Happy birthday baby girl!! More coming soon
Here is your formal warning: You will cry reading this. Actually, you will likely sob. So many of you remember 4 years ago when I posted on my Loft(3) blog about Heaven in This Room. That was my account of the beauty that took place that day and now finally Luci was able to tell her version of the birth of her girls. Sunday we will celebrate their 4th bday!! So proud of her for doing this and I just know her kids will truly appreciate reading this in years to come. You are so amazing Lucia! And you know, I went back and read my post too. I found it ironic how I remarked on how blessed my folks were for having 3 healthy girls. Siigh. Little extra punch to my gut when I read that. Love you so much, friend. Love, Melanie.
Mel has asked me for the past couple years to write down Hope and Grace’s birth story. Every time I think about writing it, I talk myself out of it. One part because I don’t want to sob uncontrollably and one part, “It’s a c-section, what is there to know”? I see all these beautiful birth stories of pushing, breathing and shoving and with a cesarean you don’t really get any of all that goodness. But the main reason is because I don’t want to have a knot in my throat for three hours while writing this.
But this year, in just a few days, we will be celebrating 4 years since Hope and Grace’s birth and I feel a true sense of guilt that I haven’t written the events of their birth down. Even though it was a cesarean, the moments leading up to seeing their faces were the culmination of everything we were begging God for – holding them.
Most couples expecting their first child make a birth plan. They decide who will be in the delivery room, make guesses on the weight and height of the baby, and imagine their first moments holding their child and how happily perfect everything will be that day.
For us, we didn’t have that for our first pregnancy. We waited. We had to just wait, not knowing. Every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day we waited, praying that our daughters would make it to live one more minute in utero so that we would have a chance to hold their precious lives in our hands.
At just 12 weeks pregnant, Chris and I knew our daughters were conjoined at the heart with a 99% chance of not making it past 20 weeks of the pregnancy and even less of chance of being born alive. Though we were jolted into complete shock and concern, it was not a question that for the rest of our pregnancy we would love these two girls unconditionally. We spent the next weeks and months completely taken by these two little babies living and swimming inside of me. I mean, they waved to us in the ultrasounds!!!!!! From day 1 we surrendered to them. We were putty their hands and we were putty in God’s hands. We begged every day for a miracle that our daughters would live for the rest of our lives; and we really begged that we could just get to hold them and pour out all our love that had been building up for months.
It was decided after months of meeting with children’s hospital, a million doctors and months of “prognosing” that the girls loved their momma’s womb and living outside of it would be impossible. A small moment of consideration was made to separate them, but after more testing it was determined fatal for both if they were to be separated. God made them together and wanted them together.
The morning of June 23rd, 2009 I was 31 weeks LA-ARGE with the girls. We were a week from our scheduled c-section as I was becoming unhealthily huge with signs of preeclampsia and other medical complications and the girls were at a stage the doctors felt necessary for both me and them to deliver. I was in so much pain this day, more than the usual back pain, nausea and exhaustion. But this morning I felt just overwhelmingly terrible.
With the scheduled c-section a week away our morning started off with a tour of the hospital to get familiar with the events that would take place. We would check in a triage, roll back to operating room and from there it would be by the Grace of God we would meet our girls.
At this point after our meeting I was being rolled in a wheel chair to my next appointment, a routine check up on the girls’ heart beat. Twice a week we would come in to check their heart rate and check my contractions. This particular day, again, I was on edge. We waited 20 minutes for someone to return from lunch to check me in for my appointment and for every minute I was waiting I thought I was going to kill someone. I think I had smoke coming out of my nose. ;) I felt so much discomfort that even Chris will tell you, that for someone who has patience of a saint, I could have ripped someone a new one!
Finally, we were rolled back to the monitoring room. I was feeling contractions pretty regularly and noticing them on the tracking monitor. Our nurse also noticed regular contractions. With every contraction she also noticed the girls’ heartbeat drop. Immediately, I went from uncomfortable to scared. Pain? What pain? What’s happening with my girls!?
In a matter of five minutes we were being rolled back to triage. I think I was in complete denial of what was happening. I figured I would be just checked in and monitored more closely. Not really grasping that today, right now, was it. They are coming. Chris grabbed the cell and called our parents. I am pretty sure that before he hung up the phone with my mom, she was walking in the door of my hospital room. The chain of phone calls started from there. (Wow. Hard to think about what all my family was thinking when they got this call. I am sure it is very difficult to feel so helpless for someone you love. Gah!)
Shortly, we were joined by our parents waiting to hear from my doctor. Doctor Voss (who is phenomenal, by the way) came in and explained more fully the situation. We had two options. Delay the girls’ by slowing down the contractions. With this option their heart rate was still dropping and they may not make it a week for the scheduled cesarean. Or, we could have them delivered that afternoon. With this option, we could possibly have a chance of seeing them alive. It was no question that if we were going to get the chance to hold them alive it would be the latter.
