Sitting down to write about our labor with Keller is daunting. That delivery room was such a sacred space. I desperately want to accurately and respectfully portray the holiness of that day and space.
Every labor is momentous. It is a giant task bringing a child into this world. When I began to go into labor with Mary we were flooded with emotion. The responsibility of delivering our daughter lay before us. It was probably equal parts responsibility, respect for what was about to occur, and excitement because in just a few short hours we would get to hold our very own real, live daughter. Laboring with Keller was starkly different. We fully realized the responsibility before us and respected the process of labor, but we were void of any sort of excitement to motivate us to keep moving forward. Labor is difficult in the best of circumstances. It is especially difficult for the mother, and all of her loved ones, to labor knowing the outcome will shatter your world.
We were wheeled into our room shortly after Wendy arrived. I was scared. I didn’t know why Keller died. Was I going to die too? Was it something wrong with my body that caused Keller’s heart to stop beating? I remember looking at our Doctor and saying “I’m trusting you. I need you to keep me ok. I need you to promise me that.” I wanted my husband and daughter to be protected. I needed to be there for them as we sorted through the rubble of losing Keller. I remember at some point allowing my mind to let go of the worry of my own death. My vitals were wonderful and Keller deserved my undivided attention. The Lord lifted that burden off of my heart.
The nurse cried with me and as tenderly as possible, gathered all my information, and prepared me for induction. I chose to get an epidural before they induced me with Pitocin. I couldn’t bring myself to fight through physical pain as well as emotional and mental torment. The epidural did not take properly at first. Minutes after it was placed, my ears started ringing, I became nauseous, and I started to black out. “Something’s not right. Something’s not right.” Nathan and Wendy helped sit me up and put my head between my knees. I asked Wendy if she had any oils I could smell. She handed me Peppermint and Lemon. So now and forever, Keller will smell like Peppermint and Lemon – it’s his scent. I like that I have scent to for always know Keller by. The oils eased the nausea and helped me focus in just enough to stay present. After determining that I could still completely feel my bottom half, the doctors put in a new epidural. This one took well and allowed me to labor almost completely free of physical pain. (Fact: As tiny as I am, it takes an absurd amount of anesthesia to knock me out.) The administered Pitocin, and the 18 hours of labor began.
The labor came in giant, crashing, tsunami-like waves. Nathan and I would hold each other and weep bitterly. Anguish coursed through our veins. We would have moments where each of us would absolutely crumble beneath the weight of it all. And then, for a moment, the wave would subside and a moment of relief and lightheartedness would come. It would give us the strength we needed to face the next imminent and roaring wave.
I have to pause to admit that finding the ability to tell this story is really escaping me. I miss that day so much. I feel so protective about that day. If I could have one thing in life, it would be to go back in and live that day all over again. I know that sounds bizarre. That was the day, the only day, I got to be with our son. That day I sat at the feet of God. I was held in His hand. I was in His presence. Everything about that room and day was safe and protected by our Lord. It is absolutely impossible to capture the glory that occurred. My words can’t and won’t capture it. That being said, I’ll do my best to share any glimpse of glory I can.
Wendy massaged my feet and belly as the contractions began. She prayed over us. My parents were on a plane within a few hours. It was a comfort knowing they were coming to be right at our side. At times, we all wept collectively. At times, we took turns being crushed by the weight of Keller’s death. At times, we read over and praised God for each message and prayer we had received. At times, we reflected on the lessons we had already learned in just a few short hours. At times, we got hungry and I begged for (and got) popsicles and jello. At times, we researched our upcoming Hawaii trip. At times, we laughed till we cried. Anyone who has ever experienced intense sorrow knows that it is impossible to sustain bitter weeping for hours on end. Your mind, body, and soul need a moment of rest before tackling the next wave of grief.
The labor progressed slowly for the first 12 hours. My body was contracting, but it wasn’t quite ready to let go of our son. This was disheartening. We desperately wanted to meet him. An article had gone viral not long before Keller was born – A mother delivered what the doctors had determined to be a stillborn child, and after minutes of the mother holding him tightly, a heartbeat was detected and the baby was indeed alive. This article was in the back of my mind the entire labor. I knew, my heart knew, my body knew, the fetal monitors knew, but a mother can’t help but cling to any hope that may be present. Nathan clung to the hope even tighter than I did. He thought if we could just get him out, maybe there is faint heartbeat. Maybe they can rush him to the NICU. Maybe, just maybe, he will live.
My parents arrived around the 11th hour of labor and from there, things began to progress more rapidly. As Wendy said, I was waiting for them. My mom immediately crawled into bed with me and held me tight. Tears flowed down our cheeks as we just held onto each other. My dad wept as he kissed my head and laid his hand on my stomach, on Keller. We all sat together and labored. Each person in that room labored just as I did. My parents were at the ready to be everything we needed. They would deliver a light hearted topic to talk about when my mind started to go to dark places. They would leave the room and allow Nathan and I to hold each other and discuss next steps. They coordinated a friend to bring food so everyone could get a bit of sustenance. They read us messages from loved ones in agony over our loss. We even played “Heads Up” for a bit. My brain was beyond spent. It need any tiny, half-second break it could get.
We got picture updates from our friends caring for Mary. She was smiling at the park, completely unaware of what had happened. Those pictures were so hard to see. It was hard to face the fact that Mary would never know her brother. It broke us every time. Mary sustained us too. We wanted to hold her as close as we could, as quickly as we could, and cry and praise God for our breathing and thriving daughter.
By the time my body was ready to deliver, the Doctor who had told us we lost Keller was back for her next shift. This was the same doctor I made promise would take care of me. She would deliver Keller. This was the poetic providence of God.
Coincidentally enough, today is Labor Day and I am working as hard as I can to convey to our “Labor Day” to you. It truly is impossible.
Just know, everyone who entered that room was altered. The Lord’s presence was tangible. He sustained us and provided in incredible ways. It was the most worshipful act I will ever be apart of. I would labor over and over if that meant I could be in that close of contact with my son and our Lord. Jesus sacrificial love was magnified. Prayers of the saints were blanketed on top of us. It was worship in its truest form.
I miss you Keller. I will love you and labor each and every day to hold you again.