Thursday, March 31, 2011


Tomorrow is my daughter's memorial service.  We are saying goodbye to her for good.  How do people do this multiple times?

Chapter 3- Maggie's Birthday

I have been putting off this next post for several days now.  I have dreaded writing this, but it scares me how much I have forgotten in the last 2 weeks.  And I am determined not to forget anything.

Dave and I both went to bed that night with several Benadryl in our system.  I highly recommend them if you have trouble sleeping.

On Thursday, March 17 we finally contacted Dr. Eck and we were scheduled for an appointment at Promise Regional Medical Center at noon.  12 seemed forever away from when I woke up. I tried not to think about the fact that I was carrying around my no-longer-living daughter in my womb.  Seems a little messed up.  Or a lot messed up.  I packed my hospital bag. What does one pack when going to deliver their dead daughter? What does one wear when delivering their dead daughter?  Black?  I ended up wearing sweatpants. Shocking, I know. 

Dave and I drove to the hospital and my mom and aunt followed.  I checked in with the 18-year-old receptionist.  She called up to the 4th floor to get my information.  Reason for checking into the hospital? Fetal Demise.  I remember watching her write that, wondering, "What is the receptionist thinking? Does she even know what she's writing?  Is it a big deal to her? Or does she do this everyday?"  Then, I remember looking down at my belly. Not huge at all.  Just a little bump that could be noticeable.  I wanted her to notice it, I wanted her to realize what I was going through.  And, I wanted to show off my belly, and my daughter, for one last time.  This was the last time I could show my daughter off in public.

After checking in with another woman, she took the four of us upstairs to the 4th floor.  We rounded some corners and went through some big double doors into the labor and delivery floor.  I was pretty proud of myself. I was looking around, taking in my surroundings, and not crying.  I did really well until I passed the nurses' station.  They just looked at me.  They knew.  They knew I would not have the happy ending that I should have. They gave me those annoying, sheepish smiles.  Then, just behind the nurses station, was a baby.  She was wearing a pink hat, bundled up in a striped blanket, and she was sleeping.  Peacefully.   Looking back, I should have grabbed her and ran. Problem solved.

Instead, I entered my hospital room.  I wasn't quite sure what to do--lay on the bed and wait for the inevitable? Snoop around and look at everything (like I do in a hotel room or a rental car)? Watch TV?  The nurses came, had me change, and asked me if I had any questions.  Um, yes. I have questions:  Why exactly am I here?  Why did this happen?  Are you sure the doctors didn't make some kind of mistake? Can you double check just to make sure? If she's dead, then why did I feel her move this morning?

I was completely freaked out by what was going to happen in the next 12 hours.  I wasn't far enough along to have had any sort of birthing/labor classes.  I had no idea what to expect except for what I have seen on TV and really, I have never seen a stillborn induction before.  So really, I had no idea what to expect at all.  If you know me, I tend to perseverate on things.  I played Maggie's birth over and over in my head. I imagined the worst possible scenario--crying, pushing, pain. Over and over.

The next few hours were really quite uneventful:
  • I didn't get to eat (I hadn't eat anything since lunch at school on Wednesday) in case I had to have a c-section and anesthesia.  Fortunately, they had free sandwiches and snacks for fathers.  So, Dave, Mom, and Betty Ann got to eat.  I got to watch and then I got to eat ice chips sparingly (the nurse warned me not to eat too many).
  • A nurse named Kaye came to draw my blood and put in my iv.  She was great.  She had a very similar story and could relate to what I was going through.
  • Someone ( I can't remember if it was Dr. Eck or my other nurse, Vicky) gave me some pills to induce labor since my body wasn't even close to ready.  They said that usually the first round doesn't do anything and I will need a second dose.  I could get these pills every 4 hours. So, I waited and I watched the Food Channel.
  • I got a second dose of Cytotec (I think this was the name of the pill) from Dr. Eck a little early since there wasn't much movement. 
By 7:00 or so (and a bowl of chicken noodle soup later!) I was starting to feel quite a bit of pain. At 8:30 my water broke.  I guess I should have expected this, I just didn't. It totally freaked me out.  The nurse (a new one by this time named Carrie), gave me some pain meds in my IV.  I also switched from the bed (had been laying there for 8 hours) to the recliner in the room.  A few minutes later I felt tingly and groggy.  The pain was definitely lessening, which was a relief.  I tried to sleep, as Dr. Eck was expecting the process to take awhile (possibly into the early morning).  But, how do you sleep during this? Knowing what is about to happen?  I drifted in and out of sleep but finally woke up due to tons of sweating and more intense contractions.  I finally decided I wanted the epidural (I knew I wanted one all along. I decided that I was going to have enough pain that there was no point in me trying to be tough through this).

