Jan 29, 2014

Big God: The Story of Hannah Grace: Part Four

I told you I would make you laugh, but then I realized that maybe you and I don’t have the same sense of humor. Either way, these are the parts that make me laugh. The crazy parts of labor that I’m sure almost any mother could relate to. There is beauty in childbirth, I really believe that. The ‘delivery’ part is absolutely incredible… the ‘labor’ part, not so much.

And again, if this is the first part you're reading, you can find the first parts of Hannah's story here.

Big God

There we were in that same hospital room and the doctor returned. We gave her the go ahead to break my water. In just a few moments I went from being so very afraid to so very grossed out. It felt like I’d peed my pants. Fifteen thousand times the normal pee, and there stood a nurse and a doctor and my sweet husband watching me do it. Oh I was so embarrassed.

They tell you when you’re pregnant that water breaking is different for different women. Some women barely notice their water breaking and for others it’s like Niagara Falls. I’m not sure if the hook thing the doctor used had anything to do with it, but it was surely Niagara Falls for me.  My sweet husband got me out of bed to clean up, and the nurse lady changed the sheets. I wondered why they didn’t break my water somewhere other than the sheets of the bed, but who was I to question. I did get up and I made the mistake of looking back at the bed. Don’t look back, that’s my advice. Apparently our sweet little Hannah had decided to go the bathroom, number two, while on the inside and that was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen.

I got cleaned up, the bed was fresh and clean. Then I sat back down on the bed. Apparently there can be a round two. Niagara Falls take two. I was so confused. Up we went back to the bathroom to clean up. And I asked the poor nurse to change the sheets again. I know that’s gross. It’s just my fair warning to all the other expectant moms who didn’t know. I had no idea. I’m so glad I didn’t think it would be fun at that time to have other people in the room!

After all the waterworks we settled back into bed. They put down a protective layer on the sheets and we were good to go. I felt like a four year old who still wets the bed, wait, make that a twenty-six-year-old. But I was once again comfortable and waiting on the next contraction.

Then the contraction hit. And they had warned me that the contractions would feel stronger once the bag of water wasn’t there to cushion things. They were right. Contractions started to get much stronger. I was glad though, that meant things were working, we’d be progressing.

A few hours later I wasn’t so happy about the progress. The pain was increasing and the contractions didn’t let up. I’ve heard that Pitocin can often intensify contractions beyond what normal labor would cause when given in high doses. I’m no doctor, so I can’t confirm that, but let’s just say we were up there in the Pitocin numbers because the goal at the hospital was just to get the baby out. My original plan was to have a natural unmedicated birth. Kyle even knew the ‘no’ list in case I looked crazy and no one in the hospital would take my word on anything. No Pitocin, no pain medicines, no epidural. I’d explained to him that if we’d want to go natural with no pain meds and no epidural that avoiding Pitocin would be critical.

But plans change. Our plans had already changed so much in that hospital. I was ready with my Bible verses about the Lord’s sustaining strength in difficulty; I had my playlist to remind me of the Lord’s goodness in adversity. I knew the breathing, the relaxing, and the stretching exercises we had practiced. But we’d lost our baby girl. I was grieving the loss of my daughter and all the strength I had left was grieving. All the mental capacity I had was getting me through the pain of loss, I had none left to get me through the pain of childbirth. I feel like I’m somehow making excuses, like I need to justify my decisions, but I needed every moment in that room that I could slightly control to be wonderful. And I looked at my husband and I said, ‘babe, I can’t do it. I can’t do all of it, all of this at once. I can’t convince myself that no medications or no epidural are better for the baby because she’s already gone. And we already have so much medicine in me.’ And of course he hugged me, he supported me, and let’s just be honest I think he wanted me to get the pain medication the whole time. So I quickly followed up with, ‘next time though, next time when there’s not all of this, I’m going to do it, just not today.’

So we had the nurse come in and tell us about our pain control options. We had two options: a medicine called stadol or an epidural. Everything in me wanted to avoid the epidural so we decided to go with the stadol. They said the stadol would last for about an hour and that it might make me a little sleepy. We decided we could try it for one hour and if we didn’t like it, we wouldn’t get it again the next hour. And let me tell you now that I don’t recommend it, if there had been a live baby in my body when they gave me that drug I would have been worried sick about what could have been happening to her. But at the time, there was no baby to worry about, so instead we tried it.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t do drugs. I’ve never done drugs. Some people have and they change and that’s their past, their testimony. But that’s not me. I’m the girl who won’t take medicine when she has a headache. My mom said she used to try to get us to take doctor recommended medicines when we were younger and that we’d pull her aside and remind her that the DARE officer told us to ‘Say No to Drugs.’ My poor mom. Anyway, the only other time I’d had any heavy medication was when I got my wisdom teeth out, they gave me some medication during surgery and it made me so sick that I never even opened the bottle of painkillers they had prescribed. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t all about the labor medicines.

