). My calendar had September 22nd circled (in red). I was sure it would have been my babies’ birthday. My husband was right, these babies weren’t going anywhere.
I remember where I was sitting (a reclining chair that had also become my bed since I couldn’t lay flat without the babies crushing my lungs) and what I was wearing (khaki shorts and the only white T-shirt I had that would fit over my huge stomach). At 5’2” I carried all out front. I measured 40 weeks at 6 months and when I look back at pictures of that girl prior to delivery, I feel like it must have hurt~ but it didn’t. I was someone who LOVED being pregnant. My pregnancy had been very uneventful~ I did have club med in my body after all...
The phone rang.
It was my doctor. It was only the 15th, but she called and said, “I think it’s time. Let’s just have you come up and get the ball rolling.” Later I would ask her why she called me in early and she would tell me, “God just put you in my head”. I was to go in, get some creams and pitocin (or something like that) and hopefully have these babies the following morning. I say “something like that” because I never got that far.
When we went to the hospital, I practically ran. The entrance was under construction, but I insisted on walking (making the very old man who wanted to push me in a wheel chair very nervous). Jeff and I got to our room and my mom joined us (they were to be my labor coaches). We were met by a nurse who gave me a gown to change into so we could get started.
I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to see the babies who had been living and moving inside of me. I had sang to them every night, read to them, and now here we were FINALLY. We didn’t even know if they were boys or girls so we had four names picked out. My mom took those last “pregnancy” pictures of me and I was ready. Little did I know that that girl in the picture would be gone in just a matter of hours~ never to return~ changed.
I got in the bed and they put some belts around me. The nurse was having a hard time getting heart tones on the babies. I wasn’t worried. By now they were big and cramped in there. At my most recent ultrasound (a few days prior) they were all over each other and it was hard to get good pictures. She apologized (as did another nurse who tried with no success) and got the house doctor. He too couldn’t get any tones so he brought in an ultrasound machine.
I felt the familiar cool of the gel and watched the picture on the screen along with him. I saw my baby, only there was something different. That familiar flutter~ that light that steals the breath of every parent who sees it, was gone. Black. I didn’t have to hear the words or see the doctor’s face to know what it meant. He slid to the other side of my stomach and same thing...
“It appears your fetuses are dead.”
Those were his exact words. My eyes scanned the faces of my mom and husband. I think in that moment I was more concerned that he called my babies fetuses than the message he was trying to deliver. My babies were dead.
“But I feel them moving!”
And this I will never forget. He put his hand on my left arm and moved it gently, “That’s you breathing.”
I took his hand from my arm and put it to the side of my stomach.
He felt it. I saw it in his face.
He got an ultrasound tech and I had hope. Hope was inside me as I prayed, and prayed and prayed. I prayed like I had never prayed before.
The ultrasound specialist came in. He was a short man. He looked uncomfortable. He took out the gel and spread it across my stomach. He saw the first baby. Silence. But then he moved the wand and there it was. That flicker.
“It appears that one of your babies is dead, but the other is here. I’m so sorry.”
At that time my doctor had reached my side. She looked worried. There would be no pitocin- no creams. I was getting poked and prodded and prepped. They needed to get these babies out of me and fast. They didn’t know what was happening.
It happened so fast. I looked at my limbs which were bouncing out of my control. Fluids going into my body so fast that it was making movements that were foreign to me. They wheeled me into a room. An operating room that felt dark to me (though I’m sure it was very bright). It was silent in that room and there were eyes everywhere that I didn’t know. They all wore blue masks. I hugged one of them as she whispered in my ear, “God is in this room.”
My body went slack and they laid me back gently and then I saw his eyes. My husband’s. They were streaked and red and I know he’d been crying. I know he was scared. My hands were strapped at my sides but he held one and squeezed. Our silent “I love you” to one another.
At 10:35 I felt this enormous pull and I knew. It was silent and yet I felt as if this strange rain were pouring down on me. A peace was covering me~ Every inch of me.
“It’s a boy.”
It was a statement. A fact. All this time and now I knew. I had a strange sense of peace. That God really was in the room. That he was OK. I looked at my baby and he was pink and beautiful and I wondered why they weren’t working on him.
A minute later I felt that same pull only this time it was accompanied by the most beautiful sound a parent can ever hear~ though they don’t know it unless they’ve experienced its absence. Cries!
“It’s a boy.”
And in that moment while they were cleaning them up, I smiled at my husband. They would have been best friends. Played on ball fields together. Ridden bikes. Double dates. They would have been best men at each other’s weddings...
They put baby A on my left and baby B at my right. Both were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I slipped my pinky finger into my first son’s curled hand and I swore I felt him hold on... Oh please God, let him hold on.
But he didn’t.
We named him Andrew Daniel. He was six pounds 11 ounces and to this day he is the largest of all his siblings. There has not been a single day that has passed where I haven’t thought of him~ where he hasn’t wandered into a thought or fluttered past my daydreams. I like it that way.
I began writing him. I got a journal and I filled it with letters to him. Letters I knew he would never read but somehow I knew he felt every word. I look back at those letters now and I can see how far I’ve come~ my anger, my fear~ my sadness. Pages where I can still make out the remnants of my tears. How far “we’ve” come and while there were many days following that September night that I didn’t feel it, I can now say~ with certainty, “I am blessed.”
I left for the hospital that September night with my bag slung over my shoulder. I remember looking at my house that last time and thinking, “The next time I step into this room I will be different. I will be changed. I will be a mom.” I had no idea how changed I would be. That the words “still birth” would be part of my story. But they were. They are.
Andrew lives in me still. He lives in all of us. His twin who (as I write these words) is now almost ten, his sister born 15 months after him who would probably not have been here had he lived (we would have been more careful...), and his two youngest brothers. My family is so much more than the four children you see in our family picture. It is something big and beautiful and blessed.
He grew me. He grew us.
I thank him for that and I look forward to the day where I won’t write it in his journal or whisper it on the breeze but I will say it. I will look into his eyes and say, “Oh Andrew. I have missed you. I have loved you so...” and he can stop me. Put a finger to my lips and say, “I know, mom.” Because he does.
Written by Laura Drapal Doran
Mom to (Andrew), Jonasen, Ali Jane, Zachary, (E) & Sean
Labels: Andrew's Story