Here is Hope’s story. It may be hard to read. I know it was hard to write. Some days I got through a paragraph, some days a sentence, and some days I couldn’t write at all. But I finally finished it.
June 28, 2010 was one of the happiest days of my life. That day my life was changed forever as I sat on the bathroom floor with Stephen, hands shaking, as I held on to the pregnancy test and watched as a faint pink line slowly appeared. My heart was immediately overwhelmed with love for this tiny little life that I was carrying in me, my precious son or daughter. Our thoughts soon turned to making preparations for our little one’s arrival. The next few weeks were busy with telling our friends and family the good new, choosing a midwife, scheduling appointments, looking for tiny little clothes at yard sales… We dreamed about what the baby would be like, we imagined Miles growing up with his new brother or sister, we thought about all of the milestones we would witness as we watched our child grow up. Sometimes I would sit on the couch while Miles was napping and the house was quiet and talk or sing to the baby. I could sense the life inside me, and although I had never seen her face, my heart was bursting with love for my baby. The whole first trimester passed uneventfully. I felt great, and my midwife even told me I was the only patient she had ever had whose prenatal lab results had come back perfect in every single area that was tested. I breathed a sigh of relief as weeks 13 and 14 passed, knowing that the first trimester is the most likely time for a miscarriage. I had made it.
Then last Friday morning, my world came shattering down. I woke at 2 in the morning to use the restroom, and my biggest fear was right before my eyes: blood. It wasn’t much, but I panicked. I had never had any bleeding during pregnancy, not this one or the last, and my mind immediately raced to the worst possible scenario. That was the beginning of the most difficult week of my life. My emotions were a roller coaster. One minute would feel hopeful. After all, a lot of women experience bleeding during pregnancy, right? The next minute I would feel completely consumed with fear for my precious little baby. Then the cramps started. On Monday, Stephen took me to my exam with the midwife and we held our breath as she slid the doppler across my stomach listening for the swoosh-swoosh of the baby’s heartbeat. A minute passed. Then two, then three. Then what seemed like hours more. Still there was nothing. My heart broke into a million pieces. We held each other there in the exam room. Even Miles, who has been going through a very non-cuddly phase lately climbed onto my lap, wrapped his little arms around my neck, and sat quietly in my arms while I cried. The midwife tried to encourage us saying that sometimes, for whatever reason, a heartbeat can’t be heard with the doppler, but can be found with an ultrasound. She called to schedule an ultrasound, but it was already late in the day, and they said that the earliest available appointment would be Thursday. In order to try to ease our minds during the wait, she said we could come back and try to listen again with the doppler if we wanted to. I couldn’t even think about sleeping when we got home, so I stayed up and put the finishing touches on a little sweater I had been knitting for the baby. I poured my heart and soul into each stitch, into each tiny button as I sewed them on, praying that maybe, if I could finish it, it would somehow bring us a miracle. I have never prayed as fervently as I did that night, and somewhere in the midst of my prayers, her name, Hope, came to me.
Wednesday morning, I woke up hopeful. I had felt a few very mild cramps off and on since Monday, but by Wednesday, they were gone completely. The bleeding almost completely stopped as well. We went in for another listen, and almost immediately as the midwife touched the doppler to my stomach, we heart the heartbeat. The most beautiful sound I have ever heard. Stephen and I were overcome with joy and relief that the baby we had thought we lost was still alive. We had a second chance. I told Stephen that I wanted to name her Hope, and he teared up as he told me that he too had come up with the very same name. We had never even thought of the name before, but we both sensed that the baby was a girl, and Hope seemed so perfect. That evening I started feeling ever-so slight cramps again, but I figured (hoped) it was just because it had been such a long day- that seemed to be the pattern so far. I fell asleep peacefully for the first time in several days dreaming of my baby girl.
Thursday morning all my hope was shattered. I woke up at 4:30 with a dull lower back ache, and sharp cramps that were now coming in waves. The bleeding had picked up, too, and was now a terrifying bright red. I knew from my previous pregnancy that the pain I was feeling was early labor, and my heart was gripped with fear for my little one. We rushed to the emergency room. I was in a daze as they checked my blood pressure, drew blood… They listened again for Hope’s heartbeat, and it was still there, as strong as ever. I clung to the hope that somehow the contractions would stop, that somehow she would be alright. They gave me medicine for the pain, and to hopefully relax my muscles and slow or stop the contractions, but they said that before 20 weeks or so, there is really very little they can do. I begged them to give me anything they could to stop the contractions, but looking back, I can see that they probably already knew what was happening. They took me in for an ultrasound and I laid motionless, terrified while the nurse worked. She had the screen turned away, and I studied her face as she studied the screen. I couldn’t tell what she was seeing, but her expression told me it wasn’t good. She didn’t say anything. They took me back to the room where Stephen was waiting and the doctor came in to tell us that the news wasn’t good. Hope’s was not developing like she should, and the ultrasound showed that her heart, while still beating, had begun to slow from the stress of the contractions. There was nothing more that could be done but to wait. About an hour passed. The most excruciating hour of my life. When Miles was born, I had the anticipation of his life to help me through the contractions. Now, I was heartbroken all over with each one that passed. I knew that each one was slowing my baby’s heart even more. I wonder when the beating finally stopped, but I will never know for sure. I talked to her that whole hour, just in case she was still alive and could somehow hear me. I desperately needed her to know how much I loved her. At 8:48 am on September 16, 2010 Hope was born. A beautiful, terrible moment.
We got to hold her for a few minutes. They brought her in, wrapped in the tiniest blanket. She was so small and fragile, it broke my heart. But she was perfect. What amazing detail; tiny eyes, still closed, a nose and mouth and ears… the tiniest little fingers and toes- all there. Long, thin arms and legs folded up so that she fit just perfectly in the palm of a hand. We could see each rib beneath her delicate skin. A tiny life, so full of potential, taken too soon.
Oh, my daughter, my precious daughter. I miss you so much. I feel empty inside- literally and figuratively. I should be feeling you kick even more now, but there is nothing. My belly should be growing as you grow, and early next March, when the daffodils are beginning to bloom, I should be holding you in my arms. Your Daddy and I will always dream of what could have been, what should have been. We will always remember the joy you brought us in the too-short time you were with us. Good bye, my angel. I love you so, so much.