But they said the stadol would help, so we said yes. Then the young nurse assistant-ish lady came in to give me the stadol and I asked her about the medicine. Her response was, ‘most people don’t like it. Makes you feel drunk.’ I wasn’t impressed. Our other nurses were the best people I’d ever laid eyes on, but this one must have been the medicine lady or something but she was different. After her comment I worried as she gave me the medicine through my IV, I watched her and I freaked out when I saw bubbles in the tube. Apparently that’s okay, unlike in the movies, but she scared me a little. Either way, as she put the medicine in she said, ‘you may start feeling it in a few minutes.’

I didn’t get a few minutes. It was instant. Instantly the room started spinning, and at the time I didn’t think it was funny at all. Now though, we laugh about it. The room started spinning and immediately I had to close my eyes and lay my head down. I tried a few seconds later to open my eyes again and decided quickly that was a bad decision. Kyle was sitting next to me and I tried so hard to tell him I wanted ice chips, but I couldn’t get the words out. My thoughts were going so fast jumping from one thought to the other that I was getting frustrated that I kept forgetting the word for ice and I couldn’t communicate. Kyle later said I was crazy. I was apparently saying words like ‘Kyle’ ‘ice’ ‘elephants’ ‘dancers’ ‘Kyle.’ That’s not a sentence. That’s not natural. I felt like I was in that creepy scene of Dumbo with all the bubbles and elephants. Mind you, I’ve never been drunk before and this whole thing sure didn’t make me want to try it.

The hour was long, I’m sure Kyle was quite entertained. The bad part was that the pain never went away. It’s like the medicine just made me crazy, maybe it was supposed to distract me from the pain, or make me unable to remember it, but it didn’t lessen the pain one bit. I’m not sure why anyone would ever, knowing the effects of that medicine, choose it in childbirth. I later read the side effects and warnings of this stadol and it says to let the doctor know if you’re hallucinating or dizzy. Yep, didn’t know that was a bad thing, they weren’t too concerned. But in an hour I was fine, the drug was slowly wearing off. And we decided we didn’t want any of that ever again.

So we went back to breathing through contractions, which remember I had to do during the stadol anyway. I was glad my body was working to push the baby out, but the pain did get greater. It got to a point that I was exhausted and I couldn’t do it. I reminded Kyle, and I told him we’d need the epidural. But I again reminded him, that I was encouraged that it wasn’t as bad as I thought and that I knew that next time, when we had a baby that was alive, I could do it. I was proud of myself for making it so far, but I knew that my heart couldn’t remember the agony of pain, I just wanted to remember with smiles any moments we had left with our baby girl.

So they called the epidural man, they call him the anesthesiologist, but I was just glad when he got there. He was quick and it was painless and by the very next contraction they had to tell me from the reading on the paper that I was having a contraction. It was wonderful. I could also feel and move my legs and I told the man that and he explained that they shouldn’t ever give me enough medicine to make my legs unable to move, just enough so the contractions weren’t painful. That was one of my fears with the epidural, so I liked this man. I was okay with that. He also explained to me that the epidural space in your back in shaped in such a way that gravity affects an epidural. If you’re sitting up the medicine drips down the space faster making it less effective on the upper part of the abdomen. He told me this in case my contractions were high and told me to fix the problem I’d just need to recline. Nice man, I'm sure all the mothers love him.

It’s funny how things went back to normal so quickly. The pain was gone and I was very tired. I didn’t calculate it at the time but it was Monday night and I’d had less than two hours of sleep since Sunday morning. I’d been up for almost 36 hours straight at that point. By the time we’d really sleep again, even if only for two more hours, I’d have been awake for over fifty.

So I laid down to sleep. They turned out our lights and the room was quiet. Friends and family filled the hallway, but we rested. Or at least we tried. When I closed my eyes I was so scared. I was so scared to miss one moment of this, because we had so little time before it would all be over. Forty weeks of anticipation and Hannah’s life would not begin at this hospital because it had already ended. More than that I think I was afraid that if I slept and I woke up that I’d know this wasn’t just a nightmare, but that I’d be sure it was real. I didn’t want it to be real, I didn’t want this to be our new life. I think I also felt a little guilty, that our daughter had died and I wanted to rest instead of weep for her. But I did cry. And I laid there in that bed for a long time without sleeping. I was exhausted but I was too scared, and my broken heart wouldn’t let me sleep.

Kyle woke up and checked on me. He left the room to take care of a few things and my dad came in. Later I would find out that my dad had been pacing the halls wishing he could do something. Wishing he could fix everything. They say men have a distinctive drive that makes them want to fix things, it was there in that hospital that remembered I was once his baby girl just like Hannah was Kyle’s. I would do anything for our daughter, and I realized my dad would do anything for me. I first understood that he hurt as he grieved the loss of his first granddaughter, but more than that I think he hurt because he saw how much I was hurting. Apparently when Kyle walked out of the hospital room, my dad jumped at the opportunity to come in and take care of me.

He came in and offered me water or ice. I told him I was tired. And you know what he did, he sat down on the stool next to my bed and he held my hand. And I slept. Because with my dad there holding my hand I could finally sleep, I was finally not scared to sleep. I’d be in and out of sleep and I’d wake up scared and then I’d feel his hand still holding mine and I could fall back asleep. He sat on the most uncomfortable chair in the room for what seemed like hours and watched me sleep, when I know he was tired himself. I have the best dad, the very best one. I'll never forget that.

