Saturday, January 25, 2014

Our Birth Story (Part 2)

December 19, 2013

6:59 AM


Our midwife brought you to the reanimation table. Everything happened so quickly.

I was confused - in shock. I didn’t know what was happening.

You weren’t breathing or crying. I couldn’t go to you. My body had nothing left. I couldn’t even sit up. And there was the placenta to come still.

I told dad to go to you - to comfort you.

I was lying in bed - powerless, confused. I wanted to be with you! You should still have been on my belly, skin to skin.

I hadn’t even seen your face. I had to ask dad to check that you really were a girl! I felt desperate - things were not as they should be!

The paramedics were there to help. I watched as our midwife intubated you. Dad and Mamie watched, hoped - helpless, powerless.

Someone decided it was time to transfer you to the hospital. Dad would follow. I really, really insisted Mamie accompany him - drive - to the hospital. I could see dad falling apart - and I couldn’t go with him or be there for him - the best I could do was make sure he wasn’t alone.

Our midwife went ahead in the ambulance. Dad and Mamie got ready to go. The second midwife insisted they drink a few sips of juice, take some breaths.

Dad didn’t look well - he was lost, so worried, in such shock. We never ever expected this!

Dad brought me my cell phone, so I wouldn’t be totally alone. He kissed me. He left. He was going to you Anya, as fast as he could!


In that minute, my beautiful Anya, you were born. You were alive. My initial reaction was to be stunned - You weren't yet crying, or moving, but I kept telling myself 'this scary moment is something that many, many parents go through'. It would only last a moment, then things would be normal.

Our midwife massaged you, to get you to start breathing on your own. I saw you start to turn pink. I smiled a little. "I think.. I think this is good." Suddenly, I was asked to cut the cord - my brain didn't have the time to process the request. Our midwife cut the cord, and placed you on the reanimation table.

Your heart was beating. You just needed a little extra help, I told myself. I watched as our midwives started doing chest compressions. After a few seconds, mom asked if you were okay. I couldn't answer. I didn't know what to answer. I was stunned, and I felt more powerless than I ever had in my life. I managed to reach and grab your tiny hand. "Dad is here", I thought, "Come on, Anya. Cry."

But you didn't cry. You needed to go to the hospital. And just like that, for the first time, our family was apart.

"I can't leave my love just a few minutes after she gave birth!", I thought. But your mom insisted. After being incredibly strong through labour, she somehow managed to be incredibly selfless in letting me go to you. She insisted that Mamie drive, seeing that I wasn't in any shape to go by myself. After a sip of juice, and telling mom how much I loved her, I was off.

7:20 AM


Our second midwife came to care for me. Sometime in the past few minutes, I had delivered the placenta. I only vaguely remember noticing as it happened…

There had been a bit of tearing. She stitched me up.

Someone washed me with a warm cloth.


With Mamie, on the way to the hospital, she thought it would be a good idea for me to call my mom. I did. I asked her to head to the hospital - something was wrong. For the first time, I thought 'What if she doesn't make it?'. Before that, the worst that could happen, in my mind, was that you might have lacked oxygen, and it could have caused damage. 

7:30 AM


We arrived at the hospital. I went to the emergency department, and told them that I was here for my daughter. They asked me for some information, then I was led to a waiting room just outside the ambulance entrance. They told us that the doctor would be with us as soon as possible.

Then we waited. And waited. The wait felt like forever. I asked doctors passing by 'Can I see my daughter? Is she OK?'. I was met with a 'Someone will be out soon'. No one could tell me that you were alive. I've never felt anxiety like I felt during those long, long minutes.


There was a police officer in the hall. He said he had to check the room. I should have known then that something was really wrong. I was in shock!

Our second midwife covered me. The police officer looked in. He gave instructions not to move anything in the room - in the beautiful orange room in which I had dreamed of welcoming you to the world! (I wonder how many healthy babies have been born in that same room since…)

I kept asking myself what I had done wrong. It felt like the police officer was there to check that I had taken proper care of my baby. All the officer said to me was: Bonjour. Yet I felt so guilty, by his mere presence…

The police officer returned to the hall.

