Discovering an Angel Among Darkness
The following is my story. I have read several of the first person stories and would like to add mine. The story is in memory of Calli Elaine McMahon, July 16, 1997 - July 16, 1997.
by Jill Miller
Date: Thu, 06 Nov 1997
"I'm so sorry honey, your baby is dead." As that phrase continually repeated in my mind, I tried to find some reasoning behind it. The doctor shared her sympathies with us then quickly left the examining room, leaving Tim and I alone to deal with the worst news of our lives. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I stared blankly at the cold, white ceiling. My hand trembled in Tim's as he leaned over to grieve with me. As he wrapped his tender arms around my shaking body, I turned to him for comfort and consoling. We had just lost our precious little baby and as our hearts broke into tiny pieces, we held onto each other for what seemed like an eternity.
Is Dr. Cummins sure? Could there be some sort of mistake? I prayed that somehow she was wrong and that the little child on the screen would begin to move ,that the little heart would slowly begin to beat or that his/her voice would cry out for their mommy and daddy. The proof was right there in front of our eyes, yet we seemed hesitant to believe it, knowing that it would mean great loss and pain.
Where did I go wrong? What didn't I do right? Why did my baby have to die? The questions seemed unending as I tried to figure out how this could have been prevented, or what I could have done differently to have saved the helpless life inside my body. I felt guilty, like I had done something or not done something which resulted in such a tragic situation.
Finally, I began to get off of the table and try to stand up. Despite Tim's efforts to help me on my feet, I just couldn't do it. My heart was aching, my head was pounding and my knees weak. I had to lean on Tim and be embraced by his loving arms to gain strength. I felt nauseous and dizzy, like I might hit the floor at any minute. I looked into Tim's reddened, tear-filled eyes and knew we had to draw up our courage together to face this horrifying hand that was just dealt to us.
"I'm carrying someone inside of me that's dead, Tim. I can't stand up. I can't take it. I don't know what we're going to do," I cried. He helped me sit back down and we shared a long, heartfelt hug. We eventually left the room and made an appointment for the following day to "discuss what has to be done next", as the doctor put it. He helped me into the car and we began what seemed like the longest drive of our lives.
I didn't want to think about what we had just been told, but my bulging belly was a constant reminder. I tried not to think about the calls we must make to everyone who was looking forward to receiving a call in October that I was in labor. I dreaded walking in our place where all the adorable baby clothes, stuffed animals and blankets awaited the chance to be used. After Tim and I laid cuddled in each others arms for a while, I called my mom. I knew what I had to say, but as the words were replaced by sobs, Tim took the phone to give her the news.
"They couldn't find a heartbeat," he said. Like us, she wished there were some mistake. As my tears slowly subsided I got back on the phone. She insisted on coming down to be here for us. Although reluctant at first, I'm glad she did because no matter how strong two people are, in times of need, love and support from your family is always helpful. The next call was to my grandma. She too began packing her things to stay with us. Tim then called his mom. She and his step-dad, Mark, were in Florida at the time. She wanted us to call following our appointment the next day. Next it was my sweet sister-in-law Sonya. She was not home at the time and I didn't feel this was something to be left on an answering machine. Soon Tim called his dear sister, Lisa. She too sent her love and was curious as to what needed to be done for the next step. Soon, Sonya called back and said she would be over as soon as she could.
Before too long my mom and grandma were here, with tears in their eyes as their hearts ached not only for us, but with us as well. Silence filled the air as no one could find the right words to make things seem better. We awaited the 1:00 appointment the next day and knew that it couldn't come soon enough. That was the worst part for me. I felt that I was being selfish in worrying about what they were going to do to me, instead of worrying about my baby. I tried to forget everything for one night, or so I thought only one night.
Finally, it was Tuesday. Tim and I tried to sleep in, but it was just no use. Our minds were on the upcoming visit to the doctor's office and nothing else. When we finally got the courage to get out of bed and face the day, it was almost 10:00. My mom and grandma tried to force food down us, so reluctantly we ate a bagel. We sat there, all four of us , in shear silence. Tim turned the television on for some noise, hoping that it may make things a little less tense.
