by Robin Marzolf
If I were to describe March 2, 1995, I would have to say that it was the most tragic, horrible day of my life. But, I would also have to say that it was the best day of my life. March 2, 1995 was the day that I gave birth to my first child, a beautiful baby girl. Rachel Danae Marzolf came into this world weighing 1.5 pounds and measuring 12 inches long. You would think that this would make me a happy and proud mother. You ask me why I would call this tragic! My daughter was born into this world without a cry. In a little over 20 minutes, I went from planning my daughter's arrival to planning her funeral. On this day, all my hopes and dreams were wrapped in a little bundle and sent to heaven.
On February 4, 1995 I was diagnosed with a disease known as pre-eclampsia, toxemia, PIH, or pregnancy induced hypertension. Any way that you say it, to me it means death. I was ordered a hospital stay and told that the rest of my pregnancy would mean lying on my left side and staying quiet. After a week of being in the local hospital, I took a turn for the worst and was sent to a tertiary care center to see a perinatologist. My blood pressure was high, I had a lot of protein in my urine and my reflexes were shaky and brisk. I was swollen all over from water retention. Once I got to the tertiary care center, I was stabilized and put on more bed rest. During that month, I was in and out of the hospital. On March 1, I was admitted to the hospital again for observation after a 2 day stay at home. That evening I started some mild cramping, similar to that of constipation. I alerted the nurses, they checked the heart beat and all was well. At about 1:00am on March 2 the cramping got worse. I called the nurse again and she came to check the heart rate. She was getting a low rate on the monitor and so she put the belly band on me. That also showed a low rate. At that point they called the doctor. At this point, my pre-eclampsia had turned worse. I had lost my kidney function and the disease was progressing. All we wanted for the baby was a couple more weeks. As I was laying in bed waiting for the doctor I felt a strange sensation on my legs. I told the nurses that I thought that I had peed, but I did not feel myself go. We looked under the covers and to what we saw was terrifying. The bed was full of bright red blood. Things became hectic and before I knew it there were people everywhere. Instincts had told me somehow that Brad should spend the night with me that night and so he was there with me all the time. He was by my side when they told us that our precious baby had died.
I was rushed to the operating room to get prepped for an emergency c-section. The doctor was on his way in and that baby had to come out now. At the same time I was getting prepped for an IV, having bloods drawn, asked to sign consent forms, I was also scared to death about what was happening. There was no time to explain. When the doctor got there, he did an u/s and found that her heart beat was low. He explained briefly that I had experienced a placental abruption. It was his opinion that the placenta tore more than 50% away from the uterus and the baby was now in serious danger. There would be no more oxygen and nutrients that would keep her small body alive. At lease she had some chance outside the womb. Even though this was an emergency, Brad was allowed to be with me when this baby was born. I am so glad that he was there. When the doctor was getting ready to do the section, he looked at the screen on the u/s and realized that no heart beat was present. It was then that he told us the baby had died and there was no chance of saving her. At that point, I was too sick to talk and too scared to say anything. Did I hear right? After a month of bed rest and worry, my much wanted baby was dead, just like that?? I am glad that Brad was there with me. They decided not to do a c-section at this point and explained to me that if I did not start labor by myself within the next 4-5 hours, they would induce labor for me. I did not care. I wanted this baby out.
