I Held you every Second of your Life.

Part 2 in a Series on Pregnancy Loss : Elijah James Warren

miscarriage2-177x235It was a Sunday afternoon like any other except that I was 3 ½ months into my first pregnancy.  I was having an afternoon rest but felt nauseous and got up to vomit. As I vomited I felt an explosion of fluid and I realised my waters had broken. John quickly rushed to me to the Royal Womens Hospital in Melbourne City where we sat all night long in a state of fear, confusion and disbelief. Physically I was bleeding heavily but an ultrasound was needed to confirm if the baby was still alive or not. Unfortunately I had to wait until the morning to get one. John sat beside me all night but we barely spoke as we sat consumed by our worry and fear. Without any diagnoses we had nothing to pray for or hope for.

After waiting all night long and sitting through a painstakingly long ultrasound scan finally the technician spoke…”Baby has no amniotic fluid left. The sack has ruptured. Baby has heartbeat. You will need go to the theatre for a curette to remove baby.” He spoke so weird – it wasn’t ‘the baby’ it was just ‘baby’. It felt like a downgrade. Like it was a nothing. The word ‘the’ seemed to give it more life. I didn’t really understand what he was saying. I remember asking ‘The baby has a heartbeat?’ Yes, he said. I felt like I was stating the obvious ‘but why can’t we just keep going?’ I remember his eyes looking at me like I was so stupid not to understand the role of amniotic fluid in a pregnancy. He said ‘baby can’t grow without the fluid, it keeps the lungs moist and supple, ready for breathing, without it baby’s lungs will dry out, it’s renal system will fail and it’s respiratory system will not start because the lungs will dry out and crack.’ And with that he got on the phone to book me in to surgery to get the baby taken out. Things were moving way too fast. I could barely breathe. I didn’t understand all the implications of what he was saying and I felt stupid and I was being rushed into surgery without a thorough explanation. I needed to process what he was saying. I was moved briefly back to a ward before going to surgery. John and I talked quickly and we decided to leave the hospital. I almost felt like a prisoner on the run. Adrenaline got me dressed and we almost ran out of the hospital. We did let them know we were leaving and they expressed great concern at our decision. With no amniotic fluid the womb was exposed to major infection. I agreed to come back for tests in three days.

I remember feeling so much better emotionally once leaving the hospital. I had felt bullied to get the surgery. I felt that the life of my unborn child was not considered on any level. I was so confused, tired and scared and I needed peace, rest and clarity and I knew I wasn’t going to get it there.

This was our dilemma. Was having the surgery to forcibly remove the baby from my uterus, while it had a strong heartbeat, paramount to abortion? I didn’t know the answer to that question but I was going to find out before I went anywhere near the hospital again. I would have to live with this decision for the rest of my life, and I didn’t want hindsight to tell me something different 1, 2, 5, 10 years later. I needed to make the right decision amidst all the heavy emotion and pain. It didn’t help that I kept imagining this tiny little baby lying on the bottom of a ‘dry womb’ no longing suspended in the moist blanket of fluid it had always known. I could barely sleep I was so distraught over its condition.

The bible says there is wisdom in counsel. We made three phone calls to three different people who each had 20 years ministry experience. We got the same message from each of the three people. We also spoke to an experienced midwife who was able to explain the situation from a medical point of view. She also gave us other options other than a D & C. We searched the scriptures for answer. We prayed. We cried. We read the dictionary definition of abortion. We cried. We prayed more. We cried more.

I really wanted to call ‘Right to Life’ but John was frightened that some religious zealot would tell me that I was going to commit murder by going back to the hospital in two days time. While he was taking a shower, I called them. I was put through to a counsellor straight away. I explained my situation and the options I had. She said “your body has initiated the process of labour. It started contractions and your waters have broken of their own volition. You’ll only be helping your body to finish what it has already started.” She said you’re not making a decision to end the pregnancy but that the pregnancy has made a decision to end itself.

I had peace at last. It was like my whole body sighed with relief. When John got out of the shower I told him and together we cried again now sure of what we needed to do.

We spoke to a friend who was a midwife and she explained that a surgical removal of the baby was not our only option. She said that they could insert ‘saline’ tablets into the uterus which would irritate it enough to restart contractions. The baby would be then be delivered normally which would give us an opportunity to hold the baby. This was really important to us. She also explained that my body would recover faster because it would better understand what had happened. With surgery the body is left confused – one moment there was a baby and next minute it is gone.

Upon arrival back at the hospital we let the doctor know of our decision to deliver the baby naturally. I overheard a nurse sarcastically saying to another nurse – “How stupid? Why would they do that?” We were put down in a room at the end of a long hallway away from all the mums who would probably deliver live babies.  The saline tablets were inserted into the uterus and I was told that after 4-6 hours I would probably need 2 more and then after 10-12 hours I might start to labour.  I delivered my baby boy Elijah John Warren less than 5 minutes later. I had not recognised the back pains I had been having all day as labour pains. The two white saline tablets came out first.

Our precious baby boy, Elijah James Warren, was born weighing about 100 grams. His whole body could fit in the palm of my hand. His skin was translucent but he was fully formed. Two arms, two legs – the toes and fingers were too small to count. He was taken away and then brought back in some tiny clothes made by a church somewhere in Melbourne. I can not explain this but I was full of joy. It was a sad joy but a joy nevertheless. I held my precious baby son. I had been a bit fearful of what condition he would be in given that there was no amniotic fluid but nothing to the naked eye was obviously amiss.

John and I both sadly hugged and kissed him. He was perfect to us. We cried so much I felt like I needed to have a drink so that my body had some more liquid to make more tears. I stayed overnight but the next day I was told I would have to leave the hospital. I did not want to leave my baby.  There was an option that we could take the baby with us as because he had no birth certificate.  In Australia you only get a birth certificate for the baby if they are born weighing 400 grams or you’re beyond 20 weeks gestation. I was neither. I was torn. I didn’t feel like I was ready to say goodbye yet. The hospital agreed keep him in the morgue one more day but then he would need to be sent for an autopsy.

I left the hospital and John and I went to buy him a gift. Of the three ultrasounds we had of our son, three different ultrasound technicians remarked on his strong heartbeat. I felt strongly that he had ‘inherited’ the strong heart of his mother and father. We bought a small length of chain and a silver locket and he was cremated with it. I still have his ashes at home with me. I bought a large wooden ‘blanket box’ in which I put every card and every memento including his ashes. It is next to my bed in my bedroom. No matter where I live he will not be far from my heart at night. We opted to not bury him in a cemetery plot that had a premature baby section. A reason cemeteries exist is because they are public. It is a ‘common’ area for all who knew the person to come and visit and remember them. Who was going to visit our dead baby, but us? I wanted him near me. Maybe one day I’ll scatter the ashes but I’m doubtful.

Next Week Part 3 : The Bottom of the Barrel

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

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