The birth attendant made me some food.

I was famished! In shock - and famished! All I could focus on was the food in front of me. I ate muesli cereal with milk and fresh fruit. It was the best bowl of cereal of my life! (If it seems irrational that I would want to eat at a moment like this… I can’t stress how categorically hungry and unable to think of anything else I was in that moment.) I ate 2 toasts with PB & J. And I ate an over easy egg.

8:00 AM


My mom arrived. We still hadn't heard anything. We kept waiting. And waiting. There was a group of paramedics standing around, chatting... acting so normal. I finally lost it.  In anger, I told them: "We've been waiting for god knows how long - I would really, really want to know if my daughter is alive. Can you please get the doctor?"

The doctor came out, with our midwife. I hurriedly asked "Is she OK???". He shook his head. "Did... she die?". He nodded. 

My poor Anya.

That was the moment where I completely fell apart. 

I cried like I never had before. In the midst of it, the doctor was explaining that they had tried everything. Our midwife, visibly shaken, tried to explain how you had always been a low risk birth. I angrily answered something along the lines of 'Then how did she die??'.

I couldn't stand anymore. 

I don't remember the next few minutes very well. My mom hugged me. Mamie hugged me. They started making calls. 

I was asked if I wanted to see you. I nodded. They told me that I couldn't touch you, not until the coroner had signed off. I was taken into the ICU. On a stretcher, there you were. Looking so beautiful. Asleep. A police officer was on guard, close to you. A doctor explained that we would be given a room for the day, and that we would be able to see you again when the sign-off had happened. 

We walked towards the elevators. Numb. Stunned. "This isn't what was supposed to happen."


I was left alone for a time. There were two other women giving birth now, where before we had been alone.

I called or texted your aunt Sarah… I don’t even remember now. She would make her way to Gatineau.

I tried to call two of my coworkers, but there was no answer.

I asked to go to the bathroom and a new midwife (that I was just meeting for the first time) helped me.

I asked for my midwife… (not the one who had delivered you, but the one who we saw regularly - the one who was supposed to have been there for your birth… in my mind at least). I knew her. I trusted her. But she wasn’t available.

8:15 AM


I kept asking if there had been any news from the hospital. No, there hadn’t.

I kept asking if I should express some milk for later. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to produce milk for you if we were apart too long.

I was in shock, in denial. I refused to believe anything serious was happening. You were going to be OK. You needed a bit of help, but you would be fine. And you were going to need me to feed you, my daughter, my Anya. It was going to be my job to take care of you.

8:30 AM


The birth attendant  was sitting with me. The new midwife came in and asked her to call my midwife. The attendant was confused - Why? She wasn’t on call? She wasn’t supposed to come into work this early. The new midwife said to do it because I had asked for her, because I wanted her, needed her.

I saw that she was trying to communicate something with her eyes. I panicked and started to cry for the first time. I had seen it in her eyes: they knew something they weren’t telling me. They knew you had died! Or so I thought…

The new midwife asked me what was wrong, if I had felt something in my connection with my baby.

I shouted inwardly: No! I can’t feel what’s happening to my baby! No one’s telling me anything! I have no idea what’s going on! Is Anya OK? Is my daughter still alive?

I didn’t express those thoughts out loud though… I explained to her that I thought I had seen something, bad news in her eyes. I thought she knew something and wasn’t telling me. I thought that was why she had asked that my midwife be called. She told me (Pretended? I still wonder…): No news yet.

Sometime later, my midwife's trainee arrived. We had been on the phone with her a few hours earlier, she was the one who reminded us about the pressure points, with her soothing voice… before our world fell apart… She took care of me. She hugged me. She showed compassion. I felt taken care of, truly, for the first time all morning. What a gentle soul!

I went to the washroom again, with some help to walk across the room.

