The next morning, we still had not delivered. I was given mild medicine to try to help me dilate more. My OB visited me that morning. I was so thankful that he was on-call in urgent care and said he would keep coming up to check on me and be the one who delivers Tessa. This was amazing to me. As the day went on, my family came to visit. I was unsure if Tatum should see me hooked up to all these machines, with needles and cords coming out of my arms, but we decided to allow it.
Tatum walked confidently into my hospital room, and stopped dead in her tracks. She looked at me curiously, and walked up to my hospital bed. My husband picked her up and sat her next to me. “Mama, you hurt?” She asked in her two-year-old voice. “No baby, mama’s okay.” She looked at me and frowned. “Mama, you need doctor?” “Yes baby, I have doctors.” She looked at me hard and gave me a hug. She amazes me. “Be good for grandma and grandpa, ok?” I said. “Yes, I be good. We go toy store.” I laughed. After just a few minutes of visiting, she kissed me goodbye without a fuss and left the room with my parents. I could see in my mom’s eyes the hurt she felt for me, and I could feel how uneasy my father was.
Later in the day, my OB came in and said we needed to break my water. I was administered an epidural, and after I was numb, he broke my water. With the rising fluid again, and still at least 24 AFI, the water was like a flood and it went everywhere. Mike scrambled to help grab towels and my nurse was rushing to clean it up, saying she had never seen so much fluid before. My bed was soaked, and it took an entire cabinet of towels to mop up the mess. I could only imagine what would have happened if I had broken water with the full 65 AFI. I definitely would have needed help. I was checked a few more times and so far, no hemorrhaging or signs of cord prolapse.
I felt so tired. The stress had gotten to me. My new night nurse, who was so sweet and gentle, told me that if I felt pressure I needed to use the call light. It would be a little more time before Tessa came, but now that my water was broken she could be coming quickly and I was closer to time to deliver. The team checked on my cervix quite often, but so far, she wasn’t ready.
I wrapped my hands around my now small belly. Tessa was moving freely and kicking me. Her hands and feet pushed against my stomach, and I just prayed and prayed. Thank you, baby girl, keep fighting. I think mentally I was in denial that this was happening. It felt like an awful nightmare. I was sure that at some point I would wake up and none of this was going on.
My husband fell asleep on the couch in the room, and I fought to keep my eyes open, but fell asleep sitting up, holding Tessa through my belly.
I awoke in a panic and in excruciating pain. I looked at the clock, 10:50 p.m. I felt more pain then I had ever felt, even with my first daughter. Something was happening. I hit the call light and said “Help me, I need help, I need my nurse.” A nurse that was in the hallway came in and said she was getting my nurse and try to stay calm. My night shift nurse came in and put her hand inside me. “Yes, she’s coming. Don’t push yet,” she said. She left to go find my OB. I felt like it was forever, but it was only a couple minutes, as I looked at the clock it was barely 10:55.
I started hitting the call light again, panicking because I thought I was going to pass out from the pain. I looked at Mike, who was now wide awake and standing next to me. My teeth started to chatter together so hard that I couldn’t speak clearly. I felt like there was an elephant sitting on my chest. A wave of cold embraced my entire body and I began shaking uncontrollably. I felt like I was literally going to freeze and die. “I need blankets! I’m so cold. I can’t stop” I have never in my life been so unbelievably cold. I grabbed the handles on the side of the bed to try to stop shaking, the noise of the bed metal clanking made me panic more. I was going into shock. Mike ran down the hallway yelling for help, and a moment later my OB appeared, and behind him the nurse with two medical carts. I was still shaking uncontrollably. In my head, I was yelling at myself to stay focused and stay present. I thought I was going to lose consciousness. Stay here. Stay here. Focus, was all I could think.
My OB started to ask me questions and all I could say was “I need to push. I need to push, I need to push! There is no more time, she’s coming.”
A few hard pushes, and at 11:09 P.M., she was here. The moment she was out, I immediately stopped shaking.
There she was. She wasn’t moving. Her body looked frail, and limp, my heart sank and I said, “Oh. My baby. My beautiful baby.” She was gorgeous. The nurse took her from the doctor and she started checking her vitals. She still was not moving, and honestly, from the look of her, I thought she was already gone.
“Doctor, there’s a heartbeat!” The nurse said, looking surprised. My OB said quickly, “Do you want to hold her?”
“Yes, Yes, give her to me, please.” I motioned with my arms open. My OB checked her again as they laid her down over me. Yes, there was a heartbeat, but it was faint.
