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.

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