The rest did us much good. We had a number of evening visitors and I was glad to see them when I woke. We had friends bring flowers and take pictures with us. Kyle’s family arrived and his sister brought us flowers too. It once again felt like a party in our room, it felt like a ‘normal delivery’ like people were there to congratulate us on the birth of our baby. It was nice.

In the middle of all the visitors, however, my physical pain started to return. I could feel contractions very strongly on my left side. Not only that but my right leg was so numb that my hand brushed across it in the bed and I wondered what that was I felt in the bed with me. It was my own leg. I got a bit worried, so we called the nurse. The whole gravity spiel from the anesthesiologist wasn’t a joke, and it worked in more ways than one. Since I had been sleeping on my right side the medicine was all going to my right side, none really to the left. So we propped me and my dead numb leg up on my left side to even things back out. It took a few minutes, but then we were all okay. I decided to quit rolling around after that.

Then we rested. We knew what was coming. We knew that birth was coming and we’d been excited about it for so long. We’d finally get to see our baby girl. But we also knew there would be pain, to look at your daughter and see that she’s gone. To hold her and see that she was so very perfect but that she was still gone. To see how big she was and how close we were to life with Hannah, but to know that was it, it would all end here.

The Lord was with us. I told you I had lists of Bible verses with me for my fight with the epidural. I told you I had playlists ready to sing truth to us in labor. And now I knew why the Lord had prepared my heart. This time, it was more than the epidural, it was for the Lord to remind me that he is our pain control he is our comfort even in life’s hardest moments. I prepared those scriptures knowing they were true. I sang those songs in the weeks before Hannah was born and I knew they were true. So after all this, I could stand on the knowledge that my God is good, because I knew it even before.

Many of you know I was exposed to tuberculosis and had to take many months of medication before we could even try to have kids. In those hard times, which seem pale in comparison to these days, but in those hard times when that medicine made me so very weak, when I grieved the time we’d have to wait before starting our family, the Lord had me write these three verses on the bathroom mirror.

Jeremiah 31:25 For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.

Psalm 91:2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

I brought them to the hospital with us, not knowing how it would all end. I’ve looked at them on that mirror and read them for almost six hundred days, the Lord was preparing my heart. How is that for a big God? Our God is big, and He is good. He is very good.

Jan 27, 2014

Filling the Room: The Story of Hannah Grace: Part Three

This is the story of the life and loss of our sweet baby girl Hannah Grace. It's a long story, this is the third part. If you'd like to read the first and second parts and you haven't already. You can find them here

Filling the Room

Kyle and I were alone in that dark hospital room, but soon the morning would come where His mercies are new. The light would flood the windows and our friends and family would flood our room. The room would be filled with tears, with sorrow, but most of all with encouragement, smiles, joy, and laughter. I’ve never been more thankful for community in my life, oh how the Lord knew we would need these people. But it started out dark.

Just a few moments after they started the medicines we heard a knock on the door. It was one of the nurses and she had come with the news of our first visitor. It was my dear sweet friend Katie, it was the ‘nurse friend’ I’d called in the middle of the night only hours before. Since that phone call she had been awake, she had been praying, and she came to us once she found out our baby was gone. The nurse said, ‘you have a friend outside, her name is Katie, she said to let her know if you need anything at all, but until then she just wanted me to let you know that she’s here, waiting, just in case you need her.’

I remember telling Kyle that I would love to see her, but that I needed anyone who came into our room to know that I couldn’t hear the words ‘I understand.’ Not yet. I couldn’t bear to hear that someone else thought they could understand what we were going through, I didn’t think I could handle it. Our pain was so real and fresh and I didn’t want anyone to pretend, I didn’t want anyone to tell me I couldn’t hurt. My perspective would change soon, but at that moment I needed the pain to be only ours.

But with Katie I did not worry that she would try to preach to us, I did not worry that she would say a thing wrong. I just wanted to hug her. And so she came in and she looked at me with her mother-eyes and I could tell she was hurting for us, but that she had hope for us too. And she hugged me and I didn’t let go of her for a while. It’s like her eyes said ‘I understand, and I’m hurting with you’ in the most genuine way and that’s exactly what my heart needed. She asked if she could do anything for us and then I remembered that we’d need our bags. The bags we packed and put in the car just in case our baby was on the way. Now she was on her way, and even though we wouldn’t need much of what was in the bag anymore, we’d need the bag. I hated to ask Katie to get it from our car, but I couldn’t bear the thought of Kyle leaving me for one moment. And so she did, she got our bag and then I’m not sure where she went. I don’t know if she waited, I don’t know if she left, but she was exactly what I had needed. A blessing from the Lord.

