I had been feeling Braxton Hicks for several days now. “Is it normal to get them so early?” I thought. I still had six weeks left. The contractions were coming more frequently too. Sometimes, when I was tapping away on my computer at work, I would stop and breathe through a strong one. Kenny and I had listened attentively in labor class. I knew I shouldn’t have to concentrate so much if my body was just practicing.
Then, one Sunday night, I felt more nauseated than usual. My heart pattered inside me, and my hands shook.
“Maybe I’m just tired. I should probably get some rest.” I asked Kenny to turn off the movie we were watching, and we both trekked to bed.
Even though I was exhausted, I tossed and turned as my contractions woke me up through the night. Finally, I gave up trying to sleep and perched against several pillows, breathing through each giant pulse around my tummy. I glanced at the clock. 4:03 am.
I glanced back when the next contraction started. 4:13.
“Not too close. I’ll just let Kenny rest for now. We’ll have to call Jenny in the morning,” I thought.
I didn’t wake Kenny up until 6:30, and by then, I really needed him. He offered me toast for breakfast and massaged my shoulders when I felt too tense. We would go to Jenny’s clinic as soon as it opened.
“Let’s hook you up to the monitor,” Jenny said as soon as we arrived. Half an hour passed, and the monitor only recorded one contraction. “Good, I’m not too worried now. But I’ll do an exam before you leave.”
When Jenny examined me, though, she realized just how dilated I was. “Seven centimeters,” she said. “You don’t get to leave when you’re seven centimeters dilated. The good news is your placenta has moved. If it’s okay with you, we’d like to deliver without a C-section even though the baby’s breach.”
“Good thing you made sure our bags were in the car,” I told Kenny as a nurse settled me into a wheelchair. He smiled and agreed.
The delivery was harder than I had imagined it. I knew that I would have to work hard during it, but I wasn’t prepared for the intensity. Jenny, her consulting OB, and the nurses kept cheering me to push harder to the point of exhaustion during each contraction.
“You’re about to meet your baby,” my nurse said. I’m sure she usually said that during deliveries, but I kept thinking how I wished I didn’t have to meet Hadassah yet. I knew it wouldn’t be a long meeting.
When she finally arrived, Jenny and the doctor wrapped her malformed body in gauze and covered her in a blanket. Then, they placed my beautiful baby on my chest, and I just stared at her. Tears were rolling down Kenny’s face, but mine remained dry and emotionless.
In hindsight, I think I was just too exhausted to cry. All the commotion around me as the nurses cleaned up the delivery room and stitched me distracted me from this precious moment.
“Look, she’s moving,” the nurse said.
I gazed at my little girl trying to open her mouth and hands. I put my finger in her palm, and she curled her own fingers around mine.
I had so hoped to see Hadassah lift her chest, trying to breathe. I don’t think she could. I wanted the nurses to say that we should get her into surgery because they thought she might survive. But as I looked at this precious child, I knew that the little movements she did make were taking all her effort.
Where once I had laughed at my daughter’s silly antics in my womb, out in the real world, she lay curled on top of me, practically motionless. I pulled my finger away and let Kenny put his there.
A nurse checked Hadassah’s heartbeat every few minutes. “Her heart is slowing down now,” she said. “It won’t be much longer.”
Kenny’s shoulders shook a little as he cried more deeply. He stroked her matted red hair and kissed her forehead. Finally, the nurse nodded. Hadassah wasn’t suffering anymore. She was in Heaven with Jesus.
by Sarah George