The Life and Death of Haven, our Beloved Daughter

The Life and Death of Haven, our Beloved Daughter


I was in my 23rd week of pregnancy and everything was going along just fine. This was my first pregnancy and I am 33. My baby was due on Labor Day.

My pregnancy was going along just fine. I had no morning sickness or other symptoms until one night I noticed some major swelling in my legs/feet. I had read that swelling was "normal" during pregnancy, so I didn't worry. When the swelling was not totally gone the next morning, I gave my doctor a quick call. The nurse asked me to come by to check my blood pressure.

The nurse checked my swelling. She had a tight lipped expression on her face, but said nothing. I stepped onto the scale and had gained 13 pounds in less than four weeks. I knew I must be retaining water since I had gained no weight in during earlier visits.

When she started checking my urine, she made a few comments like, "Oh NO! Sara -- you aren't supposed to be doing this so early in your pregnancy. How do you feel about bed rest?" I gasped and immediately worried about all the things that remained undone -- after all, I had three and one half months before this baby was due. She then took my blood pressure and her face turned pale. I asked what it was, but she wouldn't tell me and only asked if I had a headache, which of course I immediately had (power of suggestion). She seemed to be fascinated by the fact that I had driven myself to the doctor's office (in retrospect, I think she was amazed that I hadn't blacked out, or worse!).

She grabbed me and took me back to an examination room, asked me to lay down on my left side and told me to stay there (no explanation). Then she flipped the light switch off and closed the door. Well, I made it approximately two minutes before my stomach reversed itself and I ran for the bathroom. As I went by, I could see the nurse speaking to my doctor directly outside my door, in a hushed voice. I made it to the bathroom in time to use the comode and had been there only a few seconds before the nurse came and took me back to my room, telling me to remain laying on my side, even if I puked in the exam room. My panic level was not good at this point. In fact, I was starting to feel very weak.

Finally the nurse came back in and rechecked my blood pressure and still wouldn't tell me what it was. She called my husband to tell him to come into the office (wouldn't tell him anything, so he was pretty paniced). I couldn't believe this was happening. After Greg arrived, the doctor finally came in and told me that I had toxemia (preeclampsia) and that I needed to be in the hospital, to see if they could "slow me down" enough to keep the baby for another two weeks, or if they would have to deliver right away. My mind screamed, "NO! My baby isn't due for **MONTHS**! What do you mean deliver?" My body didn't even feel bad, save for the headache that seemed so much worse after puking.

Arriving at the hospital was a blur, as was being placed in a private room on the far end of the labor/delivery ward. They pulled the window shades and turned the air conditioning way up. The nurse began wrapping the bed rails with sheets and towels and told me not to worry, that my doctor always had this done, as a precaution, in case I were to have a **SEIZURE**!

So I layed in my bed, totally quiet except for brief snatches of conversation with my scared husband, trying to will my blood pressure down. My arms began to look like a junkie's, lots of major league bruises. Never before had taking a blood pressure been more traumatic nor more painful. Before I left the hospital, I had pinprick bruises all over my upper arms where they had to pump the pressure up on the cuff. Life became segments of 20 minutes (time between automated blood pressure checks).

Greg and I tried to talk some about what was happening during this long day. I tried to calmly broach the subject of our life insurance, asking if the premiums were paid and telling him about some "unfinished" stuff in my life. He tried to laugh it off, but we both knew there were some grains of truth in my fear.

At the end of the evening, Greg decided to go home and get some rest. I agreed, even though I was terrified to be left alone, and didn't know how to say so. At the point he left, my doctor had indicated that things were still grave and that he still didn't know what was going to happen. Over night things got drastically worse. Finally the doctor came in about 6:00 a.m. and told me that the latest report from the lab was that my kidneys had totally shut down and my liver was failing. He said that we would *HAVE* to induce labor because my choice now was for MY OWN life or death, without considering the baby. When I asked him if there was any chance for my baby to live so early, he told me no, as compassionately as he could. He also said the baby's organs would be too small for any other child to use. I was inconsolable, but called Greg back to the hospital with the news that we were inducing labor.

They tried everything on me, but I never started contractions and finally my doctor told me that we had to do a C-section. This would mean that any subsequent pregnancies would have to be by c-section (the uterus had to be cut the wrong way because of the baby's tiny size), plus my recovery time would be extended because of the surgery. I guess I was in shock and was so surprised when the nurses asked if Greg would be in the surgery room. I told him that I didn't think he would want to be present for this since the baby wouldn't live (I regreted this later) and he agreed. The neo-natal pediatricians came in and told us that the baby (based on the age) had less than a 10% chance of even being intubated and taking a first breath.

