On February 22, 2016 our daughter, Dorothy Grace Helena Whalen was stillborn. This is the continuation of her story.
The shock and devastation of losing Dorothy had numbed me.
No longer was I aware of the experience of my own body. I knew Dorothy was gone, that she had died, but I was not yet aware of how sick I was.
There was pain, but I thought it was the pain you felt when your child died. It was an all consuming pain, my whole body hurt, but I didn’t know what was normal anymore.
My baby was gone and I didn’t know what was real anymore.
I was sick to my stomach, but I figured it was a physical reaction to the loss of control I was feeling. I felt the same about my headache and exhaustion. Surely, these were all physical manifestations of the grief my heart was experiencing. I had no idea.
When I arrived at Labor & Delivery, they immediately took my blood pressure. I don’t remember the number, but it was high. The nurse started asking me if I was in any pain. I described everywhere that it hurt.
I told her the room was spinning and swirly. I started to cry. I looked at Mike and told him how much I hurt.
“I know. The nurses are going to get you something for the pain. Is that okay?” he asked.
I nodded. I felt guilty. I wish somebody could give Mike something for the pain that was so clearly showing on his face. He was hurting so much, I could see it.
At one point, I felt a gush of warmth between my legs. I told the nurse what had happened and she assured me it was probably my water breaking. She pulled back the covers and I knew it wasn’t my water.
Mike told me later how deeply red the blood was.
There had been trauma in my uterus and I was bleeding out.
My body started violently shaking. I felt like I had the chills. The nurse informed me that it was a reaction to the pitocin they had given me to induce labor. The shaking continued. Someone covered me with a warm blanket and I sank under the weight of its heaviness. Then came the morphine and further down I sank only rising to the surface for brief moments of chaos.
I floated in and out of consciousness over the next hour or so.
I remember fleeting moments in time; both meaningful and inconsequential. Some of these moments feel like they’re seared in my memory. I can still see them when I close my eyes.
I know Mike was there the whole time, doting on me and advocating for me. I remember him giving me sips of water and ginger ale because I was so thirsty. I can still feel the sensation of him brushing back my hair and squeezing my hand. I tried to tell him that he could take a break, but it was hard to speak. It didn’t matter, he wasn’t going anywhere.
During this whole time, my preeclampsia was making me sicker and sicker.
My blood pressure was rising so rapidly they had to insert an arterial line so they could continuously monitor me. I don’t remember this being put in, but Mike does and he says it was terrifying. There was a nurse there from the ICU to assist the L&D nurse. Arterial lines are very complicated and if they are not properly monitored and maintained, the patient can die.
Confusion swirled around us. Shift changes occurred. My arms swelled so badly, they had to cut my bracelets off and they kept getting lost. Doctors and nurses streamed in and out of the room. An epidural was administered. Faces seemed to be floating around me. Voices buzzed without meaning. I felt like I was in a dream that I couldn’t wake from.
Everyone was spinning around me in urgency. Time had become so very precious.
My condition depended on the delivery of my baby and we could no longer be patient. I was aware of my blood pressure rising, but it wasn’t until later on when I would find out that my blood pressure reached 180/110.
A doctor whom I had never met before appeared to tell me that they were going to break my water.
As soon as they broke my water, my blood pressure plummeted.
My readings went from triple digits to double digits in a matter of seconds. I was crashing.
The buzz in the room became a roar. The stream of doctors and nurses became a frenetic swarm. All around me was a blur of colors and noise.
Out of the blur, another new face came into focus. It was another unfamiliar doctor who leaned in close to explain that they needed to bring me to the ICU to stabilize me.
My body felt so weak but a strong urge was pulling at my insides. I needed him to know something. He had to hear me.
So, right before they wheeled me out, I mustered up the strength to say “Please don’t let me die.”
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