39 weeks… Nine months pregnant and only one week to go before my baby’s due date. I was at the very tail end! I had carried my little bundle of wiggles to full term and now I anticipated the day he or she would finally arrive. Baby clothes and other items were thoroughly washed and neatly organized in dressers. I lingered over the newborn size boy and girl outfits, hardly able to wait till I could see which ones would be used.
I scrubbed my car clean… twice… and buckled the infant car seat base to the back seat. I put the stroller in my trunk and then packed a hospital bag for the baby. Everything was ready, and I was almost eager for the pain of labor if it meant that at any hour, I could be holding my sweet baby in my arms. I had, after all, been having consistent contracting for the last three days. They slowly became closer together until they were only 5 minutes apart, but had yet to become more intense. I simply could tell that something was happening, and my midwife and I both assumed it could be early labor beginning. It was sometimes uncomfortable, but I was not in pain or concerned about these types of Braxton Hicks. It was typical, especially for the first, to have a slow labor beginning days before the baby actually came. So, I tried to think of ways to keep busy, as these annoying contractions continued. I noticed that baby hadn’t been very active… I figured my contractions were disguising any movement. And I also sluffed it off that he/she was slowing down as delivery neared.
My husband and I had been so excited when we found out that we were expecting on January 15, 2019. For nine months we eagerly planned and prepared for our lives to change in a new and blessed way, as we had always looked forward to having a family together. My husband was 22 and I was 20. We had been married just that September 2018, waited a few months before getting pregnant, and it two or three months of trying before I had the chance to read a positive pregnancy test. It was all perfect timing as we announced to our families on Valentine’s Day.
Everything went perfectly, with a healthy and active baby constantly moving inside of me, and I felt great. My sweet little peanut was always energetic, would jump at the sound of Daddy’s nail gun, and liked to do flips until towards the end he/she ended up head down. The heartbeat was always strong and consistent, with absolutely no concerns to talk about. It was almost a dream pregnancy, and I never suspected anything to ever go wrong.
But, to the horrific reality of an imperfect world… that very same day I had buckled in the infant car seat base, I found out that I would not ever need it. Not for this child.
My midwife came to my house for a prenatal checkup to be able to asses a bit better in person whether she thought it was really labor or not. The first thing we did was check on baby’s heartbeat. We listened… for so long. Her face never changed or looked alarmed. I watched her for any sign of worry. She remained calm. We just kept listening. My midwife poked at my tummy and tried to get baby to move… no movement. After what felt like an eternity of waiting, I finally allowed myself to ask the question that had been haunting me. “Is it strange that we can’t find a heartbeat?” My world slowed as Korina nodded and answered, “It is very strange.”
“How could this be?” I turned my thoughts to how I had just felt baby kick and have hiccups earlier that morning, and the day before my mom had brought over her doppler since I hadn’t felt much movement, and we found a very normal and strong heartbeat. How could it be so hard this time?
Korina then took the time to reassuringly talk over some options with my husband and I, and we decided to go to the hospital. Elijah and I were scared beyond anything we ever felt before. On the way to the hospital we hardly said any words at all. We tried to pray out loud, but all Elijah managed to say was, “Dear Lord…” and then we both just cried. The tears ran so viciously, pouring out like a storm. They fell onto my tummy, which was 9-months rounded and so dreadfully STILL.
We arrived at the hospital and we were brought straight to the examining room, where a nurse immediately began monitoring my heartbeat with one machine, while searching for my baby’s heartbeat with the other machine. It was around 3:00pm in the afternoon. Korina and Elijah stayed right beside me. After several minutes of listening, being briefly fooled into believing that they might have heard a distressed heartbeat, scaring me with the idea of having an emergency c-section, and then finally realizing it was only my heartbeat they heard… an ultrasound was finally ordered in.
The doctor watched the ultrasound screen for only a few minutes before the nurse confirmed his answer. I looked up to the ceiling and closed my eyes. Noise and movement disappeared from the room as my mind sunk into a dark world of fog; this fog that would last for well over a week. I knew what was going to be said to me. I knew in my heart that I no longer carried a living child. I knew that my heart was about to shatter with the news about to be given me. I knew, and I didn’t want to hear.
I felt a gentle hand rest upon my arm… I tried to imagine it away. I heard the kind voice of this doctor say these words… All I could do was shake my head.
“I am so sorry… there is no heartbeat.”
I felt like screaming. I thought I was dying. I looked at the doctor’s eyes which were filled with unshed tears only briefly before falling back and sobbing at the ceiling. I shook with such pained emotion. I felt as if someone had just held up my child in front of me and murdered him/her in front of my eyes. Elijah walked brokenly to my side and we held each other. The doctor and nurses left the room and we were left to let it all sink in. At this time, my mom arrived and Korina went out to meet her in the hallway, sharing our tragic news with her before she entered the room. When she came in, I cried only harder as I saw her face so unspeakably shattered. We all mourned together for what felt like an eternity of time, as time stood still.
