Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Story of Olivia, part 1: Life

Writing is so therapeutic for me.  My sister-in-law, Carol, gave me a journal within a day or two of losing Olivia and it was (and continues to be) a way to remember, grieve, and heal outside my own head and heart.  So here I am with a story to share about a little girl whose life has forever changed mine.

Shock and surprise cannot begin to describe how I felt when the "positive" showed up on that little white stick in February.  Tucker was 13 months old and we had gotten rid of all our baby gear and clothes.  Most of all, we had kinda completely resolved to be done with the pregnancy/newborn phase of life and assured ourselves, if EVER again, Tucker would be in elementary school before we'd consider another baby.  I'm thankful our plans didn't pan out.

As I approached the 2nd trimester, I was put on strict bed rest after bleeding and cramping.  Much to our relief, the baby was healthy but there was a tear on the placenta that threatened the pregnancy.  Oh, how I fought through the fear and uncertainty.  When we came out on the other side, I had the fiercest love for and attachment to this sweet baby.  The tear healed and the pregnancy moved forward.  A double stroller took up too much room in our garage, and pretty soon, we were buying pinks and bows and looking forward to another little girl.

Part of my intense connection to Olivia came from a deep sense that she would not be born a healthy baby girl.  Whatever you call it: I had a gut-feeling, sense of God, discernment and inner voice that knew she wouldn't live. So I fought against those things with every ounce of mama-heart, rockin' inclination towards her with every breath and beat of my heart.  

Five months into the pregnancy, I noticed that I hadn't felt her lively kicks and movements.  She was little enough that I wasn't too concerned until a solid day of her inactivity put me on high alert.  I was sitting at a Chick-Fil-A on Tuesday evening with my kids and then it happened.  This exhale of life.  My stomach dropped and my heart stopped and I knew that she had died at that exact moment.  It was the strangest and worst feeling, like my body knew what my consciousness didn't.  

We couldn't find a heartbeat through the doppler and a sonogram confirmed she was no longer alive.  What a horrible moment, to lay there with your husband holding your hand and see this lifeless image of what had been a moving baby girl just weeks before.  The shock was overwhelming and bizarre and unnatural.  The experience is awful for any mother but I had only ever known home births, which ended in squishy newborn goodness.  We tried to wrap our minds around birthing a stillborn baby and doing it in the hospital.  Because the hospital doesn't induce on weekends, we had to decide if we wanted to come in the next day, Friday, which felt rushed, or wait until Monday, which seemed just too far away.

I remember just sitting on my couch that afternoon in shock.  I wasn't deeply emotional but I did feel a creeping of sadness.  I was irritatingly logical - thinking about returning the new stroller and car seat and wondering what I needed to do about her baby clothes.  I was disappointed that we wouldn't have an additional deduction on our 2012 taxes.  Again, annoying and practical.  But when you lose a baby after 20 weeks, arrangements have to be made.  Cremation or burial.  Would I have an epidural and pain medication?  What caused her death and would the delivery answer that question?  For whatever reason, the logical thinking helped us (me!) make some good decisions, not emotional ones.

Worst of all, she didn't have a name.  Believe me, the list was long and creative and unique.  "Olivia" was on there but we dismissed it quickly weeks before.  "Jane" had been my grandmother's middle name and we'd considered it before but it didn't feel right.  It's weird how we name our babies, imagining them at different stages of life with THE NAME.  Getting called at school.  Applying for jobs.  Running around a playground.  We pick names because we imagine life.  But late that night, I knew her name was Olivia Jane.  It would not have been her name if we had gone full-term so God had a hand in the timing.  Such a mystery to me!

I will continue this story another day, maybe even tomorrow, but my emotions are raw and tired.  There is so much goodness in this story, so much glory and light.  I promise: the best is yet to come.

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