Monday, February 15, 2010

Caroline Elizabeth Simmons

Caroline Elizabeth

February, 11, 2010

3 pounds, 10 ounces, 16 1/2 inches long

Born at 7:57 AM, welcomed into Heaven at 8:57 AM

I have decided to go ahead and write Caroline's birth story. It will never get any easier to write all of the details down, and I want to be able to remember them, and I know so many people that have been praying for us, want to know exactly what happened. I decided to share this on our blog, because there are so many ways that God made himself evident over the course of her birth, death, and burial, that I want others to see how He always works for the good of those who love Him. From the beginning of our journey with our beautiful precious baby girl, it has been our hope to give God all of the glory in everything with her, and that is what we hope to do.

Last Wednesday, 2/10, we had an appointment with our perinatologist, who has been monitoring Caroline and her condition since 16 weeks. The previous week we had seen my OBGYN, and she was gaining concern over the fact that Caroline's sweet head was measuring full term, 40 weeks, at just 32 1/2 weeks. This was a huge change in her condition, since her head had always measured very small. We talked at length with my fantastic doctor, and she felt that we would deliver no later than 35 weeks, but that we needed to see the specialist. We went to our appt. with our two sweet boys in tow, and were of course looking forward to seeing our sweet girl on the ultrasound. During the ultrasound there were a few other problems that were discovered, and it was confirmed that her head was very large. Our doctor agreed that we needed to have her no more than a week. Rhett and I were fully expecting this, and while it was very hard, we were glad to have somewhat of an idea as to when she would be born. At this point we were pretty confident we would have a C-section, b/c an induction at 33-34 weeks becomes an ethical issue, and the size of her head was a concern for them. Let me just stop here, and add that one of the things Rhett and I both struggled with over the course of our pregnancy was that at some point it could become difficult to make medical decisions for me and our Caroline. We knew there was a chance that when she was born that medical intervention could benefit her (intubation, certain procedures, IV's, feeding tubes, etc.). We knew that none of these procedures would change her condition, or make her better, but that they could become options in certain situations. As a mother (and nurse), it was very hard for me to say..."NO", we do not want any type of interventions for her......knowing they would not change her prognosis, only keep her alive. It was our prayer over and over that there would be no "gray" areas; that we would have an absolute peace over every situation. I can only sing God's praises over this huge prayer request of ours that was quickly becoming a burden for me, because He took care of all of those "gray" areas for us, and every decision we had to make was truly surrounded with God's peace. There was no better feeling than knowing and feeling the presence of God throughout everything!!

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus". Philippians 4:7

We left our appointment with hope and peace. We knew from everything seen on the ultrasound, that our sweet Caroline would not be with us long, and the doctor was not very confident that she would survive birth. Another prayer of mine throughout our pregnancy was that we would just be able to hold her alive, and be with her when Jesus called her home. It was hard for me to know that the chances of that happening were very slim, but I still clung to the fact that God was in control, and I had to give all of my worries and concerns to Him. I prayed right there that some how we would hold our living baby girl, and that we could sing to her and love on her for as long as God allowed. I had no idea if this request would be answered, but once again I just felt an overwhelming peace that God was taking care of all of the details.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and DO NOT be afraid". John 14:27

Rhett and I thought we would take the boys to the Children's Museum after my appointment, since we knew we would be having Caroline soon, and we did not know how things would be after her birth. We got the boys loaded in the car, and as soon as we left the parking lot, I had a contraction!! About 8 mins. later I had another one, and so on and so on. I just thought they were Braxton Hicks. I had been having them on and off for the last several weeks, but they always went away after a few hours, or rest. We thought about heading to the museum still, but time was an issue, since Rhett had to get back to work, and we were getting hungry, so we changed our plans and headed for lunch (thank goodness) at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants (Wesley LOVES to have chip/dip lunch dates with his sweet Daddy). All through lunch my contractions continued, but I just thought I was tired and stressed about all of the stuff I still wanted to to before Caroline was born. I just kept telling Rhett there was no way this was "It".....I mean how perfect would that be!! After lunch we went home, and Rhett went to work. I was not feeling all that great, but was determined to get our laundry done, finish sweeping/mopping, etc.....just in case. Of course this turned out to be one of the days my sweet boys were far from interested from napping! I think I finally rocked them both to sleep around 2, and they napped together in the precious! By this time my contractions were between 5-8 minutes apart, and getting somewhat stronger, but I still did not think they were anything to be concerned about. As the afternoon went on, I did get my laundry done, between many "contraction breaks". My sweet friend Julie came by to check on us, and it was great to have her company. By about 5 pm, my contractions were 5 minutes or less apart, and I called Rhett to come home......b/c I was getting pretty uncomfortable. Thankfully we serve an AWESOME God, who has had everything planned out from the beginning of our journey, and things could not have been more perfect. My sweet parents were driving home from Indiana from babysitting my nephews for almost 2 weeks. Their plan was to stop by and "get some sugar", and then continue home......I know they were exhausted. I had talked to them several times that afternoon, but chose not to tell them about my contractions, b/c I knew they would be WORRIED. When they walked through our door at 5:45, they could tell something was wrong. I told them I was having contractions, but it was probably nothing, but they might want to consider spending the night with us....just in case. Rhett thought much differently than I did, and said y'all definitely need to stay, b/c I am pretty sure she is in labor. I was still not convinced, because it just seemed too perfect that I would go into labor the day of my doctor appt., when we found out that we need to have her ASAP......but looking back God was in control and had every little detail worked out. Things could not have been any more perfect, from contractions starting pretty much when we left the doctors office, to my parents driving through that night, to getting my laundry done :)! Rhett finally convinced me to call the doctor on call, and get his opinion. I was sad that my regular doctor was not on call, but the doctor we had was great! He told me to take some Tylenol, drink lots of water, take a hot bath, and if things did not improve, to call him back in an hour. I did what he said, although I was hoping something would help, I was pretty sure it would not. So in that hour, I packed a bag, there were so many things to remember, since this was not a typical birth. I just thought I had more time, so I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. I was in no way prepared to leave my boys, and I was feeling anxious about that.....I had never been away from Davis in 16 months, and only two times with Wesley. I knew they were in fantastic hands with my parents, and we would not have wanted them anywhere else, but it was still tough to leave them. Needless to say, my contractions did not improve, and were now about 3 minutes apart. I called the doctor back, and he said to head to the hospital. I remember feeling excited that this could be it.....but still shocked that it was NOW, and not at all how we thought it was going to happen. God's plan is always so perfect, even when we don't realize it!

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future". Jeremiah 29:11

This verse in Jeremiah was the verse that came to my mind immediately when we found out about Caroline's diagnosis at 16 weeks, and it has been such an inspiration for me throughout our pregnancy with her. God's plan was/is perfect for us and our sweet Caroline, and it was just amazing to see Him fulfilling His plan.