Eventually, I headed up the steps to take a shower. Tim came into the bathroom with me to make sure I would be all right, but I made him leave the room when I got undressed. You see, I felt insecure with my 20 extra pounds of weight and a belly that looked like I had been drinking way too much beer. After I stepped into the shower, I called for Tim. We spoke few words since neither of us had the right thing to say. He helped me out of the shower, then again I asked him to leave. It was hard enough for me to see myself naked because as I looked in the mirror at my 6 1/2 month pregnant body I could only wish that it would keep growing. I didn't want him to see my enlarged stomach and know too that soon it wouldn't be there and nothing we did could change that fact.
After I got dressed, Tim took a shower. I went into the bathroom to sit on the toilet seat and wait. I couldn't stand not having him by my side. Every time he walked out of the room, my tears started to fall. It was easier for me to be strong with people around. I hid my fears, anguish and pain so that others could maybe worry a little less about me. I didn't want to be this emotional mess they had to deal with on top of everything else.
The steps into my mom's car were some of the hardest I had to make. Although it was only 10 feet or so, every step I took broke my heart a little more. My mom, Tim and I sat in complete silence as we drove to Delaware. Every mile closer to the office meant more heartache and tears.
Finally, we arrived. As we sat patiently awaiting "our turn", I looked around me at all the magazines. Nothing but babies, babies and even more babies caught my eye. The nurse called us back into Dr. Cummins office. As we sat down, I remembered the first time we sat in those chairs. It seemed like only yesterday. "Congratulations! You're going to have a baby!", she said. Those words sounded so official. It wasn't just a little stick with two blue lines or a plus sign, it was an actual doctor telling us we were going to be parents. Me, a mom? Now I only wished I could have the chance to hold my precious little one in my arms, to meet the little creature who stirred about in my womb and to finally see the miracle that Tim and I had created...alive.
I tried to forget all that and focus on what she was preparing to tell us. First she offered us the opportunity to have another physician perform an ultrasound. We declined. I didn't want to go through looking at a cold, dark, black and white screen with my innocent baby not moving on it again. She proceeded to ask my if I had been exposed to any chemicals, harmful radiation, alcohol, drugs, etc. The answer again and again- NO! NO! NO! It too puzzled her. She had gone over my file time and time again, making sure there wasn't something she had overlooked.
"You are the healthiest patient I have. I just can't figure it out. Is there something you feel I could have done differently?", she asked. We didn't feel there was anything more she could have done. She had been such an exceptional physician, guiding us through our first pregnancy. Every visit was special to all of us. We got to hear our baby's heart beating rapidly as she looked forward to delivering another miracle into the world. Little did we know our joyous visits would turn into discussing how my labor must be induced at only 6 1/2 months. She gave us the facts, straight out, yet spoke with such compassion and concern. She asked when we wanted to begin the process. Tim and I felt that it should be done as early as possible, although our hearts would never be ready for the consequences it brought.
We arranged to be at Grady Memorial Hospital in Delaware the following morning at 7:30. My mom and Tim asked the questions since I sat silent wishing I were somewhere else, anywhere else. We decided to have an autopsy performed, and chromosomal testing if need be. We needed to know why our baby died. Also, if it were a problem caused by our genes, we didn't want to try for another baby and go through this all over again. We knew our hearts could never take another loss like this.
That night seemed like it would never end. As I struggled to fall asleep, I felt silent tears streaming down my face. Tears of pain, tears of sadness, yet mostly tears of fear. From the day I found out I was pregnant, I feared the labor and delivery process. Although in the medical field myself, I never got over my fear of hospitals or worse yet needles, very big needles. I always hated to see my patients in pain as I "helped" them get up just hours after knee surgery or assisted them with painful strengthening exercises for an injured back. I kept in my mind that I was indeed helping them and that without my assistance they would continue to be in pain. But my upcoming hospital visit was very different from those situations. I had a very long and painful day ahead of me with no reward waiting for me at the finish line.
