This story was first presented at “This too shall pass: Stories of hope, victory and community,” an Instagram Live event hosted by Ever Eden Publishing and Radiant magazine in order to comfort people during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
I woke in a puddle of blood. As I rushed to the bathroom, tendrils curling around my legs, I felt my fear coming into stark reality. She was gone. We had lost Emma three years before, and this pregnancy was just long enough (31 weeks) for the process to be my worst nightmare. Shaking uncontrollably at what was to come, I woke my husband. We haphazardly gathered our belongings and rushed to the hospital.
On the way, I stared numbly out the window, I whispered to my husband about what we needed to do next. I vividly remember telling him at one point, “She is gone, I knew this would happen.”
When we reached the hospital, the nurses and doctors were gracious and kind. Swirling around me, a financial assistant cheered me by talking about Grey’s Anatomy, and a doctor, who was this hospital’s McDreamy, guided me through an exam. I was distracted and grateful for them even in the midst of this nightmare.
Hours later, the kind doctor said, “She’s fine.”
“She’s fine!” He said it with a big smile on his face.
“We aren’t sure what is going on yet, and there are tests we still have to do, but your baby is just fine. Her heartbeat is exactly where it should be, and she still has plenty of fluid. It looks like you just lost some, and maybe have a small abruption.”
He kept me so they could monitor me, prescribing steroids for her lungs and magnesium for me. They warned me that the magnesium may make me feel sleepy and out of it, and I sighed in relief. Out of it? That’s exactly what I needed.
I was in the hospital for almost a week.
The nurses were tender and kind. One called me “mama” in a way that melts my heart still just thinking about it. I remember a conversation with another one, a Catholic one. I asked her quietly one night, “Can I ask you a weird question?”
“Of course,” she said.
“You know how St. Gianna had to choose to die in order to save her child? My whole pregnancy she has been popping up everywhere. All over the school where I’m a teacher, posters say “choose the child.” I am so afraid to choose to die instead of her, and I’m scared. I don’t want to die.”
“Oh honey, she did not choose to die! She chose to have a procedure to save the baby! But that was before we had really developed c-sections, and there have been all kinds of medical advancements since then!”
I had resented St. Gianna for haunting me all through my pregnancy, and for the first time, I could breathe a sigh of relief and ask for her prayers.
The night I labored was terrifying. I used all the tips and tricks. Still, the pain was unimaginable. For hours, the doctor assured me that I was not in labor. Nurses would check a monitor and tell me, “These are tiny contractions!” I panicked in fear of what a real contraction would feel like. I tried different positions, but black red pools formed underneath me. There was an emergency C-section going on, so the doctor could not come to check on me herself. The nurses kept asking about my pain tolerance. It was high, and I told them so, but still nothing.
Finally, the nurses realized that I was, in fact, having contractions. In fact, each time I was feeling the expected pain, my placental abruption was tearing, creating the searing pain of a new injury. Because of the abruption, my contractions had not shown up on the machine like they are supposed to, and I was actually ready to go to the delivery room. Things happened a lot faster, then. Mere minutes after the epidural was in, the doctor finally made it to my side. Three pushes later, Willow Rose came into the world and bit the doctor’s finger.
She was fierce and beautiful. At 3lbs 16oz they thought she would be frail, but her apgar scores were better than many full-term babies. She barely cried. Staff all over the hospital fawned over her. She tore out her own oxygen enough times for them to see that she was breathing fine, and ripped out her own IV until they gave up and let her start taking bottles and practice nursing. Over and over, she awed them with her strength.
As for me, I had to rest more than I would have thought necessary. Nurses spent extra time talking to me and were so compassionate. They helped us with our paperwork and even knit a sweet little blanket and hat for Willow Rose, the “red-haired baby.” I entered our apartment a couple of days later and saw the tubs of baby gear I had been afraid to unpack. I wept tears of profound relief.
When I think back, what always surprises me is the million ways God healed me through what should have been one of the worst experiences of my life. Now, we are struggling through arguably the hardest thing the world has experienced in our time, and I am seeing threads of hope that I never would have imagined. I pray that even though we are struggling, this time that should be so hard becomes a memory of pure joy and healing that gives each of us a peace that lasts, God’s unexplainable peace.