Feb 5, 2014

My Favorite Part: The Story of Hannah Grace: Part Five

This part really is my favorite. I wish that I had better words, but there are not enough words to accurately or adequately describe the love and joy in that room when our daughter was born, even knowing there was no life left in her sweet little body. The words don't do it justice, but maybe they can give you a glimpse.

And again if this is the first part you're reading, you can find the first parts of Hannah's story here. I believe Part Six will be the last, but I guess we'll see.

My Favorite Part

This is the part that makes me smile every time. This isn’t one of those things that was sad when it happened but I can smile about now, this is one of those things that I smiled about the moment it was happening around us. There was nothing in that room but joy in these moments, and my words can hardly do them justice.  If I think about Hannah and I’m smiling there’s a good chance I’m remembering these times. This is my favorite part.

It was once again late at night but we’d come so far since the last night’s darkness. Somehow this darkness was more of a calm. In the late evening we told the visitors to get some rest and even the busy hospital felt calm and quiet. And thanks to the epidural and Jesus, it felt very peaceful. It was just me and Kyle and few others. And one little girl was on her way.

The doctor came in to check our progress and as she was checking she started with, ‘you’ve only got a little ways to go,’ but ended with ‘nope, you’re there, we’re ready to push when you are.’ And unlike the fear I’d had when we talked about breaking my water, there was an excitement in the room. We were finally getting to see our baby girl, we’d waited so long just to hold her and see her. Often we had wondered and guessed what she’d look like, who she’d look like, and we were so close. Although we knew her body would have no life left, we were still just so excited to see her.

In rolled a very large table with a number of shiny instruments. Immediately the doctor reassured me that we wouldn’t need all the instruments on the table, but that they were just always there. The nurse got the room ready and they turned on a little spotlight. And out of the corner of my eye I saw my friend Jill getting her camera ready.

Months before, Jill told us she’d be there to take pictures of our first moments with our baby girl: Kyle’s face when he first saw her, our first family picture, and pictures of me looking all sweaty and smiley as I held our sweet girl for the first time. She had no idea it would be like this, and we hated to ask her if she still wanted to take pictures even though Hannah had passed. But when she walked in the room earlier that day with her camera bag, I saw it, I saw her camera, and I was so grateful. We really are blessed, those are the only pictures I’ll have of our first baby girl and I’m glad she was there to capture them.

But as Jill stood back, the nurse hurried around the room. They got everything ready and it was really time to push. Kyle was on one side and the nurse on the other, and the doctor was ready to do the baby catching. And I was ready, I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life. We’d read so many books, I made Kyle go through many childbirth lessons with me. Poor Kyle knew more awkward birth vocabulary than any man should probably have to know. And after all the reading and all the practicing, I wouldn’t get to breastfeed, I wouldn’t get to figure out newborn sleep schedules, I wouldn’t get to make baby food right in our own kitchen, but I did get to push and I was going to do that the best I could. They told me, just take a deep breath and push when I was having a contraction. I immediately asked, ‘is it okay if I take three breaths and then push?’ because that’s what it said in all my books. They agreed, I could do whatever I wanted. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted to take my three breaths and tuck my chin to my chest and hold my legs and push like I’d done all those exercises for! I was ready.

But then I couldn’t feel anything. 

I asked the doctor if she could tell if I was pushing. She said yes, but I don’t think I was doing much. The nurse poked my belly waiting for it to harden to tell me my next contraction was coming and we’d try to push again. Still I couldn’t feel because of the epidural and I prayed. This was all I had left, this was all I had left of being a mom for Hannah and I wanted to do it well. 

And then the third pushing contraction came and they didn’t have to tell me. I felt it. And I pushed and the doctor immediately told me it was a great push! I remembered what all the books said and I pushed. And Kyle was right there cheering me on. And although Jill seemed to disappear into the darkness beyond the spotlight, every once in a while I’d see her. And at that moment I saw her and she mouthed, ‘you’re doing great!’ And I believed her.

It’s crazy how I could feel Hannah on her way out. I knew exactly the moment she was out, I remember turning to Kyle saying ‘her head’s out I know!’ And then after the seventh pushing contraction, there she was, our beautiful perfect baby girl. 

Immediately they put her on my chest and I think that was the most joy I’ve ever felt in a room. The weight and warmth of our sweet baby girl on my chest was unreal. That is the moment I will always remember. If I need something lovely to fix my eyes on, I can think of what it felt like to have the weight of my baby girl on my chest and to hold her in my arms. I loved her at that moment more than I can ever imagine loving anyone I’d only just met. I kissed her head, her skin was so soft to my lips, and I held onto her so tightly.

