Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Miracle Birth

I've apparently never been much of a blogger. You can see that the majority of the posts are by Trevor and my last post was in 2009. I guess I never felt like I had anything worth posting to the world. Besides, I'm not much of a talker, I'd much rather listen. But with the recent turn of events in our life, I'm thinking maybe I can share a little about our experience. It's a very personal one and something that is so near and dear to my heart, so part of me hesitates to post such a personal experience to the whole world. So much has happened in the past month that I'd like to remember and recount. I know that blog posts are usually in a sequential and chronological order, but I think I'll just share things as they come to me. However it's probably important that I at least start with what happened. Half of the following account was written on Saturday, August 6th. The rest I completed today.  This is obviously a really long and detailed post, perhaps more for myself (especially since the first half was just a journal entry) than others, but I'd like to share it.


*****

I have felt such an array of emotions in the past day and a half that I don’t even know where to begin, but I want this part of my life to always be remembered, or at least have a record of its reality. How it feels and what the turn of events have been and are. I don’t know where to begin and I feel so emotionally drained that I can’t begin to try to recount what has happened but I want the details to be recorded before they get fuzzy.

On Wednesday I went to book club with my friends in Provo. A friend had asked if my mid-wife had been doing “non-stress tests.” I said no, but looked up what it was exactly. Essentially it is monitoring baby’s heart and movements to make sure baby is okay. On Tuesday I had had a prenatal and his heart was great and he was kicking around so much that night at dinner. Trevor and I want to Café Rio to celebrate 41 weeks. (I’m crying now thinking that was the last time Luke was with me). I even thanked him out loud for being such a good mover and helping mommy not worry and know that he was okay still. People had started inquiring about being induced, but I felt there was no reason to. Healthy baby, healthy mom we’re just gonna keep going. Wednesday night when I got home from book club I laid on the couch waiting for movements. I wasn’t really getting any. I thought maybe I was being hypersensitive/paranoid because of people’s concerns.

Thursday I was feeling more concerned. I had a list of tons of things to do but I was quite immobilized. I called Sherri and she said that babies sometimes rest up a lot before delivery so birth could just be coming soon. I don’t remember if it was before or after I spoke with Sherri but I had a moment where I just broke down. I was just so scared that he wasn’t okay. I wandered through the house trying to do things like put away the laundry and tidy up and I just cried. It was pretty uncontrollable. So many thoughts raced through my head and I even spoke so many of them out loud. I thought about not having the baby as part of our life and I wondered what I would do with my life since I have been planning to be a stay at home mom. As I cried, I pleaded out loud with Heavenly Father and with the baby to just move so I knew that he was okay. There was nothing. I don’t remember if I slept or sat for a while on the couch unable to do much of anything. I wanted so bad to just have someone check me for a heart rate so I knew he was okay. I thought about driving to Sherri’s or to another midwife’s that lives in Payson. For whatever reason I didn’t head over to have her or anyone else check me. I drank some juice and waited to feel movements. I think it was then that I went into denial that everything was “okay.” I thought maybe I had felt him move and realized I couldn’t just fret about it because there was stuff to be done. I needed to go to the church and take care of my visiting teaching stuff and get ready for friends coming over for dinner. So I tried to put my worries aside and just go to work.

The next day Trevor asked if I had felt the baby move. I replied “yes, in my sleep.” I hadn’t felt him move, but I was trying to be optimistic that he was okay. Maybe optimistic isn’t the right word. I think denial is probably what it was. Of course he was okay. He’s been a healthy, striving baby this whole time and of course I’m going to deliver a healthy, happy baby shortly. So I had called Sherri and planned to come see her. For me, it was to put my mind at ease and she wanted to talk about things we should start doing to see if we could get labor happening.

Trevor and I got to Sherri’s around 2:30. We started by having her check my dilation. It was only at 1cm but she thought I was 70-80% effaced. She thought that if we put some borage oil on my cervix that we would surely get things going. I wasn’t feeling quite ready for that because there were some last minute things I wanted to finish up before baby came. I knew that I needed to hear Luke’s heart to put my mind at ease about not really feeling movements. She got out the Doppler and checked, and checked, and checked. I thought surely she’ll get it. And she thought she had something for a second so maybe it was just not coming. I knew it had to be there. He had to be okay still. Or at least that’s what I told myself.

She looked at me with big concerned eyes and said “This isn’t good you guys.”

But how could something really be wrong? Just on Tuesday we were chatting at my appointment and my friend/neighbor had asked what type of complications she’s dealt with. Sherri replied, “Heavenly Father blesses me with easy births.”

