Walking though the process of grief was the most difficult thing I have ever done. It was lonely and it felt like my heart was hemorrhaging. I held onto my husband, who was also hurting, and I clung to the Lord. I took comfort in those who have shared a similar loss, who could understand or relate to the pain. However, the most comfort came from the Lord. He ministered to me through songs on the radio, the Bible, and just time with Him. The Lord hurt with me, He understands heartbreak. He also could handle the honesty of my questions and at times anger, and even anger at Him for letting it happen. He gave me hope, knowing Asa was in such a wonderful place, being raised by the best parent ever. And He gave me hope in knowing that He would cause this to work out for good, that He would bring beauty from ashes. He offered me healing of my broken heart, if I would travel this road with Him. He has done that! My heart is whole again. I cherish my brief time with Asa, and glad I had it. I look forward to seeing him again.
Here’s my story…
My husband and I were out to dinner on a Friday night. I would be 21 weeks pregnant the next day. We were very excited about our first baby. We were making plans about the nursery, discussing how we would raise him, our views and ways we wanted to train and discipline him, and how much we were looking foreword to seeing him, holding, and loving him. We had decided on the name Asa James and that we would call him A.J. We had a pleasant meal, good conversation, and in agreement on where we were headed with the anticipation of the addition of our first child to the family.
When we finished dinner, I began to get terribly cold. I thought the air conditioner at the restaurant was on too high. We left, and I couldn’t get warmed up even on the way home in the warm Texas September air. I bundled up in pajamas when we arrived home, and got under as many blankets as we had. As a Labor and Delivery nurse I knew “I can’t let my temperature get over 102, or I’ll need to go to the hospital.” “I better drink lots of fluids, or I will probably get dehydrated running fever and that could kick me into labor.” We had recently moved into a more economical apartment that had one more room for our baby. I could not remember where I had my thermometer, if it was still packed or put up. After briefly looking, I gave up.
I called a good friend who worked in Labor and Delivery with me. She would be getting off in a half hour. I asked if she could run by the store and pick up a thermometer, Tylenol suppositories (to help keep my fever down), and some 7up. She agreed. It seemed the next hour took an eternity. I couldn’t keep any liquids down. I thought I might have food poisoning. I felt miserable. By the time she got there, I wanted to go to the hospital regardless of what my temperature was. I knew I needed IV fluids at minimum. She took my temp, it was 102.5!!! She called my doctor and the hospital, and we were on our way! On arrival to the hospital (20 minutes after my first temp) my temperature was now 103.7!!! Yikes! In my mind I thought, “This is not good on Asa at all! In fact I haven’t felt any movement since 11 pm! This can’t be happening!”
My friend stayed beside me and helped the other nurse tag-team to get things done as quickly as possible. I was dilated to 2 cm with an hour glassing bag of water, with his feet presenting. One hour later my temperature was 104.8 axillary. I thought, “We are no longer fighting for Asa’s survival, but mine.” I knew that he would not make it at that temperature, and I know that it is very dangerous for adults to run temperatures like this. “If I make it, how many brain cells am I going to fry? Will I be a vegetable?” I wondered.
I got the official news by the doctor, what I already knew, “You are very sick. The baby is dead. And we need to get you delivered as soon as possible.” He added, “You possibly have an incompetent cervix, and may have been walking around dilated for a while. And that may have been the route for this infection. Or you got infected and it stimulated pre-term labor and that is why you are dilated.”
Turns out that my blood cultures that they drew on arrival, before they started IV antibiotics, were positive for Group B Strep. You hear about Group B Strep killing newborns, but I had it. I was septic with it. That is why I was so sick. They started me on Pitocin sometime after 3am. My husband called our family, and friends from our church that were in our cell group (meeting at homes once a week). Our friends came and prayed in the hospital lobby early in the morning until I was “through the woods.”
On September 13th, 1997, I delivered Asa by 8:15am (only 5 hours), head first. That was an answer to prayer, a quick labor, and a quick delivery (God turned him, a dead baby doesn’t turn from feet first to head first). I only remember glimpses and snap shots of the whole event. I remember delivering him in my patient room, but then I remember looking up and seeing the operating room lights, and thinking, “I must be in surgery.” Then I heard the voice of my favorite anesthesiologist behind me, as he was taking my blood pressure. At that moment I knew that even in the midst of this storm, God was still in control. The Lord is the only one who knew that I wanted to request him for anesthesia, and there he was helping to take care of me. My doctor had to quickly remove the placenta, it was not coming on it’s own (as typical for pre-term deliveries). Surgery was imminent.
I remember slightly coming-to in Trendelenburg (my bed in head-down and feet-up position) thinking, “This is uncomfortable!” Then my nursing judgment started breaking through the fog, “Wait, they… only… put… people… in… this… position… if… they… need… to… for… their… blood pressure… dropping.” Then I remember having an oxygen mask smothering my face blowing forcefully, and wanting badly to push it away. Then the light bulb came on inside my head, “Wait, they… only… put… oxygen… on… if… you… need… it.” My husband said that there wasn’t a space around my bed that wasn’t occupied by a health care professional. My blood pressure bottomed-out at 60/20. I definitely remember having a peace and thinking, “Jesus, You are my calm in the storm,” and thinking I was going to be with Him soon, and that was more than O.K.
A while later when I really came-to, I woke up to roses surrounding my room. The fragrance and sight was wonderful. Some friends on their way in to the hospital, stopped at a Tyler rose stand and bought out the entire stand! I had made it! I survived! There was my husband holding our precious perfectly formed son. He looked so much like his dad; his little round eyebrows and cute little bird ankles. He was precious. He quickly came into our life, and quickly left, with barely enough time to hold him to say good-bye. It wasn’t fair and it hurt so much.
The next few days, though I was conscious, my body was still fighting. My kidneys were barely putting out urine, I had puffed up like a marshmallow, and I had fluid in my lungs. Needless to say I anticipated that it would take some time for my physical recovery, but having just read a book on grief, I also anticipated it would take at least a year for my emotional recovery. I didn’t realize that some of my grief would be delayed until physically I was doing better. Oh, how much I wanted to hold my precious Asa James in my arms as we left the hospital like all the other moms do, but instead mine were empty.
If you are faced with loss, you will walk though grief and you will ultimately choose to either become better because of it… or become bitter. Because I chose to get better, I have been blessed to discover there is a purpose in Asa’s brief little life. Now I help others who are fresher in their grief. I am able to hurt with them, as well as offer them hope. I am so much more sensitive to seeing others hurting than I was before experiencing my own grief. My prayer is for God to use me to touch others with His love, to bring them hope and healing.
– Patti Kenney
Glory Babies Group: Tyler