Hi there. This morning a friend of mine emailed me a youtube video of "I Will Carry You" , and it led me to a morning of pseudo-stalking your family and your story. My name is Erin, and 4 days ago, my 36 hour baby girl died. And while I don't know you, and don't expect you to respond in any way, I feel comforted a bit to write my story to someone who has traveled this road.
Again, my name is Erin. I'm married to an amazing man, who continues to astound me through all of this. Blair and I are both believers, and work in a christian camping ministry in the Texas Hill Country. Camp Eagle is a non-profit, adventure based camp that believes that outdoor adventure, authentic relationships, and biblical Truth can truly have an effect on the upcoming generation and turn their hearts to Jesus. It's kindof small though, and in the middle of literally nowhere, Texas. (you cannot find us on a map.) We live, work, minister, and play with about 45 other full time staff, family, and students.
In January, three of us married women all found out that we were pregnant, due within about 6 weeks of each other. We were ecstatic... Blair and I have been married for 2.5 years, and wanted to get started on our family. My baby was due October 14. The pregnancy was... delicious, if i can use such a term. :) I loved every moment of it. Possibly not the throwing up moments, or I'm-so-hungry-at-3am-I-think-i'm-going-to-faint moments, but I loved being pregnant.
We wanted to have a natural birth, with midwives at a birthing center in San Antonio (about a 2 hour drive from home.) All of our appointments were encouraging, and I never experienced anything abnormal or unusual throughout the 40 weeks. When summer came, my pregnancy became even more exciting, if that were possible. I now had 5 college girls that I discipled who worked in our summer camp program, and they made pregnancy hilarious. Every week we had a new batch of campers who would touch my belly, be annoyed that i refused to find out the sex of our baby, and suggest ridiculous names for each gender.
While i love our camp ministry, I was eagerly anticipating being a stay at home mom. with my two neighbors who were also expecting, I knew I wouldn't get too lonely or bored with them around. I also was so excited about the ministry of being a stay at home mom - loving my husband and raising our children to love Jesus and impact the world... can life be more rewarding? I thought not.
Summer ended, and my anticipation for birth went up drastically... it was almost here! (and by almost i mean 3 months away. but 3 months is so much closer than 8!) Our midwife appointments went from once a month to every two weeks, and we started having the normal baby preparation activities...baby showers, shopping, registering and returning gifts, figuring out which cloth diapers would be best and what would i do if had a boy---circumcision or not? (we decided yes, but as it turns out we had a girl.)
My camp friends had their babies at the end of August and beginning of September. One neighbor already had a two year old. My other friend, Anne, was a first time mommy like me. She would come over and we would lament all of her baby's gas problems, and what possible solutions she could try. We kept joking about making up a system to let the other person know that they were awake with their baby at 3am... then we would sit on each other's porches in the early morning hours and cry or laugh about the lack of sleep we were getting. Everyone at camp was just waiting for the last little one to come.
My labor started last saturday... one week ago. wow. I had contractions about every 10 minutes... nothing to be too excited about, but I was all the same. On sunday the contractions picked up to 5 minutes apart, and I was SO excited that the time had finally come! I would meet my baby. And find out if it was a girl or a boy, and my husband and I would be forced to finally agree on a name (something that eluded us for 9 months.) My new life was about to start... glory.
We had gone to church on Sunday, and stayed in the area to see how contractions went. We then drove to San Antonio, and stayed with some friends for the night. At 1:46am I knew i had entered active labor, but didn't call the midwives until 5:30am. We went in to the center, and she checked me... annoyingly I was only 2cm dilated. I had to go 'rest' for a few hours. (Seriously, why do they think you can rest when you are contracting???) My parents had come down from Dallas, so we went to their hotel and I "rested". At 8:45am we went back to the center, and she checked me. I was at a 3, and she stretched me to a 5. I could stay! The baby was coming. and holy cow, it hurt.
