I love this part of the story. It’s my favourite part.
For most people, the best part of pregnancy is having a baby. For me, it was going labour and birthing my daughter. For me, the best part of pregnancy was the pain. It’s a morbid and sad thing to realize, but I have not known it any other way.
I don’t know what it is to give birth to a baby who is alive and who I can bring home and watch her grow up. But I know what it is to give birth to my daughter. And it was the most beautiful experience of my life.
But I was afraid. I dreaded the day I would be called into the hospital to be induced for labour. I was so scared of giving birth to a child who had already passed away. The thought of it was so traumatic to me. What would she look like? Would I be afraid of my own child? How would I feel when I saw her for the first time?
I was not afraid of the physical pain of labour. I was open to it, even though I knew that we wouldn’t have the expected happy out come after the hours of laborious pain. It was the emotional pain that I was most afraid of.
We were admitted into the labour ward at 10:00pm on Tuesday night. My husband helped me pack my hospital bag. I touched my belly. I looked in the mirror at my pregnant body. I’m going to miss holding my baby and carrying her with me every day for the last 6 months. I cried.
Walking through the hallway, looking at all the baby pinks and blues splattered all over the walls, photos of babies that had been born, posters encouraging breast feeding, and skin-to-skin contact and baby classes. It made me feel so sad that I would not be leaving this place with my baby.
Our birthing suite was spacious and private, like a hotel room. We met our first nurse, and I changed into my hospital gown and got into bed. My parents and husband were with me and we all just sat and waited to begin the process of induction of labour.
At around 2:00am the doctor came to give me an internal exam and administer my first dose of Misoprostol. I found this to be so excruciatingly painful. I was told that I would be examined to check how dilated I was and given another 6 doses of Misoprostol every 4 hours – so at least 24 hours before things should get going.
The nurse encouraged us to get some sleep before the contractions began. My parents kissed me and left so that my husband could take the first “night shift” with me.
There was something about the energy of the labour ward that made me feel intrinsically excited for the process of giving birth. And then when I reminded myself of what the outcome ahead was going to be, it was jarring. Yet, that felt like it was a long way aways. So I tucked that thought away and focused on how I felt now. My husband and I talked about all kinds of things that night, and truly enjoyed each others company. We looked forward to getting a good nights sleep. He got into the bed with me and cuddled me and we waited to fall asleep. It was around an hour and a half now since I had the first dose and I did not expect to feel any contractions any time soon, and yet, I started to experience some mild cramping.
It was not painful, just uncomfortable. I told my husband about them but that I figured I was probably just nervous. But as an hour passed, the cramps, though still mild, became more painful than uncomfortable. I felt a tightening in my bump followed by the pain. It was not severe, but painful enough that I could not sleep. They came every 2 minutes apart, and lasted around 30 seconds.
By 5am, they were pretty bad. The nurse was not due to come in till 6am, and I didn’t want to call her in sooner, because I still felt like I was overreacting. And I was still calling them “cramps” and not contractions. I couldn’t talk to my husband during these cramps, so I told him that at the very least he should get some sleep. But he said that as long as I was awake, he would be awake with me. He loves me so much 😦
At 6am, the nurse came in and asked me how I was doing. I timidly described to her what I was feeling. She was surprised, and attached the device on my belly to check what was going on. Yep, it was definitely contractions.
I got my second dose of Misoprostol and she checked my cervix. I HATED THIS PART. I would shake in pain. I came to despise it so much that after each dose, I would be relaxed for about half an hour and then just spend the next 3.5 hours dreading my next exam and dose.
The rest of the first 24 hours in hospital went this same way. Contract and relax. Waves of pain. During the 2 minute moments of relief, I had a nice time with my husband. Eventually, the contractions got more and more intense to the point that it was difficult to walk, difficult to breathe, difficult to speak.
It feels like….bones breaking in my body. Several. At once.
It feels like…my body being slowly sawed in half.
It was INTENSE.
By the end of the first 24 hours we had not slept. The doctors and nurses offered me pain relief many times but I kept declining. I found it easier to focus on the physical pain than the emotional pain. Making it through each contraction made me feel strong and ready to meet my daughter. If I didn’t have the physical pain to focus on, I would just be a weeping sad mess.
It was better this way.
After the last dose of Misoprostol, my cervix was now effaced and I was a measly 0.5cm dilated. I was having a tough night. I developed a fever due to the medication, felt extremely drowsy, and shaking a lot.
While taking care of my fever, my nurse told me that we would now start a continuous IV infusion of Oxytocin.
What did this mean?
That things were going to get even more intense.
That things could happen really quickly. That our daughter could come very very soon.
Suddenly everything became real to me.
Suddenly the thought of meeting my daughter wasn’t something that was going to happen in the distant future. It could happen soon. It could happen in an hour. I was scared. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it.
Up until this point of my labour, I had pushed that thought away. It felt far away. Something that I didn’t have to worry about. And now it was here. She was going to come soon. And I was not ready.