The epidural lady came in, got her stuff organized, and got the epidural in.  It took awhile for the meds to start taking over, but I finally started feeling some relief.  The epidural lady also said that I could press the button every 15 minutes if I needed more relief.  I then laid on my back and waited in fear.  At some point later the doctor/nurse asked me to push.  At 10:38 Maggie Ann Harder was born (at this point she didn't have a name- she was just known as Baby Girl Harder).  Dr. Eck checked her out and she was perfect.  No problems with the cord and no obvious signs of problems.  She was a little peanut.  She was small for her gestational age and Dr. Eck seemed to think that she had been dead for a week or two and had not been growing (and possibly had been losing weight) for awhile.  Dave was by my side the entire time, pushing the epidural button without me even knowing it.  I love that guy. 

The scary part was over. The part of the day that I dreaded, conjured up images in my mind of her delivery, was now over. I actually felt peaceful and calm.  I'm not sure why, maybe it was because I knew the worst part was over. 

Next:  did I want to see her or hold her?  Up until this point I was sure that I wanted nothing to do with that.  It seemed creepy and weird.  I didn't want how I saw her to be how I remembered what she looked like. I wanted my visions of her as a bouncy baby to be how I remembered her. Blond hair, fatty rolls, bright eyes.  But now, there was nothing more I wanted than to see my daughter.  But, I was scared to death too. 

When I looked, a little, perfect girl was laying there.  She was itty bitty- 3.8 ounces and 21 centimeters long.  Her head was 5 inches around.  Everything about her was formed exactly the way it should have been.  I stared at her, willing for her to wake up.  Dave and I looked at her for a long time, between tears, and hugged each other.  I have never felt so sad.  Why did a perfect little girl go to waste?  Could I have done anything differently?  All of my dreams of her and us were never going to happen.  My future had changed completely.

My biggest regret of that day?  Telling the doctor that I was done being with her.  I didn't think I could handle crying anymore. I thought I should, at some point, end being with her or I would have/could have stayed there forever.  I wish I would have spent more time with her.  My parents came in to see their 2nd granddaughter.  So sorry that I couldn't fulfill their dream of more grandchildren

A woman came in to take pictures, too.  I haven't seen them yet (I've been checking the mail like a crazy lady) but she took pictures of her little feet and hands.  She also took pictures of Dave and I holding her.  A bit awkward.  Do you smile in these pictures?  How do you pose? Weird.

Then, Maggie was then taken away for her autopsy.  We tried to make decisions about a funeral/memorial service, blah, blah blah.  Everyone left after awhile and Dave and I were left to try and sleep.  This was the first night I was without my daughter in 6 months.  I had no idea where my daughter was but I knew she was alone.

Nothing anyone can do can prepare you for labor and delivery.  However, there is absolutely NOTHING that anyone can do to prepare you for delivery of your stillborn child.  There is no joy in any of the pain.  There is sadness, ends of dreams, and futures.

I remember laying in bed that night, NCAA games glowing on the TV, and feeling my belly.  How does it go from bulging to empty in a matter of hours?  But, I think my heart did that too--bulging and beating with excitement for the future.  And then a few hours later it was empty.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Something that makes me whole...

So, despite the last 2 weeks, I know I have things to be thankful for.  My nephew drew this for me today so I can "remember him when I miss him."  He is possibly the cutest thing I've ever seen.  After Maggie, of course.  He is turning 5 tomorrow.  It is a picture of me golfing.  I think this is a new, special kind of club.  Maybe having a club like that would actually help my swing.


Monday, March 28, 2011

I found these

I just booted up our old laptop (by old I mean that I had to press the power button-not exaggerating- 14 times).  I don't use this computer that much anymore because 1.) the aforementioned problem with getting it to start; 2.) it will randomly shut down in the middle of an "important" task, like a winning game of "Word Whomp"; 3.) I get 2nd degree burns if I leave it resting on my legs too long. 

Anyways, I had left the CD in the drive from our 20 week ultrasound.  I looked through them again.  And again.  And again.  She's probably the cutest thing I've ever seen. And she has the cutest little feet and hands.  Or had the cutest little feet? I guess I should use the past tense, right?

