I realized this week that I’ve unintentionally left a lot of my friends in the dark about why Eva’s life ended so tragically, and what happened in my pregnancy. I’ve become familiar with the shy, embarrassed expression on someone’s face when they really want to ask what happened, but are afraid I wouldn’t want to talk about it. The truth is, I want to share Eva’s story, so here it is.
We became pregnant with Eva in May of 2012, and she was a baby we wanted very much. She was our third baby and third pregnancy. My previous pregnancies had been blessedly uneventful and complication-free, so were completely blindsided when I started bleeding heavily at almost six weeks pregnant. I was devastated, certain I must be having a miscarriage. We went to the ER the next day, and after doing a lot of tests and ultrasounds, they found a strong heartbeat and a growing baby. It was such an unexpected relief! The doctor said that bleeding in early pregnancy is common, usually happens when the placenta implants, and he gave us reason to hope, saying that there was about a 50/50 chance that the bleeding would stop and everything would be fine.
I had another bleeding episode at 7 weeks, this time gushing blood. When I had a follow-up ultrasound, I was told that I should prepare myself for “the possibility of a miscarriage,” as if that hadn’t been on my mind constantly. I still wonder, is it really possible to prepare yourself for losing a baby? I don’t really think so, though I appreciate the motivation behind the advice. A week later, the doctor said the bleeding had begun to clot, and she, too, was “cautiously optimistic.” That was the first time I let myself think that perhaps I wouldn’t lose this baby.
Everything seemed pretty good until 13 weeks, at which point I bled more, at times bleeding through two pads an hour. It was such a stressful time. All of the experts kept saying that my bleeding should stop by 20 weeks, once the baby got big enough to force the blood to clot, but meanwhile, I never knew when, or if, to expect more bleeding. My doctor restricted all my activities and put me on pelvic rest, but even he admitted that he didn’t know if it would make a difference. He didn’t know what caused the bleeding, and he (a specialist) couldn’t do anything to stop it. The light at the end of the tunnel was the continued health of our baby. The doctors said the bleeding, amazingly, wasn’t affecting the baby, the umbilical cord, or the placenta, and she was growing just as she should for her age.
From that point on, my bleeding never really stopped again. It would slow down for a time and would look like it was finally clotting, but then I’d get another gush of bright red blood. It started taking its toll on me; I was drained emotionally and physically. I tried not to think about the “what ifs” and stay in the present, but inevitably, my mind would wander. What if the bleeding never stopped? What if she was born too early? The doctor said the biggest worry was that the blood would weaken the membranes of the amniotic sac and cause my water to break. That was too scary to consider so I pushed it into the far recesses of my mind whenever my brain tried to entertain the possibility.
I held the pregnancy as loosely as I could, ever aware of the possible tragic outcomes, but every movement I felt her make, from the very first one at 12 weeks, etched her deeper into my heart. Hearing her heart beat a musical cadence and watching her dance on the ultrasound screen bonded me to her in a way I neither could nor wanted to prevent. By the time we found out she was a girl at 19 weeks, I was in too deep to feign unattachment. 19 weeks, I reasoned, was late enough to think that everything would be ok. Surely, if I were going to have a miscarriage, it would have happened in the first trimester. Even our doctor believed the bleeding would stop any day.
It didn’t, though. I had been cramping for the last several weeks (the doctor said this was my body pushing the blood out) but at 21 weeks the cramps veered towards contractions, and I started passing big, finger-sized clots. I saw my doctor again, but he said that my cervix wasn’t changing so the “contractions” weren’t productive and we couldn’t do anything more than what we were already doing. He kept saying that we just needed to make it to 24 weeks, the age of viability (when doctors can try to save a baby). That made everything suddenly very real. I prayed daily then just to make it to 24 weeks. I told my husband that I’d throw a party when we did.
We never made it to 24 weeks. The morning of September 19th, 2012 was exactly 22 weeks. I had had a lot of bleeding and contractions the night before, but this level of abnormality had become my normal, so I hadn’t called the doctor. That morning, I had my weekly doctor’s appointment, and this week, my husband had had a conflict so I’d told him I’d go alone. I didn’t think twice about not having him there until the ultrasound tech abruptly ran out of the room minutes after I’d arrived. I knew it was bad, I’d seen a weak heartbeat just before she left, so I just prayed that somehow it would be ok. When she returned, my doctor was with her. He said that my water had broken and there was no amniotic fluid left. The baby’s heartbeat was only 69 bpm, down from 160. It didn’t look good. When he checked my cervix and found that it was dilating, he said there was nothing he could do. She was going to be born today, and she was too early to try to save.
I called my husband, who got to the hospital in an impossibly short amount of time, and we wept together as we chose a name for our daughter who would be born but not survive. Two names we had been contemplating were “Eva,” which means “life” and “Lucia,” which means “light.” we realized that both names represented who she had been to us – a life, holding on with such strength and living in my womb against all odds, and the light in the darkness of the last few months of our life. We also believed with all our hearts that she would live on for eternity in heaven when she left this life, and continue to shine her light, so Eva Lucia seemed the perfect name for our heavenly child.
The doctor told us it was unlikely she would be born alive, given her low heart rate and the trauma of birth, so I didn’t expect to hold my living baby girl. It was a shock when she came, less than three hours later, moving her arms and legs, and trying to breath. Daniel, my husband, my rock, did what I was too overwhelmed to do, and scooped her up, her whole body contained in one of his big hands. He brought her to my chest, and together we held our little girl, talking to her, praying for her, and loving her a lifetime-worth in just 45 short minutes.
If Eva’s story ended there, in the hospital room, if her body lying in the ground were all that was left of her, I couldn’t go on. But I know, trust, believe with all my heart that Eva is in heaven now. She never has to experience pain, or sadness, or disappointment; she will only ever know joy and love. For myself, I’m deeply sad, but for her, I’m overjoyed. Isn’t that what being a parent is all about? Loving your child enough to want the best for them, even if it breaks your heart? Who of us would choose our own comfort over our child’s best interest? No matter how sad I am, how much I wish Eva were in my life now, I can’t say that I would ask her to give up her heavenly life for an earthly one. So, I love you, Eva, with all my heart, and I know you’ll be waiting for me in heaven.