She was so beautiful. Her eyes were closed. She was barely warm and I knew she was already getting ready to go with God. How blessed was I that I got my only wish. I wanted her to be able to feel me before her journey into heaven. I wanted that chance to say good-bye. You are so beautiful. I kissed her cheeks. I love you. I don’t think anyone in the room thought she was alive when she was born. She looked so peaceful. Like a sleeping angel. The labor had been too hard on her little heart.
My husband stood close to me and kissed her cheeks, and offered me words of love.
“Something…something is happening” I said softly, still holding Tessa as I felt blood rushing out of me. I could hear the blood hitting the floor. My husband yelled out “She’s bleeding!” I started to hemorrhage. I couldn’t tell you what happened during that time. All I knew was I was holding an angel, and I stared at her in awe as the team got my bleeding to stop rather quickly, and luckily I did not need any additional blood.
Once I was stable and the medical team left the room, Mike and I took turns holding Tessa and loving on her. Mike texted the family and they rushed down to see her and say hello and goodbye. I was still in shock at this point. I hadn’t cried yet. I was just so happy that she was born and I got to meet her for even just those few minutes as I kissed her and loved her. “God let me meet her! We got to meet her!” Was all I could say to my husband.
I inspected her little body. She was so frail. Her little hand was still clenched in the staple way of Trisomy 18. I unfolded her fist, and let her fingers relax over my hand.
The pediatric neonatologist came in and looked her over and said that there was nothing that could have been done to change the outcome. Tessa showed signs consistent with heart failure during labor, and that all of her other congenital problems would have led to her demise. He gave his apologizes and let us be.
Our families had arrived, and came in separately to say hello and goodbye. Everyone was in shock at how beautiful she was, and how much she looked like her sister, Tatum. I still hadn’t cried. I was too proud of her. We did not let Tatum meet her, because we didn’t think she would understand.
Once the families were gone, I held Tessa in my arms and rocked her. I said, I’m so sorry baby, but thank you for fighting, you did so good. I just kept whispering to her that I would see her again. I told her about her great grandparents and how there are other children she should make friends with that we know in heaven, and to watch over us.
The night nurse said let’s change her and clean her up a bit. I was excited to put her in the cotton and rose outfit. It fit perfectly. It was meant for her. I took photos on my phone of her, knowing in my head I wanted pictures of her hands, her feet, her perfect little face. The nurse offered to take her to take some photos of her while I got some rest, as well as take footprints and a lock of her hair for her memory box they made for us. I didn’t want to rest, but I could hardly keep my eyes open. It was 3 am. I agreed. Mike laid back down and I slept for a couple hours. I asked the nurse to please put her back next to me so I could see her when I woke up.
A few hours later, the nurse that reminded me of my grandmother-in-law was standing by my bed as I woke up. She hugged me tight and said she was so sorry. She insisted I eat a little. But I just wasn’t hungry. I just wanted to hold my baby. Mike and I took turns holding her for a couple hours. My OB came in to offer condolences again, and words of encouragement. He said he wanted to get me out of the hospital that day because “this is no place to start the grieving process.” We agreed. We requested that a chaplain come to baptize her for us, so that she would be baptized for heaven.
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children, come to me,” the chaplain said. “All of the little children. He loves them all. Even those that never make it this far, even those that are lost early…” Mike and I looked at each other. I found it comforting to think that even if you lose a child at any stage before birth, even in miscarriage, they are waiting for you in heaven. I pictured Tessa leading the other babies I have lost to greet me when I get there, and loving all the little faces I never got to kiss. I hope they are proud of me and who their mama is.
For the baptism, my nursing team had changed Tessa out of her cotton and rose gown and put her in a beautiful white lace dress that they had for her. They put a soft bonnet on her head, and matching white booties. Now she really looked like an angel. The chaplain blessed her in the Trinity, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. He led us in prayer, and he surprised me when he paused and looked at her in silence for a few moments, and tears escaped his eyes. “She is just beautiful. I’m so sorry. Peace be with you,” he said.
After the baptism, I wanted to let all our friends and distant relatives know that she had come and passed on. The fastest way to do that was through social media. As I was preparing the post, I realized that I was writing out both her birth and death announcement. It is the most awful thing to say out loud that your baby is here, and she has gone. As I wrote it, it really hit me that she had left this earth. I cried over her as I held her, feeling my soul shake as the tears dropped onto her blanket. My baby was really gone.