Happy first birthday to my tiny, perfect Ellie. This is the first time I have taken the time to write down her birth story and everything that happened last year in December. Unlike most birth stories it was not a fun one to write, but I feel it is an important part of the history of our little family regardless. If you don’t want to hear a sad story, just stop here and know that today is our baby girl’s birthday. (This story is more just the basic overview, I am going to do one more post with my experience of everything and more in depth details of what I went through at the hospital.)
December 10, 2015:
I woke up that Thursday morning feeling a lot of pressure and my back hurt. I took a warm bath and tried to ignore the pain. It was so bad I could barely sit. Nick asked if he should stay home from school, but I told him to go. I went to volunteer at the gym daycare from 9:30-11:30. I was still in quite a bit of pain but tried to push through and just not sit down. At about 11:00 I was sitting in one of the rocking chairs and I suddenly felt like I had peed my pants. I went to the bathroom only to find that it was blood and it had already soaked my pants all the way to my knees and was still coming. I tied my coat around my waist and told the daycare supervisor what had happened. I headed for the hospital, crying and shaking, Declan in tow. I called Nick on the way. I remember saying “I’m bleeding” and he responded “from where?” which of course sent me into hysterics. He knew the answer, he just didn’t want to believe it. Declan was pretty good at the hospital, thank goodness. I had an ultrasound and the tech said, “there’s the baby and it’s doing just fine”, which seemed really strange to me, I thought for sure this pregnancy was over with the amount of blood I had just seen. Nick’s friend gave him a ride to the hospital and he made it just before the doctor came in to talk to us about the results of the ultrasound. They told us I had a sub-chorionic hemorrhage. He suggested bedrest and said it was a good problem to have and that baby would be fine.
For the next 21 days I believed that everything would be OK. We announced our pregnancy on our Christmas card. After all, I was past the 12 week mark and the doctor said everything was going to be fine.
We went about our normal holiday activities (Jonah is a master gingerbread house decorator, he loves doing this at Grandma’s every year), with me trying to take it easy for the most part. Our amazing neighborhood helped watch kids and make meals for us so that I could rest while Nick finished his semester at the U. I felt very well taken care of!
The doctor did weekly ultrasounds to check on our little Ellie. It was fun getting to see her so much. She always wiggled a ton at every ultrasound. The ultrasound tech said when I was 14 weeks that she was 90% sure that it was a girl. So we named her Ellie. It had been a girls name that I had wanted for a very long time and it felt like the right name for her. The doctor said the hemorrhage was growing, but that it was still OK. I did not bleed anymore after the first day that it happened, so I assumed this was a good thing. They said she had a two vessel umbilical cord which can sometimes indicate a problem but is actually quite common and does not always mean there is a problem.
We debated whether or not to go see my family for Christmas. It was the first time all of my siblings were going to be in one place in I think 7 years or so. We decided as long as I took it easy and keep stress to a minimum, and stayed for a short time, it would be OK. The trip proved to be stressful from the get go though. On the way we stopped at a rest stop in Lima, Montana. Our car would not start after, wouldn’t even turn over, we had never had any problems before. Everyone who stopped at the rest stop refused to help us jump our car. So we found a tiny gas station nearby (pretty much the only thing nearby) that had a small mechanic shop in it. The mechanic charged us $50 and jumped our car, thank goodness it worked. Then we stopped in Missoula for dinner. We thought perhaps the car not starting was a fluke so we turned the car off again, and it would not start. Luckily we found a nicer person willing to jump our car. As we neared Lolo pass it was getting dark and the roads were bad. When we arrived at the pass we discovered it was closed. There were over 20 vehicles off the road and it was going to take hours to clear. At this point we were all super tired. So we turned back and went to the silver dollar inn and stayed the night. The sad thing is we were only about an hour from our destination where my family was staying at a ski lodge. We made it the next morning, after jump starting our car again. As soon as we arrived we had to deal with the car. We replaced the battery and thank goodness it worked. Then, while Nick took the kids sledding, I took Kate (we brought our dog as we could not find a sitter over Christmas) to Nicole’s house to hang out in her barn. Jonah refused to go skiing so Nick went with my brothers and Dad one day and Jonah did some sledding (Declan refused to sled, too scary for him, we tried lot’s of times). There was a huge water park at the ski resort and the boys LOVED that part (Nick even tried the surfing simulator, by far my favorite thing from the sidelines). And of course hanging out with all their cousins and aunts and uncles. I mostly sat on the sidelines and read. Although, one time when they went sledding I rode the gondola up the mountain with them, and I still feel guilty about that particularly bumpy gondola ride. It’s interesting, when you lose a pregnancy you over analyze every little thing that you did and wonder if that is what did it. But really, there is no way to know, but the guilt can make you crazy.