The doctor's office usually doesn't do 3D pictures (unless you want to pay extra) and they usually don't do them at 20 weeks.  Maggie wasn't cooperating so they had to bust out the 3D ultrasound.  So thankful they did.  If you look closely enough you can see her little arm and hand up by her head. 

Below are some of her adorable little feet and toes.   At this point they were almost 3 centimeters long. 
Cutest.  Girl.  Ever.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chapter 2- March 16, 2011

On Wednesday, March 16 I had my 6 month (24 week) doctor's appointment after school.  At our last appointment we found out that "it" was now a "she."  But more importantly, she was healthy and was growing perfectly. I assumed this appointment would be quick- Dr. Eck would check for a heartbeat, get some measurements and I'd be on my way.  I would maybe even have enough time to run to Target afterwards.  I drove from Hesston to Hutch, singing along to the radio.  I remember wondering if she could hear me sing.  I then wondered if I should probably change the station to something else.

Anyways, at the clinic I went into the room quickly (for some reason there were not 5 other women waiting this time) and I laid down, ready to hear our little girl's heartbeat.  The nurse came in, we chatted, and she rubbed the doppler around on my belly.  Nothing.  We joked around, saying that she had found a good hiding spot.  I even told the nurse, "I don't blame her for hiding.  She's probably hiding from the noise of my students."  She pushed around for a little awhile longer and finally decided to get the other nurse, Andi.  She was sure Andi would find the heartbeat in seconds.  That's usually how it works.  Andi came in and moved the doppler around over and over.  There were several times when she was sure she heard it, but then lost it.  After about 15-20 minutes she decided that my belly had probably had enough and that little girl was sleeping in a very good hiding spot. Nurse Andi went to get the portable sonogram machine.  I laid there alone and, of course, at this point, my mind wandered with "what-ifs" but I quickly shot those out and was sure she was just cuddling.

Dr. Eck came back in the room with Andi and the portable sonogram. I was actually excited.  I would get to see my daughter again before her birth.  I was lucky. Most mothers-to-be don't get sonograms at this appointment.  Dr. Eck put the probe on my belly and started moving around. I couldn't see the screen so I just watched their faces, waiting for them to say, "Here she is-she was hiding behind..."  But, I knew right away.  Her face, their faces- said everything.  She said, "I'm not finding a heartbeat."  I can't even remember what I thought at this point.  I know I was still in denial and I started praying that this crappy little machine on wheels was wrong.  Praying that my little girl was still alive.  I asked what the chances were that this machine was wrong.  Dr. Eck told me that these machines are right about 98-99% of the time.  That's when I knew.  I would never meet our daughter alive. 

I called Dave right away.  He was checking cattle that needed to be sent to some other state.  He would come as soon as he could.  I called my mom.  She answered with 3 chipper "Hellos." She was going to come over right away.  But, we couldn't wait for me to have my company.  I was taken down to the main ultrasound room right away.  It was the same woman who had told me good news just 4 weeks prior.

I laid on the table, waiting for a miracle.  All the doctors and nurses did was stare at the screen.  I knew she was dead when Dr. Eck asked for a femur length.  She wanted to know when our daughter had passed away. 

Dave finally came sometime--I have no idea when. I know that he hugged me and we both sobbed for the loss of our daughter.  I don't think I said anything.  What can someone say in a situation like this?  My biggest regret on this day is that I didn't get pictures and I didn't look at the screen.  At that point I didn't want anything to do with this.  Looking back on it, I wish I could have seen her, as a part of me, one last time.

We drove home.  I laid on the couch. I sobbed.  Mom came.  Dave made some phone calls to my work people and his work people.  And just like that, we were making different plans for our daughter.


My husband is down in the basement building Maggie's box so we can have her memorial service this week sometime.  Seriously, you'd think that this would get easier with time.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How to Pretend to Be Busy

It is weird that, once in awhile, I still feel Maggie move?  Maybe it's like people who have limbs still feel something that's not there at all.  If only...

Dave and I have been trying to move on and get our lives back to normal. We've been trying to keep busy.  Okay, maybe him more than me.  It is hard to get life back to normal when I don't have to go to work this week and my plans for my spring break week were going to be getting things ready for our daughter's arrival.  It's amazing how quickly life changes.

