Over the years I have had many happy moments. Christmases, birthdays, getting my driver’s licence, getting my first car, moving out on my own, falling in love (several times), saying yes when my husband proposed to me, my wedding, my honeymoon, and finding out I was pregnant with our first child. I’m sure there are other moments worth mentioning, but these are the mile stones that stick out in my mind. There is one, however, that tops them all, hands down.
In thinking about this and now writing it, I feel a little guilty, almost as if I am a mother choosing a favorite child. Is it really possible to pick out one moment in your life that completely surpasses every other moment of joy you have ever experienced? To understand my answer you must have a little background history.
Up until the point I am about to describe, the happiest moment in my life was finding out I was pregnant with my first daughter, Elizabeth Skye. Seeing the positive pregnancy test and being hit with the realization that we were really and truly going to have a baby was such a mix of fear and elation, much like the high one might get from a roller coaster ride. We had planned it, we welcomed it. Shortly after that moment, though, life began to take a nightmarish turn. We moved to Colorado to start our own restaurant. I am not trying to relive that story, but the short side is we worked harder in those few short months than we ever had. I was pregnant, stressed beyond belief, there were days where I fell into bed and realized I had forgotten to eat anything. I lost weight, 30 lbs in the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy. Granted, I had a bit extra to lose, but that much weight loss, while pregnant, in such a short time is just not healthy. The work was for nothing as we lost the business due to dishonest business partners, and then we lost everything but the clothes on our back and some dishes and baby stuff, just enough to pack into a U-haul we pulled behind the car back home to Kentucky where we moved in with my parents, defeated and depressed.
Then ……we lost our baby.
She was born a week before her due date but still considered term. We had been clinging to the fact that we still had each other and we had our little girl. That tiny shred of hope vanished as she slipped quickly into the world. She was placed on my chest for two seconds as the doctor cut the cord. I was not even able breathe and focus, she was whisked away by the nurses and I was delivering the after birth and getting stitched up where I had torn. I never got more than that first glimpse, something was wrong.
Elizabeth Skye September 25 - October 13, 2008 - first picture.
It’s all blurry for me here and this is not the story I am trying to tell, but it must be said that after a 17 day stay at Kosair in Louisville, Kentucky, my daughter finally found rest from a short and painful life. She’d been wrapped in gauze and kept in a sterile isolet the whole time. We never got to hold her until a few minutes before she let go of that last breath and died in her daddy’s arms. Her condition remains undiagnosed, but essentially she was born with the top layers of skin coming off and a compromised immune system. There was talk of it being genetic, but there was never any definitive proof of that. Her medical file for that 17 days is a stack of 81/2 by 11 paper about 4 inches thick.
You can understand, maybe, why her birth is not listed as one of my happy moments. You may also understand why finding out I was pregnant again, just 2 months after laying her to rest, is not listed in my happy moments either. To be honest, I was incapable of feeling very much of anything as I looked down at that second pregnancy test. There was fear, pain, uncertainty, resolve, but not much joy, not at that moment anyway.
At first, the main feeling I had to deal with was the fact that I didn’t want another baby, I just wanted my Skye. It was way too soon to muster love or desire of any kind for another baby. A few weeks later, however, when I had my first prenatal appointment and saw that tiny quiver on the ultrasound monitor and heard her heart beat, I knew this pregnancy would be different from the first. If the only time I ever had to hold this baby was while she was inside me, I would hold her every single second.
In many ways, Faith was my salvation. Carrying her and focusing on having none of the regrets I experienced with her sister brought me back from the edge of the insanity that had become my life. Before I even knew if I was having a boy or a girl I called the baby Christian (it would have been Samuel Christian if it had been a boy) and this helped me bond. Calling her by name made it seem real, like I was really going to hold and love a baby physically.
I talked to her as if she were sitting next to me and could understand what I was saying. Going about my chores through the day I would tell her what we needed to do next. When I found out we were having another girl I was ecstatic. If I had a boy I’m sure I would have been just as in love with him, but somehow I was relieved that it was a girl. All the unused baby things from a little girl who never came home, the “I love Daddy” bibs and the “Little Princess” shirts and all the pink blankets. It wasn’t that we didn’t have the means to get boy things, but I had an unexplainable ache that all Skye’s things had never fulfilled their purpose.
Keep in mind that while everything continued to look good at the prenatal visits, we had no guarantee that what had happened to Skye would not happen again. We hoped and believed in our hearts that everything would be fine, but there was no absolute knowledge of it. Faith was more than just a name, we lived it every day.
At 30 weeks, one of the many ultrasounds I had to have showed that the baby might be a little smaller than normal. Since Skye had been a small baby (5 lbs 10 oz. ) my doctor was worried about Intrauterine Growth Restriction and they ordered an ultrasound every week for the last ten weeks of pregnancy. While this was both a bit scary and cumbersome (We lived in Louisville and I kept the same doctor when I moved, it was about an hour and a half drive one way) all the ultrasounds really helped me bond even deeper with my baby. I knew the position she liked the best, the side she usually liked to sleep on, what time she would most likely be sleeping, what would wake her up. I knew her schedule so well I was able to predict what she was going to do before she was even born and I turned out to be right on the money. People smiled and thought me a little over hopeful when I told them she was going to sleep completely through the night, but that is exactly what she ended up doing, from day one.