Then they wheeled me down to the operating room and started the epidural. It made me feel pretty out of it, but I was still conscious. I was afraid to be put totally under because I figured I wouldn't wake up. When they started cutting my stomach it was so strange to feel the pressure but no pain. After the skin was cut and they cut through the muscle wall, I felt searing pain. I can remember saying, "I feel that, I feel that, I feel that!" They had to get me out of pain quickly because my blood pressure was soaring and they feared I might have a seizure. So, they injected me with morphine. The pain stopped in about 5 seconds, but then I started to loose consciousness. I can remember begging the doctors, "Please don't let me die, I don't want to leave my husband a widow (at age 33)." It was the worst moment of my life (up to that point, anyway).

Some time later I can remember hearing someone ask for the time. At first I thought they were asking for the time that I died, but then I realized they were probably marking the time for the baby's birth (for the death certificate). I heard no cry from the baby and assumed it was dead. The anesthesiologist said, "Baby girl at 9:57." My heart sank, as Greg and I had so desperately wanted a girl, and now she was gone. Again, some time passed and a nurse stuck her head in the door and said excitedly, "She's intubated and pink." I can't describe my confusion at this point. They finished sewing me up and I went to recovery, where Greg joined me. We cried a little but were mostly grateful that I was still living.

Greg went to the neo-natal nursery without me, several times, I think. She was so tiny, only 11 inches long and weighing barely 1 pound and 4 ounces, but she was perfectly formed (from all outward appearances). Her eyes were still fused shut, but she was kicking and moving all around.

The doctors amped up my medication since my swelling wasn't going down and neither was my blood pressure (following the surgery). I didn't leave my bed for 36 hours. It was at this time that the nurses told my brother and sister-in-law that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being death, I was at a 9+ for all of Monday and Tuesday until the birth, but that I was still at a 6 or 7 on Wednesday (after the birth). I wasn't out of the woods, yet.

Meanwhile, Haven appeared to be holding her own. The doctors were encouraged by her fight and were very encouraging with us about her. They got me moving out of bed the following day and I went to see her and touch her for the first time. I can't describe my emotions and can only cry now, months later.

Moving after the surgery was horribly painful, but not getting to see Haven was worse, so I worked at it. They insisted that I remain as calm as I could, to recouperate from my own condition (the pre-eclampsia, as well as the surgery) but my problems had all taken a back-seat to Haven. Haven lived in her little incubator, covered with Saran Wrap (for heat) for three days. She began peeing, pooping, and twitching. She was *ALIVE*. I was a mother! I got to change her diaper and put some lotion on her. I stroked her little head and saw that her nose was turned up just like my own. She grabbed my finger in her little hand. I even held her in my own hand, although I didn't get to cradle her against my body (I desperately regret this).

Then she developed an infection and slipped away. It was a quick as that! I can't hardly bear to write the words, but my little baby girl was gone, hardly before we even met her. Luckily I was able to leave the hospital the next day. I don't know what I would have done to have to sit there on the maternity floor and hear all those other crying babies while my arms were so empty.

The doctor told me that there was nothing I could have done to have forseen this disease or to have staved it off. No amount of bedrest or exercise or correct diet or **ANYTHING** could have prevented this. Everyone says it isn't my fault, but I still feel like it is (you can't change your feelings just because someone says they aren't true). He has encouraged me to let my body heal for a few months and then try again. Next time (God willing we have a next time) I will be checked much more often. No problem, I would live at the doctor's office for a healthy baby. I would crawl through broken glass for a healthy baby.

Nothing will ever take the pain of this experience away, as I feel I am walking through hell yet. People tell me that the pain will lessen and become more tolerable as time passes, so I am hoping and praying for that time. I do not know what I will do on my due date (Labor Day). Mother's Day was two days after she died - it was inconceivable - and Father's Day, I don't know how we got through it.

Please take care of yourselves, your families, and your loved ones. They are all that really matters in this life.

Sara Grimes (Haven Rose, 05/09/95 - 05/12/95)

Take care of yourself and your loved ones, Sara Grimes


You can email Sara Grimes at: sbgrimes@juno.com.
Sara would welcome mail of support and understanding, particularly from those who have experienced a similar loss.

email updated 12-01

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW