EN 101/W 6:30pm
Dictionary.com defines control as a verb (used with an object) to exercise restraint of direction over; dominate; command. Up until October of 2003, I spent most of my life seeking control. I wanted to control my family and my friends. Mostly, I wanted control over my own life. I had a house, a good job, a good husband and, finally, a child on the way: everything I had ever wanted. I thought I had command, that I had made all those things happen. I was wrong. My daughter, Patricia Grace Henry (“Gracie”), was born at Victory Memorial Hospital in Waukegan, IL on October 23rd, 2003 at 7:15pm. At 8:30pm her heart stopped beating.
My husband and I married at a very early age, two days short of his high school graduation. We knew we wanted to start a family right away so we tried to get pregnant. I charted my cycle by taking my temperature every morning at 8am. After two and a half years of trying on our own, we sought the help of a reproductive endocrinologist (a fertility specialist). The doctor assured us that he could us get pregnant. He prescribed me Clomid, a common fertility drug. I continued to chart my temperature. Around the 15th day, the doctor would do an ultrasound to see if my follicles were ready to drop an egg. He would send me home with a syringe and a bottle of HCG (a pregnancy hormone) with instructions to inject it into my rear end on a specified day (which depended on the size of my follicles). Two weeks later I would go in for a blood pregnancy test. Everything was regulated, consistent, controlled.
On the fifth month, though, the doctor prescribed a second shot of HCG, a booster. Two weeks later the nurse called to tell me the test came back positive! I had finally done it! I had gotten pregnant! I felt successful. By then it had taken me three whole years to conceive that baby. I had made it happen. I was the one who took medication three times a day. I was the one who gave myself a shot in the rear once a month. I was the one who drove to the doctor's office at least three times a month. I, I, I, me, me, me. I thought it was my power that made it happen. The events of October 23, 2003 changed my thoughts.
The first 23 weeks of my pregnancy were absolutely normal. I saw my baby for the first time on an ultrasound at five weeks, just a little flicker of a heartbeat. At 12 weeks, it looked like a gummy bear. At 18 weeks, I could see it's hands, feet, spine, and profile. That's the day we found out it was a girl. We prepared for our new baby by buying a crib, clothes, and diapers. I had plans to buy a baby movement sensor which sounds an alarm if the baby makes no movement for more than 20 seconds. I was a worrier. I read every book on pregnancy, child birth, and parenting that I could get my hands on. I wanted to make sure my baby was as safe as possible.
On October 23, 2003, I woke with my husband at 7am. After he left for work, I laid down to watch television. Being my first pregnancy, I had no idea what labor pains felt like. However, because I was lactose intolerant, I was very used to general stomach pains. At first that's what I thought was going on, but after a while I began thinking that maybe they was false contractions (Braxton Hicks) so I tried to time them. They were not coming in regular intervals. I decided I would call my doctor when her office opened at 9am. At 7:30am, I got up to use the restroom. When I sat down, I felt something slip out of me. I panicked when I realized it was by baby's feet. It was the scariest moment of my entire life. There I was sitting on the toilet, 23 weeks pregnant, with my baby's feet sticking out of me and I was alone in the house. No one to hear my scream for help. I had no control over my situation. I had no idea what to do. Although I considered myself a Christian, I did not have the faith required to ask God for help. I took control. I pushed her feet back as far as I could, got up, put my shoes on and walked next door. The neighbor drove me to the hospital.
When I arrived at the hospital, I realized how little control I really had. The emergency room nurse asked what the problem was then asked how far along I was. She rolled her eyes and said “you can't be in labor, you're not far along enough.” After a 20 minute wait, they finally brought a wheel chair to get me up to labor and delivery. I put on a hospital gown and waited for the nurses to hook me up to the machines. Because of the small size of my uterus, they were unable to tell if I really was having contractions. The nurses looked at each other with that “lady thinks she's in labor” look. I could not understand why no one believed what I was telling them. They finally brought in an ultrasound machine to check the baby. The ultrasound technician sounded very surprised to see that, in fact, my baby's feet were sticking out of me and the bag of water was bulging. The ultrasound also determined that she was 23 weeks and 3 days gestation, which is less than a week under viability, still too young to live outside the womb. I was given an IV to start medication to stop the labor. They also gave me steroids to develop her lungs. They told me that if I they could get four steroid shots in me then there was a good chance that her lungs would be developed enough to live. They could only give me one shot every 12 hours. The next shot was to be at 9pm. I was determined to keep her inside of me for as long as possible.
A doctor came to my room to speak with me and my husband. He asked if we wanted to resuscitate the baby should she be born unable to breathe on her own. I didn't even have to think about it, of course I did. I had tried to get pregnant with this baby for two and a half years. I had carried this baby for 23 weeks. I had felt her move and kick. I was not going to give up. That was not in my plan. None of this was in my plan.
I don't remember much of the hours while in labor. Her kicks were painful as they were hitting my cervix. As family visited, we remained hopeful. With every contraction, though, she slipped further and further out. The medicine they gave me to stop the contractions made me nauseous. I remember the nurse asking if I wanted to stop the medication. I told her no. I needed the medicine to control the contractions. Even then, I was trying to control the situation. It was ultimately the medicine that made me give birth. It made me so sick that I finally vomited. The pressure of the vomiting broke my bulging bag of water. With the water came half of the baby. That moment is like a dream to me. I was... well, I just was. I didn't wake until I felt the nurses finger nails jabbing into my stomach. She was trying to push the baby out from above. My baby's head was stuck. I could not push as I was in a surreal moment of confusion, pain, fear, anguish, and despair. I begged for some pain medicine but the doctor could not give me any. He was afraid the medicine might interfere with the baby's resuscitation. It was in that moment that I gave up. I relinquished power to God. This was going to happen despite all my attempts to control it.
Gracie was finally born into this world at 7:15pm. She was given immediately to the neonatologist. He tried to resuscitate her to no avail. He had no tube small enough to fit down her throat. Because she was unable to breathe on her own and the doctor was unable to help her, she was brain dead within minutes. She weighed 1 lb 3 oz and was 12 inches long. While my husband held her, her heartbeat began to slow down. The nurse decided that it finally stopped at 8:30pm. My daughter lived for an hour and 15 minutes. I believe God has numbered every living person's days. He knew exactly how many days Gracie would live. It was His plan from the beginning to limit her life. Gracie lived her full life in the time that she lived. It's because of Gracie that I realize I have no control over the things that happen in my life. Gracie was my wake up call from God. It's God who controls life, not me. I am not the one with the power. It was God who decided when to allow me to get pregnant with Gracie. It was God who decided to bless me with my subsequent children.
Second Kings Chapter 5 talks about a man named Naaman from Syria. Naaman was a respected and successful army commander but he was also a leper. He realized he needed God's help, but he wanted to dictate the terms of his healing. He wanted to stay in control. When Naaman finally humbled himself and obeyed God by bathing seven times in the Jordan River, he was healed. By relinquishing his control, he was obeying God, so God blessed him. I feel blessed. Since releasing my desire for control, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I will forever grieve my daughter, but I feel that through her death I learned an important lesson of who is really in control.