I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me. I had to remember this verse over and over while I was in labor as this was not what I had envisioned five months ago when I got a positive pregnancy test.
It was April when I went to see my midwife, Darlene, suspecting I was pregnant. Sure enough it only took two seconds for that test to show positive. I was so happy I raced home to make a nice meal for supper so I could tell my husband and our two sons.
Over dinner I asked everyone what they wanted for Christmas that year. After I had heard about all the newest toys and CDs my husband, James, asked what I wanted. I quickly answered with either a boy or a girl. All the chattering stopped. “A boy or girl?” my husband asked with a puzzled look. “Yeeessss” I said slowly. He jumped up, picked me up out of my chair and twirled me around and around. The boys weren’t too sure they were happy quite yet. “Where will the baby sleep?” Michael asked. With me and dad, I said, as a matter of fact. “Yippeee” he said jumping around the table to join in the moment and try to get out of eating his vegetables at the same time. Soon all four of us were having so much fun we almost forgot to finish our meal.
Four months later James and I went out on our once a month date, alone. We went to see a movie he had wanted to see since it came out. I had drank so much bottled water during the previews that by the middle of the movie I had to go find a bathroom. It was then that I noticed blood, bright red blood, the kind my midwife always says to call immediately if I ever saw any when I was pregnant with the boys. I sat in the bathroom stall and cried for a while. I knew blood was not a good sign. Even though I know many women have spotting and go on to have a normal uneventful pregnancy, I just had a dark gloomy feeling, I think back now and I knew something was wrong. I gathered myself and found my way back to the theater; I tapped my husband on the shoulder and motioned for him to come. I whispered, “We have to go.” With the light from the movie he could see that I had been crying, he got up and we walked to the back of the theater. I found a pay phone and called my midwife. When she answered all I could get out was, “Hi, Darlene, this is Melanie.” when I couldn’t choke out another word. She just said, “Come on over and let’s talk about it.” On the way to her house I finally found the words to tell my husband I had seen blood. He really didn’t get it since I had spotted in the first couple weeks with Johnathan, our second son.
When we got to Darlene’s house she came out to meet us at the car with a warm hug, still not knowing what was wrong, just that I was upset. When we got inside I told her about the blood I had seen. She came and sat right in front of me and held both my hands. “What makes this spotting feel different?” she asked first. I told her that something just didn’t feel right; it wasn’t like when I had spotting before. She did a complete exam and used the Doppler to try to find the baby’s heart beat. She tried and tried. She then spent the next thirty minutes explaining to us the possibilities of what was going on. She explained that I needed to go to the emergency room, since this was a Saturday and there was no doctor office open to refer me for a consultation and ultrasound. She went on to go over everything that may be found in an ultrasound, from the baby being just fine and healthy to fetal demise. She then explained all our choices, good or bad.
In the emergency room we were seen pretty quickly. We were taken back to a room, assessed by a nurse, and waited for the doctor. Another nurse came in and asked what doctor I was using so he could be called. James said, “She is seeing a midwife as she did with our two boys.” Her whole tone changed and she began to talk down to me, treating me like a child, after scolding me she began saying I would need all these tests and they would have to check me for sexually transmitted diseases. James stood up and asked her name, her full name, and how long she had been a nurse. He wrote it all down on the papers we had to sign when we first arrived. He then very calmly said that he wanted a different nurse, that he brought me in to rule out a miscarriage and he would not tolerate his wife being treated badly because of our choice in health care professionals. He stated that we had been happily married since we graduated from high school and that I did not need to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases with out a valid reason. She left the room, rolling her eyes.
About two hours later another nurse came in with a doctor. This nurse was an older woman and was very kind. We had to go over why we were here once again. James shook her hand and simply stated we are here for an ultrasound to determine the status of our baby. He went on to say that all my prenatal lab work and prenatal check-ups were up to date and he would call the midwife to have them faxed if necessary. The nurse took a little more information that the previous nurse had not gotten to yet. Then trying to make general conversation she asked, “So, why have you chosen to go with a midwife?”
I gathered my strength. Any other time I would have no problem going into great detail of why I would never choose to walk into a hospital to have a baby, but I could only focus on how this baby was doing, if he or she was still alive. “I just don’t care to deal with all the unnecessary things that are done to a laboring mom in a hospital. I just simply want to have my baby and I want the same person that has cared for me the entire pregnancy to be there.” I could go on and on. I could tell her about how ridiculous it is for a mom in labor to be put in a bed on her back, or how I would like my husband to hold me and support me, or how I don’t care to be prepped for a c-section the whole time I am in labor by putting in an IV and keeping me from eating or drinking anything or how stupid it is to push my baby out in stirrups. But I kept thinking about why we were here and my baby inside me, I couldn’t get out any more. “Well,” she said, “what if you need a c-section? Then what would you do at home? Not wanting to get into a debate with this woman, James asked her, “What are the main reasons for a c-section to be done?” She stood up and held her clip board in a very authorative manner ready to give us a full sermon. “ Fetal distress is the number one reason for an emergency c-section, how would you determine that at home?” In a calm voice James told her how our midwife frequently checks the baby’s heart beat and all other vital signs that are usually done in a labor room, and how she stays with us continuously monitoring my well being. He went on to state that the main reasons for fetal distress in a hospital are the mother being on her back with the baby sitting on his own oxygen supply, and how keeping a mom from important nutrition wears her body down. He continued down the list of all the things that are totally unfounded by science that are being forced on laboring women in hospitals during a very vulnerable time in their life.
When I finally found the strength to look up the nurse was actually shaking her head ‘YES.’ She gave me a hug and said the ultrasound tech would be here soon. I felt a little more at ease.
