Maggie's Birth, Part One

One month.

One month ago today.

“I’m sorry, guys. She’s gone.”

The doctor’s words lingered in the air. I stared at the screen on the wall, not wanting those words to be true. As soon as the ultrasound appeared, I knew. The image was awkwardly still, no fluttering heart announcing to me that I had another week with her. I already knew she was gone. But the doctor’s words made it real, and I did not want it to be real.

I froze, trying to hold myself together, afraid my grief would swallow me whole if I moved.

I had told the girls we would get a picture of the baby when we went to the doctor that morning. I had forgotten at the last appointment, and I was trying with all my might to remember this time. I attempted to muster the words, and tears involuntarily poured from my eyes; my face contorted the menacing way that loss requires. “Can you print some pictures? For our girls.”

The ultrasound technician and doctor were almost unnaturally kind. Unnaturally feels like a strange word, but it’s how I still picture them - deep in my grief, and in a grief of their own, not wanting any of this to be true either.

Tissues. Ultrasound pictures. Sobs. I was in a state of disbelief, but at the same time, out of me poured tears that had welled up knowing this day was coming.

The ultrasound technician politely left us alone so we could discuss what was next with the doctor.

I want to deliver her vaginally. I want to birth her and mother her and cry over her and have more time with her.

The time I have left with her body is shortening with each passing second, and I want to be her mother, with both of us here, on this earth, longer. I want my body to bring my baby into the world, whether her heart is beating or not.

I think grief is so closely related to desperation. I feel desperate to have more time with her, desperate to hold her, desperate to make the most of what is about to happen. My body will only be intertwined with hers for a little longer, and the word that always comes to mind is desperate.

I simultaneously feel the peace of God and the immense sadness of losing my baby.

Mercifully, time continues to pass. I’ve often wanted time to slow, to freeze in a blissful moment. But now I’m thankful that time continues and moves me along.

We schedule an induction for that afternoon, allowing us time to pack a hospital bag, make childcare arrangements, tell friends and family. We stop on the way home to get a robe for me and a blanket to swaddle Maggie. I want to tell the cashier that my baby has died, but I hold it in. We get a sausage pizza, pregnancy cravings cruelly making it impossible to pretend this isn’t happening. A friend meets us at our house, helps me pack, brings me Maggie’s dress. I burst into tears when I see how tiny it is. It’s gorgeous, and far too small for the healthy, full-term baby I wanted.

I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced the goodness of God this way before. How life can be so heartbreaking and gut-wrenching - and somehow still overflowing with God’s goodness - is beyond me.

And here I am, one month later. Tomorrow marks one month since she was born. A friend told me tonight that the monthly anniversaries will get easier, and I believe her. And I’m happy that she says “anniversaries.” Plural. There’s a quiet, unspoken reassurance in her words: Maggie is not forgotten, and she will not be forgotten.

Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. Psalm 139:7-8

 

Happy birthday, Maggie Lou!

Maggie Louise Sedgwick was born June 27 at 7:18 in the morning, weighing 3.3 ounces and measuring 7 inches long.

Oh my precious girl. My precious, precious girl. My heart aches with pain I’ve never known to hold you again. You are the most perfect, most precious gift. I love you, sweet Maggie. I love you, and I love you, and I love you.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15

 

Questions, Part Two

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I’ve found that as I’ve written, the experiences, heartache, and feelings that I’ve been able to put into words here are sort of crossed off of my mental to-do list. So, in a feeble attempt to get this grieving brain to rest a little, here are a few more questions and answers.

Do we have a name?

We do, and we are in love with our sweet girl and her precious name. Maggie Louise Sedgwick. The girls had a hand in helping us choose - it’s a beautiful, heartbreaking story I’m still working through to post.

What do we need?

We are so fortunate to have a great support group both locally and beyond. I’m very behind on returning messages and writing thank you notes. We sincerely appreciate your prayers. At this point, that’s all we need.

I sure wouldn’t mind if you wanted to do something kind for someone else in Maggie’s honor. Through all this grief, we are very much reminded how much an extra smile, message, hug or act of service can brighten a dreary day.

Do we pray for a miracle?

Absolutely. We wholeheartedly believe that our Heavenly Father is beyond capable of healing our sweet girl, of making her body whole again, of wiping away our tears and doing what science says isn’t possible. Until her final breath or final heartbeat, we won’t stop praying for those miracles. Our God is certainly big enough and capable enough; we have seen His hand in our lives countless times before, and we trust Him.

I also think that God has been merciful and gracious to us through some of the news we’ve received; we’ve been given clear answers from our doctors and haven’t been left waiting and wondering in several respects. Our sweet baby’s earthly prognosis is clear, and in a strange way, I am very thankful for that clarity.

