I am sharing a small excerpt from a chapter in the book I am currently writing – or actually its currently awaiting publication. I am writing about the events surrounding the birth of my son. It was a therapeutic write, although very hard to write about even after 21 months! Hard to believe that he is nearly two years old now. Or would have been two… Anyways comments are welcome…
My mind doesn’t want to remember. All of this is too painful. As I write down, the memories flood my brain of what happened afterwards. Even after twenty-one months the events during the hospital stay are still very painful. But I will do my best in describing it. Some things I won’t mention because it is simply too painful to write about. Too painful to reflect on. Too painful, and out of dignity and self-respect for myself, my mom and my son, there will be things I will not mention. It takes a lot of courage to write about this part of my life. A life that I seemingly have tried to block out of my memory forever, which seems to be virtually impossible. It is still my daily nightmare. Still a place where the wounds are open deep and wide. A place that no-one should ever have to venture to. Into the pits of deep human anguish. The raw emotion that was so clearly visible that day. A myriad of emotions all in one day seemingly impossible.
It was the morning of the 26th of September. Friday. A grey day. A cold day. Unusually cold for that time of year. A day that I will not easily forget. A day that will be forever etched on my mind. A day in a flurry of activity. A day where I felt like I had the whole world at my feet. A day of cancellations. A day of excitement. A day of pacing up and down. A day of counting the minutes between each contraction that ripped through my body. A day of nesting. A day of preparing the last stuff before Sebby’s arrival. A day of hope. A day of disaster. A day of pain. A day of loss. A day that went rapidly downhill. A day that turned into darkness. Curtains were drawn, and the light stopped shining through. A bombshell seemingly dropped into my world of hope. Shattering my very existence to a million pieces. Broken like shattered glass unable to be glued back together. The screeching echoes that were heard in the sterile room of the hospital. A day that started off in eager anticipation ended into wails of a broken mom. Hope tiptoed silently out the back door seemingly unnoticed. Appearing to know that this person has become a helpless case. A hopeless case.
I remember going to bed the night before, more exhausted then usual. My fingers hurting. Took Buddy with my mom to the vet, and waited for hours, feeling slightly on the funny side. Ready for this baby to come out. We ended up going home without seeing the vet, arrived home and finished Sebby’s blanket. Went to bed. Couldn’t sleep. The dreaded restless legs started up again, twitching and turning. Twitching and turning. Praying to God, ‘please let me sleep’. And then, at four o’clock in the morning I woke up to period like pains which gradually built to contractions. And I thought this is it. This is the beginning of the end. Today or tomorrow is the day that my little boy will arrive into this world. So I quietly panted through each contraction (not that it was painful in the beginning) – just the period like pains were a reminder of what I had missed out on all of the last nine months. A preparation for what was to come.
Finally, dawn breaks into morning, my mom rises, and I whisper to her, I have been having contractions for the past three hours. Mom says to time them. And so I do. Mom drives everyone around. I stay at home, clean, pray, text the exciting news that today might be the day that my son is born. Mom comes back, asks me how the contractions are – told her they are coming every fifteen to twenty minutes or so. She’s a nurse. So she knows the whole process, and having gone through the birthing process 5x herself she says it may just be the practice ones. I put my trust in her as she seems to be wiser in that area than me. The day steadily progresses, when suddenly I get hit with a thought. I haven’t felt my son move all day…. And then the anxiety started raising between the adults, a flurry of activity ensued, and eventually I was taken to the hospital.
The hospital – a cold unwelcoming large looming building in the distance, outwardly deserted. The slow walk into the rundown building, no welcoming presence to put one’s mind to ease. Just an ugly building from the inside out staring at you. And so we waited in the emergency room, waiting for someone to check if people were actually waiting in the waiting room. Eventually mom got fed up with waiting so decided to knock on the door to see what was taking them so long. It appeared that they were having their own little tea party. When they saw me they said to mom I should go upstairs to the high risk pregnancy ward. And up we went through the mazes of the hospital before reaching our destination. Waddling like a duck. Off I go.
