Sunday, March 20, 2011

Remembering Olivia

A year ago today, I was waking up and trying to decipher if it was all just a bad dream.  Then I put my hand on my belly and realized that it was not.

After 36 hours in the hospital on the mild induction meds, the doctors finally decided to give me oxy, a much more powerful drug.  They also gave me an IV painkiller pump, so I could self-administer drugs when I needed them, with a limit of once every two minutes.  The contractions came fast and hard and, at first, the drugs worked.  After a few hours, I was in agony and they weren't doing anything.  I was insistent that I didn't want an epidural, particularly after the doctor explained all the risks.  After 6 hours, I could barely focus I was in so much pain.  The doctor said that they were ready to break my water but wouldn't do anything until they got my pain under control.  So I relented and went with the epidural.  I was surprised at how little it hurt.  The most uncomfortable part was being hunched over the side of the bed with my face pressed against the nurse's chest (which made it hard to breathe) during contractions (which made it almost impossible to stay still).  I felt a small poke from the anaesthesia and then it was in.  Within minutes, I was numb from the waist down and feeling good.

I remember lying in bed, enjoying the sudden calm, and all of a sudden I felt a sensation like a water balloon breaking between my legs.  It guessed water breaking.  And it was just like the movies, a huge gush across the bed.  I said out loud "I think my water just broke" and no one took me seriously at first, until I said "my feet are wet" and the nurse lifted the blanket and discovered I was telling the truth.

They got me cleaned up and ready for pushing.  I will never forget that moment.

The room was in almost darkness, and I don't know if it was because of the time (just after 6am) or the situation, and they thought it would be easier if the mood was quiet and calm.  The doctor told me to start pushing, and after less than 10 minutes she told me to stop.  I could feel her guiding Olivia out of my pelvis, and despite the epidural, I could still feel the pressure of her shoulders.  And then there was silence.

The doctors warned us that there were two possible scenarios: Olivia could be born alive and live for a very short time, or she could be stillborn.  Deep down I was hoping she would be born alive so I'd have a chance to hear her and interact with her, even if it was for a short time.  Perhaps god thought it would be easier on us if she were born still and peacefully.

We asked the doctor to clean her up before we saw her, because they also warned us that her head and face would have severe deformities and it could be very disturbing.  They brought her over wrapped in a blanked with a tiny pink hat (which looked massive) over her tiny head and face.  I could see the severe cleft peeking out the bottom and couldn't bring myself to look at hear head.  Instead I focused on her little body, her perfect hands and feet.  I held her for quite some time, it was all very surreal.  The doctors expressed their condolences and left us alone for a bit.  Hubby didn't hold her, I think it was all too much for him.  I don't blame him, I felt like I was in the middle of a dream the entire time.

The nurses returned and I passed her back, so they could place her in the nearby examining area for a closer look.  All I remember is falling asleep, because we'd been up for most of the night.  A few hours later, the geneticist and his team knocked on the door and wanted to know if they could see Olivia.  They had been following our case and were very interested to see her.  They were very kind and respectful, and didn't stick around for too long.  They gave us their cards and asked that we book a follow-up appointment with them in a few months, once the genetic testing was done, to better understand what had happened.

The final visitor was the hospital spiritual consultant.  We had asked that there be a blessing ceremony after her birth.  While we sat on the bed, she collected Olivia's body from the bassinet.  When she placed her in my arms, I realized her hat had come off and for the first time I saw her face and head.  It was so hard to see something so horrible.  She looked like something out of a sci fi movie.  She noticed my reaction and immediately helped me to get the hat back on.  After a few prayers, and a short candle lighting ceremony, she left us with some literature and left us.

Once the nurses were confident I was recovering properly, they transferred us to a recovery room to rest and clean up.  We were only there for about two hours, which gave me a chance to sleep some more, clean up and get dressed.  At that point all I wanted to do was get out of there and go home.  By that point we'd been at the hospital for over 48 hours, and it was feeling more and more like a prison every moment.

Finally we were released.  I remember walking down the street to our car, and thinking how unfair it was that, after everything we'd been through, we were leaving the hospital empty handed. I made it to the car before I broke down, all the emotions that had been bottled up for the past two days came rushing out at once.  I never knew heartache could hurt so bad.

I eventually fell asleep for the rest of the hour-long drive home, and once we made it home, I immediately went to bed and slept for about six hours.  When I woke up, we looked through the pretty white fabric pouch they gave us when we left, which contained a certificate of her birth, her hand a foot prints, and several pictures of Olivia on the blanked I bought her in Chicago.  It was a very emotional moment, but I also remember feeling a sense of peace looking at her pictures, and knowing that she was in a better place.

The days ahead were a complete emotional roller coaster, filled with tears, frustration, anger and moments of calm.  Thanks to our family and friends, we had an amazing support network of people who were ready to help us at a moment's notice.  And without them, and without my amazing husband, I wouldn't have survived this real-life nightmare.

And now it's a year later, and the whole thing feels so surreal.  I'm a week away from delivering a healthy baby, but I haven't forgotten Olivia for one moment.  We didn't do anything special to mark the day yesterday, but she was in my thoughts and heart all day long.  It didn't feel right to only remember her yesterday, when she's become a big part of my soul each and every day.

With that, I dedicate this song:

Olivia Morgan
Born still on March 19, 2010
30 cm long, 1 pound 6oz

Rest in peace little angel


  1. That walk empty handed to the car is so horrible. Thank you for sharing Olivia with us and that is a very fitting song.

  2. What a journey. Thank you for sharing it with us. The hospital seemed so supportive and kind. I'm so glad for you that you had that.

    That walk to the car is horrible and is a moment none of us will forget.

  3. Thank you for sharing Olivia's story, you had me in tears. It is just like you said, a real life nightmare. I found myself waking up for weeks after Harper passed and putting my hand on my belly to see if it had all been a bad dream, it is so heartbreaking.

    I wish you peace and comfort in the coming week as you prepare for baby's arrival.

    I love this song, it is perfect...

  4. thank you for sharing your story. I lost my Francis to ABS in Feb. of this year. He was 38 weeks and 8 lbs. 15 oz. It got his cord and amazingly ( and frustratingly) nothing else.
    It is encouraging to me to see you have had another healthy normal child. I wish you much luck with your new little one.