Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Elspeth's Birthday

Some people dream of angels...I held one in my arms.

Elspeth Allyson Mullen was born still on Oct. 5th at 4:22 p.m. She weighed 5 lbs. 9.7 oz and was 17 inches long. Elspeth had strawberry blonde hair, long fingers and toes, chubby thighs, lips just like her mamma's and the most beautiful, gentle face I have ever seen.
Ryan and I woke early on Tuesday Oct. 5th to start the induction process. We had hardly slept the night before in the hospital because the "cervical ripening" process turned out to be basically miserable. We were anxious and excited to meet our Elspeth finally. The pitocin started at 6:30 a.m. and I wasn't even dilated yet. After 2 hours of pitocin Dr. Sheridan came to see us. I still hadn't made much progress and he had some major concerns about a lengthy labor. He wanted to break my water to speed things up. Now, anyone who knows me would surely know how opposed I was about having my water broken. I had done research on anencephalic babies and it all had said that having the water broken was very difficult for these babies because the water acts like a cushion for their little tender heads. However, with the same concern I also knew that having a labor lasting >10 hours would also be very traumatic to my little Elspeth. We were stuck in between a rock and a hard spot. I looked to Ryan, we had to make a decision right away. Would we have my water broken and risk trauma to Elspeth's head or would we have a strung out labor that would be equally as difficult to Elspeth and myself? As I weighed the options, I felt at peace with having my water broken. I knew it was the right choice, even if the result would be deadly for Elspeth. It was the most difficult decision I had to make throughout the whole pregnancy and delivery. I know that Elspeth understands that I had to make this hard decision and that I wish it could have been different.

After my water was broken I felt tremendous relief. It turned out that I had undiagnosed polyhydraminos for the past several weeks. Almost 2 liters of amniotic fluid gushed out of me instantly and the pressure was gone. You'll have to excuse me, I am a nurse so I tend to leave in all the "details". Hard contractions started within 30 minutes of the water breaking and we were on our way to having a baby. With Ryan and my doula by my side I labored for approximately 4 hours before calling it quits and asking for an epidural. 4 hours may not seem like a long time, but with pitocin it felt much longer. I had contractions every 2 minutes and only 40 seconds downtime in between contractions for the whole process. The anesthesiologist came to place my epidural and after 3 attempts and 1 1/2 hours it finally worked. Ryan and I got a quick nap for about 1/2 hour. While I was sleeping I felt Elspeth coming. I alerted the doula and the nurse who confirmed what I had felt. Elspeth was coming, and she was coming quickly. In 10 minutes Dr. Sheridan had arrived and we were ready to start pushing. Elspeth was born about 20 minutes after the doctor walked into the room.

When Elspeth was placed on my chest I knew instantly that she was gone. The NICU nurses were all on standby to help, but it wasn't necessary. I didn't want any life saving measures for Elspeth, I wanted her death to be peaceful and uninterrupted. We wrapped Elspeth's body up in a warm blanket and I just held her close to my skin. I thought I was going to be so sad, but instead I was filled with joy to finally see the beautiful face of my daughter, to memorize every part of her. I talked to her like she was still with me because I feel that her spirit was still with me at that time. I told her how beautiful and lovely I thought she was and how grateful I am to be her mother. It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life.
Ryan's task was to bathe and dress Elspeth so we could call our families into join us to meet our Elspeth. I watched Ryan bathe his daughter with such love and care. He was so gentle to her as he talked to her the whole time. He told her how much he loved her, how beautiful she was and how special she was to us. Shortly after, we called our family into the delivery room so Ryan, our fathers and brothers could give Elspeth a blessing which in our religion is similar to a Christening. When our families came into the room there was such peace and reverence for our little baby. I felt so calm and at peace knowing that my baby was safely home with her Heavenly Father. Our family members took turns holding Elspeth for just a moment. I wish it could have been longer, but time was so limited.
When everything quieted down Ryan and I settled in for the night. The nurse told us that we had until 3 a.m. to spend with Elspeth because they would have to come and take her body to be prepared for organ donation. We were both so exhausted but I dreaded going to sleep because I would miss out on precious time with Elspeth. Elspeth spent the few hours we had left in bed alongside of me. My body kept her warm and it felt so good to have her with me for just a little while longer. When the nurse came in at 3 to take Elspeth away I felt the deepest sorrow I have ever felt. Elspeth and I had never been separated before and my heart was heavy as the nurse walked away with my precious baby. It felt like the best part of me, the best thing I have ever done was being taken away. Ryan and I cried ourselves back to sleep, holding onto each other and the memories of our daughter.

The funeral services for Elspeth were held on Saturday Oct. 9th at our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Our Bishop and Stake President (local leaders) spoke about God's plan for our baby and reminded us that we will be reunited with her again. Their words were so comforting and perfectly matched for what we needed to hear. At the cemetery Ryan tenderly laid Elspeth's tiny casket into the ground and family and friends dropped a flower into her grave as a last farewell. It was a beautiful day outside, sunny and 70 degrees. The leaves on the trees had just started to change. Ryan and I decided that whenever we see the trees start to change it will be a silent reminder of our baby.

It's now been 10 days since Elspeth was born. I know that I have to slowly start picking up the pieces, and it's been much harder that I had anticipated. I left the house for the first time today and cooked dinner for Ryan in an attempt to imitate "normal" life. I feel like an imposter in my own home. One of these days I will be able to say Elspeth's name and instead of crying I will smile. There's something to be said of people have been through a loss like this...to those who have been here in my shoes I have a tremendous respect for you. I am looking forward to becoming strong and resilient again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

39 weeks

Bronchitis + 39 weeks pregnant = Exhausted. Sorry this post is so late, but technically this is my very last day of being 39 weeks pregnant. This past week has been terribly uneventful. It included me laying around in my pajamas for approximately one week while coughing up a lung and hoping my bladder doesn't give out in the process *sigh*.

Luckily after a lot of pampering and love (and strong antibiotics) I have recovered just in time to check into the hospital this morning for my cervical "ripening". The staff here at the hospital is so wonderful. The nurse and I just finished making a little bracelet for Elspeth together and the maternity coordinator and her secretary made a little hat just for Elspeth. I am so touched by their thoughtfulless.

I want to give a special thanks to so many of your emails, cards, letters, FB shout outs, etc from friends and so many of you that I have never even met. I have been touched deeply by your concern and love poured out to Ryan, Elspeth and I. There aren't words for the appreciation we feel for all of you.

I especially want to thank our families who have traveled many miles to be here with us tomorrow as Elspeth enters the world. To our parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews...we love you more than words.

Elspeth is still holding strong. On sonogram this morning she was looking beautiful, still head down with a heart rate in the 130's. The nurse tells me that labor will probably be between 12-18 hours because I am a first time momma. I am a little distressed by this news but still keeping my head up. Statistics show that Elspeth chances of making it out alive sharply decrease after 10 hours of labor. I am holding onto the fact that no matter what happens in the end, Elspeth will always be my daughter. She will be just as beautiful to me alive or passed. Her imprint on my heart is never-ending.

This is it. I am 40 weeks tomorrow. We made it! I promised Elsepth that she would get every single day of her gestation and I am so happy that I was able to keep that promise to her. I will update you all for one final post after her birth.

I love you all.