We started the oxytocin infusion and I was delirious with emotional and physical pain. The contractions were continuous, I could not relax in between them at all. The pain was literally constant. The intensity of the pain mixed with my fear made me feel so overwhelmed. I wanted to delay everything.
I asked the nurse to stop the infusion to give me a moment to think. I went to the bathroom, still contracting, still in overwhelm. I started to cry. I had had enough. No more. I didn’t want any more pain. I didn’t want any more needles. I didn’t want anyone to examine my cervix anymore. I didn’t want anyone to touch me anymore. I didn’t want a fever. I didn’t want the nausea. I didn’t want to feel drowsy. I didn’t want to have my baby. I didn’t want to meet her. I didn’t want to have her in my belly, neither did I want to meet her. I didn’t want oxytocin. I didn’t want pain relief. and yet I didn’t want pain either.
I was just DONE.
I was so SCARED.
I was so overwhelmed.
All I wanted was for everyone to leave me alone. All I wanted was to go to sleep. The exhaustion of being awake for almost 35 hours without any sleep was finally getting to me.
I tried to compose myself in the bathroom. I came outside and I told my sweet nurse “I just…I need a break. I can’t do this. I’m not ready. It’s going too fast. It’s happening too quickly. I need time.”
I finally decided to get an epidural. My method of focusing only on the physical pain to avoid the emotional pain had worked so far – but now – I was going to meet my daughter. There’s no way I could deny the emotional pain of it all. I realized that being in physical pain and emotional pain both at the same time would make my experience far too traumatic for me.
And I was scared about getting an epidural too. I’m not a very squeamish person, but something about epidurals always made me feel woozy.
But the epidural was not that bad! Especially in comparison to contractions! It was uncomfortable at times, and I had to squeeze my husbands hand, but it was over quickly.
After that, I felt like I was wrapped up in a warm golden cloud. I couldn’t remember what it was like to be pain free, and it was blissful. My nurse really took the time to understand how I was feeling and told me I could have some time to just sleep. And I I did. I slept for 2 glorious hours and honestly, the restfulness was so healing. I woke up at 8am because it was now time to start the oxytocin. I would have loved a 12 hour break from this whole process, but I’ll take what I was given.
The IV was started, but I didn’t feel anything. It was awesome. I was catheterized every time I needed to empty my bladder, which I was only a little bit uncomfortable, but not painful, thanks to the epidural.
I was examined again, and was still only dilated 1 cm. So they inserted a foley balloon catheter inside my cervix. They insert a deflated balloon through the cervix which is placed between my cervix and the baby. They then inflate the balloon to about 3cm in diameter, and leave it there. Every so often, the nurse will tug at the balloon, and when it is able to come out, we know that the cervix has dilated further. This was definitely painful even though I didn’t expect it to be, and after it was done, I had severe cramping for some time.
It didn’t take long for the balloon to pop out.
The doctor came back to check me, and told me to let them know if I feel the baby coming.
I don’t know what it feels like when the baby is coming.
Things progressed very quickly from there. In fact as soon as he left, I told the nurse I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom.
She said “Okay, looks like the baby could be coming now.”
“No no, I don’t think so. It feels different. It feels like I just need to use the bathroom.”
“That’s the baby coming.”
I could feel something shifting inside me and pushing forward
“…Well, SOMETHING is coming, I don’t know if it’s a baby.”
And then it was like the epidural wore off completely and the pain was REAL and it was HERE and it was INTENSE. I started pressing my patient controlled pump manically. But nothing was helping.
I didn’t know what was happening. It didn’t feel like the baby was coming. It felt like there was a brick wall inside me that was pushing inside me.
And then it was like I was in a movie or a dream. Everything happened so fast that it’s a blur to me still. Within seconds the room was full of nurses and the doctor. The bottom half of my bed was taken away, my legs up in stirrups, the lights in the room turned out with the brightest spotlights shining on me. My husband and my mom stood beside my bed together.
And I was told to begin pushing. I couldn’t even hold the weight my legs (thanks to the epidural), so the nurses had to help me. I pushed and pushed but I felt like I was making no progress whatsoever. It felt impossible. But the doctor kept telling me “okay you are almost there.” which filled me with hope that maybe what I was doing was actually making a difference.
Because I was exerting so much energy on less than 5 hours sleep and almost no food, every time I pushed, I felt so nauseous and dizzy. I thought I was going to throw up, but luckily I didn’t. I fought through it and pushed again some more and suddenly I felt my baby come through and was born. There was instant physical relief. My contractions stopped. All the pain stopped in an instant like magic.
My mom and my husband started to cry and kiss me. The doctor touched my shoulder and said “I am so sorry for your loss.” I started to cry.
But I wasn’t sad. I was so happy. Maybe it’s the influx of hormones post delivery, but I was just so happy to meet my daughter and be with her. It didn’t matter to me that she wasn’t alive. Not at the time.
