"Love Never Leaves A Mother's Arms"
by Nancy Brown
In loving memory of
Thursday, April 11, 1996 is a day I will never forget. It was the last happy day of a long-awaited pregnancy. Don't get me wrong, pregnancy came easily for my husband (Les) and I. I was 33 years old when I got pregnant, and had been single until I was 31. I never thought I'd find the right guy, let alone become a Mom. I had a strong maternal instinct since I can remember and all I ever thought about was having a baby. This pregnancy was the most precious gift I had ever received. Life was great and I was so happy. I thanked God and prayed to Him every day to please protect my baby. I did all the things I could to take care of myself and my little miracle. I had one month of waiting left and I would soon have my precious baby in my arms.
On Wednesday, I had been to see the doctor and everything was great. The baby's heartbeat was strong and loud. He said the baby would probably weigh between 6 and 7 pounds and was facing head down already, which was good. I left my appointment so excited.
That night while Les and I were shopping, I had to keep stopping. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions that weren't really painful for a few months, but these were getting my attention--still not painful, but quite uncomfortable. The next day at work, I could hardly concentrate because I was still noticing the contractions. They weren't regular or really painful, so I thought my body was just getting ready for the big day. Thursday night, we headed to the hospital for our breastfeeding class. I kept noticing contractions and told Les that I was going to call the doctor the next day, if they didn't let up. I didn't care if I was an over-anxious mother--I needed to know everything was okay. Les was getting a little nervous that he might not have another month to get used to the idea of being a father. He was quite unsure about becoming a parent.
Later that evening, I phoned a friend and we joked around that maybe my baby would be born a month early, like hers was. Les didn't think it was a joke--the poor guy was so nervous! After a great conversation, I jumped in bed and reached to turn out the light. As I was trying to get comfortable, I felt some fluid leaking down my legs. I thought my water had broken. I raced to the bathroom only to find that I was bleeding quite badly. Oddly, I wasn't thinking that anything was really wrong, just that I needed to get to the hospital in case my baby was coming. I do remember being afraid that I might need a C-section. I had to calm Les down, or we would never have made it to the hospital alive. He was a wreck, but like me, he only thought the baby was ready to be born. Looking back on everything I read while I was pregnant, it must have been some sort of defense mechanism, because deep down, I knew what was happening was not right.
We were checked into the hospital at 12:01am. The nurse wheeled me to a birthing room, had me get changed and put me in bed to check the baby's heartbeat. She was scanning the spot where I knew she should be picking up the heartbeat and I was getting very upset. "Where's the heartbeat?", I kept crying out. She kept trying to assure me that maybe the baby had turned or that she was just not finding it. I was having a hard time believing that. I was pretty sure I would have noticed such a big movement, if the baby had turned. She called in another nurse to try, but the concern on her face when she walked in was enough to tell the whole story. Les and I kept exchanging very anxious glances and were numb with fear. The second nurse couldn't find it either and by this time I was hysterical. Neither nurse wanted to say anything, and finally the doctor arrived (45 minutes after we got there!). He explained it did not look good and that he wanted to do an ultrasound to see what had happened. I was wheeled down the hall and the ultrasound confirmed our worst fears--our baby had died. The doctor noted fluid in the lungs, but couldn't tell what had caused it. To me, it didn't matter. My baby was gone and all Les and I could do is hold each other and sob.
I was taken back to the birthing room and the doctor explained that since I was already 2 cm dilated, they were going to start me on Pitocin to induce labor. I was beside myself with fear. I couldn't believe that they were going to make me go through labor now, knowing my baby was gone. I have never been so afraid in my whole life. They offered me an epidural, so I wouldn't have to suffer the pain, but I refused. I was more afraid of it than of labor itself. By 2:00am, I was hooked up to the IV and an automatic blood pressure device and all I had to look forward to were the long hours of labor, with no reward at the end of it.
Les called my parents and my sister and her husband, and they were at the hospital by 3:00am. The nurses gave them the use of a room next to mine where they could rest, get some coffee, but be close by. When they came in to see me, I just could not bear the pain on their faces. We were all hurting in the worst way and it seemed so unfair. I worried about my Mom's heart condition--she was so upset, and I kept fearing something would happen to her also.
By 7:00am, the contractions were pretty strong, but the doctor told me I was only 4 cm dilated. He said my tenseness was fighting against my body and encouraged the epidural again. I couldn't believe when he said, "You're not getting any medals for this, you don't have to suffer the pain also." How caring can you get? Both the nurse and Les were telling me I should have it but I still refused. Just then, my doctor was off his on-call duty, so a new doctor came in. At 8:00am, I was still only 4 cm and was ready to call it quits. I could not stand the torture anymore. The epidural was administered at 9:00am, and everyone was glad I would be out of the pain. Me? I was scared of not feeling anything. I had waited so many years to experience the miracle of birth and now I would feel nothing.