The next few hours were measured by contractions, with 45 second breaks in between. The baby's heartbeat was great. Everything was progressing well. I was in transition. They kept telling me, "you're really close, Erin. really close." I kept thinking, "I'm done with this, I can't do this, and I will never judge a woman getting an epidural ever again!!"
Around 2:30pm they came to check the heartbeat again. And she couldn't find it... so they had me move to a different position... perhaps the baby was just so low and turned funny they couldn't reach it? No, still couldn't find it. And at this point i begin to worry, and know somewhere deep in my soul that something is very wrong. I get out of the tub as fast as i can, and onto the bed, where the head midwife comes to check me. She is very anxious and they call 9-1-1. EMT is taking too long though, so they hustle me out to a car, and with a sports bra and a towel on, my husband and I race to the hospital, which thankfully is 5 minutes away. We arrive, and walk as fast as i can through contractions to the OB/GYN emergency room, where they prep me for an emergency c-section.
I remember that it's ridiculous that i have to sign papers while contracting/going for a c-section, that the razor hurts as they shave me, that i can't believe this is happening after a normal pregnancy and labor. The doctor tells me that the baby might be dead upon delivery, and to be prepared for that. (be prepared for that?! how can you be prepared for that? what a stupid thing to say.) They rush me to the room, and the anesthesiologist has the brightest blue eyes that i can remember. I choose to focus on this, and not on what is happening. They put me under. I woke, obviously fuzzy and hear my husband talking to me. He tells me it's a girl (a girl! i thought it was a boy.) and that she weighed 10 lbs, 1oz. She's in NICU, he says. I assumed this would happen, and that I wouldn't see her right away. She was without oxygen for 10-30 minutes, and has liver and heart damage.Okay, that's do-able. Obviously not great, but do-able. People recover from that. They tell me that I have severe preeclampsia, and I am now on morphine, antibiotics, and magnesium. And do you know that they come and press on your uterus after all of this? I thought i was going to punch the nurse in the face.
I keep waiting for the NICU to tell me something encouraging, to bring me my daughter or let me go to her. The beds have wheels, and the hospital has large elevators. Shouldn't be a problem. Blair is allowed to go see her at 8pm, but I am not. Since I wasn't allowed, my nurse went and took photos of her and brought them to us. She was huge! beautiful. Pink, with light colored hair. Had an air tube already. I was ready to see my baby. They let blair see her... he took more photos and showed them to me. NICU came down at some point that night, and told us that it's important that I get up there right away to see her. She had started to crash.
She had so many wires attached to her body. She wasn't breathing on her own. Every few minutes she would gasp involuntarily. Her eyes stayed shut. She made no spontaneous movement, which worried the NICU doctors. All her organs were failing, they said. She needed to drain some of the fluids that they had pumped into her, but her kidneys were not functioning. She was beginning to swell. I don't even remember what I thought those first few moments. I had an intense longing to hold her, but I knew i couldn't. We sat with her, and i spoke to her, hoping that somehow my voice would revive something in her.
My body could only handle sitting for so long. I was so frustrated by that... why couldn't I at least be able to sit with her all night? We went back to the room and slept. Tuesday was a blur... family coming in and out, a few visits up to see her. Blair and I joked about calling her "Miracle", but decided on Gwendolyn, which means Blessed. Gwendolyn Hope, a reminder of our Blessed Hope, Jesus. (which, by the way, was never a name on our list.) We were praying for a miracle. When I sat with her, I kept telling Jesus, "Lord, You'd have to bring her back from the dead. Her body is dead, and wherever she is, I just want her whole. Whole here on earth with us, or whole in the Kingdom. But please, please bring her back from the dead." I would sing "Wonderful, Merciful Savior" to her, and remind her that we love her.