She was perfect. I could finally hold her, touch her, smell her. I’ve never seen something so beautiful. Her tiny hands, her little feet, her sweet face, and that little nose. Oh it felt like she needed me, like she knew me, like I was holding the sweet baby girl I’d known inside for months. I stared into my husband’s eyes smiling because we did it. We gave birth to her, together. And Kyle looked back at me and said, ‘we should do this again sometime.’ I smiled, and I agreed. I could not stop smiling. And Kyle and I just kept looking at her every little part and smiling through tears and I know we said, ‘she’s so beautiful, she’s so perfect’ a million times. I could not stop touching her and counting her toes and being in awe of how beautiful she was, how perfect she was. The doctor looked at her and agreed, she was beautiful. Later I’d hear that the doctor was talking about Hannah and again said how beautiful she was, maybe someone made that up when they told me, but I’m a proud mama so I believe it.

In that moment my world really was perfect. It was me and my perfect husband and our perfect little girl and God’s love and joy filled that room with our little family. For a moment we didn’t think about how we’d lost our daughter, but we praised the Lord that we got to be her parents even if it was only for forty weeks. In that moment I looked up and I saw Jill in the darkness and she mouthed, ‘she’s beautiful.’ And my heart smiled because I was Hannah’s mom and I was so very proud to be her mom. She was in fact beautiful. The most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. She had my heart.

In reality she had a little bit of her daddy and a little bit of me in her. As we looked at her, Kyle said, ‘well she has your ears.’ I’m still not sure if that means I have very distinct ears, but I’ll take it. And then Kyle noticed that she had his lips. I looked at his lips and then back at her and I agreed, she most surely had his lips. So we continued on, she had my nose but a much cuter, smaller version that so cutely bounced back when we poked it. And she had her daddy’s hair. We’d talked about her hair from day one, would she have my blond hair or Kyle’s dark brown locks. I had told Kyle that I’d just always pictured my daughters having blond hair and that it only occurred to me once we were pregnant with Hannah that our daughters could have brown hair. Hannah had brown curly hair, it made me laugh just a bit; of course Kyle was right. But then we saw her toes and I will tell you those are the longest toes I’ve ever seen, they were perfect like little stair steps but they were long. Those are my toes. 

It was just so wonderful to stare at her in awe of how beautiful the Lord had made her. I don’t wonder too much about what she ‘would have’ looked like at two or five or sixteen because the Lord knew she’d never have a sixteen. There is no ‘what if’ as if there is an alternate universe or plan that would have happened had things gone differently. There is only this, the Lord’s plan. And he is good. And that helps my heart because I don’t sit for too long and think of who she ‘would have’ married as if some boy out there will be forever without a soul mate because something went wrong. There’s just God’s plan, this was his plan for our sweet girl.

At some time in all of the wonder, the doctor saw the knot in her umbilical cord. She looked at me and told us her suspicions earlier that night had been right, it was a true knot that took the life of our baby girl. She said, ‘there’s nothing you could have done.’ And immediately I felt such relief. A knot meant we couldn’t have caused it, we couldn’t have known in time to save her. A knot meant it wasn’t our fault. Jill later asked if I saw the knot after delivery and I told her no. I told her that I thought about asking to see it, but that if for some reason the doctor was lying to me to calm my soul I was okay with that. Jill told me she saw the knot, so I know it was there. But I didn’t have to see it to believe it.

She laid on my chest and I was her mother. I held her until they took her for just a moment to the other side of the room to clean her up a bit and they wrapped her up and they gave her back to us. And that’s when they asked if I would hold her, but I told them it was her dad’s turn. You wouldn’t believe how incredibly attractive Kyle Hess looked holding our baby in his arms. My dearest memories are of him holding our baby girl. I took the chance to tell the doctor and nurse how Hannah was such a daddy’s girl. I reminded Kyle of how she kicked the very most when he would call from Colorado, how she’d wiggle the most when he was around, how he’d tickle her toes and she’d kick back. He used to talk to her and say in a deep or cute or crazy voice “this is your daddy speaking!” Oh how he loved her.

After a few minutes, Jill came over and we took a few ‘family’ pictures. Our baby girl was so beautiful. Those pictures are all we’ll have as our memories fade. But after her very first photoshoot, we were proud parents and we were ready to show her off. 