A nurse from the hospital support staff came in some time during the morning to tell us about our options and to make us aware that we had decisions to make and that they would help as much as they could. Decisions? Yeah, right! We did have the hospital call our priest and the funeral home we would use and that was about all we could do at the moment. By 2:00pm, our priest was with us and stayed for about an hour. What really helped me was when he told us it was okay to be angry with God. That He understood our emotions and that He'd get over it. It was probably the most helpful thing anyone said to me. I asked him if he would come back to baptize our baby and he said he would. Once that was off my mind, I was able to drift off to sleep. During that time, a representative from the funeral home came in and he spoke with Les. I awoke when Les was with him and the nurse went to get him. He told me that the funeral home was going to help us with everything, free of charge, and that we didn't have to make decisions now. I was very relieved to hear that. By now, it was 4:00pm and my sister came in to tell me she was going to run home quickly to get her husband. He had left earlier in the morning to go to work and I didn't even know it. Nothing seemed to be happening with my labor, so she decided to take her chances. Les settled down on the pull-out bed beside me and we both drifted off to sleep for a short time.
At 4:30pm, I was awakened because I felt a strange pop and thought my water had finally broken. Les got the nurse and she said that was what had happened and that things should start speeding up. She told me to call if I felt I had to push. I could not imagine how I'd know, because I was so numb. Les called my sister to hurry back. About one hour later, I felt that urge and Les called the nurse again. She coached me on what to do and I started pushing. I pushed through 2 contractions and then she asked me to blow through the next one, so the doctor could get prepared. On the next contraction, I pushed twice and the miracle of birth that I had awaited for so many years was over. It was 5:46pm, Friday, April 12, 1996. My beautiful baby was born and it was much too silent. Les and I held each other and cried. I had wanted a girl very badly, but at that moment, it didn't seem at all important. They had put the baby in a bassinet and were stitching me up before I even thought to ask. "Is it a boy or a girl?" "It's a girl." "Oh, my little girl," I cried. How could this be happening? I wanted you so much and loved you before you even existed. How could this be? She was now Kali Alyssa Brown and she was not crying. Only her Mommy and Daddy were crying.
They brought her to me to see and then took her to bathe her and dress her in the clothes my sister had brought in for me. Les gave me a little guardian angel pin he'd gotten from the gift shop in the hospital. I haven't taken it off since. My family came in to see her and everyone held her. Our priest had been called and baptized Kali for us. After an hour, they went home for a much needed rest and to give Les and I time alone with Kali. We kept her with us until midnight--holding her, taking pictures, kissing her and talking to her. After worrying about parenthood for so many months, Les said the most beautiful thing to Kali as he held her. "You are so beautiful. You would've been so much fun, why did you have to go?" Then he turned to me and said, "We have to try again someday, I want to know what it's like." My husband had fallen in love in an instant. It was the most touching thing I'd seen or heard in my life. Shortly after midnight we called the nurse to take Kali to the nursery and told her to please let us know when the funeral home came for her. Les sobbed over her bassinet as the nurse tried to wheel it away. We cried for a long time and fell asleep holding hands.
At 7:00am, we were told that the funeral home was there to take Kali. There were a lot more tears and I regret now that I didn't ask to hold her one last time. I was home by 6:00pm that evening, with a lot of back pain from lying in bed and from the epidural. The worst pain was the heartache.
We did not authorize an autopsy and will never know what actually happened. It could have been a cord accident, but they really didn't think so. I was asked several times when I had last felt Kali move. It really bothers me that I don't remember. She was a very active baby, but for a good part of two days I was very preoccupied with my contractions. I was a first-time mother and was trying not to freak out about every little twinge or ache. For a long time, I blamed myself for not knowing that something was wrong. Now, I have come to accept that I did the best I could. I am glad now that I spent so much time talking to her, because I believe she heard and felt my love. I believe she still hears me. I believe she is always with me.
Thankfully, my family was and still is very supportive. Les and I are doing okay, but there are still many bad days for me, even now, almost four months later. I miss Kali beyond measure. I talk to her often. I have kept a journal since the day it happened and I've written a lot of poems. I do everything in her memory. She is a part of every day.
The day after we buried Kali, Les and I were talking about her and he told me he had bought me a present some time ago, for when I gave birth. He said he didn't know if he should give it to me or not. I told him I would like him to--that just because she wasn't in our arms didn't mean we couldn't celebrate her birth. What he gave me was the Precious Moments figurine of a Mommy in a rocking chair, holding her baby. I am crazy about PM's and I had pointed it out to him months before. It's called "Love Never Leaves A Mother's Arms". I thought that there could never be a more appropriate gift. Little did I know when I saw it months ago, how much meaning it would actually have.
Thank you for bearing with me through this long story. It was so important for me to tell the world about my precious angel, Kali Alyssa.
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