On Tuesday evening, she flat lined and we were rushed up to see her. A neurologist was there, and he came to evaluate her. Basically everything he said came down to, "Your daughter is brain-dead." The NICU doctors told us that they can keep reviving her when she flat lines, but that it damages her each time. Blair and I decided that all of this was possibly just keeping her from Jesus, and that we needed to allow her to go to Him. We asked the doctors to keep doing all that they were to help her, but that if she flat lines again, to not resuscitate. If God still wanted to raise her from the dead, I knew He was able. I sang the last few lines of "Come to Jesus" by Chris Rice... Fly to Jesus, Fly to Jesus, Fly to Jesus and Live!
We asked that they allow us to bring up all our family, and they did. My parents, and my brother and sister with their spouses came up. We gathered around her, praying, reading scripture, and singing to her for an hour. I kept thinking that now would be a beautiful time for her to pass, and go straight from hearing us worship the Lord to worshipping Him in His presence, with the angels. But she didn't... she hung on a few more hours.
At 2:30am on Wednesday morning they rushed us up there again. Her heartbeat was going down, and they disconnected her from everything so that i could finally hold her. She was so heavy! Her poor body had been so full of blood transfusions that she was purple, but still so beautiful. Her body was cold, and I tried to warm her with my breath and kisses. I thought of the miracle where Jesus? or Peter? or Paul? I couldn't remember... stretched themselves out on the dead person, eyes to eyes, nose to nose, mouth to mouth, and they were revived. I thought there was no harm in trying, but my Gwen didn't revive. Blair and I sat and loved her, praying for her and speaking to her. The doctor came in to ask about embalming. I kindof hated him then.
My parents came, and my sister and her husband. We wanted to not be guilty of not having because we didn't ask, so we sat for awhile with Gwen and asked God to bring her back from the dead, if that was His good pleasure. But for his glory, He kept her. We kissed her goodbye around 6am and went back to the room to sleep for a few hours.
They wouldn't release me until I had passed gas (during the c-section they also removed my appendix, because it was enlarged... that apparently messes up your bowels and they want to make sure everything passes properly before they discharge you.) By evening I was tired of waiting, and argued with my nurse that it was time for me to leave. Shortly thereafter my body cooperated, and Blair and I were home by 10:30pm.
Thursday was full of funeral plans. Our hope for Gwen, for all our children, is that they glorify God. Our prayer for the service was that it would be worshipful, and draw others unto the Lord. We had been so amazed by people's responses to our situation, and were overwhelmed by the amount of facebook support and prayers that we received, often from people unknown to us. We knew that already God was answering our request, and encouraging people's hearts to come to Him.
The service was on Friday, and our Pastor (whom we love, and who is unafraid to preach the entirety of the Word of God) spoke on Hope - the hope that we hold because of Jesus, the hope of eternal life, the hope of seeing Gwendolyn again, the hope of future children, and Christ in us, the hope of glory. We sang the songs that i sang to Gwen during her time with us, and were loved on by so many people.
Today is Saturday. My thoughts and emotions are everywhere, and I still can't believe that all of this is really real... that she's not back in the nursery that we created for her, that she's not still in my belly waiting to come out. The staples and pain in my stomach remind me that it's all too true. What I hate the most right now is the loss of what was supposed to be... I had hoped and prayed and dreamt and anticipated a whole new chapter of life. I can't begrudge Gwen for being with Jesus... how much better! But oh, how I wanted her. How i still want her, here with me.
I don't make sense to anyone, i think. I don't make sense to myself. I vacillate between joy and grief, anger and tears in .60 seconds. I know my God is good. I don't understand how this is a part of His goodness, but I know He's still good. While in the hospital i kept saying, "I live by faith. I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me. and today i will live by faith, and not think about tomorrow." And i'm trying to remind myself of that still. but i'm bombarded by life... do i go back to work? do we get pregnant again? what do i do with her things? how soon do i pack them up? what does this next year look like, now that everything i hoped for is stripped away? how do i go on?
And the answer is still, I live by faith, a moment at a time. And now i will close my computer, dry my eyes, and find dinner for myself and the family that is still here. and hope and pray that God will speak to me, because I need so desperately to hear Him.