My story begins on July 12, 1998. I think I will remember that day, as well as the final day forever.
My husband is military, and we had spent the weekend doing what we enjoy, traveling with a middle ages re-creation group. Nothing felt any different, nothing felt wrong, but I remember, (and will always remember) one of my friends mentioning that I no longer looked as pregnant. I was 16 weeks along. I only thought it was because of the clothing I was wearing, so I didn’t worry about it at the time.
We returned early on Sunday, because my husband had to go to work. I settled down to relax and watch a movie. (The Little Princess… something else I will always remember.) There was a little pain, but I assumed it was still growing pains. Then, I noticed the blood. I was so terrified. We are stationed in Germany, which made things a little tough. I tried calling the military clinic, but the line was busy. My doctor is German, in a German clinic/hospital, so I called there next. I was lucky. Someone spoke English. They told me to come in right away. I tried to call my husband but he was “out in the field” and could not be reached. So, I drove myself to the hospital, crying and praying all the way.
When I got there, the doctor on call checked me out. He didn’t/couldn’t tell me anything, but strongly suggested I stay at the hospital. My baby was still alive, there was a heartbeat. I was not yet too worried. I thought since my baby was still alive, that I had reached the hospital in time. (Yes, so na?e. My first baby.) I called a friend who worked with my husband and asked him to contact my husband, but as far as I knew everything was still okay.
The next day, the chief doctor checked us out. He told me that my baby had only a 10% chance of survival because my amniotic fluid was almost gone and there was strong signs of infection in my uterus. I started bawling. The friend who works with my husband showed up as they were wheeling me back to my room. I was
still bawling. I told him I needed my husband now. (He drove 2 hours himself to get him…what a wonderful friend.)
Three weeks later, my baby is still alive, there is no more signs of infection, so the doctor wants to try a “stitch” where they sew the ends of my cervix together. They were hoping to keep the amniotic fluid inside, and save my baby. I had been in the hospital the entire time, on strict bed rest (I could only get up to use the bathroom). I decided to give it a try.
I had never had surgery before, I was scared about my baby, I was so scared about surgery.. It was a terrifying experience. But we survived. Everything was fine, except I was still losing fluid. The doctors started talking about handicaps. Without the fluid, I guess the lungs would not develop and my baby would not have room to move, so the arms and legs would not be right. They suggested “abortion” NO!!!!!!!!! I could not and would not do that. (Neither would my husband.)
One week later, contractions started. They thought it was over. They removed the sutures in my cervix and took me to the labor room. The contractions slowed, so they took me back to my own room. (My wonderful husband was there the entire time.) They allowed me to get up and walk (after four weeks, it was amazing I still knew how!) There was still a heartbeat. My baby was still alive. Still fighting for his tiny little life. We had so many people rooting for us. The nurses and the doctors were all surprised that my baby had fought for so long. Everything except the amniotic fluid looked normal. Everything. I still had high hopes. I was in my 20th week. It was still too early to save my baby, but he was still hanging tight. I didn’t think about the amniotic fluid. I simply thought that technology would be able to develop the lungs if I were able to hold out for a few more weeks.
That was when they told me that even if I went to term, without the amniotic fluid, the lungs would not develop and my baby would die because there would be no exchange of air with the blood. I still didn’t give up hope. Maybe my membranes would heal and the amniotic fluid would build back up.
After a week of no change (still contractions, but irregular, still bleeding, but irregular, and still a good heartbeat), they suggested a German University an hour away. I was all for it. Universities usually have experimental and the newest technology. I started feeling lucky again.
The ambulance drove me to the University Hospital (everything you have heard about German drivers is correct. We drove 140 mph and there were still people passing us). After sitting for many hours they finally checked me out. They used Doppler and sonograms. My baby’s heartbeat had become irregular. It was slowing to 50 bpm. (Was it the ambulance trip? I’ll never know.. But I like to think it was.) The hospital asked me why I was there. I went in the morning and no one fed me or watered me… No one told me where I could get these things either. My husband blew out a tire so was late arriving. I had to do the same paper work twice, and I was put into a room with four other pregnant women. I just wanted to go back to my old room, where I knew people, they cared, and took good care of me. The doctors told me my baby was dying, and I did not want my baby to die around these strangers. I told them to send me back.
I arrived back at 8 pm. They found me food and put me back in my old room. They all looked so sad. They had tried so hard. They were some wonderful people. I did not sleep that night. I was having more contractions and I was so sad. I sent my husband home because if anything happened, he could be right there, but I needed to be alone with my baby one last time. (Is that selfish?)
The next morning, the heartbeat was gone, my baby was gone, I started crying quietly. (My husband was there and he was crying too.) The doctors asked if we wanted to induce labor. (I was still having contractions.) We agreed.
I won’t go into details, but it was the strangest, scariest, longest, saddest hour of my life. Yes, hour. They kept me in my room because the delivery room was in use. They had no idea it would go so quickly. The pain was horrific. My husband wanted to do something, but was powerless.
Then it was over. They brought him to us, our little Christopher Defiance. My husband and I agreed that he was defiant to the end, fought long and hard. Maybe it isn’t a normal name, but it fit. He was beautiful. So tiny. He had all ten fingers and ten toes. We just sat there and cried.
Our priest came in, after I got out of surgery (D&C). He blessed little Christopher. I was so glad he did that. It helped a little. He said our little angel was in heaven.
I love him and miss him so much.
My little Christopher Defiance Bethea
August 18, 1998
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