For those of you who were unable to attend, here is my speech in its entirety. May it give you hope and encouragement as you journey where you are as well! Father, Thank you that you allow me to speak to amazing people everyday through this blog. You are awesome and wonderful and I am blessed to be your daughter!! In Jesus' name, AMEN!
Tiny Purpose Walk to Remember 2010 Speech
What an honor it is to stand here and speak to you, a group of people who are remembering the loss of a baby. Four years earlier, I stood where you are, listening to someone speak at this event for the very first time. I wondered how someone could go through this tragic loss and still stand among you and speak as though it hadn’t completely destroyed who they were. I wondered, four years ago, whether I would ever “get over” my loss. I thought that if I wasn’t sad anymore, then I was forgetting my child. You see, in the midst of it, I wasn’t able to see beyond the hurt, beyond the void, but here I am today, proudly ready to share my journey with you.
My story begins by telling you that I had wanted to be a mom my entire life. I babysat all the neighborhood kids as a teen; I gravitated toward babies and genuinely couldn’t wait to have a dozen of my own. Yes, I said it, a dozen. I wanted as many kids as I was able to have and being a stay at home mom would be great as well.
When we got married, though, I compromised. My husband, Shaun, said he only wanted 2, and I agreed that 2-4 was acceptable. But, as we were only 22 years old at the altar, we decided to wait a couple years before trying to have children – we were young and thought we had plenty of time. Almost 3 years after we were married, we got pregnant within the first two months of coming off of the birth control pill. I was ecstatic. There were a few complications in the early pregnancy, but nothing major.
In the beginning of the third trimester, I had to be put on pills to control my gestational diabetes and that made me a little more high risk, but it was common, nonetheless. I saw a specialist monthly and had extra tests done and the specialist determined that everything was normal and I should not have any diabetes related problems. At 36 weeks, he said I was able to go into labor on my own, and deliver at the local hospital, and would no longer be considered high risk.
When I was almost 40 weeks pregnant, I had had a non-stress test that said that the baby was healthy, thriving and doing well. I went into labor the next day, a Friday night in January. After the contractions were more regular and I was clearly in pain, my hubby decided that it was time to go to the hospital. It was 2am and I had labored most of the day at home because I wanted to have a natural birth and I knew as soon as I got to the hospital, there would be pressure for drugs. But, my hubby overruled when he saw me in pain and off to the hospital we went.
We arrived at 2am and I was still only 4cm dilated. The contractions slowed down, so the doctor chose to break my water, which was stained with meconium. This could suggest that the baby was stressed, but the monitors didn’t seem to show any other signs, so doctor just told me that a pediatrician would be there when I delivered to make sure the baby’s lungs didn’t fill with that fluid. A few hours went by while I was contracting and laboring. I was handling it well, until at one point, when I had an extreme contraction that made me scream with terror and caused me to vomit, it hurt so badly. The nurse administered some narcotics and I slept for about 20 minutes. When I woke up, I was shivering. She checked my temperature and it was showing a fever. The nurse claimed that when a patient shivers it usually means she is close to pushing so she was going to check my cervix as well. I rolled over and she saw some blood, but thought that it also meant I was closer to delivery. Then she checked me.
She pulled out her hand and bright red blood just gushed all over the bed. She immediately pressed the call button and called for the doctor to come into the room stat! I was drugged, so I really didn’t understand. I thought she was calling the doctor to prep me to push. When the doctor came in and checked, she told me that my placenta abrupted. She explained that the placenta must have torn away from the uterus and she had to do an emergency c-section because this is dangerous for him and he would not be able to breathe without my placenta. She checked me to see if I was far enough along to begin pushing him out right then, but I was still only 6-8 cm and blood continued to gush. I was immediately wheeled into the OR at 5:45am, narrowly missing the walls as they rounded the corners. I was scared. Everyone seemed so serious and in such a hurry. I looked around and asked the doctor, “Am I going to die?” Staring me in the eyes she said, “That’s why we’re doing the surgery, hon, to make sure you don’t.” While we waited for the anesthesiologist to arrive, I saw the nurses and doctor in a panic. They all seemed to be checking the clock, instruments ready. When the anesthesiologist finally arrived, the surgery began. My son was born at 6:30am, 8lbs, 9oz. We named him Ethan Amari Plato. I was told he had a heart beat, but was blue and wasn’t breathing. My hubby followed the nurses who took Ethan to a different room to work on him.
I, in the meantime, was bleeding to death. My blood wasn’t clotting and the doctor gave me multiple doses of medication to stop the bleeding. I was coming in and out of consciousness and just knew I was dying. Eventually, they were able to stop the bleeding in my uterus and finished the surgery. After switching me to a clean bed, I watched the doctor and nurse squeeze the blood stained sheets into a container to measure how much was lost. I thankfully did not have to have a hysterectomy, but I did have to have several blood transfusions due to losing over half of my blood volume. Amazing, now that I think of it, how I survived that trauma.
