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.


  1. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it. I'm so grateful to have gotten to hold her. I love you.

  2. Thank you for sharing these beautiful, sacred moments with us. You have been in my thoughts constantly these past two weeks. I wish I could find the words to offer hope and assurance right now that things are going to get better. All I can say is that the Saviors atonement is the source of the strength you so desperately seek right now. Hold that that with all your might.

    Your daughter will not ever be forgotten, and someday Meredith you Ryan will be reunited and no one will ever be able to take her away from you.


  3. You are strong, Meredith. And I agree with Jenny - this was a beautiful post.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this experience with all of us. Sorry that We did not go to the funeral. We love you...beautiful pictures..

  5. I have been following your story since Sarah first posted about it. Thank you for sharing the life of your daughter. Praying for peace for you and your husband.

  6. OH, Meridith. I am SO sorry for your loss. I was crying as I read this out loud to Dave. She looks so darling.
    God Bless you two.

  7. You don't know me..and I have never experienced the loss of a child after carrying it to full term......but I want you to know how brave I think you are for sharing your experiences on this blog. You have touched me in a very special way....I wish you all the best in your healing process....

  8. Love and hugs to both of you. As I read, tears streamed down my face. Partly because of sadness in your loss, but mostly because of JOY in your FAITH. The two of you are such a blessed example of faithful children of God. I know that He loves you both tremendously, and for you to have to endure a trial of this nature (which seems so insurmountable to me) shows the nature of your spiritual strength. I love both of you so much, and you are both deserving of all the BEST life has to give. May you be blessed with the peace and endurance you need to move forward. Remember how LOVED you are.

  9. I don't know what to write...and I can hardly see the screen. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. Thank you for being brave enough to be her Elspeth's parents. May the Lord bless you through all the difficulties ahead.

  10. I just had a miscarriage this morning with my 7 week old little one. I find comfort in your strength with the lost of your little one. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us and I hope that one day, you can try again for another little one, just as I would, too.

  11. we love you guys.

    elspeth touched so many lives. it was a privilege to know her, hold her, and enjoy her spirit for 9 months. thank you for sharing her with us.


    celeste and kristopher

  12. Dearest Ryan and Meredith, we love you both so much and appreciate what you have done for Elspeth. I know she has been welcomed by all our family who have gone before us and that she if firmly embraced by our family in heaven. Love each other more than ever.

  13. Mer,
    I had no idea. So sorry for your loss! Such a beautiful story. Miss you and wish you well!


  14. Meredith and Ryan, I'm a little late in getting to this post, but it was a beautiful translation of your experience. My heart was heavy for you guys today, that's why I read your final post. You guys are in my thoughts and prayers, and I know God will comfort you. Take your time to grieve and mourn...it's all part of the process. I heard that grieving is one of the most spiritual things you will do...you and Ryan are an inspiration.

  15. I'm just now able to read this. And I cried. Your faith is so inspirational. I, too, know you'll be reunited with your beautiful daughter in Heaven.