The ultrasound tech was very distant. She did a quick scan over my belly to get a quick look, then slowed down and took pictures. “How is the baby?” James asked, after what seemed to be an eternity. “I’m not allowed to give any details, just a report to the doctor.” She said very straight faced. James walked around the exam table and looked at the screen. He looked on for several minutes watching her put in labels and print pictures. As he stood there tears welled up in his eyes.
After many moments of silence she finally left the room. “I didn’t see any movement or any heartbeat.” James said, very softly choking out the words. We called our midwife, Darlene, from our cell phone and told her what we knew so far. She once again went over our choices and suggested we go over them again when the doctor comes in to see us. She always says it’s important to be well informed to make an ‘informed decision.’
We were moved back to the same room we came from. After about thirty minutes the doctor came in. “I’m going to admit you and schedule a D & C for in the morning.” He said with out even looking up from the papers he was holding. “WHAT?” James and I asked at the same time, in total disbelief. We knew there was a pretty good possibility that our baby had died, but to tell us in that manner and not go over our choices; we were both numb. “Your baby is dead, and must come out before infection sets in, so we’ll just take care of that in the morning, you two don’t have to worry about a thing.” The doctor said as he was walking back out of the room. After he left James stood in front of the door as if to protect me as we searched for the words to say to each other. “Whatever you want to do I’ll stand beside you.” He offered, trying to choke back tears. “I can’t believe that man just came in here, stated he is going to surgically remove my baby and not even go over our choices or even look at me.” I finally said, very angry. “There is no way I am staying here!”
We sat and discussed our options. After about twenty minutes the nurse came back in. We told her how upset we were with how that doctor had just spoken to us and how he didn’t even take the time to go over our options. That was our option if we stayed, there was no other choice, she explained how it would be handled in the hospital. We called the doctor back in and told him we were going to go home and think about it, if we decided to have a D & C then we would call him and come back in. We got the discharge papers stating all our risks from infection to hemoraging and we left.
On the way home I called my midwife and let her know our baby had died and what we had decided. I told her we were just going to let the baby come naturally and we would call her again for any special instruction once we got home.
We picked up the boys and once we got home we discussed what had happened that night. We all cried and talked about what we would miss now that the baby has gone to heaven. We shared some hot cocoa and cookies and talked until we could no longer hold our eyes open.
It was about two weeks later that I started cramping and spotting again. I knew this was the labor I had been waiting for. I called my midwife and let her know, then called James to come home. I had cramping for about two hours when I really wanted Darlene to be here. Even though I had no idea how long this would take I wanted her to be here early, if for nothing else, for the comfort she gives me. She came in quietly and hugged me and asked how I was doing. She did a complete exam all except for listening for a fetal heart beat. I really didn’t think the little things like that that would be so noticeable. Even though my complete exam was just like any other, not getting out the Doppler and squirting gel over my tummy really hit me hard. I started to cry. I told her and James how hard it was to not listen to a heart beat during this labor. We sat and cried together. Than she reached into her exam bag and pulled out a gift box and handed it to me. I slowly opened it. Inside were carefully selected items for labor support plus a few extras. There were warm wool socks, red raspberry tea, lip balm, and a small box of chocolates among the other items. She then got up to walk to the door. “Where are you going?” I asked. “Into the living room to leave you two alone, you need to lean on each other now.” She said softly.
After she closed the door it hit me, this would be the last day I can hold onto my baby. After today this is it, I will not be pregnant anymore and I won’t have a baby to sleep beside me tonight either. We sat and talked to each other about how we felt and our plans for the future. We also discussed giving this baby a name. We didn’t know if it was a boy or girl. We didn’t even know if that would be able to determined after the baby was out.
One and a half more hours of cramping contractions I could feel pressure on my bladder, not like I had to go to the bathroom but an uneasy pressure. I called Darlene back in for another exam. She noticed I was very tense and tightly holding my legs together and asked why I was tensing my lower body like this. At that moment I realized I had just been holding my baby in, knowing she was right there. I relaxed a little while she got things ready and made sure James and I were comfortable. “You can give a gentle push when you are ready.” She said very softly. I was not ready. I didn’t think I would ever be ready. But with tears streaming down my face, I gave a little push. The baby came out all at once, it felt so tiny, but I held my eyes closed afraid to open them. When I finally found the strength to open them, I saw how carefully Darlene was holding our baby in a small towel. “Do you want to see your baby yet? And do you want to know if it’s a boy or girl?” She asked always speaking softly. “Yes, yes!” We both said. “Your baby is a girl, about sixteen weeks gestation. Perfectly formed.” She offered. “There is no obvious reason for her death. You may send her to the lab if you would like to determine the cause of death, just as we discussed.” We both shook our head no, and held the baby just looking at her, trying to memorize each and every curve. Darlene checked me over very carefully making sure the placenta was whole and no parts were missing.
She then asked if we wanted some time alone with our daughter. We sat together for about thirty minutes confirming decisions we had already made over the last couple of weeks. Then we gave our baby a name. Roxanne, because she was born at sunrise.
We gave our baby a very private burial in a location where only family and a few close friends were in attendance. Our home now displays a shadow box of several items we had chosen for our baby before we lost her. It includes handmade booties, a rattle, a bib and an ultrasound picture. We also have a keepsake certificate of her birth complete with the tiniest feet print I’ve ever seen. We did take a few pictures of our daughter but didn’t get them developed for over a year, when we were ready.
Two years later we welcomed another daughter full term and perfect. We have thankfully had the same midwife, our Darlene, with the birth of all four of our children. She truly knew the joy of this pregnancy making it to full term and made it extra special for us. This daughter, our second daughter we named Beatrice, because she truly is the “bringer of joy.”
Darlene Dorries-Scrivner, Licensed Midwife
Member of Association of Texas Midwives