Sunday, June 22, 2008

Going deep

I cannot believe I am actually about to post this. I have been writing my thoughts and memories out for over a month now. And to think there is more to follow... My guess, you will be reading it in a few years from now!

I feel the need to start from the beginning, a desire to share my experience and details surrounding the pregnancy and birth of my girls. What happened? What went wrong? What next? This is my attempt to explain our stories, one at a time…

Finley Grace

Conceiving was easy for us. It happened the first try. On December 12th, 2006 I found myself staring at two pink lines…it was positive. So I took another one. There they were, again, two pink lines. Yet, it was not until I took a digital test the next morning that I was convinced what I was seeing was true. Indeed, I was pregnant!

Having recently moved to Nashville, I had yet to find an OB/GYN. Because we had been planning to start a family, I kept my ears open at work. In random, lunch time conversation, a friend frequently spoke of her physician. She went on and on about him and how wonderful he was. He sounded too good to be true. Because I wanted to get his name and number, she was the first person to hear our news. My initial appointment was set a few weeks later, December 26th to be exact. Just as my friend described, there was an immediate connection with Dr. B. He sat before us as if he had all the time in the world. He shared a timeline, of sorts, describing what we could expect in the upcoming weeks and months. With questions of our own, he listened to each one and answered them in a manner that showed genuine interest in our family. My initial jitters were quickly calmed. After an exam and blood work, I went for my first ultrasound. We were able to see our sweet baby that day, a tiny bean with a flickering heart. What an amazing moment.

My pregnancy started out a textbook case. The nausea hit around 7 weeks. It came at all times of the day, morning and/or night. An admitted gum addict, I found that chewing it made me feel 10 times worse, especially minty flavors. I had to put the gum away. I also learned that hunger made me sick. The only way to minimize the urge to vomit was by keeping my stomach full. A little "snack" did not cut it. Having once believed the extreme hunger proclaimed by pregnant women was simply an excuse for lack of self control, I quickly learned otherwise. Blake was amazed by my appetite, watching me eat every few hours. How could a tiny being require so many calories? There were no particular cravings. I just wanted what I wanted when I wanted it...whatever that was. If eating was delayed, I became nauseated. Luckily, all of this seemed to calm down by week 12.

My 16th week of pregnancy began in early March. I was lying in bed on the 3rd, a Saturday, when I felt movement for the first time. Three kicks, back to back, in the same spot. Little bubbles popping in my lower abdomen. For the next five minutes, I could not move, wanting to feel it again and again. At that moment, the reality of the life within reached a new level. By March 16th, Blake was able to share in the excitement and feel the kicks and punches himself. Oddly enough, the first time he felt movement, it was 3 times, back to back, in the same spot. There was a pattern to the baby's activity and it always seemed to increase just as we were settling into bed. Those were precious times.

My 20 week ultrasound was scheduled a little early, at 18 weeks and 5 days. I must admit I was anxious about that day. First and foremost, I wanted to see a healthy baby. With a degree in health care, I was concerned about the development of the baby and could not help but worry things might not go as I had planned. Like every other parent, we wanted a "perfect" child. I cannot describe the relief I felt when our baby measured beautifully, 4 heart chambers, 2 kidneys, a stomach, a bladder, 10 fingers, 10 toes. We watched the baby's mouth open and close while he or she swallowed amniotic fluid. We could see little hands, arms and legs gently moving around. Otherwise preferring to lay still, our little one did not cooperate in revealing his or her gender to us. I appreciate modesty but we wanted to see “parts,” or lack there of. Despite the technician‘s best attempts to get our child moving, “I am pretty sure it's a girl” was the best we got. While Blake was satisfied with that answer, I wanted certainty. How convenient that he works at a vet clinic…with ultrasound. We took another look a few days later and were pretty convinced she was a little girl. Just to clarify, my doctor knew about this! :)

I was halfway there with a healthy, baby girl growing inside. Having the ultrasound out of the way, my mind was now at ease. Let the planning begin. Expected to arrive on August 16th, I spent hours online looking at cribs, bedding, gliders, dressers. I wanted her room to be feminine, delicate, sweet. Only willing to get the safest and best for our daughter, consumer reports ratings on car seats and strollers were more important than color or design. There was so much to think of, so much we would need. Showers had been mentioned and a few dates were set. We would need to register soon. It was easy to let my mind drift into the future, in an attempt to picture life with our little girl. Was I ready? Would we be good parents? Who would she look like? What color would her hair be? The excitement and anticipation was building minute by minute. I could not wait for her arrival.

