Tuesday, November 13, 2007


As I left the labor and delivery ward to recover in another section of the hospital, my nurse gave me a hug and complimented me. "You have carried yourself with such dignity and grace," she said, sounding like she was choking up.

I was touched. That compliment has stayed with me for several days.

I can't choose my trials, but I can choose to be...classy.

George Bernard Shaw was wrong. The difference between a lady and a flower girl IS how she behaves.

Although I certainly appreciated being treated as a lady. The staff provided us as much dignity, privacy, and support as possible.

The best part of the hospital experience was discussing theology, religious history, and politics with a lay Roman Catholic volunteer grief counselor. He came in and started a well-rehearsed spiel about how stupid it is to say "You won't be given more than you can handle." I'm afraid I interrupted with 1 Corinthians 10:13. (Let's hear it for Scripture Mastery! I had the passage memorized, even fifteen years later!) I acknowledged that it said "temptation," not "trial," but I believed the principle applied.

So, after he blinked a bit, he started asking us about our faith. He was obviously expecting a spiritual crisis, and was further surprised to discover that we weren't having one. Emotional crisis, definitely. But not spiritual.

I did really well until he asked about names. At that point I explained about the still-indeterminate gender and started to cry.

He backed off and we fell into a discussion about LDS theology, Catholic theology, the Great Schism, history of Christianity, authority of the Pope, women in the priesthood, married clergy, a potential Vatican III, and politics.

I told him I wouldn't judge all Catholics by Rudy Giuliani if he promised not to judge all Mormons by Mitt Romney. Seemed like a fair exchange.

It had been years since I'd had such a good religious discussion. I found myself enjoying it. Sadly, the cleric apparently decided he couldn't do anything for us and should go minister to others rather than continue to discuss his own personal hopes for married priests in his lifetime.

The second-to-worst part of the experience was sitting in the foyer, waiting for a bed to become available, and watching pregnant women pace the hallways, and newly-delivered mothers wheeled past us with their hours-old babies.

It was at that point Jon and I started doing futoshiki puzzles to distract ourselves.

The worst part of the hospital experience were the first minutes after the baby was delivered.

It happened so quickly. Suddenly I called for the nurse, and within sixty seconds, the baby had emerged. It was almost painless. One nurse took the baby for examination, the doctor, who had been paged, arrived (to late too deliver, even though she came promptly), and the other nurse patted my hand and said, "I'm so sorry."

That was when I started to bawl.

She came out with the amniotic sac still intact. They actually broke my water -after- delivery.

The doctor came to talk to me a few minutes later. She said it was a girl, the cord was wrapped around the neck, there was the tapered section in the cord, there was swelling and discoloration, and her "presentability" was iffy.

So then Jon and I had to decide if we wanted to hold her. I cravenly let Jon hold her and then asked him to tell me if I wanted to hold her or not. By the time he was done, I had calmed down and decided I did want to hold her, even if her condition was...poor.

We called Mom, who came to the hospital and held her briefly before she was whisked away for testing.

My greatest regret in all this is that we could not afford to give her a proper burial. My greatest frustration was that it took over 24 hours for the hospital to give us a coherent answer about how the body would be treated. I shuddered to think of my baby being tossed in a dumpster like so much garbage. Of course, there are bio-hazard issues, but that was how I felt. In the end, she was examined, then autopsied, then incinerated with other medical "waste."

The nurses did treat her body with respect, and I felt reasonably peaceful about letting them take her. But I very much regret we don't have a grave to visit. It just wasn't...practical.

I hate that word. What I wanted to do was move Heaven and Earth. Fight with the insurance companies, fight with the hospital, go into several thousand dollars' worth of debt. Sadly, I just didn't have the emotional (or financial) resources to put into it...and I didn't have time. I begin to see how funeral homes can take advantage of grieving families. With a deadline looming, it's hard to make calm, rational decisions. (Especially while grieving; I've noticed I've had trouble concentrating, choosing a book, even reading a book. The lay Catholic minister called this 'impaired executive function.')

I can only hope Marian will understand.

I think she will. I imagine her as a quiet, gracious, dignified spirit. One who will forgive easily. One who will extend mercy...and grace.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Marian Marguerite Berry

Marian Marguerite Berry was born at 2:15 Saturday afternoon. Jon and I, and later my mother, got to hold her before she was taken away for testing. The cause of death is still not known; however, one section of the cord was malformed, tapering to a much smaller circumferance and then tapering out to a normal size again. The pathologists will investigate that further.

Physically, labor and recovery were easy and uncomplicated. Emotionally is was awful, of course, but I am glad we got to hold her.

We have a sweet picture of her hand. Her tiny but perfect hand was smaller than one section of an adult's finger. She weighed 4.7 ounces and was 7 inches long.

While we waited, Jon and I spent hours playing futoshiki puzzles. (They are like sudoku puzzles, only much cooler. http://www.brainbashers.com/futoshiki.asp) It helped to distract both of us from the stress, and later, me from the pain. The nurses and doctors all commented on our geekiness and took an interest in who was winning the series. At first the score stayed tied, and I led briefly, but the grand total was Jon 19, Gail 16. (We would start the same puzzle simultaneously and see who completed it first.)

I stopped competing once the morphine-like drug kicked in.

The nursing staff and doctors were all very kind. We appreciated their sensitivity and compassion.

I came home this morning (Sunday). I am very tired and sad, and under orders to rest for a few days, but after that I can start ramping up to normal activity level.

I will try to post more details tomorrow, but those are the basics.

I remain grateful for all the kind wishes, concern, and assistance of family and friends.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children"

So many people have expressed concern about my recent and soon-to-be stillbirth, I thought I would post one explanation and refer interested parties to my blog. I hope you understand that I prefer not to tell the story over and over.