Labor started with mild cramps. My family was notified earlier that morning that labor had started. Brad's family came from about 3 hours away to be with us. Everyone knew the baby was dead. My mom cried with me and I was too sad to cry. I was too numb. I am not sure that I accepted the fact that there was no more baby. I finally started labor with a pitocin drip and gel suppositories. I was given Stadol for pain. Well, I do not know what they think Stadol is for, but it certainly did not seem to work for pain control. The contractions came hard and strong. I had not had any childbirth classes and was not prepared for this experience. I just laid on my left side in a ball and just tried to get through it all without thinking much. The magnesium sulfate that I was on for my blood pressure made me extremely hot feeling but I still wrapped those covers around me tight. As my mom and Brad timed my contractions, I just told them to be quiet and leave me alone. I found out later, that during all of this my father had suffered a mild heart attack in the waiting room and had to be transferred to another hospital. What else could go wrong? I did not move for 15 hours and finally at 5:20 PM, my precious daughter was born. I told Brad that I felt like she was coming and to get the nurse. Brad and I were the only ones in the room. I rolled over to my back and she rolled onto the bed beneath me. At the time of her birth it was just Rachel and I. Soon after the nurses came in and Brad followed. They cleaned her and handed her to Brad. As soon as she was born, I felt a sudden wave of relief. The cramps were gone and the baby was out. Brad brought her over for me to see and hold. I did not want to hold her at the time. One of the complications that I had with the PIH was a partial loss of vision. I could not see very well and I wanted to look at her and hold her when I felt better and could see better. I finally did hold her for about 3 minutes. I held her close and looked at her tiny features, fingers, and toes. I put her on the bed and unwrapped her. I did not look at her closely, I just looked, then I gave her back. She was taken into another room and washed, dressed, and pictures where taken. Both of our families had a chance to see her and hold her. They brought her back in for us to do a family picture. They took it and then I gave Rachel back again. It was the last time that I would see my daughter. Labor and delivery was a horrible experience for me due to my sickness. The hospital was wonderful in the support area. They put a small yellow teardrop on my door to signify to those that entered that I lost my baby. It helped so that people would not come in and ask me when I was due or how my baby was doing. I really had a good experience (whatever that means!) at the hospital. Everyone was kind and careen and willing to do whatever they could to help. We were given a small quilted packet that contained her hat, shirt, socks, a book ( "When Hello Means Good-bye" ), her blanket, a roll of black and white pictures of Rachel, the paper and measuring tape that she was measured on, her bracelets, a name card, a baptismal certificate, a birth certificate, and a letter about a local support group. It was a very nice gesture and something that will always mean a lot to us.
After we left the hospital and went home, the days and weeks went slow. I was in denial at first and I could not look at the materials I was given. After a week or two, I was able to look at the materials that they gave me. I read the book, the poems, and worked on Rachel's memory book. I cried a lot. I actually screamed and cried as hard as I could. I questioned my doctors and God over and over again. Why me? Why did this happen to me? We had a funeral for Rachel about a week after I left the hospital and did not plan much for that. I did not know what to do. I had no one to tell my how a baby's funeral was run. I had a good friend and pastor do a short sermon in her memory and then we went to my grandmothers for a reception-type gathering. A lot of family and friends came to this. We had some flowers there and we set up a cloth book that I had bought for Rachel when I found out I was pregnant, along with a precious moments figurine that said, "Safe in the Arms of Jesus". It was an angel laying on a cloud. We also had a picture of her tiny hands on Brad's finger next to all of her stuff. We laid out her hat, socks, and tiny shirt for everyone to see along with the blanket that she was wrapped in. We had Rachel cremated so she was not at the funeral. That was a hard decision on our part because we were unsure of what to do. Based on our financial situations we decided to have her cremated. We are burying her ashes in Brad's family cemetery, in the plots where Brad and I will be buried. She has a small marker stone with her name and date of death. It also has a small heart on it. I think that once she is finally laid at rest I can bring some closure to her life.
It has been almost 12 months since Rachel died. Almost a year. I wonder how different
my life would be now with a toddler to take care of. She would be walking and awaiting the
birth of her brother in just a couple months. I miss my little girl. When I got pregnant
again and we found out that I was carrying a little boy, my heart broke. I wanted a little
girl so bad. Maybe because I wanted to see what life would've been like with a little
girl? Maybe I yearn for that special mother-daughter bond? Well, I will not know this
time. Since then I have been very excited about having a boy. So many new things to
experience. A new kind of bond to form. A little boy. So for now I know that my little
Rachel is free from pain and tears and I am too. Brad and I have come a long ways in the
last 12 months, from total despair to acceptance. We realize the gifts that Rachel left
with us and the love that her short life shared with everyone. I think that Garth Brooks
says it best in his song called "The Dance" ." And I'm glad I never knew
the way that it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to
chance, I could've missed the pain but I'd of had to miss The Dance."
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