He and I did take two days and go to Kansas City to get out of Hutch.  We spent the day at the outlet mall for some retail therapy (Ann Taylor Loft has been known for great mental therapy) and then spent the night down at the Plaza.  Great time with each other and a much needed break from reality.  Unfortunately we did have to come home.

Dave went back to work on Wednesday and I spent the next few days finding things to keep me somewhat entertained:
  • Some work friends came over to visit.  One of the friends is due with what was going to be Maggie's future husband.  I was glad to see that she (and her son) were healthy.  That's not to say that seeing her was not difficult.  I did, however, get to show Maggie off.  One of the things that I have read is that mothers of stillborns struggle with the fact that no one ever asks about the labor/delivery and no one asks about your child.  I understand, I never did prior to this either.  But, I am still a proud mother.  And I still want to show her off, even if the only thing to show is on paper.
  • I spent some time at Hobby Lobby.  Not really sure what I was looking for but I ended up buying some cards for the hospital nurses and doctor. 
  • I went into school on Thursday.  Dreadful.  Everything seemed normal, which was maybe the problem.  School went on as usual. But, I got things organized for next week.  I'm pretty sure I won't win an outstanding teaching award in the next few weeks.  Ask me if I care.
  • A past coworker brought some delicious meals over. Life.Saver.  If anyone knows of a free, full-time, in-house chef, let me know.  We are hiring.
  • My parents came over.  I cannot imagine what life would be like if we didn't live close to some family. My parents have been so incredibly helpful.  Dad trimmed the rose bushes, spread whatever-it-is-that-we-are-supposed-to-spread on our lawn, and cleaned out our planters.  Mother finished packing up Maggie's stuff in the guest room.  Then she vacuumed, dusted, and trimmed back house plants.  But mostly, they were company for me while Dave was at work
Now I'm trying to figure out how to mentally prepare myself for going back to school on Monday.  I didn't really care about phonics and fluency testing before this.  Now I really don't care.  Parents really shouldn't care if their kid can read 130 words correct per minute.  They should just be happy their child is still living.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chapter 1-Beginnings of Magic

I am trying to keep track of our journey.  Mostly for me; maybe for others. Either way, I want to remember the joy that Maggie brought and still continues to bring to life.  I'm not sure how many chapters it will take to tell our story.


It has been exactly one week that we could not find her heartbeat. Our Magic was gone. 

It was a Friday night and Dave and I were laying on the couch (we're really, really good at this).  We had been debating names for our baby girl. I was getting annoyed because he had spent the last 25 minutes (loudly) reciting every girl's name off every baby name website.  He was being obnoxious by choosing names that were obviously not a good fit for us.  He finally said, "What about Magic?"  We laughed- shocked that 1) a website suggested Magic as a girl's name and 2) someone would actually consider naming their precious daughter this horrid name.  Sorry to those of you who really like this as a name.  You are free to use it for your next child-I would be honored.  

Since we could not decide (or agree?) on anything serious, we joked that maybe we should call her Magic.  That way (from the advice of other expecting friends) we wouldn't "slip" and call her by her real name in front of others, too.  Since then she was Magic.  Actually, she's always been magic (that's for other chapters, though).

Since last week, many people have suggested that we come up with a name for her.  Not Baby Girl. Not Baby Harder.  But, the thought of naming my daughter Magic was disturbing and I refused to be that weirdo.  Magic Harder doesn't have a nice ring to it.  And, I didn't want to have to explain the story.

What name could we choose that would remind us of Magic?  Cigam? Gamic? Icmag? Magci?  Magie is French for magic. Not that I'm French.  Or even know French.  Whatever.  Maggie seemed like the perfect name for a perfect little girl.

We picked Ann as the middle name for several reasons.  It seems like having the name Ann in your name makes you a wonderful person. My sister, for one.  Who can beat her?  She is wonder woman (sans unitard).  And, for two, my Aunt Betty Ann.  She was at the hospital with us on Thursday walking me through all of this. She fluffed my pillows. Wiped my tears.  It seems obvious- Ann=wonderful.

This is how our Magic began.

Maggie Ann Harder

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5

Maggie Ann Harder
March 17, 2011
21 centimeters
3.8 ounces

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Five days later.

I have had several copies of this card stashed away in the office for years.  I gave several away but I made sure to always have one, so I could have one around "just in case."  I still have it stashed away somewhere. 

I never expected to feel so much love for my daughter.  
Especially in these circumstances.
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