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October 25: The Day I Will Never Forget

Written by Adam, blogger: Dazed Dad-Reflections on Family Fatherhood, Loss & Grief

I’m not really sure how to blog about something as tragic as Sarah and I have experienced in the past few days – yet, I feel the need to begin to share our experience. Perhaps it’s part of my grieving process. Perhaps it’s so that I can hear from others who may have gone through something similar. I don’t know – but below is one of the hardest things I have ever experienced.

On Sunday, October 24, at around 1:15pm, Sarah’s bag of water broke, although we didn’t know it at the time. We weren’t really sure what had happened, so we went to Labor & Delivery in Walnut Creek. After a few different tests, the doctor pulled a stool over and sat down next to the bed. It was at that moment, that I knew that we were in for some bad news. There was something about the way the doctor sat down on the stool, and began to share with us the news…

We really didn’t have any options – we had to end the pregnancy. We were at 19 weeks and 3 days.

We were given our own room in Labor & Delivery and we waited as Sarah was given misoprostol to induce an early labor. The night was spent trying to get some sleep, in preparation for doing something we never thought we’d ever have to do in the morning. Sarah was given some pain meds to help with the increased cramping, but around 6am, it got too painful, and she got an epidural.

It was only a few minutes after the epidural was in, that Sarah’s cramping became worse and the delivery began. It happened very quickly, much quicker than we had anticipated, and on Monday morning, October 25, at 6:49am Micah Walker Cleaveland (10 ounces) was born and at 6:54am Judah Walker Cleaveland (8 ounces) was born.

What was perhaps most shocking about the birth experience was that they were both born alive and breathing…they had heartbeats and were quickly wrapped in blankets and given to us to hold. Because of where I was standing when they were born, I could see them when they first came out. Micah, who seemed significantly bigger than Judah, was kicking and I could see his tiny little arms moving around.

We spent about 3 hours with them that morning. Sarah and I took turns holding them individually and together. Shortly after their birth, one of the pastors from our church came by and spent time with us. Sarah decided that since they were alive for about a full 1-1.5 hrs while they were with us, that we should baptize them. Our pastor was there at that time, and so we baptized them and prayed for them.

Right now I can’t describe what it was like to hold them – to know that I was holding my sons in my arms…I was a dad. I am a dad. And that is a crazy thing to think about.

At around 10am, we decided we were ready – as ready as we would ever be – to say goodbye to Micah and Judah. And so the nurse came and took them. After that, it was a waiting game for the placenta. In many situations like ours, the placenta can’t be delivered naturally, and so they may have to do a dilation and curettage (D&C) to remove the placenta. At around noon, Sarah went in for the procedure, but the doctor was hoping to be able to remove all of the placenta out by hand, instead of doing the D&C. Right before the procedure, another pastor friend stopped by and Sarah encouraged him to take me out of the hospital to find lunch.

So we left while she had her procedure, and got back in time to find her in the recovery room, doing well. The procedure was successful – and the doctor was able to do it all by hand. They wanted to monitor her vitals for another 6 hours, and so it wasn’t really until 6pm that they gave her the “okay” to go home, and we weren’t out of the hospital until close to 8pm.

I am amazed and so grateful for the amazing doctors at Kaiser Walnut Creek and for the even more amazing nurses. We had nurses who took such good care of Sarah, and not only cared for her physical needs but her emotional needs as well. We will be meeting with a perinatologist in 4-6 weeks to discuss the pregnancy and to look toward our future. We decided to have autopsies done, and they were going to send the placenta to pathology as well, so maybe we’ll have some answers.

Or maybe, as the first doctor we saw said, it was just, horrible, horrible, really bad luck.

Which sounds so unfulfilling, so unfair and so unsatisfactory, but may be the only answer we will receive.

Even as I type this post, it still feels unreal. The whole time at the hospital feels like it never really happened. Yet, each day, we are reminded that we have suffered a huge loss. Every time we receive another flower delivery, or another comment left on my Facebook Wall, or another meal delivered to us from wonderful people at our church, I am reminded that we are grieving.

I don’t know what the future holds. I can’t even look past the next few days – it’s too hard. But I do know that we are surrounded by an amazing community (both online, from folks in our church, close friends, friends I haven’t heard from in a long time, etc.) who is praying for us and loving us and eager to find ways to support us. And that means more than you could ever imagine.

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