It has been 6 months since I gave birth to our beautiful daughter Virginia “Ginny” Hope Jones. February 26, 2019 was an amazing day. It is a day that I think back in love. It was not at all what I expected.
February 25 was the day there was no heartbeat, the worst day of my life. It was a nightmare. On that day I thought the worst was yet to come. I couldn’t imagine having to endure labor. But the truth was that finding out the news of Ginny’s death was far more painful than childbirth. Remembering back, childbirth was like a sweet gift in the darkest moment of my life.
In the days following Ginny’s death and birth, I kept going over the birth story in my head again and again. I think it helped me survive those first days. I thought about it with pride and hope. I played and replayed the day in my head; I was afraid of forgetting it. I finally typed it out, and it was 5 and a half pages long. I won’t share that long version here, but I do want to share my birth story.
We arrived at the N.C. Women’s Hospital for my 9 am induction appointment. The nurses quickly lead me and Daniel to a labor & delivery room and our mothers to a special waiting room called Jane’s Room. Jane’s Room was created to provide grieving families a place to wait in the L&D unit. It was such a wonderful resource; I can’t imagine our moms in a normal waiting room alongside excited and happy grandparents.
I can’t say enough positive things about UNC Hospitals. They took such good care of us the entire time. The nurses and doctors were so sympathetic and caring. They explained everything to us multiple times, knowing that in our grief it is hard to concentrate. Each doctor made it a point to say, “This is not your fault.”
When we arrived, I was showing no signs of labor. I was 0 cm dilated. Daniel and I took a birthing class two days earlier. The instructor told us the process for induction. She said they start with a pill which usually does not work. After 4 dosages (12 hours), they will start Pitocin which is usually when labor actually starts. We knew we were there for the long haul and it will probably be over 24 hours before delivery.
The doctor inserted the first dosage of the pill, and the nurse strapped a contraction monitor on me. Looking up at the screen showing contractions, there was clearly an empty section where the heartbeat would normally display. This was a small reminder that Ginny would not be born alive. Contractions started shortly. They were painless and felt like the Braxton Hicks I had felt over the past several weeks. The morning went by quickly as we talked, cried, and sat.
A kind chaplain came in, spoke with us, and prayed. He as well as the doctors and nurses softly reminded us of all the decisions we had to make. What kind of tests do we want on Ginny’s body and the placenta? How much time do we want to spend with her body? Do we want pictures? What do we want to do with her body after? These are decisions no one ever wants to make. They shared the options and told us there was no rush. They also emphasized that there were no wrong answers. Everyone is different and there is no correct protocol for these situations.
Thankfully Daniel and I were in complete agreement. Our mothers supported anything we decided. Ultimately we decided we wanted an MRI of Ginny’s body and genetic testing of the placenta. We wanted to hold Ginny’s body for a short while. We wanted pictures of her but not on our phones. We would have her body cremated. These were hard decisions. Daniel and I both agree that we are not our bodies; Ginny was no longer in her body. She was in heaven.
At around 2:30pm I still wasn’t in any pain. The doctor checked for progress; I was 3cm dilated! I couldn’t believe I had made progress without any pain. She ordered the Pitocin.
A few more hours quickly passed (I can’t explain why time went by so quickly. We didn’t get bored or turn on the TV at all). I was just starting to feel cramps during the tightening of the contractions. The pain was like bad period cramps but was bearable. I decided to get an epidural before it got too tough. I got the epidural around 6:50 pm, and the pain subsided. Getting the epidural was uncomfortable but not terrible.
About an hour later the doctor checked my progress. I was 6 cm dilated. I was pleased with the progress but knew we probably had a long way to go.
Our wonderful nurse explained what we might expect when Ginny was born. She said she will likely have dark lips and face and her skin may be very delicate. She also explained that she would be putting together a memory box for us. It would have pictures of Ginny, hand and foot molds, a lock of her hair, the gown she will wear, and a few other things. We were so appreciative of her care and consideration.
