Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Our Heart

            Mila Harper Zambito was due to arrive on November 25, 2015. She was going to come into this world screaming, surrounded by so much love. She was going to come home to her beautiful nursery where we would take weekly pictures of her, just like we did while she was growing in my belly. She was going to be exhausting and demanding, and she was going to challenge us in ways we could only imagine. We would lie on the couch, Anthony’s hand on my belly, and talk about our plans for her. We would laugh as she kicked, and Anthony would lean in close to talk to her. We were so excited to meet her.  
But on the morning of October 11th, I realized I hadn’t felt her moving. I thought back over the last few days, trying to remember the last time I had felt her kick. I woke Anthony and broke down in tears before any words could form. I shook as he drove me to the hospital, the whole time convincing myself that everything was okay.
We checked in and moved in a fog from the waiting area to the Emergency Room. We held each other as we waited to be seen, still telling ourselves that we were just overreacting. That our baby girl was fine.
            A nurse finally brought us to a room. She moved the doppler from one side of my belly to the other, and I showed her where the nurses had been finding Mila’s heartbeat at my appointments. As she called for the doctor and an ultrasound, I continued to hope. I am not a religious person, but I prayed. And as the doctor watched the screen, I begged for my baby to be okay. But as I looked up into Anthony’s face, I knew. And the doctor said the most heartbreaking words I will ever hear. There is no heartbeat.
            The next couple of hours are a blur. I cried like I have never cried before. My doctor arrived and told us what would happen next. I would be admitted, they would give me medicine to induce labor, and I would deliver our baby girl.
            Our families came and we sat, sometimes making small talk, sometimes in the saddest silence. We waited for the medicine to take effect and, several hours later, my water broke. The contractions became more frequent and more uncomfortable and I was given an epidural. At around 9:30 pm, my doctor said it was time.
            Anthony held my hand as I pushed. Every time I looked up his eyes were on mine. And at 10:08 pm, our 3lb 6oz baby girl was born still. My doctor placed her on my chest and I sobbed. I told her through tears how much I loved her and how sorry I was for not keeping her safe. She was absolutely perfect and the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
            We spent the night and the whole next day holding our sweet Mila. We couldn’t let her go. But finally, the next evening, it was time to say goodbye. We kissed her tiny forehead and wrapped her tight in a blanket and watched her as she was taken away. We left the hospital with empty arms and went back home.
            It has been a little over a week and we still don’t know for certain what happened. Everything with my pregnancy had been perfectly normal. If anything, it had been easy. But it looks like there was a placental abruption. The doctors keep telling us that there was nothing we could have done, no way we could have known, and no signs that we missed. And so now, without answers, we are trying to heal.
            I know that no one knows what to say. I wouldn’t know what to say if I was on the other side of this. Just knowing that you are there and thinking of us is enough. It is okay to ask how we’re doing. It is okay to ask about what happened. And it is okay to reach out, even if it’s too hard for us to respond. We don’t want to pretend Mila never existed. We don’t want to bury our love for her along with her tiny body. We want to remember her and honor her and talk about her. We may get upset, and we may cry, but we want to miss her.
            If I could ask one thing of anyone who is reading this, it would be for you to hold your children close. When you are sleep deprived and at your wits end, when they are throwing tantrums in the middle of the grocery store or coloring on the walls with permanent markers, when you feel annoyed or frustrated or angry, hug them as hard as you can. Take a moment to cherish them and know how lucky you are to have them. And kiss them on the forehead and think of our sweet baby girl.