The waiting room. Old, tired, weary looking. We wait again what seems to be like ages but is merely just minutes, when the nurse comes and gets the on-call doctor as it was already after hours. The doctor comes, outwardly annoyed, and says we mothers shouldn’t worry. The babies are usually always fine. He whisks us off into the room. The white wilting room of a communist past. He turns on the ultra scan. It gurgles alive after waiting for about 10 minutes. He requests silence. He asks my mom and aunt to leave the room, he needs absolute silence. He starts speaking rapidly in Hungarian. Not Slovak may I add. But Hungarian. At least if it was in Slovak I would understand bits and pieces, Hungarian I was in nomads land. I see the concern suddenly appear on his face. His face turning from pleasantness to grave concern. He asks me what I am having. ‘A boy’. He says in his broken English ‘it seems like your baby is not living’. The room is spinning. The air gets knocked out of my chest. Breathe Hannah, breathe. Relax. It is probably a mistake. The machine is ultra-ancient. How can it possibly pick up a heart beat – if its so old looking as if it were to drop dead any moment…? He then brings out a funny horn – kind of looks like a loudspeaker and puts it on my swollen bump trying to hear if there is life. There is no life. Just silence. No movement. Just quiet. I ask ‘please bring my mom in’. My mom comes in. The doctor says the baby is not living. I watch my mom slump into my aunt. Surprisingly my emotions are still intact. I have a mantra in my head. “It seems like your baby is not living. It seems like your baby is not living. It seems like your baby is not living. It seems like your baby is not living. It seems like your baby is not living. It seems like your baby is not living. It seems like your baby is not living. It seems like your baby is not living. It seems like your baby is not living. It seems like your baby is not living. It seems like your baby is not living.” They do more tests. Then they want to measure at what rate the contractions go. They tell me not to rub the bump. To leave the bump alone. In my head, I felt like if I rubbed my bump that by some miracle Sebby would awaken. It was not the case. I sent a text to a few people. “Baby is dead. Please pray for a safe delivery.” I get sent to this other room. Alone with the ticking clock. Tick tack tick tack tick tack tick tack tick tack tick tack tick tack tick tack tick tack tick tack tick tack tick tack tick tack. The machine making gurgling noises as it measures my son’s heartbeat, and my contractions. Except with my son there was no heartbeat. It was just one long big flat line. My contractions were hills and valleys. At 5.12pm hope was just a flicker, at 5.48 pm hope left completely. As I walked back out into the waiting room to where my mom and aunt were, I slumped into a heap on the floor. Completely helpless. Sobbing. Weeping.
In that moment hope was lost. I broke. I shattered. I died. I was just existing. Battered and bruised. I did not want to stay in the hospital. Run I wanted. Run I did not though. I was told to stay. They needed to check my bloods, my heart, they needed to do a whole range of tests. It was the end. Mom went home to pick up some stuff. My aunt stayed with me. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t focus for the veil of tears was in front of my eyes. I couldn’t see for the blur of water cascading down my face. My mom comes back. For what would be the longest and most painful weekend of my life. Even more painful then the emotional beatings I received at the hands of my ex-husband. The hours dissolved into a timeless time. Into the sands. Into nothingness. I was broken. I couldn’t comprehend. I couldn’t think straight.
Saturday 27th September, morning arrived, I was whisked to the examantion room to see how far along I was. I wasn’t the most co-operative person that morning. I was in pain. I was in distress. I didn’t know how to focus. I didn’t know how to keep going. The lady doctor kept pushing and probing until eventually she gave up. And told me to go. Go I did. Eventually we wove our way through the corridors of the hospital to another department, where I had to lay with my chest bare for the entire world to see male and female – my swollen breasts in full view as they measured my heartbeat. Once that was over, they whisked me back up and pumped me up with antibiotics. Blood poisoning. A very real danger that lurked behind the stillness that befell my world of intense grief. Silence. And more silence. The tears falling down my face. The emptiness. The hollow emptiness. The dark emptiness. Someone from church phoned. I asked mum to pick it up. Mum explained them the situation. They asked if they could speak to me. I turned my back to the world. And fell into the pit, welcoming the darkness that was wrapping me up as if in its loving arms. Mum was summoned to the doctor’s office as if she were a naughty girl. They told her the facts.
