Words by Michelle Watson
When I tell this story I tell it as if I am looking over myself in the past. I see everything as it once was. I am taken back to that moment and I relive it. I relive every story I tell it down to the blood of my bones. I relive these moments for her, because it is her purpose. Our purpose. And our purpose is to connect. -
Up all night and the sun was finally making its morning debut, I rolled out of bed in horrible pain. I had been having contractions for a couple of days now but this was heightened. This was pain and instinct. This was it. I stood up and blood rushed down my leg. Frozen in heartbreak, I said to my fiance, “She is gone.” That is all I kept thinking. Everyone buzzing around me, changing me, moving me, loading me into the ambulance and I was frozen. Heart broken.
The next thing that stands out to me was waiting in the labor and delivery room. The place where they put mothers, about to give birth, in the same room until they are about to push out a baby. A place where they won't move you into privacy until your vagina has met the requirements on a measuring chart, no matter the circumstance. A curtain was closed around me and a nurse was taking down my information, it dawned on me this would be the last time I repeat the same story. “This is my name, this is my birthday, I am 32 weeks, the baby inside of me was supposed to pass away months ago and did not. I am assuming that is what has happened today, please strap the heart monitor on so we can check.” I was monotone. I was numb, but not for long.
Numbness quickly turned into rage as the nurse responded with, “It is noted here that there is no need to check the baby’s heart as the baby is no longer the patient, you are.” Paused, “According to the doctor.” I was told that. I was looked dead in the eyes and told that. I looked around as if I was dreaming. I had witnessed and been a part of the treatment you now commonly receive at a County Hospital. It is appalling and heart breaking. I could tell the nurse was upset saying those words to me the moment she saw my eyes. I knew this was not her doing. I knew when it really comes down to it she was a warrior in the room just as much as I was. She was just doing her job. But I demanded she strap that monitor around my belly and check for a heartbeat. She said, “No”.
I started screaming. I was screaming and I needed my screams to reach anyone and everyone. I screamed for myself and I screamed for everyone else touched by this journey of mine and my daughters. We stuck together, fought, cried with each other and kept each other's chin up until this moment would arrive and here I was and I was just told, No. It was as if all the work we put into getting to this day was just thrown out. We were told, No. It broke my heart. I needed to know. I am a mother. I was this baby’s mother and just like mothers do I was in a state of HOPE. I was crying and screaming, holding onto that last spec of hope, although I knew the outcome. This was my purpose, I had to be brave, I had to stay in the situation and not slip but I also needed to know. I needed to be told right away if my baby was gone. I was in despair.
The nurse had paged the doctor or whoever was able to make this decision for me. So, I waited. I was on fire. The contractions were nothing compared to the fire burning in my stomach and chest. My fiance walked in and the doctor was not far behind him. I can still feel the panic that set in my chest, while I was looking around the room, thinking this could still be a dream that I can not get out of. Then I realize I am not and wasn’t because I see him, I see the doctor and I become enraged. I saw the man I had only seen twice throughout this journey, walk into the room and he approached the nurse. I started screaming. I demanded he approach me first, he needed to come to me. He did. I then told him who the fuck he was. I told him he was the man that was assigned to me. The man that I only saw twice. The man that let the nurses and the undergraduates he was teaching take control of my pregnancy. The man that had refused to see me the week before when I was at my most desperate state of waiting. I drove to the hospital and demanded I be administered an injection to help with developmental lung growth on a fetus. I had not tried to have science intervene during this journey. I accepted what it was and let it play out the way it was supposed to but the week before I read that there was an injection available to help with lung development. I became overwhelmed with hope and I had to try. I remember my fiance refusing to go with me. He would beg me to let it be and I had, I had done a good job of it. But I had to try and that was something he could never understand, and that was okay. My best friend and I drove up, sat for six hours and waited to be seen. I was told to go home and wait. I was told No.
So here I was, back in the hospital, in labor and I was screaming at this man. I let this moment take over me. I let it drive my tears and frustration and I directed all of that to him. Once I was done, he nodded to the nurse and she strapped the monitor across my pregnant belly as I watched the doctor walk away. I never saw him again. Truly, that was it. As he walked away I wondered, why would he pick this world to be in. The world of women, mothers, warriors, fighters. The world where every situation is different and not text book. This is Motherhood. It was not for him. It was not right.
Then, there it was, the all familiar, “thump thump.” Her heart was still beating. I collapsed on the bed with my arms wrapped around her, inside of me. She was still going.
Now in a room, epidural administered. Things were calming but buzzing again. My family was arriving. My mother and sister had made their entrance. My mother in tears. My bestfriend and her mother. My fiance's mother. Everyone was there and doing their part, asking me if I was okay or if I needed ice chips. Thinking back, this was a moment of pure clarity for me, it was a deep place, a sad place but I was very aware and I was in a place of great strength. Epidural or not, I remember these couple of minutes very calmly and clearly. I remember telling myself to prepare for the birth, I remember reminding my mother that they said once they cut the cord she would not be able to survive. I reminded her that she would not be able to breathe. I asked my fiance to be on my left side and he did not move from that spot. I gave myself a talk, I reminded myself that I can be brave. I reminded myself that I needed to hold her and kiss her even though I could never picture her lifeless. I had to be brave. Then I was alerted by a sensation in my lower abdomen. A sensation I could only describe as a zap. Zap. Then, another zap. Then some pain, pressure and that instinct. It was time. I was checked and it was confirmed. It was time to start pushing.
