Grief Stories~You Quickened My Heartbeat

Today's Grief Stories contributor is Stacey from Nurse Mommy Laughs. You may remember that I guest posted for her a while back sharing ways to help a family cope with child loss. Now Stacey is opening her mama heart to us with the story of her first beautiful baby Emily and the unexpected tragedy she never could have imagined.

The day had finally come! I was to deliver my first child at 40 weeks and was scheduled to arrive the night before the morning of my inducement.  My husband and I were nervous, but terribly excited to meet our baby girl.  We had met her when we had our 4D scan at the OB/GYNs office and watched her wiggle around and suck her thumb for the camera. Little did I know that would be so important to us later.

9 months prior…

I had just married a wonderful man and since we were no spring chickens – in our thirties – we decided it would be best to start a family as soon as God thought it was time for us.  We knew of many friends who struggled with infertility problems, and we didn’t know if we would, so we decided it best to let nature take its course. What we didn’t know was that Mother Nature would come for a visit on our honeymoon!

Yes, that first week of marriage we conceived our child and after we got over the initial shock, we were ecstatic.  Why wait? We desperately wanted a family to fill our home.

Being a pediatric RN, I followed the baby books and instructions closely. No alcohol, no over-the-counter drugs, no smoking, not too much exercise - but enough to keep healthy, and watched what I ate (OK, sometimes I had to have Taco Bell, but the baby was demanding it!). The baby was growing at a perfect rate.

The only problem was I was retaining a LOT of fluid in my last trimester. My abdomen was gigantic and my cankles were like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, with a little bit less hair.  When retaining this much extra water, medical advice is to drink more water to flush out the extra. But guess what?  I was a chipmunkesque whale, storing fluid for the drought.

My OB did every test imaginable to see what was wrong, but all tests came back negative. My blood glucose levels, BUN and creatinine, and my blood pressure stayed well within the normal range.  Plus, the baby was growing appropriately.

When my resting heart rate skyrocketed, I began to worry. Even if I was lying down watching dolphins swimming my heart rate, which for a normal person ranges from 60-80 beats per minute, was running around 130 bpm.  I felt as if I was on speed all the time.

My obstetrician sent me to a cardiologist who ran multiple heart tests finding a healthy heart, which happened to be racing a 5K at all times.  They said they didn’t need to do anything on their end and they didn’t think it should hurt the baby.

So I tried to keep my feet up and not overexert myself the last few weeks of pregnancy. I had weekly appointments to see the OB (maybe more, I can’t remember) and she would check my blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate. They were fine. My heart rate…CRAZY!  But still sent me home.

Ten days before I was to deliver, I was at home getting the house ready. Of course, my husband and I decided to remodel the kitchen during my pregnancy. I went upstairs to lie down in bed because I had been standing too long, was hungry and angry that no one was feeding me, plus there was NO KITCHEN WITH FOOD!!

As soon as I got into bed, a hormonal whoosh like none other came over me. It is indescribable. Except to say that the largest tears poured down my face and I didn’t think I would ever be able to stop.  My husband came in to check on me and found me in this state and was scared. I told him I was just hungry.  But I also knew that I hadn’t felt the baby kick in a few hours.

He brought me back some food and juice to give the baby some sugar to jolt her back into moving around, and I called the doctor’s office.  They said to give sugar or caffeine and to see if it made her start kicking again. Thankfully, as I was rolling over, I felt her move and tears of joy helped soothe me a bit.

Three days later, one week before my scheduled delivery, I went to the obstetrician, and she listened to the baby’s heartbeat. I remember saying, “That doesn’t sound like her.”  But the kind OB patted my hand and reassured the stressed-out first-time mom that the baby’s heartbeat was 135 bpm and that was where she should be.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! went my heart monitor as I lie in the hospital bed with quiet hubby smiling beside me. The nurse was doing her normal small talk as she kept readjusting the heart monitor band around my belly to pick up the baby’s heartbeat. 

“Maybe you need to get another belt?” I politely suggested. Not trying to be pushy, but I was very pregnant, nervous, and annoyed that I got the newbie nurse.

When she left, I told my husband if she couldn’t get it right with the next belt, I’m calling in the nurse manager for somebody competent.

The same nurse entered with the “backup nurse” and they both attempted to get the new belt to work. No luck.

“Could you please send in the nurse manager?” I asked suppressing agitation.

The second nurse in the room answered, “I’m the nurse manager. We are having difficulty with our machine, so we are going to call in an outside radiology tech to do a special test.  Unfortunately, since it’s night, it might take her awhile to get here.”

Then everything went blurry and my life turned into vignettes of time:

  • “I’m so sorry. Your baby didn’t make it. You will need to deliver the baby in the morning,” said some random doctor.
  • Crying with frustration, “Can I still have an epidural and extra drugs now since it won’t hurt the baby?”
  • Calling our parents on the phone and matter-of-factly telling them their grandbaby was dead.
  • Seeing all four of my bridesmaids show up unannounced to help me deliver my precious baby.
  • Sitting in a supply closet in the middle of the night after giving “birth” to my baby, I rocked behind the nurses’ station; holding her, cleaning her face and hands, and sobbing uncontrollably for hours.

Planning a funeral for your child is a necessary part of healing for a parent, but I sure can’t remember that one. I know who attended only because of the sign-in book. However, once a year, with a tear-stained face, I read those hundreds of names and am thankful for their gift of showing support to us.

We are facing what would have been Emily’s 10th birthday. A lot has happened since then. I gave birth to 2 other precious girls, 14 months apart…the following year!

And…I had to quit my job as a pediatric nurse. I gave the excuse I wanted to spend more time with my girls. That was part of it, but grieving is a powerful beast and can be all consuming. Mixed with post-partum hormones and two new babies, I just couldn’t handle it all.

I needed to find the joy in my life again. I wanted to laugh like I had before Emily ascended to heaven, leaving God and me weeping. So one day when my babies were asleep, I started a blog.  I called it, “Nurse Mommy Laughs.” Now I would have a sense of hope, promise and a daily reason to laugh.  I had to. It was my job.

Thankfully, my blog no longer feels like a job. Nurse Mommy Laughs saved my life, my family and my marriage many times. My blog’s tagline of “cause laughter is the best medicine” was true for me and hopefully for others.

Through much counseling, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications and talking about Emily as much as I could were the main things which helped me heal. I will always be Emily’s mom and I will always cry when I smell a Star Lily, but every year gets easier for the new me.

March 30, 2004, my former self died, but I’m happy to say I’m starting to like the new me – a mother of three girls, two here on earth and one in heaven.
 Stacey is a former musical theatre starlet and pediatric RN, who turned her love of laughter and theatrics into her favorite career yet. You can connect with her on her award-winning blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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