I noticed my first contractions on, of all days, April 1st. I had a busy day with church, shopping and a workout at the YMCA. While talking to Blake and making dinner, I noticed a rhythmical, painless tightening in my lower abdomen. That was odd. Having never felt this sensation before, I was a little concerned. I called my doctor’s office and Dr. B just happened to be on call. After describing my symptoms, he felt I may be dehydrated and recommended I lie on my left side and drink a large glass of water as quickly as possible. If the contractions continued, I was to call him back. Sure enough, I must have been dehydrated. What I had been feeling was now gone. Dr. B called back to check in and I told him the good news. To be safe, he wanted to see me the next morning. When I arrived at his office the next morning, her heart rate was strong and there was no dilation. No worries.

Blake had tickets to watch practice rounds for the Masters. A bit spooked by the events of Sunday, he questioned whether he should stay or go. After the good report, I sent him on his way. There was no reason for plans to change. I was fine. She was fine. We were fine. Feeling confident all was well, I went on in to work. There were a few new sensations that day, different from the day before. Best I can describe, my abdomen would randomly “knot up.” I was convinced it was part of pregnancy. She was just bigger and becoming more active. She was flipping around and it was her head or her bottom I was feeling. It continued on Tuesday. Nothing painful, just strange. I didn't call. This was normal.

Around 6:30 Tuesday night, things changed. Blake would not be home until late that evening so I made plans to eat out with friends. As I was getting ready, something just felt different. I was not in pain, but the knots seemed more consistent. I was convinced I was being paranoid, she was just moving. I had just seen the doctor and we were fine. I went on to dinner. On edge the whole time, all attempts to hide my concern were ineffective, as my words were few and I only picked at my meal. My mind could not focus on anything other than the activity of my uterus. Not to mention I was trying to drink as much water as I could. By the time I got home, the knots seemed more frequent. I got on the phone with Blake, every few minutes it seemed, trying to describe it all to him. In a car, over and hour and a half away from home, he tried to keep me calm and encouraged me to call the doctor. That is what they are for. So I did. After explaining the situation, the doctor on call did not seem too concerned. He recommended I watch the clock to make sure they were not regular. I was to call back if they were less than five minutes apart. As I lay on my left side, consuming glass after glass of water, I began to watch the clock. With each passing minute, I noticed a pattern. They were about 5 minutes apart. By this time, Blake was in Murfreesboro, about 45 minutes away and a severe storm was moving into the area. I called the doctor back to give him an update. He wanted me to come in but not by myself. He suggested I have someone drive me in. So, I would wait for Blake, as he was closer than anyone else at that point.

Shortly thereafter, things turned in a different direction. At 9:35, the first painful contraction hit. They lasted for around 45 seconds from start to finish. It was intense and I knew something was wrong. They continued with no hint of deceleration in sight. I kept calling Blake, begging him to carefully hurry home. I was scared, he was scared. When he pulled into the garage, I could barely stand. Through the thunder, lightening and pouring rain, it seemed like an hour from our house to Baptist. Of course, traffic was backed up due to a weather related accident. When we finally made it to the hospital, we parked on the 3rd floor of the garage and walked right in the door. I had not decided where I would deliver at that point in the pregnancy so I had not completed the pre-registration process. They would need all of my information. As I began to state my social security number to the receptionist, I had a major contraction and it happened. My water broke. Not just a trickle. My membranes ruptured. The physical pain immediately stopped. But the emotional pain was only beginning. At that moment, we were fully aware what the outcome would be. We were going to lose our baby.

Then next thing I can recall is being placed in a wheelchair, Blake going one direction and me in another. They did not know what to do with me. Initially, I was taken to triage, where several nurses sat looking as I repeated over and over, "I'm losing this baby... I am LOSING this baby...Lord please don't let this happen...I need my husband...WHERE is my husband?" From there I was taken to a labor and delivery room, just like we had seen on a tour a few weeks back. Blake walked through the door within seconds of my arrival. Nurses filled the room, monitors were strapped to my belly, an IV went into my left arm. Panic and confusion filled the room. Was this a dream? Could this REALLY be happening to us?

The doctor on call came in and confirmed what we already knew. He stood at the foot of the bed, with his lab coat thrown over his shoulder as he told us our child would not survive. At only 20 weeks and 5 days gestation, she was not "viable." There were no medicines they could give. There were no procedures they could perform. Life outside of my womb was not possible. He was very "matter of fact" with his presentation. I will never forget his face...his bedside manner... his lack of compassion. Meanwhile, all I could hear in the background was my baby's heart beating on the monitor. It was too much to bear. I could not listen. I asked that them to turn the sound off.