When we got to the hospital, there were women in labor everywhere! I guess it was the night for babies! As Rhett and I sat in the waiting room waiting to be called back, there were several people who wanted to ask us questions, they had no idea what we were facing, and assumed we were there to have a healthy baby. It was hard to not ignore these "overly interested" people, but God put words in my mouth, and just handled a "tough" situation. Thankfully, we were called back pretty quickly. By the time we got the hospital, checked in, it was about 10 PM. The nurses confirmed that I was most definitely in labor, and that we should plan to stay the night. Rhett and I had not discussed much about the fact that we would prob. be having a c-section that night, we just thought that since I was in "labor" we would go with it. Once the doctor came in, we realized that his recommendation was to go ahead with the c-section, at around 11 that night. The main reason was that at 33 1/2 weeks, labor is typically stopped, not allowed to progress. He was very kind, but shared that he would not be able to give me pitocin to speed labor/contractions along (since I have had a previous section), or break my water......mostly because this would become an ethical issue......since I was not full term. All along the doctors treating us had hoped that I would just go into avoid any ethical issues.....just not at 33 1/2 weeks. Since I was in labor, and we knew the recommendation of the specialist was to deliver within the next week, he was definitely recommending a section.....and this would not "create" any ethical issues. The doctor treating us was great, and he was in constant contact with my OBGYN. I can not express the overwhelming stress and heaviness I felt when we were faced with the decision to have the section late that night, or wait and see what happens...fully knowing that labor could stop and we would be sent home. Tears began to fall, and I literally could not catch my breath. I looked at Rhett, and I could tell he did not know what to do either. All I wanted to do was call every one I knew and get their like 11:30 at night. But, deep down, I knew what we were supposed to do. I can say for sure, God was speaking to me. I felt as though I could not breath, and I knew He was telling me that He had a plan, and for us to just let go, and let Him be in control. I looked at Rhett again, and said...."No c-section", and he said "I agree". Thankfully, the doctor was very kind, and understanding, and he said he would respect our wishes. He originally said he would not be able to break my water or anything, but once he did an exam....he changed his mind. He realized that I really was in labor and had a good chance of having her soon, so he broke my water, and we were well on our way. I have to add here that our amazing preacher was at the hospital with us until about 1 AM.....he is such a Godly man, and Rhett and I are so thankful he was there to pray with us, and just minister to us. He truly has been wonderful throughout our entire journey. The night progressed with absolutely no sleep or rest....and no food. Ice chips are good, but you can only have a I was quickly becoming mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. My contractions were so strong and about every 90 seconds......much worse than when I was induced with Davis. I wanted to make it as far as I could without an epidural, not to be a hero (as some people suggested), but to just let my body work naturally. At about 3:30 AM, I realized how tired and exhausted I would be if I continued, and my body needed to rest. So, much to Rhett's happiness, I got my epidural around 4, and was quickly able to rest, no sleep, but rest and lots of prayer.....just what I needed. My night nurse was so kind, and she sat on my bed for a while and we just talked, and she said she had been praying for us and Caroline, and would continue to. I now realize what an impact our precious little girl had on her, because she had never experienced anything like our situation before, and she shared with me how grateful she was to be a part of our experience. At about 5, I was about 8 cm, and they predicted we would have a baby in a "few" hours. I just could not believe that this was really it, and that we would soon be meeting our precious little angel baby. Rhett and I were so excited to meet her, but so scared and worried for our sweet baby. We just prayed that she would be peaceful and experience absolutely no suffering or pain. I just remember praying for her and thanking God for her. I knew that she was not "perfect" in the world's eyes, but that she was beyond perfect in God's eyes, and she just like my precious boys, would be perfect to us.

" For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be".

Psalm 139:13-16

This verse was also so special to me throughout my pregnancy with Caroline. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Caroline was no mistake, that God carefully formed her exactly the way He wanted her to be, and that although I do not, and will never understand why he chose this life for her, HE..God ordained it, and she just like all babies are gifts from heaven, no matter how perfect they may or may not be in the world's eyes. I knew my sweet little girl was going to be absolutely beautiful, and the fact that God created her so carefully and with so much love, gave me such a peace in a very hard time.

I remember starting to feel just really weird about 6. I thought I was just getting anxious, but when my legs started tingling and my heart started racing....I got a little scared. I finally called my nurse about 6:45, and they quickly realized that it was time! Rhett and I were ready to meet our daughter. God was at work behind the scenes the whole time. I started pushing around 7, and my regular OBGYN got to the hospital about 7:20. Praise God I was stubborn and did not call them to come and check me at 6......because our wish of our regular doctor delivering Caroline would have never come true. While we were happy with the doctor we had, we were so relieved to see our sweet regular doctor. She has been amazing throughout our entire experience, and it meant so much for her to cancel half of her morning clinic to just be with us. I think I pushed for less than an hour, and Caroline was born. It was surreal, and so different than anything I could have imagined. Normally, you hear lots of commotion and crying when babies are born. My room was quiet, and we heard our doctor say..."Hello sweet angel, we are so happy to meet you precious Caroline". I knew I would probably not hear her cry or make any noise, and we did not. Looking back it hurts my heart to know that I never heard my precious baby's voice, but I am so thankful for the peaceful atmosphere surrounding her birth. Caroline was quickly placed on my chest, and Rhett and I just marveled at our beautiful daughter. She was so tiny, with the longest fingers and toes. Other than her amazingly beautiful cleft lip, her little body was perfect. I remember just cradling her in my arms, and trying to sing "Jesus Love Me" (I sang this to her everyday she was in my belly), but I could not get it out. Rhett and I were able to surround her with our love and kisses, as her short life on this earth quickly faded. I will never forget the look on my wonderful husbands face as he held our baby girl. He was/is one proud Daddy, and we both are better for having met Caroline. My doctor grabbed our camera, and started snapping pictures for us........that is a gift that I will always treasure. She was able to capture those first few moments we had with Caroline, and we can always look back and remember the special time we had with her. The hour Caroline lived passed quickly, and I was holding her when she went to meet Jesus. I don't know how I knew the moment it happened, but I did, and she was so peaceful. It will forever be etched in my heart and mind, the moment she saw her Savior, her Creator. I looked at Rhett and we just kissed her and loved her, and thanked God for her. Giving birth to my baby girl was amazing, and it is a day I will never forget. Letting her go to be with Jesus was the hardest thing I will ever do, and my heart longs to hold her and kiss her just one more time. But, I know that she is resting in the arms of Jesus, dancing with the angels, she is whole and complete, she is healthy and happy......things that she could have never done with her earthly body.