Then again in the dark of the room it was just me and Kyle. I remember needing to get up from the bed but being attached to so many wires that the nurse had to help us. She motioned Kyle over to the side of the bed with the IV pole and said ‘okay dad, we’re gonna need you over here.’ She called him dad. It was like it was routine, I’m sure in Labor and Delivery they say mom and dad quite often when referring to the patients in the room. And I went along with everything to get me out of bed, but I was thinking. It was the first time I wondered if we could still call ourselves mom and dad. Kyle wanted to be a dad so badly, I wanted to make all his dreams come true. It broke my heart to think our baby girl wouldn’t call him dad forever. So I’m glad the nurse did. He was a wonderful dad. And after thinking, I knew that Kyle was still a dad and that brought tears to my eyes.

I decided to tell Kyle about the ‘dad’ statement and that only made us cry more. I remember that I kept saying, ‘we were so close,’ to our due date and ‘but on Thursday she was okay.’ And we cried a million tears. And let me tell you we went through two boxes of those hospital-grade tissues in a matter of minutes. We decided that we’d need a friend to bring us better tissues, preferably Puffs Plus with Lotion, those are Kyle’s favorite. And we lightened the mood a bit by talking about how the hospital should buy better tissues for times like these. And since then we’ve talked about starting a service or a ministry of some sort that makes sure mommas and daddies who lose their sweet babies can get better tissues in the hospital. We think that would be nice.

As the night still kept away morning, our next visitors were arriving. Without much family in this small town, our friends here have become the family we all need. And at that moment, that family walked in. The guys went straight to Kyle and I remember the girls pausing at the door for a moment, looking at me with those same understanding eyes that Katie had. Jill had the eyes of a mother who had been through this very same thing and somehow made it out alive; and Tamara the eyes of a mother still carrying her firstborn, who had hoped our babies would grow up together. They looked at me and then ran to my side and we cried. We hugged and we cried and then I understood why people cry with you. The pain was not just ours, Jill would later tell me that they mourned with us because they too knew Hannah, they too awaited her arrival with the greatest expectation, they too cried with us because they knew how much we wanted to meet our little girl.

And the girls sat on my bed and we cried. And I looked up and I told them how thankful I was for them, as horrible as it seems I was thankful that Jill had been through this and then I was thankful that Tam still had a healthy baby on the way. Just reminders that the Lord is good in so many different ways.

The room slowly turned from sorrow to joy as we spoke of the hope the Lord had given us. As we told stories about the barbeque place across the street from the hospital and the most recent happenings of our small town the room filled with life. There was life beyond this room, but there was much love in it. Our friends stayed with us for hours, others came in and I think they were shocked at times to be entering a room filled with laughter when something so horrible had happened.

So many people filled that room and I then realized why they had moved us to the more ‘spacious’ hospital room. Because maybe, just maybe they knew that more than we’d need rest or quiet, that we’d need people and laughter. Stories were told about crazy dress-up karaoke nights, parents jokingly debated who had the best science fair project for their third grader, and times were remembered when things weren’t so very sad. It was a most wonderful distraction, but more than that it was a reminder that the Lord will provide for us in ways we may have never imagined. I would never have told you I’d want to laugh about a crazy cow costume mere hours after we lost our baby girl, but we did.

The nurses came in and I felt for them. Sometimes we were laughing and sometimes we were crying. And some of the nurses didn’t know what to say, and I understand because even after going through it I still wouldn’t know what to say. But one nurse came in when the room had gotten silent, more than likely after someone had prayed for us, those were the hardest times because we’d remember what was happening. But one of the nurses came in and instead of the usual ‘how are you?’ she asked ‘tree up yet?’ And I was completely confused. I had no idea where there was a tree and why it would be here in my hospital room and why it wouldn’t be ‘down.’ And then I remembered it was Christmas, and she was asking about our Christmas tree. I gave her a quick yes, and then she started telling the most awkward stories about her kids and her grandkids and her Christmas tree. It wasn’t the time or place for her to complain about her crazy kids, and as she kept going on and on I tried my best not to laugh or to pretend to fall asleep so she’d leave, but she just kept going. And I will never forget it, because we laughed so hard after she left the room. I’ll never forget her name, although I’ll not spill that here, but we’d be telling her story to visitor after visitor all day and we’d keep laughing. She was great, and I’ll be honest, it sounds like a story someone I suppose will tell about me some day.

As the day went on we’d look at the little paper reading coming out of the machine monitoring my contractions. They were at times ‘off the chart’ and my girlfriends were super impressed that I didn’t feel anything yet. I assured them that they must continually recalibrate the machine as the contractions get stronger, because there was no way the contractions I was feeling were the strongest possible. Turns out I was right, they’d come in and re-zero the machine every few hours. But I was glad they started the machine out making my husband think I was so very tough.

The sun filled the windows as friend filled our room. Soon my parents would arrive and fill the room with even more love. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so loved before. There were such good times in that room. And I’m glad because I hope someday I get to return to that room and have a baby who lives and I pray I’m not scared to enter the room. I pray I’m not scared because I remember the love in that room more than the pain.

Hours ticked by and the contractions were still quite tolerable. Apparently the contractions weren’t doing us much good. I was dilated 3 centimeters at my last OB appointment and after hours on the Pitocin I was still at 3 centimeters. I had barely noticed the contractions, so I was not surprised that they weren’t doing anything.