Soon my right side started hurting very intensely. The nurse told me to lay on my right side so the epidural would move that direction while she ordered more epidural. The pain felt like I was being kicked in the side every 30 seconds or so. Daniel held my hand and was there by my side the entire time. Our moms were there nervously praying. I know they hated to see me in such pain.
Before we could get any more epidural, I felt a lot of pressure. The nurse called the doctor in and starting getting things ready for delivery. The doctor checked me again. Less than an hour from the last check, and I was already fully dilated and Ginny was in +2 position. Several doctors and nurses buzzed about the room getting ready while my water broke on its own.
The doctor said I could push if I felt like it or I could let my uterus do all the work. I felt a strong need to push. I pushed a few times, yelling and moaning each time. The yells were not out of pain. During delivery there wasn’t much pain, but there was such an overwhelming strong urge to push. Daniel was still there holding my hand and encouraging me. Soon Ginny’s body was born. I felt relieved and proud. After a brief “Great job!” from the doctors and nurses, there was silence. It was 8:47pm, less than 12 hours from when we arrived at the hospital.
Our nurse wrapped Ginny in the rainbow blanket handmade by Grandma Ginny. We took turns holding her body. She had a cute round face and dark curly hair. I will never forget the moment Daniel was holding Ginny’s body while sitting close to me on the hospital bed. I watched his heart growing and breaking right in front of me. We both wept over her and prayed. We kissed her and loved her and wept. We were a family of three there. Our love made her, and she was so beautiful.
After a while we knew it was time. We called the nurse back in to take Ginny. We handed over our daughter’s body and said goodbye. It was hard to do, but we knew she was not in her body. She was in the arms of Jesus. The day that I thought would be the worst was actually very healing.
It turns out that mothers only stay in the hospital for a few days after delivery for the sake of the baby. Our nurse asked if we wanted to go home that night. We decided to stay the night and leave in the morning. They moved me up to a non-maternity floor so we wouldn’t hear babies crying. On the way up to the other floor, I got a couple of well-meaning “congratulations!” It was heart wrenching. My nurse whispered to me, “I’m getting you out of here. I’m getting you out of here.”
Daniel and I got a couple hours of sleep before the busy next morning. My nurse came to deliver the memory box at the end of her shift. She went through every item with so much care and sympathy. I will be forever grateful for her kindness and for preparing the priceless memory box for us. I feel like I will always be connected to her somehow. She was who cleaned, dressed, and took pictures of our daughter when we didn’t have the strength. She treated her with such honor and love, and there are no words to describe my appreciation.
The chaplain visited again with more helpful words and prayers. Multiple doctors came to explain what to expect with regards to milk coming in and warning signs for postpartum depression.
Then I got discharged. Daniel pulled the car around while I waited for my wheelchair escort. It took forever for a polite man to arrive with the wheelchair. He apologized for being late. He said that the computer told him I was in MRI so he went there first and I wasn’t there. I realized it was because Ginny was getting the MRI. I didn’t explain. On the way out to the car, I just imagined her little body in a huge MRI machine, and I was leaving her. I kept reminding myself that she is happy and loved in heaven. God comforted me.
We did not have a traditional memorial service for her. Most of our family is across the country. I consider the time we had with her body in that hospital room as her memorial. It was a beautiful moment, so full of love.
It was definitely due to the amazing amounts of prayer that labor and delivery went so quickly and smoothly. It far exceeded all my expectations and fear of what birth would be like. It was beautiful and epic and an honor. I can see how if the result was a baby, it would easily be the best day of your life. When I look back, it was a positive experience that makes me feel proud and strong. I have so so much love and gratefulness for Daniel through this. He is the most incredible man. Our mothers were also an amazing support; we definitely needed them there. There is no doubt that God was with us that entire day and the days since.
Thank you to everyone who prayed for us, sent flowers, sent a card, or gave us a gift or care package. Your love and support truly helped and comforted us.