We had a few moments to ourselves and all we could do was sob. Blake had to make the dreaded phone call to our parents. He could barely get words out, "We're losing the baby." It broke my heart to see him so broken, so devastated. He came back and laid beside me in the bed and we just held each other, trying to take it all in. I tried to pull it together the best I could in an attempt to encourage him. "We can do this...we will make it...we have been so blessed..." I may have said it but my heart was having a difficult time believing them.

Within an hour of my admission, Dr. B was there. He entered the room and the tears flowed even harder. Visibly shaken, he held our hands and gently walked us through his findings. More than likely, I had a placental abruption. The placenta separated from my uterus, triggering labor. He was perplexed, as I had no known risk factors for such an occurrence. He prepared us, as best he could, for what we could expect in the hours to come. Ethically, they could not induce labor. She was alive and they could not accelerate her passing. We would have to wait for the inevitable. Nature would have to take its course and her heart would have to stop. Given an option, we would not have done anything differently. He was there for us and would be throughout the night. He was a gift in the midst of a storm.

Every half hour or so, the nurse came in to check her heart rate. She would turn up the volume on the monitor to see if sounds would follow. The first few times, her heart was so strongly, beating away. I could still occasionally feel her move. It was killed me inside to know it they would be the last kicks I would feel. What was she thinking? Was she scared? Was she in pain? I am her mother, for heaven's sake, why can't I do something to help her? Helpless. Hopeless. Gradually, the beats were slower and weaker and the movement faded. Around 5:00 in the morning, on April 4th, they turned the volume up one final time. The monitor was silent. Dr. B came in to perform an ultrasound to confirm the nurses findings. They were correct. Our little one was gone. My labor was induced and slowly progressed throughout the morning. Around 2:30 that afternoon, the contractions intensified and indescribable pain followed. She was born around 3:15pm. I did not pass tissue. I gave birth to a child; a tiny and perfect baby. The pain stopped and in the blink of an eye, it was over.

Wrapped in a blanket, a nurse brought our daughter to the bedside. 15.4 ounces and 11.5 inches. Long and skinny. 10 fingers. 10 toes. The effects of delivery were apparent. Bruised and battered, her skeletal system was immature and delivery took a toll on her tiny frame. There was no way we could have prepared for such a moment. This was not how I had envisioned her arrival. I had not pictured her this way. So many emotions ran through my mind as a look down at my daughter. Love, sadness, disbelief, anger, shock, disappointment, fear, agony, emptiness. It is, by far, the hardest experience of my life. Our time with her was brief. It hurt so much to see her that we quickly sent her away. I would give anything to change that moment in time. Had I only known how to handle the situation...

We were eventually taken to a room on another floor; one where we couldn't hear the the cries of babies next door. As I was wheeled into the room, I noticed a picture of a leaf with a water droplet on it hanging from the door. It almost looked like a tear. My guess, it was a sign to employees. A discrete way of alerting anyone who entered the room that it's occupants were grieving. Once we settled in, I was encouraged to take a shower because it would make me feel better. I guess, physically, it did. But emotionally, it was quite difficult. A belly that was tight and round when I walked into the hospital doors was now soft and mushy. Completely empty. I could not even look at myself in the mirror. I just dried of and got into bed. Though I was physically and mentally exhausted, I was too scared to close my eyes. I did not even attempt to try and sleep on my own. I asked for Ambien and it quickly allowed me to rest. Having been awake for over 36 hours at that point, Blake was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

We were discharged the next morning, Thursday. A transporter wheeled me to the side door where Blake was waiting with the car. I noticed my seat, still in the reclined position as I had left it Tuesday night. We would drive away from the hospital together. As we drove, everyone we passed seemed happy. They were singing to the radio, talking on the phone, laughing with others in the car. Life was normal. Our car was anything but normal. There was one less person riding. There was no car seat. No baby. How would we go home and resume a normal life? There was nothing normal about what we had just experienced. Life, as we knew it, was forever changed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Most folks use some form of calender to remind them of important events in life. A desk calender, a wall calendar, a computer or a phone. We use something to remember anniversaries, weddings, meetings, birthdays, vacations, appointments and holidays. Things we would not want to forget.

If you were to glance at the side of our fridge to the Mary Engelbreit calendar hanging by a magnet, it would seem as if today holds no significance in our life. Our calender is blank on June 17th. Nothing has been written. Strangely enough, I can see two words clearly written, "Baby Due!!!"