I wondered if they would have trouble with starting the IV, how many samples of blood they would take, how intense the contractions would be and how Tim would handle seeing me in such great pain. My worrying kept me awake nearly all night long. I struggled with these thoughts until finally it was 6:00 and Tim went into the bathroom to take a shower. I wept alone in the bed as I knew in only a short while it would all begin.
Tim returned from his shower and sat on the bed in his dripping towel. He sensed the fear in my eyes prior to my sobs. " If only I could take your place, I would." he exclaimed. I knew that he meant it. He would do anything for me and I sincerely believed that if there were any way to trade places with me, he wouldn't hesitate. He consoled me and assured me that I would be given plenty of pain-killers.
Soon, I got dressed and double-checked my bag to make sure there was nothing I had forgotten. We headed down the stairs, hand in hand, then forced ourselves to eat a little something. We eventually were on our way to the car. Tim turned Howard Stern on the radio, hoping that if anyone could get a smile out of me, it would be him. I sat in silence as we drove to the hospital. What a beautiful, sunny day it was outside, but on the inside all of our hearts we were filled with darkness.
Once at the hospital, it was all I could do to make it through the front doors. Tim strongly held my hand as my mom followed closely behind. I boldly marched into the patient registration area and began answering all their tedious questions. As the woman asked, "Are you married?" , I hesitated. I had never thought about that. Here I was sitting with a pale, white face preparing to give birth to my dead child and she questioned if I was married. I calmly replied that I was not. You see, although we don't have a piece of paper stating it, in my heart Tim and I are married and are as committed as two people can be. She called up to the 4th floor and told them I was on my way.
We had an older gentleman escort us to the birthing area. As I walked into the room, I was greeted by the nurse. I was instructed to put on the hospital gown, give a urine specimen, then get into the bed. It took me nearly 10 minutes to complete those orders. After all, I was not in any rush to begin. Once in the bed the nurse took my vital signs. After taking my blood pressure she said," Boy are you ever nervous!" No shit , I thought. What did she think? That I was just supposed to lay there smoking cigarettes and playing cards to make the time pass by. I guess you could say that she and I got off to a bad start. It didn't help matters any when she struggled with her first attempt to start the IV. As Tim and my mom held my sweating hand, I tried to keep my mind off the huge needle she was unsuccessfully jabbing into my arm. Finally she got it in or so we thought. My hand immediately swelled as the solution was started.
"Guess we have to try it again.", she said, like it were no big deal. As I
looked into Tim's eyes while I was being poked, I couldn't help but notice his color
suddenly change. His rosy cheeks became flushed as the rest of his face slowly turned into
a pale, green color. Needless to say, we had him sit down for the next attempt. No luck,
again. I was trembling and shaking all over as a Lab Technician came into the room to draw
nearly all the blood from my body. Soon another nurse came in and numbed my other arm
prior to her attempt. Luckily for all of us, she got it in. The Pitocin was started. She
said it would build up gradually and the contractions may only feel like cramping at
first. They hooked up a monitor around my waist to record the intensity and duration of
the contractions on a machine. Around 8:15 or so, Dr. Cummins came up to place a catheter
in my cervix. She said it was to help speed up the dilation process and should fall out in
By this time, Sonya, Joel and Lisa were all there. I had Tim stay in the room with me while this uncomfortable procedure was performed, then asked everyone else to come back in. The nurse brought in a radio to help break the silence. We sat there waiting for something to happen, but not much did until the contractions became more intense. Tim fed me some broth and jello for lunch around noon and ice chips in the mean time. The doctor again came up to check on me, but I had not made much progress. I had Tim go out to the waiting area and get something to eat. Although he didn't want to leave me, I insisted. I don't think he realized how strenuous all of this was on him too. Shortly he returned and helped me concentrate on deep breathing techniques to deal with the pain.
At around 2:30 I requested something for the pain. The contractions were getting closer and closer and they were becoming more intense. The nurse seemed like my best friend after she injected the medication into my IV. Soon my dad was there. He had to be released from summer camp duties in Iowa with The Red Cross's permission before he could be on the airplane headed for home. I was a little out of it as the pain medication began to take effect. I rested quietly as Tim sat patiently by my side. Matt, Lisa's husband , was the final person to arrive to the room. The six of them remained there for the duration of my labor, giving us the emotional support we needed. They may not have been able to take away my physical pain nor our emotional pain, but by being there we knew how much they cared.
