Holding Halle

October 21, 2008


**Sensitive Material** – The following contains a story (my story) about infant death – please read at your own discretion. – **Sensitive Material**
This is a three day *story* of extremely happy days, yet they are also the darkest days of our lives.

Sunday morning. Brad and I were awake early, very nervous about delivering our baby. I kept crying to Brad telling him how scared I was, since I had never had a baby before. I sounded like a broken record, repeating over and over, “I’m so nervous.” Brad tried to call me down, telling me that he would be right beside me the whole
time.

The nurse came in to get us and as I gingerly placed myself in the wheel chair, I wanted to run home and just cuddle with Spike and Ashley (our cats). All I could think of was crawling back in my own bed and pulling the covers over my head and pretending this never happened.

It was so surreal being wheeled into the elevator and then being wheeled into labor & delivery. I kept thinking that everyone was looking at me – they know. And at the same time, I was hoping that no one would ask me about our delivery and ask how excited we were. I knew I would not be able to speak, to even utter a “no” if that had
happened. I just looked down the entire time, my eyes fixated on the floor, watching it rush past me, as if whisking down the highway at full speed, and wondering if I really was going to survive. I began thinking of the girl, just like me, whom I had read about, the one who lost her beautiful boy when she was 37 weeks pregnant. I could see
those words she had written, where she had said that giving birth to her son was a wonderful experience.  I didn’t see how on earth that could even be considered a wonderful experience, but her words resonated in my ears.  So I kept thinking, she did it, I can do it. She will never know just how much she helped me that day . . . even though I have told her myself many times over.

As the nurse helped me get situated into my new bed in L&D, (the same nurse that was SO quiet the night before), she told me that she was going to attend church after she left the hospital. She looked me right in the eye, and quietly and compassionately said that she would be praying for me . . for us. She said that she would keep us in her thoughts and prayers the whole day. This is the nurse whom I fretted about, the one whom I thought didn’t like me. I guess she was just overwhelmed too.

I had asked that we be away from all the other deliveries that day. I think, but I don’t know for sure, that we were down the hall, the last room on the left. There wasn’t anyone in the room when we arrived, and then our nurse arrived. I asked her if she drew the short stick that day and she replied in a very uneasy tone, “Yes.” And then I went on to tell her how sorry I was that she didn’t get to be in a happier place that day. I’m usually polite, but even now, I find that ridiculous.

As I was lying there, I looked at the TV monitor showing contractions. I was confused because I knew that I wasn’t hooked up to the monitor yet. I asked the nurse about it and she said that they generally have two delivery rooms on every TV monitor and here I was, watching someone’s contractions. I asked her to take it off the screen so I didn’t have to see that, be reminded that it wasn’t us, that someone else was “getting it right.” So she did, she found another empty room and changed it so there was
nothing there. That was disturbing as well – just blank. No life. No hope. No sensational anticipation. Then I was hooked up to the screen and all we saw were my contractions. It’s cruel isn’t it; you still have to go through everything, yet you don’t get the happy ending.

The anesthesiologist came in and talked to me for a while and started me on Pitocin. My doctor was not on that day, so a different doctor in my practice came in and talked to us for a while. He was so sweet and tried to let us know in detail, everything that would be happening. After he left, I received my epidural. This is the only time that Brad left my side. We had already been to three, out of our four, baby Lamaze classes and when they showed the video of epidurals, Brad said that he knew he would have a hard time with that aspect of childbirth. I told the nurse to please let Brad leave the room before she gave me the shot. Brad left and the nurse handed me a pillow to “hug” while I was receiving the epidural. I didn’t have a hard time with it at all. Maybe because I was so numb already.

We had several friends come and go this day. Several people called too. We were able to use our cell phone the whole time. I will never forget being in that
sterile hospital delivery room and hearing the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” from my cell phone. Such a happy tune in such a somber place.