A few weeks ago, I thought, "I don't think I'm feeling as much movement with this pregnancy as I did with the others at this stage," but I was only sixteen weeks along and wouldn't have been feeling much anyway. But I paid attention and felt the occasional kick (or so I thought) along with other movement, and didn't think much of it, other than to hope this one would be of a more mild temperament in the womb, unlike Eric who acted like a hyperactive drummer in utero.

After almost three months of continuous nausea, throwing up three and four times a day, I was also beginning to feel better. For the past two weeks I have been counting the vomits per week, not per day, which I took as a good sign. I was in the second trimester! The worst was over! I could actually drive again! And, especially, after all that effort -- not just mine, but also all the family and friends who had been so helpful during my difficult first trimester -- we would soon find out if we were having a boy or a girl.

Sunday night I had a dream that we went in for the ultrasound and discovered the baby was dead, and then Jon and I had to break the news to our boys, our parents, and everyone else. I woke up, poked Jon, and snuggled a bit as I told him about it. He agreed it was an awful dream, but then we shook it off and started our day. We got the boys off to school and then met at the doctor's office for the ultrasound. I was excited.

The ultrasound technician chatted with us as she warmed up the machine and prepped my tummy. We told her we had two boys already and she asked “So are we hoping this one is a girl?”

“Actually,” I quipped, “I had a dream last night the baby was dead. As long as you tell me the baby isn't dead, I'll be happy!”

There was a glare on the screen so I couldn't see the image very well. I thought I caught a spine and ribs, but I wasn't certain. The first time the technician looked at me and then looked away without saying anything, I thought perhaps she couldn't determine the gender yet. The second time, I thought it was a boy and she was afraid of disappointing me. But the third time...

“Is there something you want to tell me?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “I don't want to tell you.” She paused. “It looks like your dream was right.” The look on her face...

The next few minutes are a blur. I felt like I'd been slapped.

I cried a little. One of the first coherent thoughts I had was, “You mean I have to go through all this again? All that work, wasted!”

It is, indeed, awful to think that after everything I went through, and after all the work everyone else did to help, I will not now get a cute baby to play with and show off as a reward. An hour later, though, I realized that I do not believe anything has been wasted. I believe in eternal families, and in the mercy of our Savior. I believe I will get to raise this child in the Millennium. And while I am saddened to disappoint everyone else, I am still deeply appreciative of how hard the entire family worked to help with this pregnancy, even if it did not work out right now.

Cleaning the house isn't wasted even if it's messy again a day later.

Providing dignified hospice care for a loved one isn't wasted even if he's in a coma.

I can't explain it more logically than that, but on this issue, I have a “the peace of God that passeth all understanding.”

I did think to ask, “Can you tell if it's a boy or a girl?” Sadly, we were disappointed in that, too. The technician apologized and said there was an arm in the way and she couldn't get a clear picture. That made it harder. We still don't know if it is a boy or a girl, and it will be a few more days before we find out.

This was certainly not what we expected from the long-awaited mid-pregnancy ultrasound. ("Is it a boy or a girl?" "It's dead.") Very dramatic irony.

The technician made some measurements and estimated that the baby had lived to about 16 weeks. (My last check-up had been at 15 weeks when there was still a clear, strong heartbeat.)

There was no obvious sign of what had gone wrong. It is likely we will never know what happened. I do console myself that while I didn't take my prenatal vitamins faithfully -- what was the point if I knew they would make me gag and throw up? -- at least I didn't drink alcohol, abuse drugs, smoke, or engage in other risky behaviors. I spent a few minutes saying "I'm sorry Jon! It's my fault!", only to realize that I didn't really believe that, either. It's nobody's fault; it's just one of those things.

A second-trimester miscarriage is somewhat unusual. Jon and I were given the option to have a routine D&C or to induce labor. We chose the latter, and it feels right. Since we have a choice, we would rather deliver the baby intact.

The plan is to induce labor on Friday. I don't know what to expect for a recovery. The doctor estimated two or three weeks.

The Relief Society has been wonderful, bringing meals, babysitting, helping me clean my house, and more. Our families have been very supportive.

Jon and I are deeply saddened, but I think that so far we are working through the grieving process appropriately. Grief is hard work, but it is better than any alternative, like lingering bitterness.

We have explained the situation to the boys. I told them “The baby growing inside my tummy died. This means that instead of waiting five months to play with the baby, you will have to wait approximately a hundred years, instead.” They seem to understand that the baby isn't coming anymore, but it also doesn't seem to have sunk in. We aren't pushing it, but neither are we concealing anything. I told Danny today that Daddy was sad. He asked “Mommy, are you?” “Yes,” I answered, “I am sad about the baby.” Then Danny asked, “Will Daddy hold your hand?” “Yes,” I said, “We have been snuggling and holding hands to help each other feel better.” I asked if Danny was sad and he said “No!” cheerfully and ran off to play.

We are very grateful for everyone's support, concern, and condolences.

The scripture in Genesis about Eve bringing forth children in sorrow has always bothered me until today. I thought perhaps it meant that she would scream “This was a mistake!” while in transition.

Today I realized that Eve's children were mortal, and subject to pain, infirmity, and death. Perhaps she suffered through miscarriages and fatal childhood illnesses, only to be bitterly disappointed when a healthy adult son died at the hand of another. Certainly watching helplessly while children suffer from sickness, or consequences of bad choices, is another form of sorrow.

I am about to bring forth a child in sorrow, too. But sorrow is not regret.

And now I have a deeper understanding of the scripture.