It was hours before I knew what was happening with Ethan. I found out that my baby had essentially been suffocating inside of me while we waited for the surgery. He had to be ventilated and was quickly sent to the university hospital to have a cooling study done to possibly reverse the brain damage due to lack of oxygen from the placental abruption. At U of M, Ethan had to have his body cooled to 90 degrees for 72 hours. There was a slight 1 in 8 chance of complete reversal of the brain damage and we were praying for that miracle.
We called our church family shortly after the delivery and started a prayer chain right then. My son and I were fighting for our lives, and my husband was torn between the two hospitals containing the two people he loved most in the world. I had developed pre-eclampsia after delivery and still was having clotting issues. The combination of my high blood pressure and being unable to clot my blood was a serious medical situation. We didn’t sleep for 3 days awaiting word that our miracle was provided to us from God. Since we were faithful followers of Christ, we believed that He would heal us and had trusted Him since the beginning of our pregnancy. But, what we found out at the three day mark, after Ethan was removed from the cooling cap, was that he still had bleeding on his brain. Since I was still very sick in the other hospital, I was just waiting for myself to be well enough to go see him. My husband insisted that Ethan had squeezed his finger and we still didn’t believe that he was destined to die. That night I decided that I needed a nurse or doctor to tell me, directly, how my son was doing. I knew that my husband was probably holding onto any hope there might be, and I needed to hear from someone else that his hope was true. I called a nurse at the university hospital and she told me, “He has little chance of survival and it is important that you come see him soon as he doesn’t have much time left.”
I was in shock. How dare God? I thought. I had trusted Him with my entire life just a few years earlier and thought that once I became a Christian, these kinds of things didn’t happen. Two members of our church, who became our adopted parents in Christ, were in the room with me when I made this call. They instantly fell to their knees and prayed with me, asking God to provide a miracle, but if a miracle was not to be had, to give my husband and me a sense of peace and come to an understanding of what was to happen next. I lay in my bed while the three of us wept. They wrapped their arms around me and promised me that this was not in God’s plan, but instead would be used for the good of those who love God according to Romans 8:28. I was heartbroken. Not only because I had news that my son was about to die, but that I also had not yet seen or held him. I had spent nine complete months loving him and holding him from inside my belly, but I had not held him close to my heart. I wondered if he wondered where his mama was. I felt disgusted that I had abandoned my son in his time of need.
My doctor was reluctant to release me as my condition was still unstable as my blood pressure skyrocketed with this news. But the next afternoon, after a Tiny Purpose leader pleaded with her, the doctor graciously let me go, with the instruction that I be checked if I felt unusual at all. When I saw my child for the first time, I sobbed. How is it possible, I thought, that I dreamed of the day I was going to see my newborn and now all I was thinking about how is how I was going to watch him die? I was told I couldn’t hold him as he was too sick, but I did get to hold him after several hours when the doctor said he would not make it through the night. It was bittersweet, as I held him with the mattress on my lap and took pictures preparing for him to die. But, then he didn’t. He pinked up and was surviving still, we wondered if our miracle was coming. After a brief nap, the next day my husband and I were told by a team of doctors that we had to choose to remove him from life support. I asked them, “and what if we choose not to?” He said, “Then we will choose for you. There is no hope that your child will live. He is brain dead.” The doctors left the room and the words, “NO HOPE” flooded over us. Shaun and I knelt down in the conference room underneath a long table and prayed for clarity and strength to choose this most difficult decision. And a peace overwhelmed us when we decided that we would remove him from life support.
Later that evening, we allowed our family and friends to visit him one last time before he was to die. It crushed me when I watched my father in law hold him tenderly in his arms, while my mother in law sat next to him caressing his swollen cheek. And then Ethan became blue. The nurse told us that he was not going to make it and asked if I wanted to hold him as he lay dying. I said yes, and slid myself into the chair my father in law was sitting in. This time when I held him, it was without the mattress to protect him. He fit so perfectly into the crook of my arm. It felt so comfortable and at that moment I actually felt like I was a mom. I wanted to do everything I could to protect him. I wanted to see his face pink up and know that everything was all right in his world. I wished I could see his eyes lock with mine. He was my first born son and I was watching him slowly lose his color, his body become colder, and then the monitor flat lined. Our son died that night, January 19, 2006, 5 days after he was born.
My husband and I looked to God throughout the next week, depending on Him for each breath. We thanked him for not making us remove the life support and instead taking Ethan on his own timing. We were utterly amazed at the support of the people who loved Ethan by the hundreds of people who showed at his funeral and the meals that were provided for us for weeks and the prayers we heard for months. We knew that God was taking care of us, He was our HOPE. We learned over the next year about God’s sovereignty through weekly Christian counseling and how HE is in control of everything and how everything has a purpose in life. We were able to accept that God’s ways are higher than ours and that even if we never knew the reason for Ethan’s death, that we were so blessed to have been his parents. We learned that just because someone is a Christian it doesn’t exempt them from trials; it just makes them better able to withstand them. We learned that our lives are much richer having known the Lord and depending on Him for everything. Sure, our family and friends wonderfully took care of us in physical need, but in the middle of the night when I noticed that my crib was empty and that my womb was hollow, it was God who kept me from ending my own life. He is the one who gave us hope to keep living despite every inclination to be with our son in Heaven. We know that because we choose to believe that Jesus Christ died for us, that we will be able to be with our son in Heaven when it is time for us to go and clearly it was not yet our time.