My Mom was driving from Iowa to Texas with my brother, his wife, and their four children. We knew they wouldn’t get there until the evening. Brad’s Mom & Dad were flying down on Monday. Actually, both of the “Moms” were due to arrive on Monday anyway – they were going to stay with us to help out with the baby. They were still here, for six weeks, but not to help with the baby . . . to sit and cry with me (us) instead, every single day.

Now, I was having a lot of contractions. The epidural did not work on my left side so I was feeling everything quite strongly. I was also having a lot of back pain. The staff was concerned that she was, as they say “sunny side up.” People came and went during all this time. I would say, “Wait a minute. I’m having a contraction.” Brad would help me breathe, while I grasped the bed rail until my knuckles turned white, and then I would commence to talk to them. Just like it was an everyday thing.

I dilated quickly and the nurse said, “You’ll probably be delivering within 30 minutes.” And I began to sob. I just wasn’t ready yet. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I could do the pushing. It was certainly the fear of the unknown. The doctor arrived and told me that it was time to push. With each push Brad helped me, and in between pushes, he was stroking my hair. He kept telling me what a good job I was doing – over and over. I started to feel really bad and I told the nurse in a very weak voice “I don’t feel so good.” That’s when everyone started jumping. My blood pressure had plummeted, an oxygen mask was placed on my face, and the anesthesiologist
started yelling at me asking me if I had heart troubles. I said, “yes” through the oxygen mask, “I have a heart murmur.” And she yelled again, “You didn’t tell me you had a heart murmur.” I’m sure I told probably about six people before we entered L&D and after. And it is certainly in.my.chart. Brad said that this was the moment that he thought he was going to lose me too. He kept watching my blood pressure drop and he said that I was sooooo pale. Afterward, he told me that he thought it was pretty touch and go for a while. I didn’t even know how concerned he was until my in-laws said that he had shared that with them. . . how scared he was.

After the anesthesiologist gave me another (different) dose of medicine, I started to feel better. We then proceeded to push again. I was told that the baby was crowning. Brad said, “I can see the head.” I asked him if the baby had hair. He told me “yes” and I started to cry. Brad was squeezing my hand as I asked him what color it was.
He said, “It’s dark.” I smiled at Brad through my tears and I just couldn’t believe that our baby would be in our arms soon.

I was able to rest between every push and I was waiting for them to tell me to push again. That’s when I heard the Polaroid camera snapping pictures. I still had the oxygen mask on; I held it off my face, leaned over to Brad and said, “Is the baby out?” He said, “Yes honey, the baby has been out for a while. Didn’t you know?” It was the most deafening silence I have ever heard. Then I asked if it was a girl or a boy. I was so surprised that it, that she, was a girl. I had suspected all along that we were having a boy.

As the nurses continued to take pictures and footprints and try to clean her up, the doctor asked me if I smoked. I told him no, that I had never smoked in my life. He told us that the placenta just didn’t look right. He also asked me if we had cats. I said that we did, but I was devastated. I thought if having cats did this, I would never be able to forgive myself. He said that they would do as much testing as they could to find out just why this happened. By the way, it wasn’t the cats.

The nurse walked over and handed me our baby. I told her that I still couldn’t believe it was a girl. She said that I could unwrap her and see for myself. I held her for the longest time as Brad stood beside me staring at her too. I stroked her little face and kept telling her, “I love you, lil’ pumpkin. I’m so sorry sweet girl.” I don’t even remember how long I held her and then I asked Brad if he wanted to hold her. As soon as she was in his arms, he had the sweetest look on his face. He looked over at me and said “Isn’t she sweet?!” He held her and just stared at her for the longest time while tears streamed down his cheeks.

She was born at 3:34 p.m. and she was 4 lbs. 5 oz., and 18” long. She had a head full of dark curly hair and she also had Brad’s lips. We unwrapped her and looked at her long fingers and toes, her sweet belly and we joked about her big feet. I always thought our baby would be tall, especially since Brad is 6’3”. I think the saddest part was that her mouth kept opening. I looked at her sweet little tongue and I would hold my hand under her chin for Brad to take pictures of her. When I took my hand away, I
heard her little tongue smack the roof of her mouth – kind of like hearing a baby sucking on a bottle. I can still hear that sound in my head. I never did look at her little backside and I’m still upset about that. We did take lots of pictures and spent lots of time with her. Of course, there are never enough, are there? The only other person that held Halle was one of my best friends. We let them come in and share some time with us. One of my friend’s mothers was there too. She felt like we needed some
mothering. . . she was right.