Then we spent Christmas at Nicole’s beautiful new house. The boys were excited that Santa found them in Idaho and as usual loved every minute of Christmas. Jonah says Christmas is his favorite, and Declan is finally old enough to really enjoy and understand it. We had a good holiday with family. The day after Christmas we headed for home, anxious for another ultrasound to check on our babe. (Taylor was proposing to his girlfriend that day and we were so excited for him and wished we could have helped build a bunch of snow men for his proposal, but we couldn’t have helped much and we needed to get home.)
We made it home without a snag on our drive. Although it dropped well below zero as we got into southern Idaho, yikes. I remember thinking on the way home that I didn’t feel like my baby was OK anymore. My stomach felt more flat than usual. I tried to ignore the feeling. The night before the ultrasound I told Nick what I had been feeling and told him to prepare himself for the ultrasound, that the baby might not be OK. He said he was sure it was fine and that I always get paranoid when I’m pregnant, which is true.
December 30th, 2015:
We went for the ultrasound at 4:00 pm. The ultrasound tech and I had become buddies as I was there a lot. This was the first ultrasound that Nick was able to come to. Usually she was very talkative and friendly, she seemed to really love being an ultrasound tech and would point out things to me that no other ultrasound tech ever had, like the baby’s bladder and how you can tell if it’s full and how much it holds. This time was different though. She was very quiet. And looking at the screen I could tell it was different. She wasn’t moving. She looked more skeletal than usual, I just remember she looked really bony. Nick finally broke the silence and asked the question that sat like an elephant in the room already… “is there a heartbeat?”. The ultrasound tech immediately burst into tears. “I’m looking…I’m sorry…I’m having a hard time…I don’t think I see anything…” She grabbed a box of tissues and handed it to us. I didn’t cry. Not at first. I was in shock. Because it was 4 pm, the doctors had all already left. They led us to an office to sit and wait for the on call doctor to come talk to us. We waited for what felt like an eternity (I think it really was about an hour). And then the tears and all the emotions came. Disbelief. Anger. It’s just not fair. Dr. Jones finally came and said he could admit me to the hospital and induce that night or we could wait to go into labor naturally. I really liked Dr. Jones more than my usual Dr. so I decided to do it that night while he was on call. We went home and I frantically cleaned the house. I wanted to come home to a clean house, it felt like something I could control in this out of control situation.
December 31, 2015:
We went back to the hospital and induced labor. She was born at 5:45 am the next morning. She was 5.5 inches and less than half a pound. We spent the day with her and then had to find a mortuary to take her body. She was tiny and perfect. The hospital had a lot of different services for people who lose a baby. They took photos of her, provided a tiny pink blanket to wrap her in and put a tiny pink bow on her head. They did these incredible hand and foot molds and prints. And they provided a cute little box to put it all in. Someone also apparently raised funds to donate teddy bears to siblings when a baby is lost, as an eagle scout project. When the staff asked if I would like some for my boys I lost it. I had not even though about how this all would affect them yet. It was so nice to have those teddy bears to give them to squeeze while we told them about their baby sister.
The hospital is not allowed to give a price list for mortuaries, they only give names and numbers. Nick had the difficult task of called around. The first few he called were very cold and stated their prices. But then he called Utah Valley Mortuary and they expressed how sorry they were and just genuinely cared about what we were going through. At that point Nick didn’t even care what the price was, he just decided that was the last call he was making. They ended up being way cheaper than the other mortuaries anyways so it worked out. And in fact, in the end, when I went to pick up Ellie’s ashes they refused to let me pay a dime. I could not believe how well they treated us through the whole thing. (Nick paid them back by taking photographs of their new building for their website, we were so glad to be able to give back to them.)
We love our Ellie and miss her every day. It has been an interesting process attempting to grieve as a family. We each have our bad days on different days and we each deal with it differently. It has been hard, to grieve and also help my children grieve. It has definitely affected them in ways I did not anticipate. Once while playing with some other little kids one little boy had a little sister who kept bothering him. Their Mom said to Declan “aren’t you glad you don’t have a sister to bug you?” and Declan responded “I do have a sister, Ellie. She died.” I know that was super uncomfortable for her but I am so proud of my kids that they feel like they can talk about and remember their sister. Today in remembrance of her we will eat some birthday cake and release one pink balloon. We will not forget her and the impact she has had on us, we love you Ellie!