I hope you've heard by now our sad news. I went into the ER Saturday night because of some strange things happening down under, and we just left the hospital this afternoon, having given birth to and losing our little girl.
After the initial visit to the ER, they knew it was something they didn't know how to handle, so they sent me up to Labor and Delivery. At this point, I was still thinking it was something manageable. Kate and her friend were with me, as Paul was gone to Arkansas to visit family and go to a training (and was also really sick with a sinus infection). After a number of hours and doctors, it was clarified that I had a incompetent cervix--meaning that the opening to my uterus wasn't holding closed, and the gestational sac was slipping out. This obviously had a lot of potential dangers. There was an option to do a procedure that sewed my cervix together, but I would have to wait to see if I wasn't leaking, and if there wasn't an infection and if I wasn't contracting. If I had an infection, that would be dangerous for me and the baby. If I was contracting, it could tear my cervix and/or uterus, which would be really painful in the moment and not be good if I wanted to get pregnant in the future. If I was leaking--well, there isn't really any way to repair that and I would slowly keep loosing fluid. At 18 weeks, the baby wasn't old enough to save if she was born.
That night, Kate, her friend, and Paul's brother-in-law stayed the night with me in the hospital. We were in a beautiful, quiet, corner room on the top floor with lots of windows and peace.
A specialist came early the next morning and did a full-scale ultra sound. Paul was face-timing so he could be in the loop. In the ultra sound we saw that my cervix was 3-4 cm open, the baby's legs were in my vagina, and we found out that she was a girl. As life often confirms--there is opposition in all things. When I saw the image of her legs, I knew things were not going to go well. When we found she was a girl, as I had intuited all along, it was a special confirmation. The specialist was really kind and capable. He reminded us that it was nothing we had done. There is no way to find out you have a weak cervix until it is put to the test. He confirmed that I was leaking after taking a sample of the fluid, and let us know that I wasn't a candidate for the procedure and it was only a matter of time. If I developed an infection, they would speed up the delivery process for my safety. Paul decided to fly back and my mom was on her way. Ricky had given me a blessing of peace the night before and he gave me another one that morning.
As we talked and cried and laughed and slept and rested during that day, I had the tender mercy of Time. I was able to ponder and process and eventually come to peace. Paul and I weren't sure what miracle we should pray for--should we just pray for the miracle of peace? Or that somehow she and the sac would go back in my cervix, that the leak would heal, and that my cervix would close?
Ultimately, we just felt that it was right to let nature take her course. The blessing Ricky gave me that morning said to "seek in the spirit to understand." I received some understanding that part of the reason this was happening, was that she had served her purpose in helping heal and prepare me. This pregnancy has been pretty rough on me emotionally and has brought up some things that have been really helpful to work through. I've experienced a lot of healing and though I wasn't feeling excited or ready when we first got pregnant, I feel that--just this past week actually--I was able to reach a space of excitement and joy, through the grace of God and power of intention. This was hard, but purposeful timing, I feel. It was hard that just as I allowed myself to really open up to joy, the sorrow came tumbling in. Which was exactly what I was afraid of. But I hold on to hope that it is worth it. (See Moses 5:11-12) And little baby girl has been vital in helping me develop the depth of understanding that I need to get to in this area of my faith. Part of me feels selfish in seeing that as my main source of "reasoning" comfort--but that is all my veiled understanding can see for now, and I feel her, and the spirit's, confirmation of that.
Mom arrived with Jan and the earth angel vanguard switched up for a little bit. Early in the evening I developed a fever and the doctors were notified. If I didn't go into labor soon, they would help me along. Soon after I went to the bathroom and more of the sac came out. The doctor came after a while and punctured the sac, letting the fluid out. They checked my cervix and it was only about 2cm wide and her legs weren't hanging down. For a few hours, the pain in my pelvic area slowly became more intense. They gave me some medication to help induce contractions. Paul came just as they were getting intense, poor guy--didn't get to warm up to it.
I actually didn't expect that I would go into labor. I guess I assumed that my cervix would just keep opening and she would gently slip out. But I definitely went into labor. Throughout the day they had periodically been checking her heartbeat, and she was still alive. I only needed to dilate to about 5cm because she was so small. As the pain became contractions, I rallied the troupes around me (Paul, my mom, Kate, and one of my best friends, Amber) to sing some of my favorite meditation chants to help me work through the pain and, but eventually I needed the pain medication. I wasn't as prepared for birth as I was planning on being. At all. (I was only as far as 2nd trimester in my literature!) I ultimately requested an epidural, which didn't really work because, as we found out soon, I was so close to giving birth. She slipped out head first, stillborn. Tiny little thing, perfectly healthy and normal, with beautiful hands and feet and legs and arms and face, and a bit of a bruised head from the contractions.
Paul and I held her and loved her and cried with those that surrounded us. David and Alicia joined us. We cleaned up and a dear woman, a bereavement specialist, came in and took pictures, made little casts of her feet and hands, and talked empathetically with us. We finally slept, after hours of not sleeping, little Sequoia in a basinet beside us.
Although we had the underlying peace that God was with us, angels surrounded us, and this was just as it was meant to be, it still was painfully sad. And still is. As I see her little box in the fridge that we'll keep until we bury her, or I walk in my house that I left having no idea what was ahead, or I meet someone's eye that knows, or I see a picture, or I wrap my chest and drink tea to prevent lactation though my body longs to hold a baby, or a hundred other things, it brings some pain and tears. I don't know how we humans can produce so many tears. I thought I was all out yesterday afternoon, but have proven myself wrong over and over.
Simultaneously, I feel a depth of gratitude that also brings tears, along with smiles. For the incredible support from the precious humans that surrounded me--holding my hand, massaging my feet, saying the right thing or not saying anything, allowing for moments of laughter and moments of sorrow, reading scriptures with me, crying with me, praying with me (and for me), chanting with me, sleeping by me, cleaning me up, encouraging me on. For the gift of Sequoia and all she has taught us. For the blessings of modern medicinal advancements that will allow me to have children in the future. For our peaceful room and the gift of processing time. For the wonderful staff at the hospital and having the perfect nurses and doctors for the exact right moments. And, of course, the peace and love of God, which all of this was nested in.
Sequoia was already a favorite name of ours because of our connection to Redwood trees, and then just a few days ago I was studying Lehi's dream (in the Book of Mormon) and was struck my what the angel tells Nephi: that the Tree represents the Love of God. At the time I thought "Ha! This is why I love to hug trees--it's maybe an echo of what it feels like to hug God." Sunday afternoon, as I thought about our little girl and her name and the situation, it seemed perfectly appropriate to name her Sequoia, as even God is allowing/putting us through this hard and sad situation, it is--somehow--evidence of His Love. I knew, early on in the process, as I learned the direness of the situation, that I could not allow this to harden my heart and make me angry at God. I've allowed that to happen before and wondered if those situations were possibly preparing me to see the eternal plan and purpose of this situation, instead of being blinded by bitterness.
As a sweet confirmation, Paul had felt that she was Sequoia during his plane ride back. When the nurses set her on my chest and asked what her name was, we looked at each other and I offered up "Sequoia?" He breathed and smiled in relief that I felt the same.
We are resting this week, not going into work, and just processing. I'm so grateful for all of the prayers and love being sent from afar. We can feel them. So grateful you are family. And that family is forever. Isn't that amazing? How blessed we are to know that.
Love, anna and paul