While I was holding Halle, Brad’s parents called. I heard Brad tell them it was a girl and then he couldn’t even speak. Again, I took the phone from Brad and told them that I was holding her and how cute she was. I asked if Brad had told them her name. When I told them we named her Halle Jamison, my mother-in-law began to cry. Jamieson is my mother-in-law’s maiden name. Her father died when she was six months old. We thought this was a wonderful tribute to him; however during our grief, we misspelled the name. I mean, who is in their right mind at a time like that?! I talked to my mother too and they were still on the road. Sadly, neither my Mom nor Brad’s parents ever got to see or hold Halle.

Brad handled Halle so gently the entire time he was holding her. It was so precious. He was sitting in the chair beside me holding her and touching her face when a new nurse walked in. She immediately started smiling at Brad and I thought this was very unusual. She then looked at Brad and said “Oh how sweet. Congratulations.” Our attending
nurse grabbed her arm, looked at the floor and said, “Their baby was stillborn.” The other nurse looked at us in horror, apologized profusely and hastily left the room. Of course, we never saw her again.

After several hours with Halle and her baptism, we decided that it was time for them to take her.  Poor little thing kept getting more and more blue. And honestly, we were just exhausted by this time. We had decided that we wanted an autopsy on her, to help us with our future decisions to conceive. We had asked that they hold her for 24 hours though (before they performed the autopsy), so if my Mom or Brad’s parents wished to see her, they could. I even thought at the time, we sound like we’re placing a person “on-hold.” In my mind, I could just imagine a little tag being put on her saying “Hold for 24 hours.” It did, and still does, make my skin crawl.

Brad and I clung together as they carried Halle away from us. I will never forget this as long as I live – they took Halle to the end of the room. They were standing at the same table where they were earlier taking pictures of her. There was a VERY colorful bag – it was black with extremely vivid colors on the side, in zigzags. It reminded me of a Mexican poncho. They took the pink blanket off of her and placed her inside the bag.  The room was dead silent as they zipped that bag up, grabbed the handles, picked it up, and prepared to leave.  Brad and I just starting sobbing, clinging to each other, as our hopes
and dreams were carried out the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Halle departed this world sooner than we ever dreamed she would, leaving oceans of tears and unimaginable heartache in her wake. But along with that heartache, was also inexpressible joy – the day we finally and lovingly, held our angel in our arms . . . staring at her in amazement, hoping upon fallen hope that she would outlive us, and thanking her for giving us the honored titles “Mommy” & “Daddy” – - – - -  our firstborn, our daughter, our love, our dream . . . .leaving us wondering how we could ever endure a lifetime without her.

Our Sweet Girl – Halle Jamison Schneider

Halle drawing copy

Rayne: Karen, I love you...thank you for opening your heart to one of the deepest places & sharing this. I had to read and re-read just to take it ALL in. My face is soaked & my heart aches for all that you have gone through. God continues to have you wrapped in His arms, but you know that. I am grateful for knowing you and calling you friend. Love, Rayne

Sue Berk: Karen I had NO idea that you guys went through this. You have no idea how much I appreciate your sharing. I don't know how much Rayne has shared with you about Rachael, but we thought we might be delivering a baby that "might not even breathe" (according to the doctors). Even though she did breathe, we have gone through hell the last 6 months in not knowing how her health would be, getting surgery at 5 weeks, spending 8 weeks in the NICU and coming home with a feeding tube. of course there is more, but that is what my blog is for (smile). I am SO glad you will be doing our photos next month as I know you can understand grief and life not going as you had planned. Thank you for sharing so honestly. You have my admiration. Love and hugs, Sue