The nurses bought me by daughter wrapped up in a little blanket and placed her into my arms. She was so tiny. And I wasn’t afraid. I was in love.
I didn’t hold her for long, I passed her to my husband who took her into his arms like something he had been waiting for his whole life.
We got to spend a couple of hours with her that evening, and then we saw her again once more in the morning to say our final goodbyes.
Saying goodbye to my daughter felt so wrong. Handing her over to the nurse to take her away felt so wrong. I couldn’t bear it.
I left the hospital, not with our baby, but with just a pink box that the hospital gave us, filled with her first blanket and hat, her first photographs, and a poem. It helped.
Before we left I had the opportunity to read my delivery notes from my hospital stay. “Uncomplicated induction of labour and spontaneous vaginal delivery” is what it said. It made me so happy to read that. Finally, something my body did right. It’s crap at making placenta. But at least it did this one thing right.
I am so glad that I had the honour of birthing my daughter. There was so much pain, but it didn’t make it any less beautiful to me.
It has been only 3 days since she was born, and I wanted to write her birth story soon before I forget. Already the moments that have passed are becoming hazy to me. I find so much strength in my husband and in my family and friends who surround me with their love constantly.
I dream of her sleeping beside us.In the morning I wake up crying. I wonder where she is right now, on this very day. I call into the other room for my mother who is staying with us. I ask her “mom, where do you think my baby is right now?” and my mom says “she’s free. She’s not here on earth anymore, she’s free.” and then I say “but where do you think her body is right now?” and then my mom is quiet for a while and then says “in the hospital.” and then I cry. Because mother’s should know where their baby is. And I don’t know where my baby is. And my baby is all alone in this world.
My husband holds me and wipes away my tears before they make it far down my cheeks.
I look at her photographs. She is so small that she fit into her fathers hand. I love her so much. I miss her so much.
My breasts are swollen with milk for her. The pain is almost unbearable, and it is a constant reminder of missing pieces.
When something awful happens to us, we tend to ask ourselves “Why me? Why did this happen to me? I’ve done this many good things in my life, what did I do to deserve this pain?”
I have never been a “why me?” person and that has helped me find peace in all of this. Why not me? I am not deserving nor undeserving of anything. I am certainly not invincible.
I have never know death much in my life. The only person close to me who has passed away, was my grandfather. But at the time, he lived his life in India, and I, thousands of miles away from him. When he passed, I was very young, and all of these things distanced me from the experience of death.I saw the pain in my parents, and in my cousins who lived with him and loved him so dearly, but there wasn’t much pain for me. It was more like a golden character had been written out of my story.
This is my first real experience of death. And it is the death of our child. It is not an easy lesson to live.
We are her parents and yet we cannot know what is absolutely best for our child. Even once she’s born and living life out there on her own, we cannot know. We wish we knew, maybe it would make it easier, but likely it would not.
Slowly I am coming to understand that, we do not know her journey. Her path. We can only honour it.
There are moments when we feel robbed of special chance to know what it is to love our daughter. But then I realize that she has already taught us so much about love. She has taught us how to love and feel responsible for someone that we have never met, never seen, never touched, never heard.
My husband and I have never known something like that before.
My husband was given the unfortunate task of explaining our situation to everyone, because I find it so difficult to and he loves me. I sob while he tells the same painful story again and again. But then slowly, the more we talk about it, the more we tell people what is happening, the more it starts feeling like a script that we’ve learned by heart. I know my lines and he knows his. We didn’t plan it to be that way, but that’s the way it happens. There is an odd sense of disconnect.
The more we say it the more it sounds like a story.
Then it sounds like someone else’s story.
Then it sounds like it could be anyone’s story.
And really, that was a gift to us.
Because it is so many peoples story. Our heartbreak is shared by many and all.
Knowing this seems to take the tragedy out of it.
Slowly, friends and family started sharing their own stories of loss and suffering with us. Other mothers of sleeping stillborn babies came out of the woodwork and shared their journey. I read a lot of stories online, graciously shared by grieving parents. And it helped helped knowing we were not drowning in this deep stormy ocean alone. That there were others. That they had made it back to land, and one day, we can too.
You see, I had a story for the life that I thought I was going to live.
The story of having a beautiful healthy little girl. The story of all the things we were going to do together as a family. The story filled with my dreams and wishes for her.
Once I grieved for the story I thought we were going to live, we were shown the beautiful story we actually have.
And when I began to let go of being the mother to the daughter I thought I was going to have, it allowed me to the be the mother I needed to be to the daughter I do have.
This gave me strength.
It gave me the strength to do what was once unthinkable and to give birth to my daughter who has passed away.
It gave me the strength to hold her and honour her sweet little life.
It gave me the strength to love her so fiercely, the way a mother does.
It gave me the strength to deepen my relationship with my husband, who has been by our side so tirelessly.
It gave me the strength to respectfully share our story with you.
Thank you for choosing me to be your mother.
It has been my honour to carry you for 6 months.