Ella Nancy was born on January 21, 2019.
She came into this world silent, at 6:50 am, weighing a tiny 1 lb. 5 ounces. She was 23 weeks. Although she was silent, the hospital room was filled with the sounds of sobs being held back, nurses talking to each other as they were caring for Ella, the doctor who delivered her was speaking to me about something that I cannot remember- her birth was anything but silent or still.
I’d like to rewind to September 10th, 2019. Wow, this was the day my identity changed FOREVER. I remember waking up and feeling “off”, I work in a pharmacy so I figured I was probably coming down with some sort of illness. Turns out, I was pregnant. I took a test because a coworker dared me to, and as the stick turned blue- I remember falling to my knees overcome with joy. I WAS A MOM. And at 35, I was especially happy. It only took us 3 months of trying to conceive! I felt like one of the lucky ones. My fiancé, Damon, was in total shock. That night, we held hands and in that instant our relationship grew. WE WERE PARENTS.
My first craving was Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly. I had to have this on everything. I could barely eat much else, so my diet consisted of toast/crackers and Ella’s beloved strawberry jelly. She also loved cinnamon raisin bread with, you guessed it, strawberry jelly. I have so many pictures on my phone of all the snacks I would make with strawberries- in jelly form and also fresh produce. Her love of strawberries fueled my current obsession with the fruit. I feel as if through the strawberries we are still connected. I cant help but think of her and how she danced in my belly, happy and content after I ate them.
Damon and I loved getting ultrasounds. I remember when we found out Ella was a girl. I was wearing my favorite Lululemon aligns, a cute maroon striped hoodie dress, and some Vans to match. Damon wore his usual uniform of a plain Polo, khakis and what I lovingly refer to as “boat shoes.” Ella was not cooperating, and we were afraid it would take forever for the technician to get a good shot. Finally, freeze frame with the words “it’s a girl.” I shed a few happy tears, and Damon said, “Well, I guess I’ll join the princess unicorn birthday party club with my friends,” his friends had all recently had babies, all of them girls.
The holidays came, and Ella enjoyed every bit of it. Thanksgiving we sat around the table with family dreaming of what the 2019 holidays would be like. Christmas came, and we were so excited for what was to come. Everything revolved around Ella. And she hadn’t even been born yet! My mom, Ella’s granny, had to refrain from buying some pink bicycle she had picked out. I just knew my mom was going to spoil Ella girl rotten.
The New Year comes. 2019. Wow. Its hitting us. My belly is growing bigger and bigger. And Ella is becoming more and more active. I loved it. On my commute to work, she would be extremely active. I would be singing in the car, rubbing my belly. Talking to her and telling her how beautiful she was, even though I had never really laid eyes on her. I would talk to her, and tell her how much we love her. I would even tell her that I was scared I wouldn’t be a good mom. And that I would always try to do the best I could and to please forgive me if I wasn’t perfect. I wanted to be the perfect loving mother to our baby girl. I wanted to protect her from everything terrible, show her the beauty in the world, and I only ever wanted her to feel safe and loved. She and I had many discussions on my commute to work. Some of them, will always stay between us two.
Wednesday January 16, my mom and I went to my OB appointment. No big deal, just checking in. Well, one of my doctors was having a hard time finding Ellas heartbeat with the Doppler. So we went in the ultrasound room. My mom got to see Ella on the big screen, and my mom swears Ella gave her a peace sign. I believe it. The doctor kind of hovered over the screen watching, not really saying much then she broke the silence with a quick so that’s your baby girl! I sat up and began to talk to her about Braxton Hicks. I had been experiencing them quite frequently. I would time them and I was just shy of what would require medical attention. We both kind of took a relaxed response to the Braxton Hicks, and she said for me to just make sure I hydrate.
Friday January 19, Ella wasn’t moving all too much. My commute to work was full of stern statements to Ella demanding that she move more. I figured maybe she was sitting different and maybe that’s why I couldn’t feel as much. I was only 22 weeks, and although her movements before were VERY predictable, I was naïve. That weekend we went to our lake house and when I woke Saturday morning, I felt like my belly was smaller. But, in pregnancy we all know that your bump can change from day to day. Again, I was naïve. That night, I think I realized something had happened to her. She hadn’t moved all day. And I tried all the tricks.