The anesthesiologist was up on the floor around 5:00 or so and even though my pain was not too intense I had him come in anyway. Again, I had Tim stay while he inserted the epidural. Once in place, everyone else returned to the room. The catheter fell out of my cervix just prior to Joyce, my evening nurse inserting one into my bladder. She had such a sweet, caring voice and went out of her way to do anything she could for us. By just a touch of her hand on my arm or leg as she passed through room, I knew what a wonderful person she was. She helped ease my fears somewhat with her genuinely sincere personality. It's people like her who help make the nursing profession honorable.
Dr. Cummins returned before she headed home at 6:30. I was only 5 centimeters dilated so she decided to break my water. I closed my eyes and lay still in the bed as Tim held my hand. Soon after that my dad returned with something for Tim to eat. Reluctantly he went back to the waiting area to spend some time with Lisa and Matt. Meanwhile, my parents and brother and sister-in-law kept me company. Soon the contractions were felt again and gradually became more intense than before. The pain radiated down my right leg as I struggled to hold the tears back. Sonya immediately got Tim and he informed Joyce who said the initial dose must be wearing off. She then started a new bag of fluids into my spine. She had told my mom to call for her if I felt a great deal of pressure or pain in my abdomen or became sick to my stomach. Not too long after that, I felt a sharp pain, but thought nothing of it. Tim had Sonya get the nurse. As she looked under the sheet, she told my mom not to lift it.
My mom and Tim stayed with me, while everyone else was rushed out of the room. I laid there with my eyes tightly closed, clenching onto Tim's hand trying to draw up the strength to keep going. I knew that if I thought about what was happening, I wouldn't be able to bear it. Instead I remained silent and tried to forget that I was in the middle of delivering my first child. I tried to forget that they wouldn't immediately be placed in my arms and that the typical joyous cries would soon be replaced with pure silence. Then I heard Joyce quietly say, "It's a girl." A girl? A little girl? I remembered how I had imagined the birth of my baby. Who would he/she look like? How much hair would they have? How would it feel to finally meet the mysterious person in my body?
I then realized at 7:40 p.m. on this day, July 16th, I became a mom as quickly as I lost the opportunity to be called "Mom". No one would be sending me cards of congratulations for just giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. Rather, they would not even acknowledge that I had just spent the past 12 hours in labor preparing to say hello and good-bye to my baby at the same time. They wouldn't ever know how difficult it is to see your baby for one brief moment then have her taken away in the next without even getting a chance to see her alive.
No one would be passing out cigars to rejoice and no one would be stopping by the nursery to see our precious baby lying quietly in the warmer. Instead, they would be shedding tears of sadness and tears of grief while questioning God's decision to take her away so soon. Questioning why she couldn't have stayed long enough to share with us her first smile, first laugh, first word or first steps. And questioning why she had to make such a brief visit on Earth.
Calli Elaine McMahon was the first name we agreed upon. Now instead of writing it on cute little birth announcements, we were putting it on a tombstone. We would still just sign "Tim and Jill" at the bottom of our cards and never know the joy of adding Calli's name. When picking out names, we thought long and hard about what a "good" name would be. Little did we know we would have the chance to name the brightest star in the sky. And little did we know we would have the opportunity to name our guardian angel. Calli became our daughter, our first born and an angel all in one day.
As a Garth Brook's song played softly in the background, I was asked to push to help deliver the placenta. By this time, Dr. Cummins was in the room, along with another nurse to assist her. I drew up my courage for a second push and tried not to think about what I was doing. Soon, I was asked for one final push and promised it would be over after that. Over? How could it be over, I thought. Tim and I just had our first child, but there were no happy faces, no beaming smiles. Where did we go from here since we had spent the past 6 1/2 months preparing to bring a child into the world? How could we make things " how they used to be"? What was our next step? Thoughts of all natures entered my mind to help me escape the cruel reality that I had just given birth, although there was no new life.