We also believe that in so many ways, God is already working miracles in this situation. Little miracles, like an unexpectedly short wait time for an appointment, my parents being in town shortly after we got the news, a friend that can help me process medical reports, and so many other things. We feel the prayers of our friends and family, and we experience tangible examples of their love for us each day.

This doesn’t mean we don’t hurt and have doubts and feel desperate and angry. But we pray that God will continue to hold us close in our grief. God has a plan for us and for our family, and if I had it to choose, I would not haven chosen this plan. I would have taken another path with a healthy baby and none of this grief. But I trust that someday, somehow, He will work all things together for our good and His glory, and someday, we will spend eternity with our sweet Maggie girl.

What’s next?

We have our next appointment tomorrow, and we’ll check on both Maggie and me. I’m praying for a strong, steady heartbeat and no signs of distress for either of us. I still check my pregnancy app each morning, counting the days we’ve made it, praying for more.

A friend found a counselor for me, and I’ll meet with her for the first time tomorrow. Last week, I also met with a mother who went through similar circumstances years ago, and that was incredibly helpful. I was able to ask her questions I haven’t wanted to ask, several times without having to finish my sentence, and she cried with me and prayed with me. I could go on and on about the way her family ministered to us that day.

What else do we know?

Following our last appointment, we received some information from the geneticist that included a diagnosis of Trisomy 18 ( an extra 18th chromosome). I wish I understood enough to explain it, but I just don’t. I’m learning lots of things I never wanted to know. Trisomy 18 doesn’t change the prognosis, but will help us understand, through our doctors, more about what’s going on for Maggie and me.

Sweet Maggie girl, my love for you cannot be put into words. C talks to you daily, and E might fill up our house with all the art projects and presents she’s making for you. You are loved and loved and loved. And loved and loved. Keep fighting, precious girl. It is an honor to be your mama. I will love you forever.

“My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all my days were written in Your book and ordained for me before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:15-16

 

Questions, Part One

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Thank you all for your kind words and encouragement after our post yesterday. We feel very loved, and that truly helps.

I have so many questions and feelings and explanations swirling around in my mind. Part of me wants to write so I don’t forget. Part of me needs to write so it all doesn’t keep swirling in my mind.

And another part of me writes because I want the world to know what a good God we serve, how lovingly He is caring for us, even when we don’t like what’s happening. And if I’m honest, I also write to remind myself of those promises.

So, here are a few of the questions we’ve received:

How far along are we?

We are currently 16 weeks 5 days. I can feel the sweet baby kick once in a while. Keep kicking, little one. Keep kicking. Stay with me a little longer.

What complications are we facing?

The main complication facing our sweet little one is nonimmune hydrops fetalis, which is “a serious fetal condition characterized by the abnormal accumulation of fluid in at least two different areas of the baby’s body.” Along with hydrops fetalis throughout her body, our sweet baby has heart, lung, brain and spine abnormalities. “The mortality rate for babies diagnosed with nonimmune hydrops fetalis and structural heart defects is almost 100%” (this quote is from www.carryingtoterm.org, and the prognosis was shared with us by both our doctors as well).

We don’t know yet what caused all this. Typically amniocentesis helps doctors understand the underlying causes, but this wasn’t an option (something to do with membranes being fused or not fused). We’re undergoing genetic testing to learn as much as we can.

(The website, Carrying to Term, has a glossary of terms that has been incredibly helpful as I try to understand the unfamiliar terms I'm hearing at appointments and reading on our reports. There’s still so much we don’t understand.)

What’s next?

We don’t know what the next few weeks and months will hold. At our appointment last Wednesday, baby had a strong, steady heartbeat. We’ll follow up this Wednesday, to check on both of us - my blood pressure and weight, her heartbeat, signs of distress in either of us. Each day I pray for a little more time with you, sweet little thing. Oh you sweet little thing!

Did we know anything was wrong before our appointment last week?

We didn’t. Until the gender scan last week, all of our scans were normal. Because of some cysts on me, we’d also had a few extra scans prior to the gender scan. Even after reviewing the nine-week scan again, knowing what we know now, there weren’t any apparent signs of complications.

We chose not to have the advanced maternal age testing done (prior to Wednesday), and I’m still ok with that decision. While it might have alerted us to problems earlier in the pregnancy, it would not have changed our course of action (see below) and I would have spent the last few weeks anxiously wondering. While we were caught off guard a bit at our appointment, (I guess that’s quite an understatement), I wouldn’t change that decision.

Were we given the option to terminate?

We were. In the state of Tennessee, elective abortions are allowed through 19 weeks 6 days gestation (from what I understand/have learned in the past few days). We believe that God has given us time, however short, with this sweet baby, a baby that He created and planned, and we are choosing to spend as much time with her as we possibly can, even if it’s only on the inside.

Abortion is an incredibly sensitive topic, and my heart is more broken than ever for other mothers faced with this decision. I’m so thankful for a deep rooted faith that made our decision clear for us.

How are we doing?