“Your daughter will die if she does not give birth to her baby.” This is all my mum ever told me about what they said in that room.
Mum came back, with tears pouring down her face and told me “You have a choice, either we go home, and plan your funeral and Sebby’s funeral, or you are going to fight this, and we can plan Sebby’s funeral together. Which one would you like to do?” Ha! – As if I wanted to choose? In that moment I choose to fight. I don’t know where the strength came from, but I choose to fight to live. Though I was uncertain about the future and where it would lead me to. I choose to fight with all the strength I had in my body. Weak. Battered. Bruised. Resilient. Strength. Faith. I realized something in the stillness of that hospital room. I was not going to let the devil win. I was not going to let the devil win. If he won – then what was the point of Sebby’s life? – Even if his own mother had given up fighting the good fight. There is a purpose in all of this. Somehow, somewhere, someday I might understand. I might not understand. But I fought. I battled through the contractions through gritted teeth. Contractions made worse by the deep sorrow that enclosed around me. I listened to this one song ‘It is well with my soul’ over and over again. I didn’t know what I was letting myself into when I choose to live. When I choose to fight for life. I didn’t know what journey I would be going on. And I didn’t dare contemplate it. Because if I knew what lay ahead of me, I would have chosen an early death. I was ready to die. I was ready for the Good Lord to take me home. But he didn’t take me home. Somehow he kept my heart beating. Kept me going. Kept breathing life into my very being. Kept telling me to keep on going. To keep on going. And so I kept on going. Still only 1.5cm dilated after the nightmare began.
Sunday 28th September – still no baby. Contractions came and went, came and went. Sometimes they were intense. Sometimes they were bearable. The doctor from Friday night came and said ‘this baby will be out by the afternoon’. Except Sebby and God had other plans. Another long day of contractions, and being still, and praying, and wondering when it would happen. Fear slowly setting in. Blood poisoning already there. I had a welcome relief of visitors that afternoon. My sister came to see me. My stepdad came to see me. My sister came and said I thought you would be crying. ‘Why are you smiling?’ I guess it’s a fault that I have. Whenever I am in a stressful, or especially painful situation. I smile. I smile the pain away. We walked along the hospital grounds which seemed to help bring on the contractions, but still no baby would come. It was a quiet day. A day filled with sorrow. A day with no hope. Just this empty deep dark hollow silence that echoed in the room. Absent mindly stroking the bump. Being told off for doing it. My sister says ‘your bump looks funny, it has changed shape.’ The baby shifted. I was withdrawn and quiet. You could hear the cracks and brokenness in my voice. Difficult to contain the emotion within me. That was ready to explode. But somehow I did not allow myself to dwell on it. Not then, not there. Not till Sebby would come. I had a task at hand. And that task was to focus on giving birth to my son whether I liked it or not. Whether I wanted to or not… I had no choice. Or I would die to. Sunday came uneventful. No baby. The doctor came again in the late afternoon and said ‘100%, no 1000%, no 1,000,000% this baby will come out by the end of my shift tomorrow afternoon. He made sure to see me go through it to the very end. Still only 3cm dilated.