My favorite time of day was about 7 am. I always slept through the night on my left side and she would be perfectly quiet, but come 7am she would start to roll, not kick, just displace her mass to the other side of my belly. I would roll to my right side to get comfortable, facing Josh (He has always slept on my right, not sure why, it has just always been like that.) he would place his hand on my belly and she would start to kick, nestled in between us, as if to say, “Good morning!”
As my due date drew closer, we were filled with excitement and also worry. There was always the nagging fear that something might be wrong, but this was only in our minds. I truly believed with my heart that everything was ok, I could feel it. It was a feeling that can’t be explained, just as the premonition that something was wrong with my first baby was unexplainable in the face of perfect prenatal tests. I had been having some decent contractions for weeks and I really didn’t think I would make it to my due date. We even went in for a bout of false labor one night. But August 16th came and went and I was just ready to be done with all the emotional turmoil, not to mention all the physical tedium. I had been pregnant for almost two years straight!
The morning of August 18th (my Dad’s birthday) dawned with the same contractions I had been experiencing, nothing that indicated an imminent birth. Josh went to work and I busied myself with my regular daily tasks. I felt extra tired and decided to nap. Upon rising in the afternoon I felt a bit of an increase in intensity of the contractions, but I didn’t say anything to any one because I had already raised one false alarm. By the time Josh got home at about 5pm I was pretty sure I was in labor and I told him so. He showered and we tried to lay down and watch tv but after only a few hours I said we should probably stay at my mom’s that night. I still wasn’t ready to call the hospital, but I was almost certain we were going to have a baby that night.
All through the drive Josh kept asking if I was still having them, he seemed to not believe me, maybe because I was so calm and quiet, but I continued to assure him we were definitely going to have this baby. I think it was about 8:30 or 9 pm when we got to Mom’s. The plan was to stay with her so that I would be 20 minutes from the hospital where I was going to deliver rather than over an hour. I just didn’t know if we needed to leave that night or in the morning. I honestly thought it would be closer to morning when we left for the hospital. We climbed into my sister’s bed to try to get some sleep, but it wasn’t 30 minutes before I decided we needed to go on to the hospital. I was supposed to receive antibiotics as soon as my water broke and I didn’t want to take any chances by waiting too long.
It turns out it was the perfect decision. We got to the hospital at about 9:15pm. They got me in a bed and checked me. I was barely dilated. The nurse had a very “well, we’ll see but I doubt it” attitude. It was the same nurse who had been there a week before when I came in for false labor. She had barely left the room, saying I would be monitored for a couple of hours to see if I progressed, and my water broke on its own. From there things picked up. They hooked up my I.V. of antibiotics and the contractions were so intense. They were much worse than what I had experienced with Skye. I had fully intended to do it drug free, like the first time, but these were monstrous contractions and I was only 1 1/2 cm dilated. I had to get to 10. After an hour I was crying and in lots of pain. They checked me and I was 3cm. I tried to stand up and rock back and forth, but I had to lay back down after 2 contractions, they completely took my breath away. They checked me again and were very surprised to see I was 5cm. They told me I could have an epidural at that point and all I could do was nod, I couldn’t speak. I remember my mom trying to update Facebook with my progress, but every time a contraction ended, a new one was right on its heals, 30 seconds later. She finally gave up and just held my hand and stayed by my side.
The nurse stepped out to call the anesthesiologist and when she stepped back in I was experiencing pressure. She checked me again and I was already at 7cm. They determined there was no time for an epidural and she called my doctor. Even in the fog of pain I remember hearing her voice as she spoke on the phone. There was a very calm urgency as she told him how quickly I was progressing and that he needed to get down here. The contractions were making it very hard to breathe, I just did not have time to catch my breath in between each one, so they put an oxygen mask on me because the baby’s heart rate was dipping.
The last few moments are a blur. I remember wanting desperately to push and them telling me not to, my doctor wasn’t there yet. I flashed back to my first labor, I was told the same thing at that time, but that was a very different circumstance, I had waited too long to go to the hospital. Everybody and everything in my memory is a blur of lights and faces and activity. Doctor Reynolds finally arrived, they were telling me to push, I was pushing hard, it was soooo painful, and then …….
I see the scene again in slow motion, just like I did a year ago. A tiny bluish bundle of flailing arms and legs, startled by the cold alien world she has just entered, her face screwed up in a pitiful pucker, crying heartily. Through my tears and exhaustion and oxygen mask I watch them place her on my chest. I touch her warm, wet, perfect skin. It is perfect. She is perfect. A mop of dark hair and a little round face and the tiniest fingers with the tiniest finger nails. My husband is streaming tears and kissing me and has to be told several times that he can now cut the cord. My mother is on my right side, taping and taking pictures. There are happy voices, relieved voices, and a tiny little upset voice announcing her health to the world. She’s perfect. That is the only thought running through my mind, over and over. When they whisk her away to get dried off and looked over there is no fear, no wondering.
Christian Faith Champion, August 19, 2009, 1:54 am, 19 1/2 inches, 7 lbs. 10 oz.
That is the single, happiest moment of my life. It outweighs anything else I’ve ever experienced. The only thing that will ever be better than that moment is when I get to Heaven and I finally get to hold my first little girl in my arms and see with my eyes, not just with my heart, that she is also perfect.
Faith will turn 1-year-old tomorrow. She continues to be the light of my life and my never-ending happy moment. She is truly a blessing and a gift, one that I didn’t think I needed or even wanted. It just goes to show how much better God knows what we need than we ourselves. I thank Him every day for her.
"Faith" - 12x16 acrylic on canvas
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