This was not at all how I pictured the few moments after my daughter's birth. I pictured us calling in proud new Grandma and Grandpa Miller, first-time aunt and uncle, Sonya and Joel and anxious Aunt Lisa and Uncle Matt. Instead we were left there empty handed. My arms longed to hold my baby in my arms, to hear her first-born cries and to see her daddy give her a kiss welcoming her to the world. I somehow thought she would magically awaken, that for some reason God had made a mistake and He was going to give us the chance to show her just how much we loved her by letting her stay a little longer. I wished at any minute I would hear her cry and see her look up at us with her innocent eyes to reassure us that she was all right. Instead nurses began preparing her for her grand entrance into heaven. Never would Tim or I get to hold our first born alive. Never would we be granted the privilege to share with her all that we wanted or give her the kind of life she was so deserving of. We became parents without ever being able to take her home to a long awaited nursery, without ever being able to call each other "mommy" and "daddy" and worst of all, without ever being able to tell her how much we love her.
The questions seemed unending. Why did it have to happen to us? Why didn't this happen to some addict who never could love a child as much as she loved her drugs? Why couldn't this have been some 13 year-old who was still a baby herself and didn't know the first thing about being a mom? Why not to a woman who already had 4 or 5 children whom she couldn't provide for? Why us, when we could give a baby all the love in the world? What did we do to deserve this?
We had done everything in our power to assure this baby a lifetime of joy and happiness. After all, Tim and I were two good-hearted people who wanted to share our lives with this baby. Throughout my pregnancy, I ate healthy and continued to exercise while Tim remained very supportive and protective of me. He never missed a doctor's appointment and anxiously waited to feel the baby move inside me. We were caring , considerate and the kind of people who longed to raise our daughter together, always. It just didn't seem fair. Not one aspect of it seemed fair.
I guess no matter how good of a person you are, life throws its little surprises at you once in a while
to let you know who is boss. Although my pregnancy was quite a surprise to both of us, it did not take us long to get used to the idea of becoming parents. Just as unexpectedly as we found out about having a baby, we found out about her fate. We never dreamt in a million years that we would have to deal with so many emotions in such a short time. It just didn't make any sense to me. Why did I have to get pregnant while on the Pill, then lose the baby? Why was I ever pregnant to begin with? No matter how you look at it, the odds have been against us.
It was then that I realized I had to focus on what was left in my life, not what was missing. After all, there were 6 wonderful family members who spent all day waiting to share in our child's birth. Their love and concern meant more than they could ever know. With their help, we survived the most difficult day of our lives. With their help, Calli's memory will remain with us forever.
As I prayed to God that He take Calli under His wing, I thanked him for sending me Tim. I know that no matter how many challenges He throws my way, God must love me very much to have given me such a wonderful man. Tim has been the best thing that's ever happened to me and although I'm not sure what I did to deserve him, it must have been something good. I know I'll never find another man so sincere, caring and understanding. (At least not on this planet I won't.) He has given me the kind of relationship people only dream about. I again thanked God for giving Tim and I the chance to spend the rest of our lives together before snapping back into the present time.
Alone now, Tim leaned over the bed and embraced me. Our warmth radiated as the room became filled with our love for one another. We held onto each other for quite some time before we were able to let go. We eventually parted long enough for the doctor to check on me once more and give us her deepest sympathies. Not long after, Joyce came in requesting my signature on a piece of paper giving them permission to perform an autopsy. My hand trembled as I signed the form. Just as we were finishing up, Matt and Lisa, Joel and Sonya, and my parents were back in the room to share in our grief. I tried to remain strong although the emotions were so intense. I don't remember the next hour or so too clearly. I remained flat in the bed with my legs still somewhat numb from the epidural while Tim sat patiently by my side.
We had decided not to see Calli since I was too afraid of what she may look like or how I might react. Meanwhile, my parents and Lisa and Matt waited near the nursery to see Calli get baptized. Again, I slipped into my own little world and began thinking about what God had planned for Calli.
