Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Caitlin's Story, Part Two

Read Part One here.

I stayed overnight in the hospital, and got a slow ambulance ride home the next day. The EMTs carried me, sitting up and strapped into a transport chair, into my house, and up the stairs to my bedroom. Mr. Peevie had gotten the room all situated, with the foot of the bed elevated to give gravity a hand in keeping my baby inside of me.

I laid down in bed, and didn't get up for two weeks. I peed in a bedpan, bathed from a bucket, and ate grapes and sandwiches from a cooler next to the bed. It was awesome. If anyone was ever made for bedrest, it was me. The only thing that would have made it better would have been cable TV.

It was all for naught. One day I felt wetness in my underwear, and I thought, "Oh, geez, I just peed in my pants!" Mr. Peevie picked up test strips from the pharmacy upon the recommendation of a doctor friend, and sure enough, it wasn't pee, but amniotic fluid.

An ultrasound at the hospital later that day revealed that most of the amniotic fluid was gone. Even if she stays put, they told me, she won't thrive without fluid around her. The doctor said "induce," but I couldn't pull the trigger on forcing her out before she was ready. The doc also said there was a tiny, slight, almost negligible chance that the amniotic fluid would renew itself--and I clung to this hope, clenching my thighs together and praying more desperately than I had ever prayed in my life.

A couple of days went by like this, with the docs and nurses checking on me, and everyone urging me to go ahead and let them induce labor. "Letting the baby stay inside you won't help her," they told me, "but the danger of infection is very great for you." What did I care about a stupid infection? I only cared that as long as the baby was inside me, she was still alive, and still possibly developing, possibly increasing her chances of survival once she was born. To induce at this point felt like giving up, abandoning her, or worse: killing her. I couldn't do it.

I prayed for a miracle.

Mr. Peevie and I talked about names for this baby who would probably not survive. Should we give her the first choice name we had picked out? We wouldn't be saying that name as we watched our child grow up; should we save it for a child who would run around in our home, so that we'd have a chance to actually say her name? Every time we tried to have this conversation, Mr. Peevie would break down.

How do you even make a decision like that?

On Sunday night I spoke to another doctor friend, who cried with me on the phone, and who also advised me to go ahead and induce.

"E. Peevie," he said gently, "Even if she stays inside you, her lungs will not develop without amniotic fluid. You are risking your future fertility, and your life, without any benefit to the baby. Let them induce." I don't know why this conversation changed my mind--our minds; but it did. The next day we told the doctor we were ready to go ahead and induce.

The baby was already partially in the birth canal by the time they had me dosed with pitosin and ready for delivery. I gave a small push, and out she came, all 13 ounces of her.

"Does she have a name?" asked the neonatologist.

"Her name is Caity," I said. We honored her with the name we had chosen, including the name of my grandmother, who we always called by her maiden name, Libby: Caitlin Libby. They wrapped her up and brought her over, and we wept. She was red and fragile, with lips like mine and a tiny bruise on her bony, bald head.

My pastor came and stood by the side of my bed, looking down on our daughter. He didn't say a word--like Job's friends in the Old Testament. He cried, and his tears preached a sermon on compassion and empathy.

We held Caitlin for two hours, examining her, kissing her, and crying over her. It was awful and also amazing. I was too numb to feel much besides sadness--but later I became angry that she was so perfect, and the only reason she didn't survive was that my body failed her.

When we left the hospital, I did not know how I was going to put one foot in front of the other. I looked around me at the world going on a usual, and it felt obscene. I wanted to scream out the car window as we drove past yard sales and people pushing strollers and people actually having the nerve to smile and laugh, "I had a baby and she died!" As the days passed, I began to realize that we had not just lost a baby; we had lost an entire future with her.

During the next few months, I wrestled with angry questions, which all came down to the problem of evil: is belief in God compatible with the existence of evil? I did not let go of my belief in the existence of God, but for the first time, I needed a theodicy: a vindication of God's goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil.

God must be cruel, I reasoned, or else powerless to prevent pain and evil. How could a God who was good allow such terrible pain and unfairness?

God did not abandon me to doubt and disbelief. Eventually, even without understanding why Caitlin died, I remembered the goodness of God. I had always believed that God was good, but this belief had never been tested. Eventually, after having it tested from a place of deep pain and doubt, I found it to be more true and relevant than ever before.

When peace like a river attends my soul
When sorrows like sea billows roll--
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

As time went by, I found I could be grateful to God: for two hours to hold Caitlin while she lived; that she resembled me, having my lips and my nose; that Mr. Peevie and I both learned about our capacity to love, and had the amazing experience of loving Caitlin; that Mr. Peevie was able to express his own grief, and that our marriage grew stronger as a result of our shared loss; for our friends and family who stood by us and cried with us and helped us through it.

Today Caitlin would be 15 years old. Is she 15 in heaven? (Do people age in heaven?) What color are her eyes? Is she rambunctious and non-compliant like my other three kids--or is she the quiet and compliant one? That would just figure.

Love you, baby.


Meg said...

I'm crying.

When are you going to write a book?

(Happy birthday, little Caity.)

abaker said...

Beautiful. Thanks for writing this.

E. Peevie said...

Thanks Meg and AB.

You know, Meg, I would love to write a book, but I don't have a book-length idea. Just 800 word blog posts.

Jemomji said...

What can I say, your courage is amazing.

E. Peevie said...

Jemomji--my courage is for shizzle. But thanks anyway.

studioGypsy said...

tears.love xoxoxo