Although this post has a recipe at the end… it’s not the usual post you’ll see here on my blog. This is a very personal story of my life in November 2102. A story that has changed me forever…
The last three weeks have been the hardest weeks of my life. I’ve been through a lot of stuff as an adult, but nothing really can compare to the devastation I have faced.
Three weeks ago on a Thursday, I went in for what my German doctor called a “special ultrasound.” I was about 12 weeks pregnant and super excited to see my growing baby! Typically, this screening & ultrasound isn’t done until 16-20 weeks in the States, but here in Germany, the doctors like to do it sooner.
For 30 minutes, I laid on the table, watching my little nugget swim around in my belly. It had fingers and toes and was jumping around like crazy. I watched in awe as I saw this precious life, my baby, alive in front of me! I was so excited! But… sadly, that excitement was put to a stop when my doctor had asked me to wait in the lobby while he was called away for an emergency. As he left he told me we’d have to “discuss the situation and how to proceed.” My heart dropped. Shit. Something was wrong with my baby.
Those 15 minutes were probably the longest of my life up to then. I called my husband and began sobbing, worrying, speculating what in the world could be wrong with my baby. Finally, the doctor returned and began to explain what he saw in the ultrasound.
There are some things I really appreciate about having a German doctor. This day, I was grateful for his inability to know how to “sugar coat” things in English. He knew only enough English to tell me the facts and nothing more. The doctor explained to me that my baby had a layer of fluid built up under the skin, surrounding the entire body and that the intestines were growing into the umbilical cord. Both of these key indicators that the baby had a genetic disorder. Which disorder, he was unsure of but needed to have further testing done to give a proper diagnosis.
The Chorionic Villis Sampling was scheduled for Tuesday. Similar to an amniocentesis this sampling tests the genetic make up of the tissue around the baby, which is the same as the baby. It would tell us which genetic disorder the baby had.
I’ve had surgery before, I’ve broken bones, I’ve been in car accidents… but the pain this test caused me was like nothing I’d ever felt. The needle into my uterus felt like it was just prodding into my soul, ripping my heart out at the same time. This test was going to tell us the fate of our child… and I was scared and sad. So very sad.
The results of the test came in on Friday. The doctor confirmed what he suspected, our child had a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18. What this meant is that on the babies 18th chromosome, instead of two pairs of DNA, there were three. This disorder causes all kinds of physical disabilities including a shortened life span. Most don’t make it to birth and those that do die with in days.
Wow. This was a lot to take it. I mean, we’d researched the possibilities of what genetic disorder it could have been… but Trisomy 18 was just about the worst one possible. Our baby was going to die. Die sooner than any baby should die. How in the world was I going to deal with this?
Our first decision was an easy one. When the doctor asked how we wanted to proceed… either abortion or let the baby live as long as possible… we knew right away we wanted to give our baby a chance at life. However short or long that would be… she deserved a chance to live. So, we began planning what steps we’d need to take to get the best medical care possible for our child and a move back to the USA was starting to take place.
Doctors appointments were made for 5 hours away at Landstuhl Medical Center… the closest American doctor and actually the only place in Europe, Asia and Africa that had a genetic specialist, a visit to the Chaplain and we gathered the necessary paperwork for a move back home. The puzzle pieces were moving and things were looking hopeful that we’d get our baby the best care possible.
We were holding on to the hope that our baby would make it to birth. That we’d be able to hold her, touch her, tell her how much we loved her. Oh…. did I mention that the genetic test also told us she was a girl? So yes!! A girl! And we named her Cora Marie! Through all the sadness, my husband and I truly believed Cora would beat all the odds and she’d be in that small percentage of babies who make it to birth and we’d be able to meet her! It really was the only way we kept our sanity, day to day…. the only way we could remain happy.
And we held on to that hope until Thursday of this past week. Thursday, everything changed. I woke up early in the morning and found blood after going to the bathroom. I wanted to ignore it, but I couldn’t. I started to worry. I hoped that maybe it was just nothing… that’d it would go away. But… it didn’t. By early evening there was more blood… enough not to ignore. So, my husband took me to the Emergency Room.
We were seen by a doctor who actually helped deliver Matthew back in March. It was nice to see a familiar face. She did an ultrasound to see how things were with the baby. Immediately, I could tell something was wrong. Cora wasn’t moving, she laid there in my belly so still, no movement at all. And then, when the doctor moved the image to her chest area… there it was… no heartbeat. And I knew… she was gone. The doctor confirmed with a few more tests and measurements on the screen and then told us what we were seeing… no heartbeat and no bloodflow… our baby had died.
Wow… this was not what I wanted, expected or ever dreamed of happening. It had already been such a stressful and emotionally charged 2 weeks… I just thought I’d have more time before I had to deal with this part. I really just thought I’d have more time.
Now what? I asked the doctor. Another shock came… I had to deliver my baby. HUH? WHAT? Yes… she was too big for the doctors to remove with a D&C and too small for a C-section removal. I had to let my body deliver her naturally. I was to stay overnight, see if my body would start the process on my own and if not, they’d give me some medication to help things along.
The next morning, nothing had happened so the doctors gave me that medicine. It wasn’t until the second dose later that afternoon that I really felt things happening, changing, progressing. My uterus was contracting and I was in so much pain… none of the pain killers the doctors had me on all day were working anymore. We called the nurse in to let her know of the pain I was in and she said ok, left the room and wasn’t to be seen again.