I wondered why He had chosen her among all the other children. It just didn't seem fair that she never got to live her life here on Earth. I began to wonder what heaven would be like if there were no children and realized that it would be very dull without their innocence and laughter. It wouldn't have any little angels to be the center of everyone's attention. I realized that God must have needed a very special angel to spread her cheer to those who had lost their faith. He must have needed a new bright star to light up the sky and guide those who had lost their way. I came to the conclusion that He must have needed her to share her joy with the whole world rather than just with us. After all, He didn't take her away to punish us. Rather, we gave her to Him so that others may fill their hearts with the kind of happiness she instilled in ours.
Finally, I began talking to Tim about what Calli might look like. I wondered what qualities she inherited from him and which she took from me. We discussed whether or not we should see her and whether or not we should look at the little girl we had created. We battled with our hearts and souls until we eventually came to the decision that we needed to say hello to her, that we needed to hold her and that we needed to say good-bye to her before she began her journey. As Joyce entered the room to see how we were doing I asked her if we could have Calli brought into our room. She smiled and went on her way to get our daughter.
My mom came back into the room prior to Vicki, the nurse who baptized Calli, and Joyce. As Vicki wheeled Calli into our room, I requested that she stay across the room at first. Joyce sat down and my mom looked on as Vicki explained to us what Calli looked like. Soon, she uncovered her and gently lifted her up. Tim and I began to cry as we took our first glance at our little girl. She was so tiny. So tiny, yet so precious. Vicki began pointing out Calli's long slender fingers, which she got from her dad, and cute button nose, which she took from me. She showed us her fragile little toes and toenails and beautiful lips. Then she asked if we wanted to hold her. At first I hesitated, so Tim sat in the rocking chair to hold his daughter. When she was placed in his arms, I began to sob. He looked so distinguished sitting there holding our baby. He looked so loving, so caring, but must of all, he looked like a real daddy.
Eventually, I felt the need to hold the little one who I had gotten to know over the past months. I wanted to see up close who had been a part of me for what seemed like such a long time. As she was gracefully place in my arms, I continued to cry because I realized once more that her little eyes would never see me, her ears would never hear my voice and that she would never get the chance to officially meet "mommy" face to face. Tim stood by the bed to offer what comforting he could. He leaned over to hug me as we looked at our little girl. Together, we saw just how beautiful of an angel we had created and realized just how wonderful she truly was. We knew that even though it may be the hardest thing to do in our lives, we had to let her go. As heart-breaking as it was, we gave Calli to God and entrusted Him to share with her all the love and joy we had planned to.
After all, an angel like her couldn't stay here on Earth. Just by looking at her, we realized that she belonged in a much more beautiful, magical place. Calli belonged in a place where she could be guaranteed that nothing but peace and harmony would surround her. She needed to be in heaven where she could live a carefree life and play in a field of flowers all day if she so desired. She deserved to live her entire life without ever experiencing sorrow and pain. Calli deserved the chance to be one of God's chosen children who light up our hearts and souls, as well as a gloomy night. We realized just how lucky we were to have this rare treasure resting peacefully before our eyes. There she was, lying in my arms... an innocent, irreplaceable, precious angel.
Before letting go of Calli for the first and also last time, I thanked God for blessing me with the opportunity to meet my guardian angel face to face. I thanked him for letting me see an angel first-hand and for making that special angel a part of my life..... forever.
Although we have little to remember her by, Calli will always remain in our hearts. And although we spent only a brief time with her, the powerful impression she left behind can never be erased. Never will Tim and I forget seeing or holding our first-born child, our first daughter and our first guardian angel. The moments were shared with Calli were the most difficult and painful we've ever experienced. Yet , they were also the most priceless. By looking at each other, we are able to see her button nose, gorgeous, full lips and long, slender fingers as if she were right in front of us. We vividly remember touching those adorable, little feet and tiny ,angelic hands.
I pray that those same hands can instill hope in the hearts of those who have given up. And that the same radiant light we saw in her will help guide those who have lost their sense of direction. I pray that someday soon I will be granted the chance to see my precious guardian angel again.
Angel Up Above,
May you never forget just how much you are loved.
All my love,
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