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.
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.