The trauma from being close to death and watching our son die kept us from even talking about the possibility of having more children. Fearful on so many levels, especially knowing the hundreds of ways babies die, when the doctor recommended that we wait 2 years, we didn’t argue. After 2 years, we saw a specialist who told us that it was unlikely for this to recur and to go ahead with a pregnancy. Truthfully, I was hoping that he would say that it was a bad idea altogether to try again just so I could grieve the loss of having my own children, and figure out a different way to fill the void that losing Ethan had brought. I didn’t want to admit that I was afraid of losing more children, yet when the specialist said I had a good chance of having a healthy child of my own, I started to be excited about a family again, but we were still too afraid. “What if you die?” my husband asked, “I don’t want to raise kids by myself.” I pretended that I understood, and we lived our lives trying to be okay without having children. But, nothing fills that void. Over the next two years, our marriage suffered. We resented each other and began hating the other. Several times we suggested we divorce, just so we could quit all the arguing and maybe we wouldn’t blame the other for not having children.
Thankfully, we decided on counseling again and after intense therapy we were able to see that our choosing not to get pregnant was really the culprit of our marital distress. In May 2009, three years since Ethan’s death, Shaun and I agreed to try again as our hope finally outweighed our fear. After two months of not getting a cycle and a big fat negative pregnancy test, I called my doctor. We attempted various ways to jumpstart my cycles, but it just wasn’t happening. The doctor had taken tests to see why I wasn’t having them and found no reason. In January 2010, after 7 months of waiting for a cycle, I started taking Clomid to try to ovulate. I did this for three months and it made me absolutely crazy, especially month after month realizing that I was still not pregnant. I asked my doctor to refer me to a fertility specialist and I went to the university hospital for this. It was determined that I had ploy cystic ovaries, which means I don’t ovulate often, and it was by some fluke that I was able to get pregnant so quickly the first time.
In June 2010, one full year of trying to get pregnant without success, we started a new medicine, called Femara and the very first month, I learned that I was pregnant, but I was cautiously optimistic as the nurse said my hormone levels were low. So, I wasn’t surprised when 4 days later I miscarried. At this point, I was so happy to have been able to conceive that the miscarriage didn’t appear to bother me. It wasn’t until 4 more cycles, and 4 more negative pregnancy tests later, that I was beginning to think about where I might be in that pregnancy. I would be 5 months pregnant, learning about whether or not it was a he or a she. I would be showing a little baby bump and would be so excited. And as of last month, I am saddened that I had lost a child who had not even had a chance to be formed. I am saddened that I am dealing with infertility. I am heartbroken that Shaun and I had two babies and they both died. We wonder if we may never be able to have children long enough to bring them home. This infertility and pregnancy loss just stinks. I still feel baby-less and still hurt, trying to attain a family that I had thought God had promised me. I mistakenly thought that since I had endured one of the most excruciating things that a person could bear, that I might be spared from any further pain. I know that God has a plan and his way is better than mine, but if He would just understand how much it hurts. If he would just long for his unborn children and wait for them to smile at him and call him Daddy. If he would just know what it was like to lose a child. And then I realize, OF COURSE HE DOES!! He completely relates to it. He longs for each of us to smile at Him after we have been born again and call him Daddy. He allowed His son to die for us on the cross so that we may have eternal life. I know that He allowed me to let my children die because it will serve a greater purpose. And that is what Tiny Purpose is all about. A place that seeks to show us that our babies were real, that they were loved and that they were in existence for a purpose.
I am still on a mission to bring home several healthy newborns and begin raising my family. I intend to encourage others to continue to try to get pregnant and deal with their emotions during pregnancy and infertility after having had losses. I write a blog of my experience that you can find a link to on the Tiny Purpose website. I hope to inspire others who are fearful of another pregnancy to not give up, but to trust in the Lord who gives them Hope. I am determined not to allow Ethan’s and Baby Plato’s lives to have been lost in vain. They are so much a part of who I am.
I don’t know how God will redeem me for my losses, or whether or not he will do it here on Earth, but I know for certain that He WILL! Isaiah 61:1-3 says, “He was sent to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners . . . to comfort all who mourn . . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” At this current time, after having given myself injections last month, I am praising God again for another pregnancy, and awaiting 9 months to see my third child. I am believing that God will allow me to carry this one and bring him/her home. But I know that even if He doesn’t, even if I have to endure another loss, even if I lose my fertility forever, MY GOD IS STILL GOOD!!
I can remember the pain of the loss just like it was yesterday. I can quickly be transported into the depth of despair. I know that the pain is utterly unbearable, but I am living proof that God can transform your heart. He can make you whole and he can give you hope. There is life after loss. Do the grief work. Honor your children and your marriages and hold onto God with everything that you have! So, here I am standing before you offering you hope. My hope does not come by way of a pregnancy, but in the LORD. Take hold of Him, ask Him to bring you peace, and to fill the void that your loss has brought you. He will provide. Thank you.