We put one foot in front of the other, and then we do it again. Sometimes through tears, sometimes with distractions, sometimes with joy. We’re exhausted, and I find that I can’t sleep. I’ll wake up with tears overflowing some nights. I wanted this sweet baby so badly.

Friends and family have been incredibly generous with their love, support and encouragement, whether it’s through calls and texts, meals, hugs, flowers, or messages. We’ve received messages from friends we haven’t seen in years, and we’ve had our closest friends drop everything to help.

Sometimes I feel like pregnancy and healthy babies are all around me, reminders of pregnancy in every ache, advertisement, pile of laundry, Pinterest board. And then I receive sweet messages from women who have suffered miscarriages and still births and lost children, and I’m reminded again that we are far from alone.

The girls are doing well. I can tell they are grieving in their own 4- and 7-year old ways. They were outrageously happy to be having a sibling. They have also been well supported, from their own bouquets of flowers from little friends, to trusted adults making time to check on them and offer support with us.

What do we pray for?

Sometimes it feels impossible to pray, and sometimes it is all we can manage to do. At first I prayed that it would all be over soon, that this grief would subside sooner rather than later. That’s an incredibly hard sentence to type. Honest, but indescribably hard.

As some of the shock has worn off, I’ve come to pray that I’ll be able to keep this precious baby on the inside as long as I possibly can. We anticipate that the only time I’ll have with her is during this pregnancy, and I just want to love on her a little longer.

I’m also praying that we’ll get the report back from the geneticist at our appointment tomorrow, that we’ll help our daughters process and grieve, that we’ll support each other in our grief, and that we’ll be continually reminded of the hope we have in heaven.

 

Awake, With You

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I’m awake because it only seems right to spend as many precious moments as I possibly can thinking of you and praying for you and giving thanks for you and willing with all my might to feel you kick. How many moments will we have together, my sweet baby? Not enough. Not nearly enough. But oh I will love you forever. With all of me, I will fiercely love you forever.

This past Wednesday, we received the worst news we could imagine. No, this news we couldn’t imagine.

We went in for our gender scan. We had big plans - gender reveal with close friends that night, new carpet for the nursery this summer, photographs of your birth this fall, camping next spring, how old you’d be when E turns 16. I imagine you turning 8, with your big sis both proudly and reluctantly driving you places. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve imagined you 8 years old.

Hydrops. The unfamiliar word comes across the ultrasound screen. At this point, we already know something is wrong. Conversation with the sonographer went from how we want to find out boy or girl, to silence, to a groan, to “I’m sorry. I don’t like what I’m seeing. I’m going to get the doctor to come in.” Then more silence. It was all I could do not to jump off the bed and run to get the doctor myself. We waited for what seemed like hours, probably only seconds or minutes.

The doctor, our favorite doctor, the one who has successfully seen us through infertility and complications before, gives me a hug immediately when he walks in. “I’m so sorry,” he says. A few explanations and we’re now waiting in his office. We’ll head to high risk as soon as they have an appointment for us. We’re ushered out the side door, my tears freely flowing, so we don’t have to walk through the lobby of big belly pregnant women, our faces already red with grief.

We text friends and family to pray. And we wait. For two hours, we drive around Chattanooga, unsure of what to do with ourselves. We make small talk about gorgeous houses and we stop at CVS for tissues. I start to look up the word I saw on the screen. Hydrops fetalis, I learn. I digest little bits of the information on my phone screen. Our doctor has already broken the news to us; we know it’s bad. We know it’s only a matter of weeks or months that we’ll know this sweet baby, and only on the inside. But we’re still tentative in our texts. Still clinging to hope or disbelief or both.

The high risk appointment goes by both like a whirlwind and a slow motion nightmare. We meet each nurse, doctor, geneticist with a somber greeting. “I’m so sorry we’re meeting under these circumstances,” they say. And their compassionate half-smiles and sorrowful eyes make me believe them.

The ultrasound confirms hydrops fetalis, along with other fetal abnormalities. The doctor kindly confirms that, due to the severity of the complications, our sweet baby is unlikely to survive the next few weeks and months of pregnancy.

Words will surely fail us over the coming weeks and months. I don’t know how often I’ll write, how often I’ll cry, how often I’ll smile, how often I’ll answer questions about when I’m due. But I do know that I love this sweet baby with every fiber of my being. That I don’t want her forgotten. Oh how desperately I don’t want her forgotten. That the moments I’ll carry her dying body within me will likely be the only I’ll get with her on this side of heaven.

And that my Heavenly Father has not missed a tear I’ve shed, that He’s not forgotten or overlooked a moment of my grief, that He’s held us and loved us and carried us these last four days. And that He loves this sweet baby even more than I do.

Sweet, sweet baby. You are perfect. You are so, so perfect.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.” Psalm 139:13

“My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes - it has also gone from me.” Psalm 38:10