I remember the doctor coming in to talk to me about my progress, or lack thereof. At that time she recommended that we break my water. I remember starting to cry when she said that. Kyle saw me and told her we’d need a minute. I looked at Kyle and told him how scared I was, this entire day the Pitocin was just ‘getting things started’ and that we could laugh with friends and almost pretend like this never happened. But to break my water meant we were on a time schedule, it meant things would surely be happening, it meant we would finally know that our baby was gone. The faster my labor went, the sooner our baby girl wouldn’t be a part of me anymore, the sooner she would be gone from our arms forever. I wasn’t ready for that yet.

But my husband is so very wise and he reminded me that we couldn’t put it off forever. He reminded me of the hours we’d been there already. And he reminded me that our little girl was really already gone. And that man was there for me, ready to take care of me, reminding me of the Lord’s truths constantly, and willing to make me face my fears because he loves me that much. Oh I fell so much deeper in love with Kyle Hess in that moment.

When the doctor returned we asked her to explain everything to us. And then I told her that I was scared, and before I could finish she told me that it wouldn’t hurt at all. And then I corrected her and told her that I was not scared of the physical pain, but to finally hold my baby girl and see that she was really gone. The doctor was so kind.

Oddly enough our doctor on call that day had been my doctor at my appointment just a few days before when my usual doctor was out. The exam she had done that day in the office was quite painful and I started crying right there in her office. As we talked about my birth preferences, I remember her words hurting so badly. She didn’t say anything wrong, I just remember being scared for the first time about labor, about everything that would happen, and being worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it. She told me that she didn’t want to leave me in the office still crying, but I told her I would just need a moment. I left the office that day still crying, the last time she saw me I was crying walking down the hallway of her office. And now this. I had worried that day in the office that she’d be the one on call when we had the baby, that for some reason I didn’t trust her. Turns out she was on call the day we had the baby, and I’ll tell you now I’d trust that woman with my life.

It was interesting the way the Lord used that time in our hospital room to teach us, to bless us, to comfort us. I’m forever grateful to the Lord for all those moments in the hospital. The Lord really did teach us so much. He is good Psalm 145:9. His love never fails 1 Chronicles 16:34. He is our comfort 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. He is our hope Psalm 39:7. He provides for us Philippians 4:19. All of those things were still true, all of those things I’d read and believed before were still true. I’d never second guessed them before, but I could see how people would think something as heartbreaking as losing your firstborn would make you doubt. But in those moments in that room the Lord made himself more clear than I’d ever seen him. He was good to us, his love was there, he was our comfort, he was our peace and our hope. It’s hard to explain feeling love through such sorrow, but that’s the Lord. He’s sometimes hard to explain.

Jan 20, 2014

Thick-rimmed Glasses: The Story of Hannah Grace: Part Two

This part is a sad one, I'll warn you. But I will promise you there is hope in this story, there is goodness, there is, like in the meaning of Hannah's name, grace, mercy, and surely favor from God. And I promised that I'd make you laugh, and I hope I make you smile... but it may not be just yet. 

If you'd like to read the other parts to Hannah's story and you haven't already. You can find them here.

Thick-rimmed Glasses

There are moments that no one should ever have to live through, I believe losing a child is one of those moments. I wish in some ways I could accurately describe the way it feels, the way it hurts so deep to your soul when they tell you your child is gone. But then I think if I could write in such a way that you could really feel it, no one would ever read it. I’d have to hide it away forever because no one should ever have to feel that pain. Little did we know when I woke up that Sunday morning what we’d be going through in the hours that followed.

Sunday morning we sat in our little Sunday School class and I remember poking my stomach and turning to Kyle saying, ‘I don’t think she moved around a lot this morning.’ Honestly I couldn’t remember, I had been too busy checking for the store hours of our local baby store so we could buy her baby book that afternoon. Our sweet girl was an early bird, we’d often sleep in just a bit on the weekends and by the time we’d wake she’d be asleep already. Sometimes she’d dance once we got to the church service and heard the music, but not today. I’d heard, ‘delivery must be close if the baby’s resting that much… baby must be storing up energy for a delivery soon!’ By the time we headed to lunch I was concerned. We played music in the car and I poked her a good bit. I could feel her little feet, but I could not get her to kick back.

Then just as we were waiting to turn left into our lunch destination, she moved. She turned quite a bit. I yelled, ‘woah Kyle did you see that?’ And we rested easy that our sweet girl was just tired but surely fine. Looking back I wonder if she really did move or if that was her body rolling from all my poking, not full of life, but just turning inside me.

We went to lunch where I made sure to ask the lady behind the counter to heat my lunch meat to steaming hot. Didn’t want anything happening to my baby girl so close to delivery. The sandwich was served with cold lunch meat, and yep, like the great momma I am I sent that thing right back. No toxoplasmosis for me. If only I’d known what the night would bring.

We made it to the store to buy the perfect baby book; I wanted to make sure we had a book so they could put her footprints right in the book once the big day came. I wanted to make sure all the visitors had a place to sign in and write their words of joy. After the store we went to enjoy our last movie at the theater before the impending due date. We stopped by to pick up my last Christmas gift for my sister and we headed home.

