By Karen Develos-Sacdalan, M.A.
August 3, 2006 at 11:45pm, my husband John handed over an envelope; a piece of paper that seems so clueless but has remarkably changed our lives forever…
Early March 2006, I learned that I was almost 8 weeks pregnant. Admittedly, the idea of it was not instantaneously welcomed as I found myself unprepared. I cried for several nights thinking of that long haul of adjustments in all facets of my life—physical, emotional, psychological, and mental make up. Add to that fact was that I had just started work in a new field of church-based ministry in full-time basis just a month back. Needless to say, I was an anxious mother-of-two, Ria my eldest, just turned one year old. Unlike other mothers who can handle pregnancy well, nature probably did not design me to handle it likewise. It also became quite stressful on my part since I was compelled to go on bed rest for 15 days because of a threatened abortion. Although, I dreaded the thought of being helpless again in bed, but went through it anyhow since I regarded it as a usual pregnancy “procedure.”
As my pregnancy term progressed, my anxiety gradually melted and was replaced by delight and grand expectations of the new life bulging slowly inside me. Alongside, we had some major lifestyle adjustments—purposely to serve and prepare for our growing family. Moving in to a new house for bigger space and strategically locating it nearest to my workplace. We had carefully taken serious consideration of how well we could best care for the welfare of our newborn.
On late June 2006, it doubled our joy when we learned that we were having another baby girl. This was another definitive blessing and a sure-fire hit to my preferred gender sibling type. I was then having a relatively easier pregnancy experience. “Been there, done that—so this one will come in easy,” as I put it.
We gave her a name — Danella, meaning ‘wise,’ which we got from a baby book of names. We also gave her a nickname, “Dana,” after Dana Reeves, wife of Christopher Reeves, who died of lung cancer.
July 20, 2006 on my 31st week, I woke up feeling unwell. My body felt very heavy and bloated. I forced myself not to dwell on the pain and managed to report to work thinking that it was just one of that early morning sickness. However, my body kept sending me whipping episodes of pain and I finally decided to pay my OB a visit.
I was escorted to the Delivery Room, had an internal examination and underwent cardio reading of our baby’s heartbeat. They also induced tocolysis, a diagnosis and treatment of premature labor contractions. I felt my body and mind fighting it out, wanting to keep my baby. I stayed focused and determined that I would be just as fine. Each moment I knew, this is ‘in His hands.’
A few minutes later, the laboratory test came out and the results comforted me. My baby and I got an 8/8 positive biophysical ultrasound results, which is equivalent to a grade of A, had we taken an academic exam. After an overnight stay in the hospital, I was discharged. I was told to go on bed rest for a week to regain strength and to keep our baby in the best position possible.
I stayed in bed as instructed; hoping all will be well eventually. I managed to keep away for any stress-related elements and at the same time kept my mind away from idleness. I read several books, those I had promised myself to finish whenever I had more time—and I did. Even the newspapers that hardly contain anything encouraging didn’t get spared. So it seemed that everything was well again except for my roller coaster emotional battle. Often times I would find myself in such distraught conditions. Maybe I was being hormonal and all that but I slowly felt so insecure, and unconfident about a lot of things. Surely, the worst part of being into bed rest is dealing with the emotional pitfalls.
August 2, 2006, the second onslaught of contractions came and this time more intense and agonizingly painful. Around 5:00 pm the pain became even more intense, and so I sent a text message to John to hurry back home. I waited until he came home at 9:00pm—four agonizing hours of waiting seemed forever! I was rushed to the same hospital and the medical staff immediately performed what I now presume to be their SOP when someone in labor is cursing the world already.
They strolled me to the cardio machine to hear the baby’s heartbeat which they tried to listen to for 15 minutes. Three resident doctors were taking turns to try to locate the heartbeat but all failed to hear. As they waited for my OB, who was also the chairman of the hospital, I was simply asked to wait—lying flat on my back with the stillness of waiting was the same pain of the frequent contractions. At that moment, the pain that was draining my energy away was flavored with fear and confusion. When my OB came, he explained the whole situation I was undergoing. And so, our last resort was to undergo ultrasound.
Rattled, tensed, panicky, my belly anxious to be examined. While they were going about the examination, I mustered enough courage to inquire about my baby’s condition. I was in terrible pain and I deserved some clear explanation. My OB who while examining along with the sonologist was—“Mamaya, usap tayo.” (‘We will talk later’). My heart sunk. I somehow understood it. I dreaded the moment of hearing the bombshell details.
