::This story first posted on October 15, 2011 – it was *so* good, we just had to repost it!::
A Story of Life, Loss and Hope
Last year was a year that changed my life and challenged my faith. It was a year that I wasn’t sure I would get through. Some days when I look back, I wonder how I did and I pray that I never have to again.
I thought my heart could know no greater pain than when we lost our son Joseph at 16 weeks. I had known previous losses, in fact, had known more than most. But that loss was harder because I witnessed on ultrasound the last beats of my son’s heart. I watched my son die. It was devastating. When I delivered him at home I felt very fortunate to get to hold him and kiss him. I was crushed when we told our sadness to others and someone very close to us said, “This is why we don’t congratulate you. You have a tendency to lose babies.” It was a slap in the face and a glimpse into how some view pregnancy and the unborn. To them only those who have a chance at making it to our arms are worthy of getting a congratulations.
When I found myself expecting again just a few months later, we told almost no one. At 8 weeks our little girl’s heart was struggling to keep up. Each week it got slower and more labored. At 11 weeks it stopped. We bore our pain in silence. Only a few trusted friends knew we were grieving yet again. It made me sad that so few would mourn our little Sarah with us. But at the time we didn’t feel we could open ourselves up to the added pain of family and friends not supporting our decision to be open to life, even when it meant we might not get to hold that life for long.
Again, just a few months later, we found I was expecting. We decided to tell everyone we could. We hoped the prayers that those who would pray for us would help keep us going and help our little baby along. There were those who were happy for us and those who kept their congratulations to themselves. We focused on the positive people and the hope that our little one would be ok.
At a routine ultrasound we found I had an enormous uterine bleed. We were shocked. Up to this point I had not been bleeding, was feeling movement, and generally feeling well. After my appointment, while still in the office, I started to bleed heavily. I was put on bedrest and followed closely. At the next two appointments our baby was growing and his heart beat was strong. We hoped for the best.
Two weeks later, on December 21, I woke up feeling “bad”. I’m not sure how to describe the feeling… just not right. I called the doctor’s office. They reminded me what to look for in a miscarriage and told me to keep my feet up. By afternoon I was having contractions. Again I called the doctor’s office who told me I could either make the hour drive to the office or could go to our local ER. The pain was getting to be so intense we chose to go to the ER.
It has been almost ten months since all of this happened and it still hurts so much to recall the events that happened to us. A gentle caution here for readers who might be going through this now or who might get upset easily; the rest of this story includes intense images.
Our Nightmare Begins
When we got to the ER, we checked in and were told that there was no room for me and I had to just sit and wait. Several times I had Kaylie, my oldest daughter who drove me to the hospital, tell them that I really needed to be seen. Each time they told us that there was no room for us and to just sit down. My water broke and Kaylie went to the desk to tell them. Again she told us to just sit down because there was no room for me. I told her that if they didn’t get me back that the baby would be born in the waiting room. Again she said, “Sit down; we have no room for you.” Suddenly I felt pressure and without being able to stop it, William was born in the waiting room into my clothes. I started to cry and told Kaylie to tell them that the baby was here. Again the nurse said, “Sit down, there’s nothing we can do right now. There are no rooms.”
I tried my hardest to sit there but rose up on my side because the baby was in my clothes and I didn’t want to sit on him. I was sobbing into my jacket that I held up to my face. The people in the waiting room just watched me. No one did anything to help. Finally after about 10 minutes of me sitting out there sobbing, a nurse came with a wheelchair. She told me to get in the chair and sit down. I said that I had to be careful because the baby was in my clothes. As soon as I sat down she looked at where I had been sitting and loudly announced, “Someone needs to call housekeeping to clean up this mess.” I was covered in blood and water as was the chair I had been sitting in. As she wheeled me back she knocked me into the door, never apologizing, never asking if I was ok.
As we got back to the room they were going to put me in, she again hit me into the doorframe. She said, “Sometimes these wheelchairs are hard to push.” Not, “I’m sorry” nor “Are you ok?” We got into the room and she told me to take off all my clothes and put on the gown that was on the bed. I told her I would need help as the baby was in my clothes. She told me, “Just let everything drop to the ground.” I again told her I couldn’t because the baby was in my clothes and was attached to me still. She said, “Just let it fall to the ground with your clothes.” I yelled at her “NO! The baby is attached to me and I’m not letting my baby fall to the ground!” She told me again to let the baby fall to the ground with my clothes.
