Finding Nora's Light: Denying the Reality

(Go back to read the first blog in the series Finding Nora’s Light)

That Sunday, July 23rd… we found out Nora would never join our family on Earth. Never take a breath of air. Never get to live outside of my body. Never get to do a lot of things.  We were crushed.  But even after knowing the reality, I felt like denying it.  The rest of that day was so surreal and started this blur that we were in for a few days. Having to make phone calls to let our parents know the news and talking with the doctors about our options evoked crazy tears.  We had a few people show up to pray with and comfort us, including a new friend I admire and had only been with in person one other time, and one of my best friends showed up with snacks & extra vending money (awesome, right?!).

Now it was time for the hard stuff.  They could see from the ultrasound that Nora had turned 180 degrees, so now her head was on the opposite side of my heart-shaped uterus from where it had been the whole time (so, that was the big bulge on the left side I felt/saw that weekend), but since she wasn’t head down… inducing labor would be iffy.  I made it clear to them that I would like to exhaust all efforts to encourage vaginal delivery before opting for a c-section (I have delivered 3 babies vaginally without medication, that’s what I knew, and I was frankly terrified of surgery to deliver Nora).  The first step was to insert a Foley Bulb (basically, two balloons full of water) into my cervix that night to see if labor could be stimulated.

They checked me the next morning, and I had only dilated 1 cm, so they didn’t want to start pitocin to further encourage labor unless she was head down (her body was transverse, laying like in a hammock).  The doc agreed to trying to turn her head down with an external version, so he administered an epidural (which wasn’t pleasant, but not as bad as I expected).  He tried for 30 MINUTES to physically turn her by raking his hands in a downward curving motion while pressing hard to try to turn her, but with very little fluid present, it wasn’t successful.  By the look on my husband’s face, the shaking of my doctor’s arms, and the pressure I could still feel… I was thankful for the strong medicine of the epidural for doing it’s job.

Our only other real option now was surgery.  They did say I could leave the hospital and wait to see if my body would eventually start labor on it’s own over a few weeks, but I couldn’t fathom being strong enough to do that.  So, a cesarean section was scheduled to start before 11 am, meaning I would not only have to endure & recover from major surgery, but also have a physical scar on my body for the rest of my life with no living baby as a result from it.  I was devastated and still couldn’t believe this was all happening.  The epidural caused me to get sick several times, and I barely remember being wheeled into the OR on the gurney. I got the epidural boost as the doctors prepped, and David sat by my head holding my hand.  I remember seeing his eyes POUR tears over his face mask… he told me later he may have seen too much, but he wanted to see her as she came out.  I heard them counting the medical instruments numerous times, and then David said “the good news is that none of the tools got sewn up inside of you” (which made me giggle & flashback to the night we first got together… which is a whole different post).  He always has a way, even in our most sad or stressed out or trying times, to make me smile, and I love him so much for that!

In recovery, the nurse was so surprised by how quickly I could move my legs again, and even though I felt pretty loopy, I was coherent.  My blood pressure had been on the low side most of the day, so I had to lay flat for a while.  Then came time to see our angel baby.  They wheeled in her bassinet with her wrapped in a pink blanket wearing a tied on shirt and white cap with a pink bow on it.  They let me raise up to hold her.  They said the cord had not been wrapped around her neck or knotted or kinked.  It seemed so foreign to me to be holding my baby while was no longer alive, but she was PERFECT.  Her feet looked so long, and she had dark hair like I did when I was born. I couldn’t stop stroking her soft little face.  David held her next, and that was the most beautiful and heartbreaking image for me to have forever.

Nora Anne Sanford – July 24, 2017 – 11:14 am – 3 lbs 5 oz – 17 inches

See her weight?  Plus, her being around the same gestational age as the twins, meant she MAY have survived if she would’ve been born a few days ago.  It wasn’t a complication with the cord!  Where did all her fluid go since I hadn’t been leaking any?!  WHY didn’t I realize sooner that she was gone?!  They could tell on the u/s from her head (separation between her brain & skull) that she had been gone about a day.  A whole DAY?!  What happened, or better yet, WHY did this happen?!  There were no clear answers, so they were sending a piece of her placenta and muscle tissue off for investigation and chromosome testing.  Fighting off the onset of guilt was so hard, and I realize the irony of my recent blog post & Facebook Live about The Truth About Mom Guilt.  I felt responsible in some way for crushing what could have been.  I could feel my denial start shifting to anger, but I was trying to focus on getting from one moment to the next… and doing the best I could to progress & heal as quickly as possible after this surgery.

I was on some heavy meds (some sort of morphine, I believe), so I was kind of in & out mentally the rest of the day in the postpartum room.  We started receiving flowers, had a few visitors, food brought in, and a lot of sympathy & support from the hospital staff.  The doctors and nurses at Dekalb Regional Medical Center were really great to us.  I remember feeling really hungry, but stuck on a liquid diet until further notice… so the Chick-fil-a that was brought in would have to wait.  Only family and a few close friends knew what had happened at this point, and we didn’t want to post it publicly until we were able to tell our daughter in person at home.  So, we were now pondering how we would tell her and anticipating her reaction.

The following morning (Tuesday), I was able to stand up, walk some, and go to the bathroom on my own.  I was cleared for solid food by lunch and hoped all day they would let us go home that night… and they did! I was ready to get away from the postpartum room with reminders about “your infant” and pictures of children on the wall.  Thankfully there was only one other patient on our floor, but I never heard her newborn cry before we left.  It was after 6pm when we were discharged with instructions & prescriptions. We had about a 30-minute ride home to prep for seeing and telling the kids.  At this point, Marlee still had no idea, and we really, really didn’t want to have this hard conversation… but we had no choice.

Jessica Sanford