The minutes ticked slowly by and now we were in to Saturday. The dr was gone again. I suppose other women in labor needed her more then I did. My nurse stayed right with me or right outside my door. Finally, I told her I felt different again so she decided to check and see if I had dilated that last little bit. My cervix was being difficult and sitting in a spot that was hard for the dr and nurse to reach and very uncomfortable for me when they tried. The nurse asked me to push slightly in the hope that would give her a better angle for feeling the cervix. She then asked me to push a little harder and without much effort, the baby just slipped out. There was no pain and no real trying. She was born at 12:48 AM.
The nurse clamped the cord, pinching me slightly in the process, and pulled the sheet over my legs so I couldn’t see the baby. I wasn’t trying to look anyway. She called for the dr, who came in pretty quickly, and then I saw her take the blankets holding the baby to the other side of the curtain. The dr said we would wait for a while for the placenta to deliver on its own. It only took a minute or two. Then, she started poking around at my uterus from the outside to make sure it was shrinking like it is supposed to, she said it didn’t feel right. She started calling for speculums and another nurse. She wanted to check to make sure everything had delivered right. These kind of exams are not fun to begin with and if you don’t relax can be quite painful. Well, I was shaking uncontrollably from head to foot and couldn’t stop crying. The dr and nurse kept saying “just relax” and “let your legs just fall to the sides”. Are you kidding me!? It took real effort but I was able to take a deep breath, stop crying, and let her do her exam. I delivered a massive blood clot, then the dr left me alone. I just kept repeating “I am the Lord your God, I will not leave you or forsake you”. As soon as the exam was over I just couldn’t keep it together any more and it was back to shaking and crying. I remember spending a lot of time, or what seemed like a long time, looking straight up at the ceiling and just sobbing. The extra nurse worked on cleaning me up, helping me change gowns, and changing my bedding. The whole time I just cried. I hate crying in front of people and that never crossed my mind, it was like they weren’t even there and all my mind could concentrate on was what I just lost.
My nurse came from the other side of the curtain and said the baby had been gone longer then we thought and she wasn’t sure if it would be helpful or hurtful for me to see her. The dr didn’t like that remark because she didn’t want it to sound like the nurse was discouraging me. But the nurse said that she was in favor of whatever I decided, she was just being honest with me like I had asked her to. This really scared me. This was my one chance to see my baby and yet I didn’t want to leave there with bad images in my mind. I ended up asking her what she meant by “gone longer then we thought”. Was the baby discolored? Was it decomposing? Was there some kind of very obvious deformity? She said her main concern was over the baby’s head. Because she had been in water, still, and gone for such a long time, her head was misshapen. Strangely enough, that was a huge relief to me, THAT was something I could deal with. I asked whether the baby was a girl or boy, she said it is tricky to tell when they are that small but she felt certain I had another girl. I felt pretty good taking her word for it as I know she has a lot of experience with this type of thing. I asked how old she thought the baby was. I was 20 weeks and 1 day when I delivered, the ultrasound had measured the baby at between 16 and 17 weeks but the nurse said she would have been about 15 weeks. This meant she had been gone close to a month and a half before we even knew. She had died within days of my last hearing her little heartbeat.
I asked the nurse to take some pictures of baby’s hands and feet. I had thought to throw my small camera in my bag that morning knowing if I wanted it later and didn’t have it I would be very mad at myself. She did a very nice job, taking her time to get good, clear pictures. I have one of Landyn’s little feet and one of her tiny face and hand. She then asked if I was ready to see the baby. She dimmed the lights slightly and carried her over. She laid her down on the pillow next to me, Ryan was standing on the other side of her so she was between us. At that moment mommy mode kicked in. All the fears were gone. This was my baby, my daughter. I couldn’t believe how tiny she was. How perfect she was. She was wrapped in a very small, handmade blanket. It was pink on one side and lime green and white on the other, it had lace all around the edge. There was another small yellow blanket over the top of that. I still have the yellow blanket, the way it feels and smells makes me think of her. Her skin was dark. Babies at that gestational age do not have fat and their skin is translucent so they appear red because you can see their muscles. The nurse had put a little yellow butterfly next to her head to help hide the shape. I touched her little arm and hand ever so gently, she was so small and delicate looking. We looked at her tiny little toes. She had everything she was supposed to have, fingers, toes, a nose just like Kylee’s, the smallest mouth and eyes. You could see the 3 knuckles on each finger. Everything was there, just so, so small.