After dinner I expected our little girl to be her active nighttime self again. I drank some cold water, laid down on my side, nothing yet. We were tired so we went to bed early, and I woke up at about midnight. The next twenty-four hours would change our lives forever. Really the next 3 hours would change our lives just as much.

I got up. Kyle woke. I looked up what to do if you think you’re baby’s not moving. I called my nurse friend and I called the doctor. As we waited for the doctor to return our call I ate a cold grape pop ice. I laid on my side. I walked around. I drank cold water. I drank an entire bottle of Mountain Dew for the sugar and caffeine and even ate half a chocolate bar.

The doctor returned our call and told us to eat more sugar, drink caffeine and see if we got any results. She assured me that the hospital wouldn’t mind if we wanted to come in. She said they’d hook me and baby up and monitor us for about an hour just to make sure things were okay. I knew I’d be the woman who goes in and gets sent home soon because nothing’s actually wrong. Oh how I wish I’d been right…

We arrived at the hospital and went to the Labor & Delivery floor as instructed, only to be sent back to the ER. We got checked in, and all the while I felt so silly for going all the way to the hospital for ‘something so small.’ Kyle was the real reason we were there, he was the one that said, ‘let’s just go and get checked, so we don’t sit here and worry.’ Oh I am so grateful for him suggesting we go in the middle of the night. Had we waited until the next morning I would have always wondered ‘what if we had gone last night? Would it have turned out differently?’

They wheeled me up to Labor & Delivery and I felt so silly riding in that wheel chair. We went in a room and I put on a gown and I laid down in the hospital bed. It all felt so official, when I thought it would be just a quick visit. 

The nurse started asking me admission questions. The other nurse picked up the fetal monitor and started to scan my belly. They had done it a million times before in the doctor’s office, but this machine looked a little different. As they scanned over my belly the nurse said, ‘I think I have a heartbeat but it’s not tracking,’ and I was so relieved. Only later I would find out that what we’d heard was my heartbeat, not the baby’s. And the nurse continued to scan as I continued to answer admission questions. 

The first nurse got a second nurse to help. The second nurse had no luck and got a third nurse. We talked to the nurses about where we were from and how we got to East Texas. We mentioned Sky Ranch and realized that we had a great friend in common with the nurse on duty. The nurse scanning my belly said they were calling the doctor to come with the ultrasound machine. And the whole time I wasn’t, for some reason, concerned. The nurse asked if she could keep scanning my belly until the doctor got there, said she didn’t want to give up and wait just yet. I kept thinking that this machine was not working right, that the nurses didn’t really know what they were doing; I had no idea. I told her to keep checking as I told a story about football. I explained how even when my team is down by a quite a few touchdowns and there are just a few seconds left on the clock I always keep cheering for my team. I had no idea that while I was talking football that she knew. She knew, the other nurses knew, Kyle later said that he just knew. He asked me if he could text a few people to pray for us, I thought we could wait until the doctor had more news. But still he knew, he already had people praying for us.

The doctor came in and pulled out the very familiar ultrasound machine. I remember that it seemed so late at night, the doctor had on a pair of thick-rimmed glasses I’d never seen her wear, her hair pulled up because we’d woken her from sleep. She was so calm as she scanned my belly. She had us watch the screen as she described the image as she went from showing us the brain to the shoulders and then down to the chest. I saw our little girl’s spine, she was so still. Then she pointed and said, ‘this is her heart.’ It wasn’t moving. It wasn’t beating. And only then did I know. She quickly used an infrared scan to double check as I realized for the very first time what was happening. 

I looked her in her eyes through her thick rimmed-glasses and she nodded her head. She stopped scanning and I knew. Oh I will never forget that moment. It felt as if someone pulled my heart from my chest. I felt like my soul was wrenched from my body, and I screamed. It’s a sound I’ve only heard once before. It was the very same sound I remember hearing years ago in early December. The night they told my mother her father had died, I was upstairs and I heard her scream. It’s the song of a heart in distress, a mother’s love, the only sound I can imagine when a mother loses her sweet baby girl.

After screaming I yelled at the doctor in desperation, ‘are you sure? Are you sure!?’ but I knew. And she nodded again, and I knew we’d lost our sweet baby girl. Oh I was so helpless, they were supposed to send me home like a silly first time mom who ran to the hospital when everything was okay. They were supposed to tell me that they had to give me some kind of crazy medicine or that we’d need to run to emergency surgery. There were supposed to be options. But there were no options. It was already done, she was already gone.

Kyle was right there. And we cried, our hearts cried and my sweet husband just held me as we realized what was happening. It was like a nightmare, I was shaking asking if this was really real. If this was all really happening to us.

There in that room I knew I needed to call my mother, I needed to call my mom and dad. They needed to be on their way, I needed them. And telling someone would help me to understand that this was happening, that this was real.

I started to call my mother and then I stopped. I needed to make sure my dad was with her when she found out. I needed him to be there for her like I had needed Kyle to be with me. My dad works shift work so at times he’s working in the middle of the night, but I needed him to be there.