Monday 29th September – D-day. My brother texted my mom to see how we were all doing. My brother did not know of my predicament. He asked how my sister was doing, and everything else. Mum gave him a short curt response. The doctor came in, they whisked us off to the labour and delivery room. A whole process awaited us. Eventually the process began. Emptied my bowels. Had a shower. Broke my waters. Put an IV drip to speed up the contractions. Put an IV drip for the antibiotics. The onslaught of contractions shook my body like an earthquake. With each contraction pulling me in and out of reality. No real pain relief. No real sense of time. Exhaustion creeping in. If you walk the contractions will speed up. No I just want to die. Another women in labour. She walks from the labour room to the delivery room, and somehow the last bit of her bowel movement dropped out, (I am sure this is not something she wanted me to notice). The clock ticking. Contraction, breathe in breathe out Hannah. Breathe in breathe out Hannah. It is ok. You can do it. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale inhale. A few choice words came out of my mouth. Mum questioned my Christianity in that moment. I was like please don’t bring my faith into this right now. I am not in a place where I can be civil with anyone. Eventually I was 8cm dilated. We moved from the labour room to the delivery room. Yes they have two separate rooms for that! I moved not with grace. Waddled like a broken duck. My whole body shaking, from the enourmous energy that was going through my body. The pain wrapping itself all around me. The delivery room. A small narrow room. Sterile. White. Stirrups hanging from the ceiling where my legs would go. Standing. Teeth chattering. Water falling down. But from where? Sorry mum… I need to lay down. I need to lay down. I can feel him come. I can feel this forceful energy going through my birth canal. I climb onto the bed. The doctor telling me not to. I say yes. He’s ready. He’s coming. Whether you like it or not. I know so. It’s a natural process. You know when you got to push, you just gotta do it! A flurry of activity. Doctors and nurses standing all around in this one narrow room. Mom I whisper am I a monkey in the zoo? Why is everyone watching me birth? Have they never witnessed a woman let alone a forgein woman give birth to a stillborn baby? Mom please tell that ‘cow’ to go away (the woman who made my life very unpleasant in the hospital. Forgive me Lord for thinking of her as a ‘cow’ but those were my thoughts in that very moment). Mom please tell them to go away. Keep breathing through the contractions Hannah. Keep breathing. You can do it. His head is crowning. Oh my look at his head. Look at his hair. Then they tell my mom to look away. For some reason my mom does. She does not see Sebby. Just the back of him. Keep pushing Hannah, keep pushing. Tears pouring down my face. Tears pouring down my moms face. The nurse holds my hand. Shouts in my face with her stinky breath ‘I am proud of you’. Keep pushing. And then finally after a marathon of pushing and waiting, pushing and waiting he is born with a dignity, a silence that echoes the room. A silence, which will be forever etched onto my face. I drift in and out of consciousness. I want to see him. But I do not beg them to let me see him. For they warned me if I made drama about seeing him, that they would not help me. So I remained stiffly silent. He was gone. He was carried away in this metal round sterile bowl. They sewed me up. I laid on this hard table for more then two hours. Thirsty. Emotionally and physically drained. The energy left. The silent tears rolled. The doctor and midwife who helped me give birth to my son – they had tears in their eyes. They were deeply affected by it. 1.05pm he was born on 29th September 4 days after the process started. Four days after his death.
A few hours after the birth my stepdad came to visit. Clearly the pain etched on his face. The pain carved in the creases of my mother’s face. The sadness that echoed into the room. I couldn’t talk. I had to gulp the big lump of tears that were threathening to explode. I didn’t want to cry, not in front of everyone. For me grief is a very private thing. My parents spoke to the doctors. They said from the first investigation they could not see anything wrong with the baby. Nor with me. Maybe a few too many blood clots. But nothing to indicate what went wrong. Nothing to indicate the cause of death. He was a perfect baby from outward appearance. Then the doctors came to me, wanted me to fill in forms. The name of the baby. Sebastian-David. His birthdate. How can his birthdate and death date be on the 29th of September when he passed away on the 26th? His death day is before his birthday. How very strange. What a difficult concept to put your mind around.
It wasn’t a slow descent to the pit. It was probably the fastest descent to the pit I have ever experienced in my entire life. Like a plane crashing. One moment I was full of anticipation, the next moment a bombshell was dropped and it was the end. Shattered into a millions pieces. My body slumped forward. How do you move past that place of deep human torment? I didn’t know how to move forward, nor did I know how to keep going. The days in the hospital had a time of their own. Time moved slowly. Ticking quietly. Contractions came and went. Came and went. My experience in the hospital made more difficult with the language barrier. With the doctors viewing me as the crazy one. A blessing really for the hospital, that only FOUR still births occur a year. Therefore they are not equipped to deal with this catastrophic human tragedy where birth meets death and death takes over. Tormenting the parent that was full of hope and dreams for a future with her child. Would I say my hospital experience was good? No, i think the hospital experience made it worse. The lack of sympathy. The lack of empathy. The lack of everything. No support whatsoever. Just you have to push this baby out.
[….. more ….. but not released …… ]
This is what is etched on my memory forever. This was my walk through the shadow of the valley of death. God’s rod and staff were my comforters.