The rest of the day was filled with family coming to see her. Rhett and I chose to just have our boys there, with my parents, and also his parents. It was hard enough to share her with them, and we just felt it was better for us to limit our visitors. Wesley was/is so in love with his baby sister. I had no idea how he would handle everything, but he did amazingly. He wanted to hold her, and just kissed her and rubbed her tiny face. He truly loves his sister. He knew that she was going to go live in Heaven with Jesus, and he said several times...."Caroline is happy now, mama?". My precious friend Carrie was there for part of her birth, and she was able to meet Caroline as well. Carrie was with me when I found out about Caroline's diagnosis (Rhett was out of town), and I am so glad my best friend was able to meet and hold my precious daughter. Our preacher also came by that morning, right after Caroline passed away. We were so thankful to have him there to pray over her.

The rest of the day we had our sweet baby girl with us, as we waited for the photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. This a service that will always be dear to my heart. Having professional photographs that captured our sorrow and joy, will forever be very special to us. In the time waiting on the photographer, we did several things with our precious baby. We made a Christmas ornament with her hand/foot prints. We also had her footprints stamped in my Bible. We gaver her her first bath, and dressed her in the beautiful white smocked dress we had brought for her. We were able to put her precious little smocked bonnet on her head as well. Rhett's grandmother knitted Caroline a gorgeous white blanket, and we chose to swaddle her in that, with her rabbit. She was absolutely beautiful all wrapped up, and we just laid on the bed and stared at her, trying to take every little detail in. As the afternoon came to a close, we were facing the most difficult task of the day. We had our precious time with our angel, but it was time to say our final goodbyes, and hand her over to the funeral home. I do not think Rhett and I were fully prepared for this.......honestly it was something I had not really thought about. Although we knew Caroline was not there with us, it was still very hard to hand her over to a stranger, knowing that was the last time we would see her on this earth. I can tell you that at the moment that sweet lady walked out of my room with my baby, I felt completely empty. She had just taken a precious piece of us with her, and we were devastated. That is a feeling that you can never imagine; it is truly gut-wrenching. Here is where I was once again reminded of what an amazing husband I have. He held me in his arms and cried with me, and prayed for us as a couple and family. This is a moment that neither of us will ever forget, and that will forever be engrained in our memory.

Thankfully, I was doing well enough, just eight hours after delivery to leave the hospital. My doctor left the decision up to me, but she was comfortable with it, and we decided to leave. I knew how many things we had to get done on Friday, to prepare for Caroline's memorial and burial, on Saturday (that will have to be another post). It was bittersweet to leave the hospital. My whole pregnancy I could not imagine how it would feel to leave empty handed...without our baby. Thankfully we had a peace and calmness that only came from God. As difficult as the whole day was, it was joyful as well. In one day we said hello to our beautiful precious baby daughter, and we also said goodbye to her. We had closure to a journey that has changed us forever.....for the better. Her life on earth was very brief, but it mattered. I am so thankful to have witnessed first hand how God used the 20 hours of labor/delivery/life/death of our baby girl to affect those she came in contact with. I will never understand why God had this plan for us and our Caroline, but I will forever be grateful for what He and she taught me during our journey. To God Be the Glory!!

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the Heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows". James 1:17