I waited.

I suddenly noticed how tired my body was, how sore my legs and arms were. She massaged me.

I waited.

9:00 AM


My midwife arrived. Again, I asked: should I express some milk for Anya? She suggested we wait until we arrived at the hospital. (Again, I wonder how much they already knew…?)

Would it be too late to express milk if we waited? No, she said. My body knew how to produce milk. (Little did I realize then that my body wouldn’t know when it didn’t need to produce milk…)

I waited.

All through the wait, I held on to hope. Everything would be OK. The doctors were helping my baby, and I would be with her soon. It would be as if none of this had happened. Life would go back to the way it was, the way it was supposed to be.

I waited.

9:30 AM


We were waiting for an ambulance. Legally, the birth house couldn’t discharge me, couldn’t let me go, for at least 3 hours - except in an ambulance.

It was rush hour. There was a snowstorm and lots of road accidents. My health was not at risk. I was fine. The paramedics had other priorities.

Everything was perfectly normal with my recovery, just as everything had been perfectly normal all through my pregnancy. So what could have happened?

Eventually, we were on our way. Enough waiting with no idea what was happening to my daughter!

The roads were slippery and snowy. I don’t remember if anyone spoke on the ride to the hospital. It was a short drive. I don’t think I thought of anything much… I noticed how the world continued on, though I was staying still, in limbo. To me it seemed that everything had stopped.

I remember very specifically my thoughts as we turned into the hospital. It was the first time I let myself think about what might be happening, what might have already happened, to you.

I wondered if you would live. I wondered if you would have severe brain damage or serious health problems. I wondered which outcome was worse… for you… for dad and I. And I’m ashamed of that thought. 

I should have wanted you to live no matter what! I shouldn’t even have wondered if there was a fate worse than death! Yet every now and then I still come back to that question. What if you couldn’t move and you couldn’t communicate, couldn’t understand the world around you? What kind of life is that? Would you, could you, have been happy? Would your dad and I have been happy? Would I have been able to love you as deeply, as wholly as you deserved? As much as I love you now?

9:45 AM


We arrived at the hospital.

My midwife went inside to get a wheelchair. We had to walk (waddle) to the entrance. I settled into the wheelchair, and she wheeled me into the elevator.

I don’t remember having any thoughts in that moment. I must have been in shock, in denial still, protecting myself from what was to come.

She wheeled me into our room.

There was dad.

I remember… he was wearing a red t-shirt.

He looked at me, and he shook his head with sadness and despair in his eyes. And I knew you had died.

I thought: What? No! She was mine!

And I broke down crying. Your dad and I held each other.


We had been waiting in the room for at least the last hour. I was getting angry that they hadn't managed to get your mom here, yet - She deserved to know. I imagined how anxious she must be - probably a mirror of what I had experienced downstairs, outside the ICU. I wanted to be there for her so very much.

Before your mom arrived, I got to hold you for the first time, my beautiful child. I wanted so badly to take care of you. 

When we received word that mom was on her way, they took you away for a little while - our wonderful nurse was wise enough to recognize that if she saw you being held, your mom would get the wrong impression.

She arrived, in a wheelchair. I shook my head, and mumbled 'She didn't make it'. Your mom said "No. But... She was mine... She was mine."

We held each other.

The rest of the day:


We spent the day together in that hospital room. When the nurse first asked me if I wanted to hold you, I hesitated, though only for a moment. I was horrified that to see you would mean I couldn’t deny it, you had really died.

I took you in my arms Anya, and I cried. You were beautiful. You were perfect. You were real - you had really been born - you had really existed!

You were mine, my daughter, and you had died.


That day is still a blur. So much of your family came to see you that day, my beautiful Anya. I wish you could have seen how loved you were. I held you, looked at you, and tried to tell you about all the things we should have gotten to do together. I had so much to show you. Your wonderful home was ready for you, if only you would wake up. 

But you didn't. 

On today's playlist:

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