At about 5:00pm we decided to stay and deliver at the hospital. My lovely dreams of a home water birth with only Elijah and the midwives was suddenly forgotten. My imagining our baby screaming and kicking into the world was erased. We were moved to our delivery room and I was immediately given an IV. I lay there, still taking it all in, asking questions that I thought of to ask, and waited to be induced for a labor I did not want to go through. Not like this…
It was around 6:30pm before they started my Pitocin. My midwife mentioned it could take hours before labor started. I tried to get comfortable as the nurse started the Pitocin through my IV. She gave me the smallest dosage possible. I had just begun to get comfortable when my contractions clearly started changing from being only noticeable to hurting a quite a lot. It had only been about fifteen minutes! Before I knew it, I was in the worse pain I had ever experienced in my life. It certainly did not take hours to get my labor going!
It was such a storm, this evening. Emotions were churning with anger and heartbreak. Outside in the dark, the thunder, rain, and lightening created such a sad and dreary atmosphere. Inside there was pain, grief, and suffering. My body raged with the sharpest of physical turmoil.
I will never forget the one time I allowed my emotion to get the better of me… as I struggled through one of the hardest contractions of all, I grew angry. I was angry about what I was going through, with nothing to look forward to in the end. I was frustrated by the pain that had no purpose or prize for the endurance I had. I was hurt that God could have allowed such a loss to myself and Elijah. I was shocked and yet SO very much aware of the hardship and the raw sorrow I felt in my heart. I bitterly breathed through the contraction, and when it was over, I sobbed. My emotion went straight from anger to heartbreak. I couldn’t believe I was going through this, with no reward of a crying baby at the end. I couldn’t believe that my baby was gone and that I was taking this pain, only to live a whole new world of another kind of pain. I cried… I sobbed… as I just stayed there on my hand and knees, begging God for an explanation. Months later, and I now realize that sometimes God just doesn’t give explanations.
I finally found myself begging for an epidural. I had originally wanted to try my best to do without, but I suddenly didn’t want to be strong anymore. I blame the Pitocin and the awful back labor… but also the simple fact that my emotional state didn’t allow for strength in any other area but my heart. After suffering through a torturous contraction as the epidural needle was being inserted, the medicine kicked in really fast. Not long after my pain disappeared, I was told that I was 10 centimeters dilated and could begin pushing whenever I wanted. This left me a bit confused. I was no longer in pain and the contractions didn’t hurt enough to make me want to push. I didn’t know HOW to push! I rested, practiced pushing for about half an hour, and then pushed hard core for almost an hour more. I was in such intense pain as the raw sting of my skin swelling, stretching… and tearing… was nearly unbearable and lasted for so long.
Once my baby’s head was born, it took a few more pushed for the shoulders, and then a few more again for the hips. I thought this baby must have been huge to have to push so much! But no… my baby was perfect, even small, compared to what I had expected.
And so finally, my sweet but deafeningly silent baby was born. As they cleaned up and cut the cord, quickly looking the baby over, my mom breathed the phrase I was waiting for, “Oh Hannah, she’s beautiful”. I found my brain collect itself enough to be able to talk, and asked, “It’s a girl?” I was so happy and proud to have a girl!
After about seven and a half hours of laboring, on September 13th 2019, at 2:21am, Elijah’s and my sweet daughter was born into this world and into our loving arms, though she would never be born into this life. She went straight from my womb to heaven. But here we were, holding our little girl’s body in our arms, in complete awe of her perfect beauty. She was a healthy 6 pounds and 15 ounces, and 19 ½ inches long.
But oh… how painfully quiet it was when our daughter was born. I still remember it like a nightmare. And yet It so amazed me still… how much love washed over me as my baby was placed in my arms. I took her, and almost immediately knew what I went through all that pain for. During labor, I continually wondered how any woman in her right mind would choose to go through all that excruciating pain again after doing it once. I swore to myself that I didn’t want to ever feel it again. But I was amazed by the overwhelming love that washed over me so powerfully when I was handed my baby girl. I looked at her and loved her so fiercely that suddenly the pain that I was just experiencing didn’t matter. I touched my baby girl’s cheeks and realized that the unimaginable pain women go through to bring their child into this world is so very worth it. And then understood how mothers actually mentally wanted to ever go through it all again. My baby wasn’t even alive, and I felt this way! I can’t imagine how much stronger those feelings and emotions would have been if I had seen my baby NEED me with her eyes and LOVE me with her snuggles. During labor and delivery all I could say was “I want to die!”, but then as soon as I had her in my arms, I understood. “So… This is how it feels to be a Mother… so this is what it’s like to forget the pain of childbirth.” Even now looking back, I can say “Eh, it wasn’t that bad.” Even while knowing it was the worst thing I had ever experienced in my life.
I recall the day I found out about my pregnancy. I was beyond excited. I wrote a prayer to the Lord as soon as I found out, even before sharing the happy news with my husband. The main paragraph in my whole prayer was, “Thank you, Lord God for this beautiful gift, and for hearing my prayers. Thank you for opening my womb. Please bless this baby and keep it growing strong and healthy inside of me. Bring this baby into the world perfect and beautiful. Thank you for loving me so much, to bless me with a gift of a child of our own. I love you, Lord God. Amen!”