A young doctor came in flanked by many nurses. I looked at that entrance as if it was something out of a movie. This was a young doctor, and he was walking into my room in slow motion with his warriors coming to aide me. I immediately knew that I was in good hands, medically speaking, just by his entrance. Their entrance, a man flanked by women, warriors, nurses.
The nurses started taking control of the room, moving equipment and turning on lights. With my best friend and fiance on each side, I knew it was time. I went into a place of tunnel vision and strength. I made myself ready. I knew it was time. I could hear the nurse telling me to push, so I did. I took some breaths, then, she said to push again, so I did. Then, that deep place I was in, turned into pure desperation.
Everything stopped. I stopped. I could not push, I did not want to have this moment. My tunnel vision and strength melted away and I became desperate and weak. I could not let go. I was not ready. I needed her inside of me, alive, where her heart was still beating. If she was attached to me she would be ok, her heart would still be beating, it was still beating. I was panicked. I could feel that she was close to being born. The immense pressure and pain could only mean that she was crowning. As hard as I tried on this day, I could never have mentally prepared myself for this. My most natural state took over, I was fighting for life, but it was not mine, it was my childs.
I had to stop pushing. They were yelling at me to push and I just bounced my eyes back and forth to my fiance, my best friend, my mother and my fiance's mother. I vividly remember taking a split second to make sense of the scene I saw with my mother. It was just a second but I looked at her and she was sitting on my fiance's mother's lap, crying, screaming at a nurse saying, “She isn’t saying NO because she is weak, she is saying NO because she is not ready.” That was it, and I was back to being shut down, scared and desperate. I just whispered, “ I can’t.” Over and over again. I could not do it. I was breathless. I tried to clamp shut. I tried to make it stop. I could tell everyone was concerned. With tears streaming down my face, my eyes going back and forth to everyone in the room, all I could do was shake my head back and forth, signaling NO. I was drenched in sweat and out of breath. I was physically exhausted and completely heart broken. I was not ready, just like mom said. I wasn’t.
Suddenly, with a very painful jerk below, I looked over at my best friend in fear. She was right there. She was watching it all. She was right in front of me now. My short legs were sliding down from the stirrups and landing on the doctor. I could not control my legs due to the epidural so my best friend stepped in, grabbed a leg and watched the birth of my daughter. She was right there. She saw it all. She was being so brave. I looked at her and she was calm, she looked right at me and smiled. I whispered to her, for the last time, “I can’t do it.” She gently smiled and said, “I know you can’t, but you have to, and guess what? As soon as you do, we can meet our baby girl.” She can be annoyingly optimistic, but she was right. I had to let this baby find her peace and make her purpose known. I could not turn this into a situation that would scar all of us even more. I knew what I had to do.
Nodding in agreement, against every fiber of my being, with my body and my baby giving me no other choice, I pushed again. Hard. Everyone shaking, screaming, trembling, crying and yelling for me to keep pushing, so, I pushed harder. All I could do in this moment was scream back at them, I pushed, screamed, gripped and cried out the word, “NO!” Suddenly, it stopped. After three pushes and twenty minutes, my daughter was born.
We had previously agreed that once she was born she would be taken away and evaluated. I remember agreeing to this but also clearly stating not to take extraordinary measures, I knew then that was not the purpose. That could not be her fate after birth, but the moment they took her away, I was yelling for them to bring her back. I was yelling for them to help her. I kept yelling for them to bring her to me as if I could help her. I needed her back. I had tried to prepare myself for this moment. I was told by every professional I came across during this pregnancy that her heart would stop inside me or once she was born she would not be able to breathe, so, she would not survive. But, there was the nurse walking back towards me saying, “She is here, she is here!” She quickly placed her in my arms and I looked down at her and I saw this baby take a breath, I smiled and said, “Ava.”
She did it. She did it for me. I was in awe of her. She made it.
As I mentioned before I had not prepared myself to see her lifeless. I had tried but I could never bring myself to do it. I had spoken with a friend about it, a month prior, and he asked me to try positive thinking. Manifest. He said that we knew the reality of this situation and that is okay, but it is also okay to picture holding her, alive, eyes open. He said positive thinking is real and it may help me come to terms with it all. I believed him and I did it. I would picture her in my arms breathing and that is it. I would not picture anything else because anything else was not possible. This though, could be possible and so, it was. She opened her eyes, she squeezed my finger, and I wrapped her in the one thing made for her, her lavender blanket. She did that for me. Her incredible power and strength was shining through me throughout this entire pregnancy and I had no idea.
Knowing what I now know about life and the purpose of life, I can tell you with absolute certainty, she did that for me. She picked me for a reason. We were not only physically connected, we were spiritually connected. She knew my soul and I had the privilege to carry hers. She knew what was awaiting me after her death, she knew it was a deep place I was going to be in, a sad, lonely place. It would be a lonely and sad couple of years but she was there the whole time. I can think back to some of the moments of deep sadness or happiness in those years of healing and evolving and see her presence everywhere. I had no idea then, but I do now. She had a greater purpose. It is miraculous to look back and see it all unfold. I was going to be surrounded by death so she was there for my strength. I was going to be lost and she was there to guide me back. Truly, I was on a universally beautiful journey and she knew.
One hour and thirty minutes after her birth, after being held and physically connecting with those who fought with her along the way, she passed away in my arms. Three years later, her sister arrived, a year and half after that, her youngest sister arrived. Six years later, she came back to me.
We can go into that later, it's a long story.