By this time I had my pants down and was holding the baby who was still attached to me by the umbilical cord. I was shocked at his size. He was so much bigger than I thought he was going to be! I held him in my hands and told the nurse that I needed her help. She just watched me. She wouldn’t help. I reached up and pulled at the cord to release it. I was already bleeding pretty badly but this made me bleed so much worse. Of course if I had thought it through I would have realized that was a bad idea; there is a reason they clamp the cord instead of just pull to detach it. I told the nurse that I needed her to hold the baby so I could get my clothes off. She finally came to me and I put William in her hands. She gasped. I don’t think she was prepared to see such a perfect baby like that.
I took off my clothes which were horribly bloody and put on the gown and got into the bed. The doctor finally came in to examine me and to look at the baby. They never closed the curtain or the door to the room and the way the bed was facing everyone walking by could look at me and see everything that was going on in the room. Poor Kaylie was standing at the end of the bed near the wall watching as everything happened. At one point she tried to come to me but my bloody clothes were lying beside the bed and she almost threw up. She said, “Mama, I can’t.” I told her it was ok and that she didn’t need to look nor did she need to get near my clothes.
The nurse that had taken William from me picked him up and put him in a bucket that had a formaldehyde solution. She didn’t worry about it would make us feel to have him just dropped in a bucket. While she did this the doctor told me he thought I should have an ultrasound to check on the placenta. He walked out of the room leaving the curtains and the door open.
The ultrasound tech came in with a machine and literally kicked my clothes out of her way (no one had done anything with them yet). She did the u/s and confirmed that my placenta was still firmly attached. When the doctor came back in to hear what she had to say, he told her that he was certain the baby was further along than we thought because of his size. She said that the placenta looked normal and that I probably would need drugs to help deliver it. He agreed and asked me if I would take some medicine to help me contract. I agreed. He then told me he wanted me to take morphine and I told him no; I needed to be cognizant and if I took that I wouldn’t be.
As I lay on the bed, no one cleaned me up. My hands were covered in dried blood from catching the baby and my legs were covered as well. I had been passing huge blood clots that they just left me to lie in. Finally a nurse came in and said to me, “Why don’t I try to clean you up honey.” She started with my hands and gently washed them the best she could. The blood was dried under my nails and into the lines on my hands. My skin was tinted from the blood. She couldn’t get it off very well. She also finally put a sheet over me to give me a little privacy and she closed the curtain. As she looked between my legs she shook her head and said she was sorry that no one helped to clean me up. She did her best to help me out and she was the only person in the entire ER to truly try to give me a little dignity.
At one point in the ER I thought I had passed the placenta. I was in terrible pain and passed something extremely big and firm. I told the nurse (the original nurse) who did nothing. Eventually the doctor came in and I told him I thought I might have passed the placenta. He looked and said, “No, just a huge clot.” He put the sheet back down and did nothing. The caring nurse came in a while later and decided to check under the sheet again, gasped and told me that she would help me. After she was done there she looked again at my hands and said, “Oh honey, I’m sorry I didn’t do a very good job the first time. Let me try again.” And she tried once again to clean my hands. She wasn’t successful.
Finally they had some place to put me in labor and delivery. As we were leaving the ER room I told Mike to take the baby with us. He took the plastic container they had put him in and wrapped it in a towel and put it on the gurney with me. The doctor said he didn’t know if that would be legal. I told him that I didn’t care and that my baby was not leaving my side. He didn’t say anything else. The caring nurse and a male nurse wheeled me up to L&D where some amazing nurses took over. The caring nurse came to me, tears in her eyes, and asked if she could give me a hug. She told me how sorry she was and then gave Mike and Kaylie both hugs as well. She was a wonderful woman and the only good thing about the ER. Outside of this nurse not one person in the ER expressed any sympathy for our loss nor did they do anything to try to help us have privacy or peace.
The nurses in the L&D were wonderful. They had great bedside manner and were so caring and kind. The one main nurse was terrible at sticking my arms and I ended up with 6 different blown veins, but to me that was so much better to go through than how I had been treated in the ER. I delivered William at around 4:20. I didn’t deliver the placenta until 10:45pm. I was in labor for such a long time and in pain for that entire time. Because I didn’t have the morphine I didn’t get to have medicine to help with the labor pains. I cried many times laying there on that bed. I prayed that I would hemorrhage so that perhaps I would have to have an emergency hysterectomy and I would never face the decision to be open to life again and thus would never have to go through not only the physical pain but the emotional and spiritual pain I was feeling. Of course, I’m so glad that didn’t happen, but at the time I prayed so hard for it to be so. God knew my pain and knew what was best for me. I am so thankful for His decision to keep my fertility. God always knows best. Thankfully He answers our prayers the way He knows is best.