My mom and dad never left. My poor dad was sleeping at times on the windowsill of the hallway because he was so tired, remember he came off the night shift and never even slept. But it was time for them to come meet their first granddaughter. They came in and I know I was smiling. I introduced them for the very first time using her new name, Hannah Grace Hess. I told them how heavy she was and asked if they wanted to hold her. And they did and I, like any momma would, grabbed my phone to take pictures. They both held her, but of course it was bittersweet because they were meeting her and saying goodbye to her in the very same moment. I wished so much that they too could hold her forever and would never have to say goodbye.

Then Kyle’s parents came in and I asked Kyle if he wanted to introduce her this time. You know, being her dad and all. Her name was Hannah Grace, although we had not chosen it before we arrived at the hospital. Before she had died we had narrowed down the name choices and Kyle wanted so badly for her to have a name to announce. But I just couldn’t name her yet, I couldn’t name her without seeing her first. But more than my reasons, I know it was the Lord. The Lord knew she didn’t need a name that was cute or trendy or compatible with a number of potential future last names, but that she needed a name that told her story. At one point during the induction the nurse asked us if she had a name, and we realized that we’d need to choose one for her. Kyle had mentioned before that he liked the name Grace, especially after all that was happening. So I typed the meaning ‘grace’ into my baby name app on my phone and scrolled through the names. 

Then I saw the name Hannah. And I stopped. And I cried. I knew that was the name the Lord had for our sweet baby girl. And I pulled Kyle over and I looked up the full meaning of Hannah. Hannah means gracious, merciful, the one who gives. We still believe the Lord is gracious and merciful. We still believe that the Lord blesses us and blessed us by giving us Hannah even if only for a moment. Hannah means favor or ‘God has favored me.’ And we truly believe even in all of this, that the Lord has shown us favor. We are not the red-headed-step-child because our baby didn’t live, but we are blessed, so very blessed. And when people think of our baby girl we didn’t want them to think of tragedy, we didn’t want them to blame the Lord. But when people think of Hannah I want them to praise the Lord, for He is good, he has truly shown us favor.

So Kyle introduced Hannah Grace Hess to his parents as they held her for the first and last time. It was so wonderful to get to see him for a few moments be a proud dad. Oh he is a wonderful husband, but he is also a phenomenal dad. Next, our dear friends Angie and Skeet came in to meet our girl. I remember Jill’s husband Clinton standing back and I called him over by saying, ‘Clinton you didn’t see my beautiful baby yet?’ I remember being such a proud mom, showing her off the way grandparents pull out photos from every year of their grandchildren’s lives and corner people in the grocery store as they tell their stories. Clinton came over and I laughed a bit and joked saying ‘I guess she was just too beautiful for your boys,’ as our Hannah would have been born into a world of baby boys around our small town. But our friends didn’t get to hold her, although I wouldn’t have minded, but after giving her away a few times all I could do was hold her tight. I knew I’d have to let her go all too soon, so I cherished every moment. And it’s fitting that the only ones to hold her, other than the hospital staff, were her parents and her grandparents. She was so very loved.

After her introductions they took her to the nursery to weigh her, to measure her, to dress her, and to make sure she was nice and clean. When they said they were taking her I made sure they’d be bringing her back and immediately I asked if Kyle could go with her. It was there that Kyle realized that she had his barrel chest, I didn’t quite believe him, but we’ve surely got the pictures to prove it. I’ve never seen a bigger chest on a baby, just like her dad.

As we laid Hannah in her bassinet I got very nauseous. After delivery they offered me food for the first time in ages and I took advantage. I drank two cups of orange juice. I drank two cups of grape juice. And then I drank 4 and half more cups of orange juice. I may have overdone it but it was so good, so cold, so refreshing. I believe it was the cause of my nausea. The nurses tried to give me medicine but it didn’t work. I guess the adrenaline from the birth was wearing off because I became incredibly tired. I tried so hard to lay my head down, but laying it down the slightest bit made me extremely nauseous. I felt as if I was stuck; my nausea wouldn’t let me sleep and my tired body couldn’t control the nausea. The nurse tried to offer more medications, but I didn’t want them. Then she offered a warm shower, she had no idea the laughs she was offering us.

Warm showers have been a staple in my life since about 30 weeks or so. I loved so much laying down in a hot bath or standing under the warm shower when my body ached from pregnancy. I was taking hot baths so frequently that I worried if the baths exceeded the recommended water temperature for pregnant women and so I kept our meat thermometer in the bathroom to monitor my baths. So when the nurse offered a warm shower I was ready.