This comment was like insurance, right? Sherri get’s easy births. So mine will be easy. I’m with Sherri and I’m healthy and strong and we’re just going to have a great delivery.

So she goes to call a doctor to see if we can get an ultra sound right away. At this point the denial starts to wear off and the reality is sinking in. I know I was crying and I just kept saying I’m sorry to Trevor. I was afraid I had done something wrong by not going in sooner. I was just crying and concerned and all the feelings that I had had the day before were coming back: fear, concern, worry about what other’s would think, concern about our future, anxiety. I don’t even know if those words accurately describe it. Trevor reassured me that I hadn’t done anything wrong and that nothing was my fault. I felt so responsible though for the life of our son because he was inside of me and I’ve been the one making sure I’m healthy so he can grow big and strong and the one calling most of the shots about the prenatal care and birth options.

The mood had changed to quite a sullen one as the reality of everything was settling in.

The doctor’s office was located at the American Fork Central Utah Clinic. When we got there I inquired if they were connected with the Central Utah Clinic in Provo. Fortunately they were so I told them I should already be in the system. I was so relieved that I didn’t have to sit and fill out paper work before they would see me. There was no way that I would be able to sit and do that then.

When they called us back, I numbly followed the lady back to the ultra sound room. As I lay on the table I barely had my eyes open as she did the ultra sound. I knew she wasn’t finding a heartbeat and I just cried. It broke my heart to know the truth of what was happening. She simply said, “I’ll go get the doctor,” and left us there.

It’s all quite foggy to me, but I know that we went into a room to sit and wait to see the doctor. I know that Trevor was by my side. I don’t know what the doctor came in and said to us. So many times within the next 24 hours people would be saying something and I wouldn’t be hearing them. My thoughts were elsewhere. We concluded that we would go to the hospital so I could be induced and deliver the baby. The doctor asked if we needed to go home and get anything. What could we possibly need? We just went right to the hospital. Luckily the doctor had delivering rights at the Mt. Timpanogos hospital because that’s the one that is in our insurance network so we were able to go there.

When we arrived I decided I should call my mom before we went inside. I briefly gave her the news and it was obviously quite upsetting to her. The conversation was brief and we went into the hospital.

The nurses staff was so cheerful and excited to great us, until Sherri informed them that we were Dr. Parker’s induction that had just been called in and arranged. They inquired if I had been to the hospital before and fortunately I had. All they needed from me was my ID and insurance info. Again I was so relieved that we did not have to sit around and fill out paper work. I couldn’t have done it. Not then. I just need to move forward with things.

Before long I was in a room, gowned up, with an IV in me and ready to have the Pitocin started.

*****

On August 8th I wrote, "It's getting hard to go back and type about everything. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve verbally told the story so much or if just with time passing details are leaving me. Which is why I want to capture them before they are lost." 


It's now an entire month later and I am just finishing writing about Luke's birth story. Some details, I'm sure have slipped away by now, but better late than never.


*****

It was about 5:30 or 6pm when the Pitocin was started. They started at 4 units and planed to increase it 4 units every half hour. I didn't like being in the hospital gown and the first nurse (who had left by 6) tried to have me laying down with a monitor on me. I wasn't comfortable so I ditched the monitor for a while and just sat on the bed. This is where the details get fuzzy. At some point my mom and step-dad, Chris, came down. My mom was going to our house in Payson to get some things for us. The hospital had told us that they would have a photographer come and take some pictures so my mom got some stuff for that. It seemed so petty and even vain that I requested my mom to bring my makeup for me, but I knew it would be our only family picture and I wanted to like it. She also brought different shirts for Trevor and me, a little collared onesie that had been a shower gift for Luke, a baby blue blanket (also a shower gift), and the quilt that I had made for Luke. 

I wasn't really feeling any contractions so the Pitocin kept getting increased (it eventually was increased to the maximum, 20 units, without concern since we weren't monitoring the baby). We didn't know how long labor would be and being a first-time mom we anticipated it being quite long. We decided I should try to sleep and get some rest for what might be a long night ahead. At some point I sent a text message, summarizing what had happened, to my friends Ashley and Jenny. It read: 


I wasn't feeling kicks so I went to see Sherri. She couldn't get a heart beat so we went to get an ultrasound. Our little Luke has gone to heaven. I could use the prayers of friends for a speedy and easy delivery. I'm being induced at the hospital. I don't want any texts or phone calls for now, but want my friends to know why we won't be announcing his birth. You can share this info with anyone you think would want to know.

