I’m sure that some of you are curious about what, exactly, happened in my pregnancy, but you’re not sure if you should ask. Thank you for respecting our privacy by not asking. I don’t mind you knowing, but it is a painful story to tell, so I’m going to do it once right here and now and be done with it.
It was a Saturday morning. We had just eaten a late breakfast and were getting ready to play a video game together. Will was excited because he loves video games, and this was the first time I was going to play with him. I got up to go to the bathroom before we started, and while I was on the toilet, my water broke. I guess I should be glad it happened on the toilet and not on the couch, but it’s impossible to be glad right now about anything that happened that day.
I freaked out, started shaking, and shouted for Will to help me. I couldn’t stop shaking. I told him to get me a pad even though I knew it wouldn’t do much good at all. I asked if he could drive to the hospital because I didn’t want to wait for an ambulance. He said he could do it, so he changed out of his pajamas and I grabbed a towel to sit on in the car. We called the doctor on the way and told him what had happened. He said to meet him at the women’s center at the hospital.
When I walked in, they got my information, and a nurse came out to meet me and take me to a room. She just kept saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” I had no idea what was happening, and I think she probably wasn’t allowed to make a diagnosis before the doctor had seen me, but she knew exactly what it was and where it was headed.
The doctor came in, and they brought an ultrasound machine so he could check on the baby. There was no fluid left, and he couldn’t find her heartbeat. He did a full exam and said he could already see pieces of the membrane breaking and coming out. There was nothing to be done at that point but get her out. Her lungs weren’t formed well enough to breathe, so she was completely dependent upon the amniotic fluid. When it was gone, so was she.
We sat around a lot, family came and went, the chaplain spoke to us, the nurses patted my arm, and eventually they gave me something to start labor. They told me it would feel like really strong menstrual cramps, but that it wouldn’t be so bad. They asked if I wanted morphine, and I did, so they set up a drip. It did not just feel like strong cramps. It was so bad. But my sweet husband did not leave my side. He sat right next to me and held my hand the whole time.
We knew we wanted to name our baby, so we quickly made some decisions on boy and girl names. It’s amazing how fast and easy it can be to come up with a name. We make such a big deal out of it, but it’s really quite simple. Ella Claire for a girl. It’s what I had always wanted to name a daughter if I ever had one. Ella for my maternal grandmother, who was named after her own maternal grandmother. Claire for my paternal grandmother (and also my middle name until I got married and changed it). We had just taken a silly internet quiz that morning to tell us what we were having, and it was right. We were expecting a girl.
Several hours later, the doctor came in and told me to push. That part didn’t hurt at all. In fact, all the physical pain stopped at that point. Even the next day, I felt like they expected me to be in a lot of pain, but I wasn’t. They gave me a prescription for heavy-duty ibuprofen, but we didn’t even fill it. I was fine. Just empty and devastated.
I had a baby. The doctor told me to push, and out she came. He said, “Your baby has passed. It looks like it’s a girl.” He asked the nurse for the time, and she told him. 9:08 p.m.
This is the story of how Ella Claire McMillian came into the world. She was tiny and perfect. She had ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes, all her finger- and toenails, little cheeks and eyes and ears and lips, a little perfect nose. Will said he’d always thought that babies just looked like babies, but that Ella looked like me.
We spent some time alone with her, and then the chaplain came in to pray with us and bless our daughter. Then they took her away and moved me to another room.
Your story is one of love. You were conceived in love, anticipated eagerly in love, wanted, hoped for, dreamed of, and prepared for. You were delivered in sorrow, and you are grieved in pain, but only because you were and are so, so very loved. And even though you are gone, your story is not finished because our love for you will never end, and it will never change. Wherever you are, my perfect girl, I am eagerly anticipating the day I get to meet you again.