I am so glad I chose to labor and deliver. I didn’t have to. I could have skipped the long day and pain. I could have done a quick procedure and went home pretending it never happened. And I would have missed that moment. That moment to have my daughter by my side, to marvel over how small and perfect, to know she really was gone and say goodbye. I wouldn’t do it any differently. I don’t even know how long we spent just staring at her. I never did hold her as there just was hardly enough of her to hold and I was nervous of how delicate she was and of disturbing the little yellow butterfly. Seeing her as she was presented to us was safe and after not having slept and being super emotional I couldn’t think any differently. Several days later I wrote this in my Landyn journal:
The “I wish I hads” are starting to get me. At the time of Landyn’s birth and few short hours after I was overwhelmed with everything. How can you possibly, in the midst of grief, having only 9 short hours, think of all the things you would later wish you had done. I knew before the birth I wanted to see the baby and hold the baby. I also kept talking about the little feet. I never did hold her as I was afraid of seeing what they were trying to hide behind that butterfly; there also was just hardly enough of her to hold. I wish I had. I wish I just held her and held her. I wish I had held her little tiny body close to my heart. I know now that seeing her little squished head would not have bothered me. I wish I had moved the butterfly and opened her blankets and studied every tiny little piece of her. I wish I had looked at her little bottom and belly. I wish I had kissed her over and over instead of just once. I wish I had kissed her tiny little toes and fingers. The memories I do have are precious. I’m glad for every second I had with her. I know that I did what I wanted to and what felt right at the time. I know there will never be a second in my life that I won’t want to see her just once more or give her just one more kiss. But, oh, how I wish I had filled every second of those 9 hours with her.
I put that here and describe her because I want people to realize that she was really a baby, MY baby, my little girl. NOT a fetus, NOT a piece of tissue but a real person. A person who was and is very loved. So many are uncomfortable with infant death. So many think it’s weird to hold or see your dead child. To me it’s no different then any other death. How many people have kissed a loved one after they’ve died or at the very least patted their hand. The only difference here was this was my ONLY chance. I took it. And while now I may see ways I could have taken that time better, right then I was just happy getting even those few moments with my little girl.
After some time, I think now it was around 3AM, the nurse said we had people waiting and wanted to know if we wanted them to come in. My mom, dad, sister, and friend were there. I was very concerned with how they would perceive my baby and I didn’t want to see anyone upset. I sent the nurse out to describe the baby to them so they could decide for themselves if they wanted to see her. I had the nurse put her in the baby warmer on the other side of the curtain so I wouldn’t have to see anyone if they were upset. They came in and visited for a little while, those who wanted to see the baby did. The nurse also weighed and measured Landyn during this time and made me 3 sets of little footprints. She was 2 ½ ounces and 5 ½ inches long. They didn’t stay long and after everyone went home we decided we wanted to get some sleep. We opted to keep Landyn in the room with us even though the nurse warned us she would change overnight from the heat of the room and not being in the water any more. I’m glad we kept her. The few times I woke up I would look over and see her little blankets in the warmer and it felt right to have her right there.
Morning came. I was ready to go home. My nurse had gone home, I wish I could have said thank you, and a new nurse had taken her place. I had to wait for the dr to discharge me. Ryan went to get our breakfast and I sat there on the bed looking over at that little pile of blankets that covered my little girl. I got up and walked over to her and just stood looking at her. I told her I loved her, touched her little arm, and said goodbye. I sat back on the bed and couldn’t stop looking at her. I wanted to kiss her but was afraid to damage her delicate skin. Then I decided it didn’t matter and that if I didn’t get up and kiss her I would regret it forever. One kiss, hardly more then a brush of my lips, on her tiny, cold little forehead. Ryan came back with breakfast and we ate. It wasn’t good. The new nurse came in and I told her that I had been told I could have the blankets that Landyn was in but I didn’t want her lying around naked. She said she would take her and change her blankets, bring me the ones she had been in, then bring her downstairs. She wheeled her over for one last look, it was quick and I guess that is good because I don’t know that I would have ever been able to say that I was ready for her to go. I tucked the blankets around her and the nurse took her. The dr came shortly after that and answered the few questions I had. The nurse came back and put my blankets in the memory box the hospital gave me. It also had her footprints, measuring tape, and hospital bracelets in it. Ryan went out to get the car, the nurse told him to wait by the ER instead of the main entrance where they usually bring you. I guess they didn’t want me sitting there holding my box of memories watching other discharged maternity patients holding their babies. Just before the nurse was ready to bring me down I realized they forgot my rhogam shot (long explanation but it has to do with blood type) so I had to wait another 45 minutes or so while she ran to find the dr and ordered it from the pharmacy. Finally, though, she wheeled me down and we left. Home felt good. I crawled into bed and slept for several hours. The kids came home later that evening. We talked with them for a long time about the baby and they asked a lot of questions. Finally, we put them to bed and I took one of the sleeping pills I had asked for. It didn’t take long to put me right out and it was a good thing because it had been a very, very long day.