We left the hospital with Lily in our arms and hospice by our side. Our hearts were unable to believe that our beautiful girl was not going to survive.
When I found out I was pregnant we were elated, I had always wanted a family and although we were not trying to get pregnant the news was met with open arms. When you find out you are pregnant a million choices have to be made: doctor vs. midwife, which hospital, which birthing class to attend, names!, the list goes on and no where on the list is what you will do if something goes wrong. I was young, with no risk factors and a natural conception; a list that I didn’t know would factor into some of the most challenging decisions we would ever have to make. The 24 weeks and 5 days of my pregnancy were nothing short of a rollercoaster. I had a little spotting at 10 weeks, 11 weeks, 12 weeks and 13 weeks, but the doctors told me not to worry. At fourteen weeks, I had a placenta abruption (my placenta pulled away from the uterine wall) resulting in some more significant bleeding. An ultrasound was conducted at my doctor’s office and I was moved from the patient room into an office where I was told our pregnancy had a major complication and we would not be able to move forward. I sobbed in the office, called my husband at work and told him he had to come to the hospital. When he arrived tears streaming down my face we discussed with the doctor and requested a second opinion. It happened to be a Wednesday when the high-risk team from UC Health was at Boulder Community Hospital and a few hours later we walked into an ultrasound room to meet Dr. Julie Scott. The tech measured everything, and then measured again, then Dr. Scott came in and began the process of measuring…due to the placental abruption I had very little fluid in the amniotic sack surrounding baby. We were given a choice and a lot of statistics, Dr. Scott was kind and direct and together we made the choice to stay pregnant with a 50/50 chance that I would deliver early. The physicians put me on bed rest, ok so I was going to be in bed for 20 weeks, no big thing. I settled in and just 5 weeks later was told I could get up. That didn’t last long.
At 20 weeks, my placenta abrupted again and more severely, I was admitted to our local hospital for bedrest and monitoring, where I stayed until 23 weeks. In Colorado seven years ago a baby delivered before 24 weeks was considered not viable, we were so close and baby and I were holding strong. We were transferred University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. The doctor said, “if there is a baby to get you have to be in a hospital where this baby can get gotten.” We had made it across the line where life outside the womb is possible. Of course, I had no intention of delivering anytime soon, we were going to make it past 30 weeks at least when I could be transferred back to our local hospital. Well Lily had other plans and in the middle of the night on June 22nd my water broke and labor began. After high doses of magnesium to keep my labor at bay, I developed an infection called chorio and spiked a fever. Everything changed in a moment. The conversation went from “you are going to hang out and we will keep your labor at bay for up to 4 weeks,” to, “you are having this baby right now.”
I begged for them to find another way, but my body was shutting down and we needed to get this baby out to save us both. On June 24, 2011 Lily made her way into the world at 24 weeks 5 days. She was hot pink and flat. She had hair all over her body still and her eyes were fused shut because she was so premature. She had a fiery personality and was very naughty from moment one. Over the next three and a half months, we rode the scariest emotional coaster I could have ever imagined. Lily grew and developed. She could roll over and suck her thumb. She loved her pacifier, her Mama singing, and her Daddy’s snuggles. She was growing, but her lungs were not. She was growing, but she could not breathe. No one could explain it and we were quickly running up against the cliff where medicine had no more options – the place where medicine ends and faith begins, the place where no matter what you have faith in, you cling to it, beg for a miracle, offer to some invisible force to trade places.
We left the hospital with Lily in our arms and hospice by our side. Our hearts were unable to believe that our beautiful girl was not going to survive. We took her on walks and to doctor’s appointments and did physical and occupational therapy with her. We held her non-stop for three weeks until her body could fight no more and she died at home in my arms on the morning of November 7th.
Immediately after Lily’s death, we stayed with family for two weeks. We didn’t try to go home or figure out what to do with everything. We didn’t make any decisions beyond the million that we had to decide in planning a funeral. This gave us space to grieve while outside the world kept spinning. My husband and I held each other and cried for a week. We left the blinds open so we could see the sun come up every day as a constant reminder that there was a world out there when we were ready.
On the anniversary of Lily’s birth, we go to Fort Collins because it is our happy place. We hike in the morning and then enjoy a brew at O’dells where we have been going for 12 years since we started dating. We talk about our girl and look at pictures. We cry and wonder about who she would be today. We light wish paper and send love notes up into the sky where I like to believe that Lily lives amongst the stars. We keep this yearly celebration small, just our nuclear family. I try to write in the morning of the anniversary to help me process all the big emotions of the day.