It was hard to text the words "our little Luke has gone to heaven" I hated writing that because it was true. It broke my heart that that was the reality of our situation.

I tried to sleep but never fell asleep. Each time I was about to dose off, I was interrupted with either a  phone call or someone coming in the room (nurse, Trevor, Sherri, my mom, Dr. Parker). At some point the doctor suggested breaking my water. I didn't know what to do so I called Sherri. I still wanted to try to rest now and thought we could hold off on that. The doctor had another patient (not a birthing mother and I think at the American Fork hospital) to tend to so he would be leaving for a while. At some point the monitor was back on me (perhaps while I was trying to sleep) and it showed what I wasn't feeling -- contractions about every minute and a half.

Trevor had left. He called his mom to notify her of the situation and possibly attempted to get some food (I don't think he could eat though). While he was gone he also got me a beautiful bouquet of flowers with some cheerful gerber daisies. Trevor couldn't have been more perfect during the birth.

When Sherri got back I decided that the doctor could break my water. I don't know what time this was. I would look at the clock every now and then, but I wasn't registering what time it was. According to Sherri, he broke my water around 9:30pm. Before the doctor left I think he came in to check on me. He and Sherri were chatting and this is definitely one of the times that people were talking, but I was not hearing what they were saying. It was kind of bothering me and I wanted the doctor to leave. He was a perfectly nice man (more like a nice grandpa), but for some reason I didn't really want him around. Contractions were finally starting to get to the point that I could feel them. I think I got up to use the restroom and this ended their conversation and the doctor left.


Up until this point that most uncomfortable thing was the stupid IV in my wrist. I don't know if the first nurse hadn't done a very good job putting it it, or if IV's are always that uncomfortable but it hurt and felt really disabling. I felt like I couldn't move or do anything with my right hand without it hurting. I remember complaining about this and then apologizing for complaining. (I've never been a fan of complaining or complainers, so I guess I felt bad for being one.) Tarah, the nurse, tried to adjust it for me, but nothing really helped. 

Once the contractions were stronger I wasn't able to sit on the bed like I had done the previous hours. I had to move through them. I would work through the contractions by almost dancing through them. I was usually moving my hips side to side or moving while sitting on a yoga aka "birthing" ball. At one point I was coming out of the restroom and was walking toward the bed when a contraction hit. I really danced through that one as I recall standing there with one leg in arabesque (aa-rah-besk) and had one hand supporting me on the ball. 
I was like this except my leg wasn't nearly as high and it was in attitude, my hand was on the ball, and I was attached to an IV pole. 
The whole time Trevor and Sherri were by my side and were so responsive to what ever I would ask them to do. The nurse, Tarah, and the nurses aid, Makel, were also wonderful and so great at doing whatever I asked. I was so grateful for such attentive assistants during the whole process. 

As the contractions got stronger I started to doubt how much I'd be able to continue. Not as much physically, but emotionally. I told Sherri and Trevor this and considered having an epidural. I knew that labor could be tough and I had geared up for it since I had planned on having a natural birth. But some of what makes enduring it is knowing that you will soon get to meet your baby and hold him in your arms. I wasn't going to get to have that. Without that I didn't think I would be able to endure.

At this point Sherri pointed out the beautiful bath tub in our room and the nurse was on her way to check my dilation. We discovered that I was already 5 or 6cm. This was hopeful and I decided I would try laboring in the tub for a while.



I loved the tub. It totally took the edge off of the contractions. While I was in the tub my contractions got more powerful. My mom had brought my iPod from our house and so I tried to listen to some hypnobabies tracks to relax (perhaps more on that on another post). It was kind of helping. I was starting to feel shaky during contractions and having a really hard time relaxing. Sherri would have her hand either on my head or shoulder and would tell me to relax. This physical and verbal command really helped me to try and relax during the contractions. I remember telling Sherri "thank you" after she would do that. I really wanted to communicate to her that what she was doing was helping.  

I don't remember how long I was in the tub, but Sherri thinks it was only about 15 minutes. My dilation was checked again and I was already at a 10! (They only told me 8cm so as to not get my hopes up, but I was already at a 10.) I remember feeling like I could push and I was told to get out of the tub. I didn't want to, but I obeyed. I don't know if it's hospital policy or what. I think I remember asking "do I have to," but I got out. I decided to "go to the bathroom" one last time before getting on the bed. I knew I probably didn't have to go but felt that way because of the baby's head coming down.