John was waiting outside who I suspected have learned the results though his face was incredulous. I prayed in my heart, I would be spared for that very moment—yet at the same time, so eager to hear the exact words. “I am so sorry. But your baby is gone. From the ultrasound results I can estimate that she’s been dead for almost 2 to 3 days ago…”
I stared dumbly and said, “Are you sure?! You said she was ok last week…” and I bolted to crying violently trying to understand—trying to seek the answers to my ‘whys’. My OB couldn’t give me outright answers at that moment, neither certainty as to why nor what was the cause of such death. He could only find out until he examined the dead fetus.
My OB continued to explain that based on the ultrasound findings my baby’s parietal skull bones had collapsed already and her size indicated a 27-week old reading as opposed to the 34-week old reading at that time.
They took me back to the Delivery Room where there were three pregnant mothers strapped with cardio machine hearing their baby’s heartbeat. It was the most poignant sound and insulting experience a mother could ever have. I was overcome with envy and the heartbeat stung my ears. I cried. And that was all I could do.
Dazed. Bitter. Angry. Confused. I was swimming in all these emotions. I never thought life could give and take so fast.
The rest of the medical procedure was immediately put in order and John stayed with me the whole time, bewildered yet encouraging. We practically had been doing our Lamaze discipline; breathing techniques somehow paved the way for the painful contractions. I was induced to labor as I was set for vaginal delivery. We were both oblivious of the passing time and sometimes of our own existence and attendance to this horrible event. The intensive care unit room seemed too cold, dark and taunting too.
More hours of waiting before I heard and felt my water bag popped out with warm fluid flowing out immediately. I panicked with erratic movements and tears holding back. “Stay with me… ready… one… two… (inhaling and exhaling)…” John comforted me by squeezing my hand as he watched me helplessly turn pale.
I was quickly strolled to the Delivery Room and waited for more intense labor. My OB came in to explain, the amniotic fluid they examined was termed, “tobacco stain.” The final stage color indicating the baby was dead longer than they had initially suspected — a period of a week.
My last conscious glance of the clock at the Delivery Room was around 7:00am of August 3, 2006, where I was crying out loud due to labor pains. I passed out. When I woke up, I was in the recovery room with a bag of ice placed in my belly.
My body recovered fairly well after my delivery, but inside I was still in pieces. I was discharged from the hospital three days after anyway.
It all seemed like a dream, or maybe wanting it to be just a dream. The true horrors of motherhood never stopped even as I finally got home several hours after I was lactating. My chest hurt so badly and I felt feverish since I had stony breasts filled with milk — nature’s way of sustaining a new life — supposedly new life. But there was just none.
It kept on hitting back as I watched in horror the emotional pain of lactation. Each drop meant a reality hit that there was no baby — a very unbecoming experience. I succumbed to painkillers and medicine to restrict the lactation and each day I struggled wondering… “Why? What happened? Who’s at fault?” As my OB tried to explain uttering those words of consolation — “It’s nobody’s fault, it was bound to happen. It was pathological. The best way to look at it is that you survived…” By thought, I could only submit to God’s sustaining power, but by heart, it all seemed impossible to experience comfort.
And so that very night, I opened the enveloped with a small airtight plastic containing the ashes and death certificate of our baby Dana. We had her cremated in the evening of our hospital discharge that very day. With trembling fingers I examined the papers — it says that her cause of death is called an IUFD (In Utero Fetal Demise) due to umbilical cord complications secondary to cord knot. John and I found ourselves cuddling and crying — trying to comfort each other and understand. We then realized two certain things: Baby Dana loved us so much leaving us with no threatening complications whatsoever. And most of all, His love carried us through; the Lord truly was in charge. His love will calm the storms inside us – and we have our Ria. To us, that’s enough reason to hang on.
I remember Corrie Ten Boom in her book, The Hiding Place “Perhaps only when human effort done its best and failed, would God’s power alone be free to work.” I was vivaciously spared from blood poisoning! A near-death experience that could have been fatal.
In the blogsite of my sister Kathy where she wrote about the death anniversary of our Dad, she says “There is only one way to live again – and that is to know, to affirm, and to live with the assurance that in spite of the temporal things here on earth, there exists the ultimate hope of the life beyond. While death necessarily punctuates our existence here on earth, there is something that death cannot conquer.”
Yes, two deaths I have seen before my eyes, but one perspective — the same story I would treasure and would tell to my daughter and prayerfully, to my children, when the right time comes.
About the Author
Karen Develos-Sacdalan is the Human Resources Head of Greenhills Christian Fellowship South Metro, an evangelical church whose aim is to know Christ and make Him known (see www.gcf.org.ph and www.gcfsouth.com). She is also a part-time lecturer at Mapua Institute of Technology under the Graduate School of Engineering Management where she teaches Human Resources Management subject. She finished both Bachelor of Science and Masters of Arts in Psychology major in Industrial Psychology. She also writes for career advices in www.career-pathways.net.published with permission