The first thing I did when we got an official due date for Finley was flip to August 16th and write in big, bold letters "Baby Due!!!" I did not want to forget that date! (Even though I am pretty sure that would not have happened!) But when August came and she did not, the words I had written remained. It was all I could see when I looked at the month of August. Should I white them out? Should I scratch through them? I couldn't bear to see the words day after day. So, last year, I went straight from July to September, in an attempt to spare myself the daily visual reminder of what would not be. I preferred to occasionally lift the July page to make sure I didn't miss anything or anyone important in August! It was just easier that way and it worked.

I never had the courage to fill in Caroline's due date on this years M.E. calendar. Even though I never believed it would happen again, what if it did? It felt like a jinx that I wanted to avoid. It presumed too much. It would be there even if the baby was not and I didn't want to go through that again. At least that was my rationale.

I have talked myself out of really believing that Caroline was due today by saying,"Technically, they would have taken her at 39 weeks." That would have been a week ago. June 1oth. But that just happened to be our anniversary. So, for the sake of celebrating our anniversary, I convinced myself that an induction date was never set and the 10th didn't count either.

Basically, I have been attempting to avoid Caroline's due date in any way possible. But the mind games have not worked. I am well aware that we would be celebrating the birth of our child by now had the events of February not taken place.

When I look at the calendar, there are dates and months that have taken on a new "significance" for me. Some are harder to get through than others. To list them out:

February-We lost Caroline

April- We lost Finley

June- Caroline was due

August- Finley was due

September- Caroline was conceived

October- We learned we were pregnant with Caroline

November- Finley was conceived

December- We learned we were pregnant with Finley

Eight out of 12 months have some sort of milestone to the life and death of our girls. Please know that I do not sit and dwell on this stuff. Sure, it crosses my mind every now and then. Especially when a significant date rolls around. I think this is just part of pregnancy. Your calendar changes the minute you learn the big news. "I will be 13 weeks when we go on the cruise...Blake can't go to the AVMA conference because that is only 1 month from my due date...I am having a shower on...The baby will be 6 weeks when we go to... so on and so forth..." Every moment from the positive test on revolves around pregnancy and the birth of a baby. It is hard to change 20+ weeks of thinking and planning when the outcome is not as expected.

If I am honest, the anticipation of significant dates is much worse than the dates themselves, most of the time. Today was not a bad day. We bought and Blake planted a new Laurel in the front yard because one of our transplants bit the dust. We had a great lunch of leftovers from J. Alexanders. We drove out to Montgomery Bell State Park to play 18 holes. Well, I drove/rode while Blake played. It was a beautiful day to be outside, enjoying time off together. After dinner with friends and a little guitar hero, the day was basically over. We made it through another date. Not a tear was shed. There was little discussion about what might of been. We chose not to go there.

I am grateful for peace today. I am glad that today was not filled with sorrow. By the grace of God, this date was pretty good. But, I am glad it is over!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


It has officially been 8 years of wedded bliss! June 10th, 2000 was the day we became "The Malones"!!!!! Our vows have been tested-for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. By the grace of God, we have survived it all together!

Most of you know there are more than 8 years to our story. Technically, today marked 15 years, 9 months and 2 days of our life as a couple. Who knew that a little flirting by the locker in the 9th grade would lead to this! Rather than posting a million pictures, I have attempted a "collage of eras," if you will...

A few fun facts:

  • It all started on September, 8th 1992

  • Blake had just turned 15, I was still 14

  • Our parents took us to the movies the first year we were "going together"

  • Our first car date was together (CHS football game!)

  • We had the same schedule our 11th grade year in high school. Blake decided it would not be good for our relationship so he changed his! How mature is that?

  • We were prom king and queen!

  • We went to college in different states

  • We never broke up

  • We have lived in Lexington, KY; Auburn, AL; and Nashville, TN - I get to claim Kansas City, MO because I was stuck there for 12 weeks!!!

  • Blake worked while I finished school, I worked when he went back to school

  • Since we have been married we have been to St. Thomas, St. Marteen, St. Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, San Juan, San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, Scottsdale, Lake Tahoe, Breckenridge, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, Costa Maya, Orlando, Curacao, Aruba...maybe more!

  • We have both had our names legally changed...the middle name curse

There you have it, more pictures of the Malones than you ever wanted to see. It took me hours to go through them all. Of course it brought back a lot of great memories and may have even caused me to shed a tear or two! Lucky for me, we have changed a lot since 1992. I look back at old pictures and wonder what I was thinking?!? I chose to believe we are getting better each year!

I am blessed with an amazing husband and am grateful for the life we have been given! Happy Anniversary! Here's to many more!