I called him first. I think about what he must have thought when he got a call from me in the middle of the night when I was so close to my due date. I keep wondering if he thought he was getting the call that his very first granddaughter was on her way. He had no idea what I was about to tell him. He answered said he was at work but about to get off and head home and I told him that we were at the hospital like Kyle had told him a few minutes earlier. He asked if everything was okay and I said no. He asked me what was happening and I couldn’t bear to tell him. I just said it’s not good. I couldn’t bear to say ‘she’s dead.’ And then he asked me, “Brittany did she pass?” and I cried and I said ‘yes.’ And I remember he said, ‘oh no, Brittany, no no no.’ And then I told him that I hadn’t told mom yet and I that I needed him to be home when I told her. Then we waited for his long drive home, I wanted to tell my mother.

Once the truth set in we asked the doctor about our options. What was to be next? They told us they would start me on Pitocin to induce labor. They offered the option of going home and returning in the morning to start my labor, but they recommended I just stay. I’m not sure what going home would have done. We wouldn’t have rested, we could have only cried. When she said labor I realized what was to come. Our baby was gone but I’d still have to labor, I’d still have to go through the pain of pushing her out knowing that she’d never cry. It was terrible, it was a horrible thing to think I’d be here, they’d monitor my contractions, we’d push and we’d get no prize. I remember that long ago I read something and I don’t remember where, but it was about how the labor and delivery nurses could always motivate the mothers by saying ‘do it for your baby,’ but that in situations like these they had no prize to offer. How had I become one of those mothers? How was this really happening to us?

They moved us down the hall to a larger room. They said it was so we’d be more comfortable, but Kyle later wondered if it was because my cries of loss would disturb the other happy families. The room was larger but it was missing one item all the other rooms had: the baby crib. They wouldn’t need the little baby life machine because our baby had no life left.

They brought in the medicines we’d need, they brought in the monitors, and they brought in the ultrasound machine. I had asked them to check one more time just to make sure. I knew she was gone but I just wanted to make sure. I had prayed so hard that it was a mistake, that they’d find a heartbeat this time, that I would wake up from the nightmare that was becoming our reality.

Same results. No life left. So they hooked me up to the IV pole and they started my fluids and my Pitocin. We would need to convince my body to give up the baby, and so Pitocin, the drug I had learned to despise throughout my pregnancy research was going to help us. They hooked up the monitor and there was only one monitor. Usually there are two: one for the baby’s heartbeat and one for the mother’s contractions; we’d only need one. Before they started the drip of Pitocin I had one question. Would anything they were going to do hurt the baby, like if for some reason she was still okay, would any of this hurt her? And they said no that everything would be the same as a normal induction, and they said it in the kindest way possible knowing that I was still a mother that held on to the last bit of hope that maybe her baby would be okay. Oh I prayed.

As we watched the medicines drip, my dad called. He was now at home with my mom, and he put my mom on the phone and I knew I was about to break her heart. I can’t remember the words I said but I remember the sound of her reply. It was the same cry I’d heard once before. And I cried with her. Through the tears we decided they would come to us, they would get in the car within a few minutes and they would be there in a few hours. I told them to drive safe, I made sure they were driving safe, because I couldn’t bear to lose anyone else.

We called Kyle's parents, we told a select few people so they would pray for us, so they would pray hard for us...

And then there we were, just me and Kyle sitting in the room where we were supposed to become a family of three, knowing now it was just the two of us. It was so dark that night. It was so dim in the room and we cried and Kyle and I held each other. We were so alone, but one of us started to mention a peace that we felt. We both felt it.  It was the ‘peace that passes understanding’ we’d sung about as a child and read about in Philippians 4:7 as adults: and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. At the moments that were tearing our life apart we felt the Lord’s peace. I could never explain it, it made no sense to feel such a peace in such heartache, it was only God. We knew that the Lord was still sovereign and that he was good and that he knew about all this before the world was made. And through tears we kept telling each other ‘we’re going to be okay, we’re going to make it, God is good.’ 

Jan 13, 2014

The Short Version: The Story of Hannah Grace: Part One

I long to write our story. It is a good story. It is a story of the Lord’s sovereignty when the world can only ask ‘why?’ It’s a story of the Lord’s goodness when all the world can see is the sudden end to our sweet girl’s life. It’s a story of the Lord’s peace when we lacked any morsel of understanding. It’s a story of the Lord’s plans when all my plans seemed ruined. And it’s a story of the Lord’s strength; when people have told us ‘wow you are so strong’ I want them to know that all I am is weak, but that we have the Lord and He is strong. The story of our sweet girl Hannah Grace is one I’ll never forget. As the weeks pass and she fades from your memory, as the months pass and she is not my every waking thought, I want to make sure I remember her story. So I’m writing.

I long to fill pages with the incomprehensible joy, sadness, and laughter that has been the past year in our lives. I want to tell my story of becoming a mother for the very first time, even though my story doesn't end like most. I still have a story to tell.