As I was trying to get myself comfortable to help ease the pain, I got on my knees with my head on my pillow on my bed. This seemed to be the only position I could get any relief. And then… it happened. My water broke. With my first two kids, I had never experienced this sensation. It was like a balloon burst between my legs and water spilled out everywhere. I rushed to the bathroom to sit on the wheelchair toilet they had put in my room to collect fluids in situations just like this. The remaining fluid rushed out and my contractions began to ease. We called the nurse again, told her my water broke… and again she disappeared.
With no clue for what I should do next, I laid down on my bed and tried to rest. My husband stroked my forehead and I fell asleep. The first sleep I had gotten since I’d been at the hospital.
What happens next… it maybe be hard for you to read. It’s graphic and upsetting. So please, skip ahead as it may be difficult to get through.
As I lay in bed, trying to sleep, I am awakened by more fluid coming out of me. I head back to the bathroom wheelchair toilet and sit there. Still, no nurse or doctor had come to check on me or help me. By this point, it had been about 20 minutes since my water broke.
Without warning from my body, I feel something warm slip out of me. Not certain of what it was… I thought maybe a blood clot, I asked my husband to look. I sat forward and he looked behind me. His words still haunt me… It’s Cora, he said. My hand covered my open mouth and I sat there in shock. My baby was dangling from me. I had just delivered her in a toilet. I sent my husband outside to get a nurse, anyone to help… but no one came. For 10 more minutes, I sat there. What was I to do? My baby was hanging from me and all I could do was sit there. I held my husbands hand and we cried. Cried for my baby, cried for us. Cried.
Finally, the doctor arrived and he looks at me like… What? What’s going on? I tell him… THE BABY CAME OUT! She’s hanging there!!! He instructs me to get up and move to the bed. The nurse holds Cora between my legs and I waddle to the bed. I sit down, the doctor cuts the umbilical cord and lays my baby down on a feminine pad. (This didn’t bother me until later…. but really, a pad? He couldn’t find a blanket or towel or something?!!) They left the room and gave us some time with our daughter.
She was so tiny. Only 2 inches long. Her bones had not developed yet, but her body was forming. Head, body, arms, legs…. even little toes and fingers, knees too. She had eyes, nose and a mouth too. She was so tiny. She was beautiful.
I held Cora and I told her how much I loved her, how sorry I was that she didn’t get to live longer… but that she was going to join my Mom in Heaven. Grandma Nancy was waiting for her… I told Cora that Grandma was going to hold her, snuggle with her, sing to her and take care of her until we got to Heaven to be with her.
And that was it… 10 minutes with my daughter.
The nurses took me to the operating room and a D&C was performed to clean out my uterus and ensure everything was okay. An hour after that procedure, I was heading home.
The following day was the most emotional for me. I was pregnant, delivered a baby in a toilet and then came home… with no baby. I wanted her so badly. I wanted Cora in my life. I wanted to hold her. Love her. Raise her. I wanted for Matty to be a big brother to her. For Emily to teach her everything she knew about what it meant to be a girl, a teenager. But… I was never going to have any of that. She was gone. I was lost. I cried most of the day. I needed to release it all.
Last night, I had a dream… Cora came to me. She looked to be about two months old. Big eyes like Matty but they were brown like Emily’s and she had a head full of dark brown straight hair. She looked healthy, happy and she gave me a look… a look so deep into my soul and she told me… Mommy, I’m okay. I made it to Heaven and I’m with Grandma and everything is going to be okay. I love you Mommy.
And I instantly felt peace.
See, a few years ago when my Mom died… she came to me in a dream a few days after she died too. She told me something similar, that she had made it to Heaven and that everything was going to be okay. I also, felt at peace with her passing.
Today, three days after I said goodbye to Cora… I am at peace. I am still sad, I will always miss her. But I feel peace. I know she is in Heaven and I know that everything will be okay.
My husband and I also decided to get matching tattoos today to have something tangible to remember Cora by. I didn’t have anything with her name on it, no blanket she laid in, no clothes she wore… so I thought a tatoo was fitting. I got her name on my left wrist and Dave got the day she went to Heaven on his right wrist. That way, everytime we hold hands… Cora will be there.
And I feel I need to take a moment to thank my husband. Dave… there isn’t another person in this world that I would have wanted to experience all of this with. You are the love of my life and I am so thankful to have your love through all of this. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and having you with me made it somewhat more bearable. Thank you Dave for loving me. Thank you for loving Cora. Thank you for holding me as I cried. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
During that 24 hours at the hospital, I was lucky enough to have two amazing friends step up and help out. My friend Chrissy offered me emotional and moral support and my friend Chasity watched my kids for me. And as the Facebook messages, text messages and emails poured in from friends near and far… it was these two ladies who really held my life together for me as I felt as it was all falling apart.
Chasity, Chrissy – I will forever be thankful what you did for me those days. You held my family in your hands and you never let us fall. You loved us, cared for us… and I can’t say it enough how grateful I am to have you in my life. I love you!!!
So today, I baked some bread for them. I simply call this bread “Thank You Bread”. I’ve never made it before, but this recipe was derived from an applesauce bread my Dad makes every Christmas. I just kicked it up a notch!
If you have sometone you need to say Thank you to, consider this bread and think of Cora for me!
One day at a time… that’s how I’m getting through this. Great friends, an amazing husband… and one day at a time.