As we headed to the bed (I usually had an assistant to help move my IV pole) I told them that the IV pole needed to be on the right side of the bed because I was going to be on my hands and knees. I sure wasn't going to be laying on my back! (I don't know how woman can push babies out like that but I think that's the most common position to deliver a baby in a hospital) There was no way I could just lay down at this point. I couldn't even lay down earlier when the contractions were just starting to get strong. So I did as I had done the whole time and just moved through the contractions. Rocking back and forth and occasionally stretching into a "cobra" position and down into a "child pose." In between contractions Trevor was ready with water. I was so thirsty at this point. I'm pretty sure it's hospital policy to not eat or drink during labor, but I didn't care and no one was going to stop me.
                                                        Laboring Positions


With each contraction I prayed that it would be the last. I didn't know how much longer I could take it and I just wanted it to be over. My pushing was intermixed with some sobbing, but that couldn't last for more than a sob or two before it was time to push again. Tarah was by my side and said "if you push just a little more he'll come out." Thank you, Tarah, what an angel, she offered the encouragement I needed to get Luke out. So at the stroke of midnight on August 6th, Luke Ray Fitzgerald was born.  

Our Baby Luke
It's kind of a strange thing, to be born, but not have any life in you. Not the type of birth anyone should have. Well at least I think it's not what anyone should have, but God obviously thinks differently. I know this was His will. I guess it's not what anyone expects or plans on -- especially not me, but that was how it happened.

It wasn't until he was born that our question of "what happened?" was answered. His umbilical chord was tied in a knot. What they call a "true knot," because it wasn't tangled around him at all but was just tied like a knot. It can only be assumed that the knot occurred earlier in the pregnancy when Luke was small enough to move around a lot in my uterus and that it tightened as he lowered down into a birthing position.




"True Knot"
According to info I've found online, it occurs in 1% of pregnancies, but doesn't always end in fetal demise. 
I was too weak and shaky to lay down on the bed right away, but soon I was able to. The nurses cleaned up Luke and tended to him. I still had to birth the placenta. I don't remember if they let me hold Luke before or after this. Birthing the placenta was the worst part of the whole birthing experience. By this point I was mentally done -- I had gotten the baby out, I had done my job -- and the IV had ripped out of my wrist so my contractions stopped without the Pitocin being cranked into my system. They tried to give me a shot of Pitocin in my leg, but it didn't get the contractions going again. So Dr. Parker had to manually remove the placenta. I was able to get him to wait a little while to see if my body would do it on its own. No luck. Then I told him to wait a few more minutes while I tried to listen to my iPod and zone out so he could do it. Sherri stood by my side (Trevor was sitting in a chair holding Luke) and I held her hand as the doctor removed my placenta. He did not have little hands! I don't think I've ever experienced anything more painful than that. I was so relieved to have that over with. I swear, never again will my body stop at that point! My bleeding was almost considered a hemorrhage but it eventually stopped. 


The sweet nurse helped me get cleaned up and I was able to hold Luke for a little bit. I was so weak it was hard to hold him. Soon the photographer came in and dressed Luke in his onesie and took the only pictures that we will have of our precious son.     


*****

What a miracle birth, all things considered, the actual birthing couldn't have gone much better. I know that my friends' prayers were answered and I was able to have the "speedy and easy delivery" that I had requested in my text to my friends. I was grateful for that. During the labor the nurses and Sherri and Trevor would tell me that I was doing great and, possibly as conceited as it may have sounded, I replied "I know!" It really was astounding how marvelously my body handled the process. And supposedly contractions caused by Pitocin are a lot stronger than natural contractions (I don't really know). Physically, nothing about birth was ever really that painful (except for the whole placenta ordeal!). And I know that I haven't just forgotten with time, I felt that way right after the whole experience. I am so thankful for the strength I was given. Was it just a tender mercy and miracle for Luke's birth? Or will I always be so capable to deliver babies? I don't know yet, but I am so grateful that it was so easy. What a miracle. If you were someone that prayed for me, thank you. I know your faith allowed the prayer to be answered.


***** 

So much more happened in the following hours and in the following weeks, but this post is sufficient, for now, to at least capture what happened. As I read and reread what I have written I realize it may seem deprived of all the emotions that may be involved in the death of a child. I think I'm still trying to distinguish those myself and will perhaps be able to, one day, capture those feelings into words. For anyone still reading, may you know that I am at peace with things. Perhaps I will write more about my feelings another day, but for now I am glad to have written and shared the details surrounding Luke's birth.