I remember a friend telling me that after you lose a child, after you deliver a baby who has already left this world, after you lose your very first daughter that it’s hard to tell stories. Ladies gather in rooms while the husbands watch football and they talk about their kids, about their babies, about who got an epidural and who decided to breastfeed or use cloth diapers. She told me that you listen and you laugh, but you often don’t share your story. Because your pregnancy stories, your epidural stories, your baby stories, they end with loss. And as much as you smile and laugh as you speak of the awkward moments of labor everyone else gets quiet. Everyone else remembers your hurt and your pain and when it seems like the most polite thing they can do, to stop and remember your pain, all you wanted to do is share your story and have them laugh, too.

My sweet baby girl has a story and so I’m telling it here. And as you read you may laugh at things you never thought you’d laugh at, you may cry about things you never wanted to imagine, but just don’t be too scared to read it. Don’t fall silent and pretend I’m not a mother too.
Because I am a mother. Here’s my story of life after death.

If you'd like to read the other parts to Hannah's story and you haven't already. You can find them here.

The Short Version

I feel as if I should start with the short version of the story. The part with the details people really want to know. I saw something the other day that said something along the lines of ‘Obituaries would be more interesting if they told you how the person died.’ I used to laugh at that line but now it makes me just a bit sad. But it is true, people want to know what happened. I was also reading a book not too long ago that held me in suspense over multiple chapters at whether the author’s baby survived or not. I won’t do that to you now. It’s better that you know the short version ahead of time.

My husband Kyle and I got pregnant in the spring of our 3rd year of marriage. We were expecting our sweet girl to arrive on Christmas Eve. She was healthy and happy all the time it seemed. The doctor kept saying ‘she’s perfect’ again and again at her twenty-week ultrasound. And she was, she was perfect. After the showers were held and the maternity pictures taken, we prepared her nursery. We packed the hospital bag and we waited as the calendar said 38 weeks. And then one day I didn’t feel our baby girl moving. I did all the things the doctors say to do, but they didn’t work, she didn’t move. And we went to the hospital expecting to be turned away like anxious first-time parents, but we weren’t turned away. They told us our baby girl didn’t have a heartbeat. They prepared us for delivery where they found that she had a knot in her umbilical cord that had gotten too tight. Nothing we could have caused, nothing we could have prevented, nothing we could have known. She was perfect in every way except that she was lost, she had been trapped in my body with no way to breathe. We delivered our baby girl at 12:47 in the morning on a Tuesday. We have never seen anything so beautiful; we have never experienced more joy. She was 8 pounds 3 ounces 21.5 inches long and she was in almost every way perfect. Except that she wasn’t breathing, her heart was not beating, and she didn’t cry like all babies do. We held our sweet girl knowing she was already with Jesus. And then we started our road to recovery. There has been great sadness, yet great joy. But that’s only the short version.

Jan 6, 2014

Writing Her Story

I'm not sure what to write here next.

I have been writing. Just not here. It seems like it would be so simple to post a few pictures of the new coat of paint on the headboard and pretend like nothing happened. But much has happened here at the Hess House. I'm trying to put into words what has happened, but it takes me so much longer because I want to choose the perfect words. The perfect words to somehow tell you the story of the life and loss of our perfect, beautiful sweet baby girl Hannah Grace.

So I'm taking the time to write it slowly. I type a few words each day into the Word document that holds her story. I hope to share it with all of you someday so that you can experience the joy and great provision that was her short life. With her story there is also great sadness, but the sadness and depth of this sorrow has only made the Lord more beautiful, more precious to us in every moment. We have known the Lord like we may have never been able to otherwise.

But I do want you to know a little about our sweet girl as you wait for me to write. She has been our great joy to know, to experience life with the 8lb 3oz baby girl that made me a mom for the very first time. And while I don't quite have the words today, this is the letter we, her parents, wrote to those who attended her 'celebration of life' funeral a few short weeks ago.

Hannah Grace Hess

We fell in love with Hannah the moment we found out we were pregnant. From that day in April we’ve loved her every moment. It has been our great joy to sing to her, to dance with her, and to brag about her to everyone we meet. She danced and kicked in the mornings and the nights, but most of all when she heard her daddy’s voice. She was surely a daddy’s girl.

As we awaited the day of her arrival the Lord had other plans. Although our hearts were broken in disbelief, our little Hannah went to be with the Lord. Oh the heartache, but oh the assurance we have that the Lord holds our baby girl and loves her more than we can imagine.

Just a few hours later, Hannah was born on Tuesday December 17th at 12:47 in the morning. We have never seen anything so beautiful; we have never experienced more joy. Hannah was born 8 pounds 3 ounces and was 21.5 inches long. She had her dad’s lips, his curly brown hair, and honestly his barrel chest. She had her mom’s ears, her cute nose, and her extremely long toes.

Although we miss her dearly every moment, we are truly blessed to have been her parents for the past forty weeks. And we are blessed to be her mom and dad forever.  Never could we have imagined this much pain, nor this much love, joy, or peace.  We don’t grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians  4:13) because our hope is in God, and God is good!  We have been overwhelmed by the Lord’s provision and by the love, support, and encouragement from so many family and friends. Thank you, to our family and our friends for your love, words, and prayers. We are truly grateful.

Hannah’s Dad & Mom,

Kyle & Brittany Hess
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