And now, I realize that God answered this prayer… exactly how I prayed it. It isn’t exactly how I meant it, but He DID keep my little girl strong and healthy as she grew to full term inside of me. He DID bring her into the world perfectly beautiful… only without a beating heart. Even in the plans God has that I cannot understand, His Grace shows through as He hears and answers my prayers. I will miss and love my precious little one forever; but I am so proud to have had a baby girl as perfect and beautiful as this.
Vaia looked so much like her daddy and I, it was almost unbelievable. Her face was so perfectly round and rosy. Her nose was the most darling button nose I had ever seen! I couldn’t believe I had been so afraid to see her… yes, indeed I had been afraid to see my baby. Being that she passed away before being born, I was left to wonder if it was due to a disfigurement, or if she would have died in a way that left her face wreathed in pain or if her skin would have turned dark. I knew my baby would be adorable, but I never dreamed I would have to see her dead. I prayed so hard that the Lord would let her be beautiful. But here she was… the most perfect and beautiful baby I had ever seen, just as I had prayed. She looked strong and healthy; there was no explainable reason for her death. She had lovely coloring to her skin and her face was filled with the most peaceful expression I could have ever wanted to see. I couldn’t imagine her looking more contented than she did.
But as I sat there gazing over my little gift, I couldn’t help not being able to say goodbye. I hadn’t even been able to say hello. I was so thankful for the time I had with her as she grew inside my womb, but oh how I had spent that wonderful time still longing for the day I would meet her face to face. But now I am at that place, and as I looked at her face, I realized that I had forgotten to dream another dream… that she would have been able to see mine. I never thought to look forward to seeing her eyes shining up at me, that she would finally be able to see with her eyes how much I loved her.
As these first moments unfolded with our daughter, the doctor stitched me up for about an hour. We all got cleaned up and then Elijah and I were left alone to have time with our baby. We cleaned her tiny and perfect body together, and then Elijah dressed her in the outfit I had picked out weeks before: A lovely white layette with little pink flowers, and a pink hat with white hearts all over it. She looked so beautiful in all of it.
We named our little girl Vaia (Vay-ah) Jubilee. Vaia means Violet, and Jubilee was fitting as she was forever freed from the troubles of this world. She is our previous little Vaia, and violets will forever remind us of her. The day we returned from the hospital Elijah had found a violet growing outside of our home. Over the next few days our gardens were full of them. Violets, as well as the color purple, will forever remain a beautiful reminder of our daughter Vaia who is now in heaven. Our first baby girl who made us parents.
Family and friends came and visited with us, cried with us, and prayed with us. There were so many tears, and so much love. At first, I didn’t want to see anybody… but then afterward I was so thankful for all the support and encouragement we received as others were there for us in more ways than I can even explain.
Hours before we left the hospital, the man from the funeral home came to take Vaia. Watching her being taken away from me was the hardest thing I had ever had to watch. As the nurse wheeled my baby out of the room and I knew I would never see her again, I cried whole knew tears. It hurt so much to say goodbye in such a final way. I grieved as I would never again in this life see my baby girl. It still physically hurts beyond words that I am not able to hold Vaia in my arms. I still want to hold her ever so badly. My arms feel heavy so often and literally ache. Nobody should have to burry their child… especially a baby. I never thought I could live through something like this… and yet here I am, living through it, with God literally carrying my burdened soul the entire way.
I left the hospital without a baby to take home… Elijah and I returned home without a baby to love and to nurture. Our lives were turned upside down as the whole life we dreamed of having by now was suddenly taken away. We began a journey we never thought we’d have to take. Our story changed drastically in only a matter of one day.
My dreams were shattered in front of me and God changed the future I always thought was secured. I was given something to love and then was forced to only lovingly remember it. My heart had been lifted to the clouds before it fell straight to rock bottom… and broke. So, this is the story I now carry… So, this is Motherhood for me.
“My dear sweet Vaia,
I am sorry… that you were never able to see with your eyes how much I love you. I am sorry I cannot keep you here with me for the rest of my life.
But I do thank the Lord for you. I thank Him for the 9 months I was able to feel you and to hear your heart beating. I thank the Lord for being able to hold you for a while… to touch you and to kiss your soft cheek… to watch your daddy put a cute outfit on you. You were such a joy to have as a part of your daddy’s and my life. Even if it was a short gift, you were the BIGGEST gift to us, and we will love and miss you for the rest of our lives. We look forward and can hardly wait to meet you again in eternity. I am excited to see what a beauty you have become in the presence of our Lord. God loves you and He loves me… we will get through this and you will forever be in a perfect place.
Thank you, Vaia… for being my little girl. For knowing my love and feeling my joy for you. Thank you for touching my life as well as the lives of so many others, like no one else could.
You will never be forgotten… even though you were Stillborn… for you were STILL BORN.”