I stood up and I was pretty good on my feet as I walked to the shower. That is, until the orange juice returned. I immediately threw up, oh, it came with a vengeance. Kyle grabbed the little bucket and I watched nine and half cups of juice come right back up. I was glad though, it felt a little better. Then just like nothing happened, we proceeded to the shower.

The hot water was wonderful. I sat in the shower chair and I was ready to stay forever. They gave me the handheld showerhead and I must have got a little crazy. I looked up and realized that I’d gotten the nurse’s shoes all wet. I looked at Kyle’s and they looked just the same. I quickly apologized as I realized that the nurse probably had other patients to attend to and here I was wasting her time monitoring my shower. I realized I was taking quite a long time so I looked at the nurse and said “thank you for helping me shower.” And Kyle was trying to be a comedian and said, ‘you’re welcome.’ And I remember sweetly looking back at him and saying, ‘no, not you,’ in the sweetest ever wife voice.

But this is where the story divides. It wasn’t until I was telling the story to some of our friends when Kyle stopped me, and corrected me. Apparently I didn’t sound like a sweet loving wife. See this entire time I thought I was this sweet exhausted damsel in distress. Apparently I sounded like a crazy old drunk man. Kyle said I was sloshing my words around and when I replied it was a very snappy and sloshy ‘no! not you!’ Apparently it was quite entertaining.

I remember realizing the shower was getting a little too hot, but not wanting to tell anyone because it felt so nice. Then kind of like when you’re in the shower too long and get a little lightheaded because it’s so hot and realize you need to get out. Yep. I was there. I remember being seated and ‘waking back up’ and thinking that I was so tired I had fallen asleep for a half second like I had many times in my physics class in high school. You know, the head jerk that wakes you up just as you’re falling asleep in class. Apparently that was not the case. Kyle explained that I was standing up and then passed out cold. He caught me and then he and the nurse set me down in the chair, and then I woke up. Eventually we made it back to bed. We laugh when we tell ‘the story about the shower’ and people ask if we laughed when it was actually happening. I was too exhausted to laugh, but Kyle answers that it was hilarious the entire time.

They got me into bed and before dosing off I asked the nurses if Hannah could stay in the room with us. I knew that they often don’t want the baby to be left unattended as both parents fall asleep, but because our little girl didn’t technically need to be watched I hoped they would make an exception. And they did. We put her in her little bassinet right next to my bed, right between my bed and Kyle’s little couch bed. I felt like we needed to spend a night with her, and I needed to have her close, really close, like any mother would want their baby close.

And then we slept. For what seemed like the first time in ages we slept. At least for a couple hours. Soon the morning nurse would come and wake me to draw my blood as the sun began to threaten to rise. Once I was awake I needed to hold our baby girl. So I pulled her out of her bassinet and I held her and I just cried.

As I was holding her our nurse came in and I had a question. Since Hannah died before she was born, did she still have a birthday, was today her date of birth? And she smiled and she said yes as she slipped quietly out of the room. And then I realized I didn’t know what the date even was. I pulled out my phone and opened the calendar and it said December 17th. And that’s when I saw it. Right at the bottom of the screen the only appointment listed said “Predicted Due Date.” I had forgotten all about it.

Our calculated due date from the doctor was originally December 12th, and our adjusted due date once they measured her at 6 weeks was December 24th. But before any of that I had somehow calculated a due date and didn’t even remember putting it into my phone. But as I looked down and saw that “predicted due date” it was like the Lord was reminding me that he knew. That he knew what would happen this entire time. The Lord reminded me about how he is sovereign and he is good and he still had us get pregnant even though he knew this would happen. I remembered my God and how he has beautiful ways to show us his love even when we don’t understand. He knew. And somehow, that made me smile and it made me cry as I held my sweet baby girl as the morning came. Soon we’d have to give her back and I wanted to hold her just a bit longer.

And those are the moments I think about, they bring a smile to my face. I miss our sweet girl every day, sometimes it seems like every moment. But when I remember how she felt, how soft her skin was when I kissed her, I remember the Lord’s goodness. The Lord is good, and he works all things together for good. 

Even our sweet girl Hannah Grace.

Especially our sweet girl Hannah Grace.

1 comment:

  1. I love you, you special lady.

    Jenna

    ReplyDelete

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