*****
Sources for the pictures:

18 comments:

  1. I love you. It broke my heart as I started reading your post and realized where it was headed. Somehow I didn't realize that you were just a month behind me. I'm so, so sorry. Knowing the Lord's plan helps, but it doesn't erase the pain. I can only imagine, but having had three babies myself my imagination is pretty vivid and it makes me feel so sad to think of it. I'm so glad that things went as well as they did - sounds like you handled labor like a champ! Well done. The pictures of Luke are beautiful. Even though you won't have the responsibility to raise him in this life, you helped give him a physical body and that is a wonderful thing. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby boy. I'm so sorry that Heavenly Father had to reclaim him so soon! Just wish I could give you a big, long hug. So consider yourself hugged. You're awesome.

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  2. Love you Shelly! You are a strong women!!!

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  3. i love you very much, soco! <3

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  4. Thank you for posting this - I've been wanting to ask you about the experience but I know you've probably told it a lot of times and I didn't want to ask you to tell it that one more time.
    I had tears reading the whole thing. You are so so so so strong! There was a still-birth my last day in the hospital and nurse was very shaken and she said that they never get over that, every single one is such a sad event.
    I'm so grateful you're such a strong person. Aren't you so excited that someday you'll get to meet little Luke and get to know him as you would have. I'm so glad we are given that chance and have that bond of eternal families.
    It was great seeing you at book club yesterday!

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  5. This is wonderfully written. I appreciate you sharing the story. Love and pray for you!

    My sweet friend Katie, who is also a dancer, delivered her stillborn son last November. She writes about it here http://katieandnathanadams.blogspot.com/ She is open and willing to talk if you ever want to.

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  6. Shelley, dear. Thank you for sharing this story. Your strength amazes me. Love you!

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  7. You don't know me but I am a friend of Andrea Egbert. Thank you for sharing your experience about your darling Luke. I lost my Porter at 31 weeks last November. My blog is: www.katieandnathanadams.blogspot.com.
    My thoughts about my experience are there. I am so sorry for all that has happened. I know that Heavenly Father loves us and is taking care of our boys. If you need to talk, I am here.

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  8. I saw your link to this on facebook and I have to tell you that you are an incredible woman. I admire your strength and your faith through this heart breaking experience. You amaze me.

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  9. You are such a strong woman. An example of faith and strength to those around you. Thank you so much for sharing your precious story. I love you and pray for your continual strength.

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  10. Thank you so much for sharing, Shelley. I attempted a hypnobabies birth, too, and the pitocin pressure waves tore me to pieces and I finally couldn't do it anymore and got an epidural. I commend you for birthing naturally - no small feat! Little Luke is so precious in those pictures. I'm so glad you have them. I did - and do - pray for you. Stay strong. The Lord will carry you through this. Love you.

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  11. a beautiful story.
    Something I remember you telling me was about you telling your body to stop bleeding post birth--that would be a nice addition to your story too. You are one strong women--physically and mentally!
    Much love and prayers to you today and in the coming months.

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  12. Shelley, thank you so much for sharing your story. We love you!

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  13. Shelley... I feel like a horrible friend that I didn't know about any of this until now. I saw your picture on your facebook and your baby just looks so beautiful. You are amazing. And you have a wonderful little person waiting for you up in heaven. Thank you so much for sharing this with me. You are incredible. What a hard thing to be going through. I know it must be one of the hardest things anyone could ever deal with... and you are in my prayers. Love you lots.

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  14. Shelley, I love you and am keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers! Thank you for your example of faith and courage!

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  15. I read this before, but didn't know how to comment. I read it through again just now and wanted to say that this beautiful story woven with hints of tragedy is such a great reminder of how God's plan is not one within our control and when we understand the bigger picture, all will one day make sense. The parallel to you're not understanding why his heart had stopped until after seeing the knot just moved me to tears. Thanks so much Shelley for being such an inspiring woman. Through such great strength you truly inspire the rest of us. :)

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  16. Hi Shelley,

    My name is Katherine Harris and Trevor served his mission in my hometown, Minneapolis. I met him once and fed him out there and he was super kind to me and gave me a ride from the SLC airport to Provo before I did a summer semester at BYU. While I've never met you, you and Trevor have been in my thoughts and prayers since learning about your beautiful baby boy Luke.

    Your strength and beauty are evident in your words and clearly you are a loved daughter of our Heavenly Father. Thank you for sharing your story.

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