It was a few hours that we were waiting to go back to delivery But it really only felt like a few minutes. I remember shaking a lot and uncontrollably. It seemed very cold in my room and I remember blaming the shakes on the chilliness but in reality I think I was shaking more because I was so nervous and scared. I remember feeling worried about Chris and about our little family. The fear of the unknown was terrible. Questions of were they going to live? Will there be massive complications? Will I hold them? All of these were consuming me and feeding into my worries. I was concerned about my family and his family. Almost each one of our family members arrived before the delivery and wished us well. Our doctor, Dr. Coppage, who seriously, loved us through this whole pregnancy!!! She went every extra mile to ensure she would do what it took for us to see our girls. She was not scheduled for deliveries that night but made a special trip to be with us in the delivery room! THAT IS LOVE! That is Dr. Coppage! I remember Melanie coming in with her backpack of cameras and how just on my wedding day, I felt calmer she was there and felt, “Ok. This is it”.
I don’t remember any pain from this point forward. I don’t remember the epidural. I don’t remember being rolled back to the operating room. It was a blur. But I remember total peace. My shaking subsided as the blue sheet went up, the doctor’s were having conversations and Chris sat beside me holding my hand. Before they started operating, they asked, “Luci, are you ready?” I said, “yes” and then quickly added, “can you please make sure I am numb? I think I have a really high tolerance for everything?” Dr. Voss quickly said, “Can you feel that?” To which I said, “feel what? No.” Then in a little laugh said, “good. I already started!”
So the relief of not feeling the surgery was lifted. Now it was time to wait to see them. I squeezed my rosary very hard, repeating my “Hail Mary’s”. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Chris. His eyes were intently watching everything the doctor’s were doing and at the same time reassuring me with simple glances that all was ok.
The moment the girls’ were born… Because the girls’ were conjoined, they were pulled out together. Their arms were locked around each other and their faces united in a kiss. I could barely get a glimpse of them before they sent them over to the warming table to be checked. I told Chris, “go, be with them”. Though a few feet away it felt like football fields where they were standing. There wasn’t a lot of rush around them, everyone knowing their circumstances. It was quiet and peaceful, not a mad rush of doctors – for this I am grateful.
It was planned from the moment they were born we would have them baptized. In catholic tradition, in case of emergency without a priest, anyone can baptize a baby. Therefore, it was Chris’ immense task to bless both children and baptize them. As he was blessing the girls on their foreheads, it just so happened I could see Grace’s face. She opened her grey eyes wide enough for me to stare at her with immense love and her at me. I could feel my heart wanting to explode.
This was the only sign of life I got to see in my baby girls.
After Chris baptized them, they were breathing very heavily.
They wrapped them up and gave them to Chris. There, he rolled over to me and couldn’t stop staring at them. He held them low enough for me to kiss each one of their little heads. I struggled to see their faces because I was lying down. We sat there teary and quiet. It felt like only seconds of Chris holding them before I saw Chris bow his head down and close his eyes. I knew it was complete. Their life here was complete.
I never held Hope and Grace alive. I kissed them, but never held them – Chris did. I find it nothing less than miraculous that for months I got to feel them wriggle around and kick and Chris waited patiently, ever so patiently to hold them. God being a loving Father and knowing how important it was for Chris to hold His baby girls alive, got to hold them for every breath, even their last. (insert uncontrollable weeping)
Though holding them for every breath was a gift, for years it has also been painful for Chris to remember their last breaths – I am sure you can imagine why. My man, is so awesome to take this burden away from me. I don’t think I would have been strong enough to handle that. Thank you, hubby for carrying this for us.
But those moments were still filled with so much joy. It remained very present even after they passed. I can’t explain why we could still smile and why we were ok, but we were. It wasn’t about us. It was about them. It was about holding and kissing the beautiful babies’ faces that we had waited so long to see.
We were rolled back to our room and I think at this point we asked Melanie to come back. To this day, I can barely remember her there taking pictures. I can only remember Chris cleaning the girls, bathing every nook so they were ready to meet our family. I remember how soft they felt, how good they smelled snuggled up to me and how beautiful they looked, still wrapped in a hug with each other.
Doctor Coppage soon joined us to ensure how beautiful she thought they were too. She unwrapped their blanket and showed us how beautiful their bodies were and what miracle happened that day. We thanked her relentlessly for helping us get to this point and resumed our loving on our girls.
One by one our family gathered in our room. Everyone, even my sister who flew all the way in from Charlotte and my sister who is the convent came in to see them. I felt like the proudest parent in the entire world that Hope and Grace were mine. I hugged and kissed each one of my family members and proudly held my daughters on my chest for 24 hours.
No words can describe the immense weight that they left there, imprinted on my heart and on my soul. Today, I can still close my eyes and feel their weight on my chest. I love that feeling. Chris and I very much long wait for the day when we can scoop them up in our arms again! However, until that day comes, we have two more little munchkins who arrived in 2010 and 2012 who require constant hugs and kisses, which we are happy to give!!! And I can only assume that the little Klare coming at the end of 2013 will be long awaiting some snuggles too!
We are blessed. It doesn’t mean we don’t hurt everyday without them. That pain is just a reminder of how deep our love goes for our children and how blessed we are.
PS… Mel was not supposed to be at the birth for Hope and Grace. She had a family vacation scheduled before we scheduled our c-section. Not coincidence AT ALL that I went into labor early and she could be their to capture what we call “heaven” in our room that day. She is my best friend and for every birth since then, I feel complete and “ready” to have my baby when I see her face.
In case you missed her subtle announcement above…YAY! SO EXCITED.