When I was finally able to leave the delivery room and be put into a room of my own I told Mike to make sure he brought the baby with us. The nurse told me that she wasn’t sure if I could do that and maybe I would need to sign something. I told her that I would sign whatever they wanted but that he would not be leaving me. She said ok and wheeled me out of the room and into my own room.
Late that night Mike and Kaylie left to go home. I was alone with my precious son. I held him. I counted his toes and his fingers. I held his hand, stroked his head, and held his body close to mine. I willed life back into him. He lay motionless. I cried tears of pain that I had never cried before. I prayed. I prayed that God would help me see why I had to go through such a traumatic experience. I prayed that God would help me forgive those who didn’t help us. I prayed that God could give me peace. I felt alone. I wondered where God was in all of this. I could look at my son and see Him, but I felt like He had abandoned me. It was the worst feeling I have ever felt. Still, I prayed as I never have before. I didn’t sleep that night, only held my son and prayed.
We were finally able to go home. We took William with us. We contacted the funeral home and our church and set up a time to bury him. It was so hard to take him to the funeral home to have them prepare him for burial. I was not expecting them to have him laid out for us to see just as they would at any visitation, but they did. It was the tiniest casket I have ever seen and there were candles on either side of the casket. I was alone when I saw this as Mike was at the cemetery preparing the grave. I broke down and sobbed.
On New Year’s Eve the funeral home brought William to us at the church. We were able to open the casket one last time to see him. Afterward we had a small graveside burial for him. It was a very lonely experience. Just three people came to his funeral outside of our little family… a couple who have “adopted us” as their family and a woman who I am friendly with. I felt even more alone. It was hard burying my son without the people we are closest to.
Throughout this time I wondered where God was. Why were we going through all of this? I understood that sometimes we can’t keep the precious ones God has blessed us with, but why did we have to lose him in the manner that we did? My faith was strong; I was devout; I was trying my hardest to be a good Christian and follower of Christ. Was I being tested? If so, why was my son’s life just heartlessly thrown away? It was hard to see the good when I was in so much pain, was so angry, and was grieving.
As time has passed I realize that there was good in what we experienced- the nurse who cleaned my hands so delicately and showed me God’s love and compassion; the 3 people who came to William’s funeral who could understand our need to be surrounded by people who loved us and loved our son; the closeness it brought our family through shared suffering; the ability to share William’s story in the hopes to help others see just how precious life is regardless of how “old” the person is. I learned that through all these trials I have to continue to trust in God, especially in the times when I am lost. I have to see God in all people, even those who fail me. I know that God did not abandon me during my time of need but He was standing there holding me as I held my son. He was encouraging me to turn to Him, to always seek Him in everything… good or bad.
I look at our Holy Mother Mary and know the pain she felt. She lost her son in a terrible and cruel way. She held him after he was taken from the cross and wiped the blood off his still body. She had to trust God when she couldn’t understand what was going on or what would happen next. Both her heart and soul felt broken, but God was there always beside her. During this time I looked at Mary and her strength and knew that I would go on. I knew that God had a plan and as hard as it was, I needed to trust Him.
I have always told people that while Mike and I are open to life we understand that being open to life means being open to loss. As hard as it is to understand and to get through, we know that life is precious and no matter how much time we are blessed with, we are thankful for each and every one of our children. It’s a hard way to live. It involves sacrifice of self and complete trust in God. I know that I couldn’t live my life any other way. God has blessed us. We know that the road to Him is not always an easy one, but we are willing to travel that road. We have a host of heavenly saints helping to lead our way and with Christ at the center of our lives we know that God will never leave us.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Michelle Fritz is a daughter of God, a cradle Catholic, a Georgia peach, a devoted wife of almost 30 years to amazing husband Mike, and an eclectic homeschooling mother to eleven living children. She has experienced the loss of 16 babies in her call to be open to life, but knows that God is always loving and always gracious. She and her husband know that they have an army of Saints already in heaven!
In addition to her vocation as wife, mom, and homeschool teacher she also holds a Masters in Theology and has recently taken on the role of Youth Minister for both the middle school and high school groups at her parish.