Sunday January 20, I woke up noticeably smaller. I was supposed to meet my best friend to start planning Ella’s baby shower. I called her and calmly cancelled. I called the on call OB. Of course, they wanted me to try the drink juice, take a walk, and lie down. I had tried that and it didn’t work. So off we went to the hospital. My fiancé, was still hopeful but deep down I think we both knew she was gone. I held myself together, and I kept having stern talks with Ella. I would rub my belly and firmly tell her to move. I begged. I pleaded. I cried. And we arrived at the labor and delivery ward. And I remember telling Damon,this is just a run through. We will get the scan and see we will that Ella is being a booger and shes probably turned weird or something.
Nope. The on call OB scanned my belly, over and over. She turned the monitor away from Damon and I. She said, “Angela, I cannot find a heartbeat and the baby isn’t moving the way she should be. I’m sorry.” I stared at the horrendous wallpaper. It had these greekcolumns with grapes, and I remember thinking why the hell are there grapes in the labor and delivery floor? Grapes make no sense being here, who uses grapes as decoration? Damon grabbed my hand, and back to reality I came. I knew what was going to happen next, and I had to prepare Damon for it.
They moved us to a quiet room, far away from the other mothers. I was induced and contractions started very quickly. My mom and dad came to sit with us. And they couldn’t make sense of this either. My mom kept saying, “I just saw her, I just saw her.” After 15 hours of contractions, of sobbing, of laughing, of watching the same episodes of American Pickers, I felt pressure. Ella was ready. And no matter how hard I tried, no matter how loud I prayed, or how I tried to escape- Ella was ready. There was no escaping, no rewinding time, no nothing. This was it. Ella was born. And honestly, I can only remember a few things around that moment. I actually can’t remember much more than what I have described here.
She was exactly 23 weeks. And those were THE BEST 23 weeks of my life. I look back at pictures and I never smiled so big. All my teeth would show! I was just so happy. I felt like I knew my purpose in life. I had something bigger than myself to live for. I was contributing to the future. We were contributing to the future. And just like that, it was gone. What I didn’t realize until just a few weeks ago, is that Damon and I still contributed to the future. So many people loved Ella, and she changed so many peoples lives. Me, Damon, our families, our friends, we all view the world differently now. I can still find the beauty through the grief, and I know that it is Ella who is still showing it to me. Instead of me showing her the beauty, she’s showing it to me. Its bittersweet, and through tears I write this. And through tears I smile.
Ella means, “beautiful fairy maiden.” So, Damon and I chose a tree that faces our bedroom window and we hung up a fairy door. A fairy door is said to attract fairies and it’s a place for humans to leave gifts and wishes for fairies to receive. It is pink and has windows that mimic the confetti wallpaper we wanted to use in her nursery. The name on the door reads, “Ella.” Every morning I wake up, open the blinds, and look at her tree. I talk to her. I tell her how much I miss her, and how sorry I am that I couldn’t protect her.
We don’t know how Ella died. Did the dr see something on the last ultrasound and just didn’t think it was a big deal? Did I lay on my back too much? Was it because I dyed my roots once? Was it because my job was high stress? Was it because I had high anxiety? Was she scared? Did she feel pain? Did I cause this? I can ask myself a million questions, but I will never know the answers. I am currently in therapy, and I am not ashamed to say so. Losing a child is unnatural. It goes against the laws of nature. And admitting that I needed some professional help with processing Ella’s death is something I am quite open about.
Now its October 2019, and the year we thought would be the best- well its been the worst. We are going to do our best to navigate the upcoming holidays. And I am not caring one bit about what anyone says- if I need to stay home this Thanksgiving I will. All we know is, we are not sure of what lies ahead for us. Each day is a new battle, and it’s a new reason to find beauty as well. Some days the cup is half full, and some days its half empty. One thing we do know is, Ella is with us in her own way. And we will continue to live life in her honor as she would want us to do. Although she was stillborn and her heart stopped beating, our hearts are still full of the love we have for her. Forever and always we will love our little “dino”our little “gummy bear”, Ella Nancy.