My Dearest Little Malachi,
Oh, what a gift you are. We never got to hold you in our arms, but our hearts are none-the-less filled to the brim with love for you, dear one. We didn't shout from the rooftops when we knew you were ours, we just couldn't have the whole world knowing. You see, your big brother, O, doesn't know about you yet - and we couldn't have him be the only one in the dark.
When he's older we will share your story with him. We just couldn't bring ourselves to break his gentle heart again, with another sibling lost. I'm sure you've found them by now; little Bean, and your other little sibling up in heaven. Please also look for a little boy named Elijah, and another named Imani. They are the angels of some of our dearest friends and we are positive you will get on very well with them up there!
As for your story- it's time for it to be told to the world. A very small village of people have walked with us through this journey, praying for us and you, and quietly encouraging me through it all. We told this small circle because we knew, I knew, we couldn't do this on our own.
But now, it's time for the world to know your story. It is, unfortunately, one with a familiar ending, one that I had hoped I would never have to live through again. But it is also a story of the unending love of our Father, and I certainly can't keep that to myself. It goes something like this...
It's the end of November and I have a hunch about you. I'm a few days late on my cycle. You're growing inside me and making me burp like I've never burped before. And the clincher - the one way I know it's time to invest in a home pregnancy test? Coffee makes my stomach turn. Now, little Malachi, you should know: Your mama is a bit of a coffee snob. Having lived several years at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro with some of the best beans in the world available, she's become quite the connoisseur. But now I know. I take the test and before the one-minute timer is even up the word appears on the screen: "Pregnant."
I have a confession (a couple actually, but we'll get to the others later). My heart did not leap with joy when I saw that word. It flitted a bit, fluttered a lot and settled somewhere in my throat. I'm deeply sorry, son. But from the moment I knew you were growing inside me I became detached and anxious. I would not allow myself to get attached to you, for fear of losing you. Every time I felt a twinge, every time I used the toilet, I looked for red. The tell-tale sign that the other shoe had dropped.
But the red never came. I looked. So often. Too often, likely. But after looking and half-expecting those red drops of despair for 12 long weeks, I decided it was finally time to see the doctor.
Also I was sicker than a dog and really needed to get some meds for the constant nausea that almost always ended in a date with the porcelain throne. Your poor brother was traumatized watching me toss my cookies so often. He would run into the other room covering his ears, poke his head back in when I got quiet again and check to make sure I didn't need anything. Anytime I would cough or clear my throat he'd look ready to bolt and immediately ask if I was going to throw up. Poor kid. It was so, so very hard not to share you with him. But I couldn't get attached, and I most certainly couldn't let him get attached without the certainty that you would finally be our rainbow baby. He's been asking for a sibling for years, and longs to be a big brother so very badly.
I went to see Dr. N and he confirmed what I already knew - you were certainly in there. He took care of me so very well after we lost little Bean, and he immediately knew I was terrified to have you growing in there. He checked me out as best he could and assured me he'd do everything possible to make this one - make you - stay in there. He referred me to another practice (because he doesn't deliver babies anymore) and told me to keep him updated.
After another week I finally made it in to the next doctor. When the ultrasound tech put that wand on my tummy and I saw you squirming inside my heart leapt. It actually leapt. Your papa squeezed my hand, the tech turned up the volume and we heard your strong heartbeat. And I cried.
I let myself breathe. We'd finally seen your sweet face, heard your heart pounding strong, and I got attached. But only a little bit. You were 13 weeks and 1 day old. The longest we'd ever kept a little one in there, besides your Big Brother O. It gave me a little hope. And the nurse practitioner listened to our story, Bean's story, and teared up. She promised that anytime I felt anxious, or just wanted to hear your heart beating, to give her a call and she'd get me in on the doppler. She checked things again and said everything looked amazing, gave me some meds for the nausea, and we booked our next appointment - the one where we'd find out your gender! Four weeks seemed like ages to wait, but we looked forward to it. And hope was rising with each passing day.
After getting this adorable picture of you, we decided to tell O. We waited until there was a good time when your Papa & I were both home, and it wasn't past his bedtime. The week passed, and with the weekend came time to move houses. I had a t-shirt in my online shopping cart, ready to order and give him the news. We call him our Bear, and the shirt said "Big Brother" and had a bear print on it. It was perfect, and I could already picture his excitement when he opened it.
After we made the move from our friends' guest room, to some new friends' house to watch their pups for a few weeks, it began.
Saturday evening, our first night in the house, I started feeling feverish. Sure enough, I had a low fever. Earlier that day I'd passed a tiny clot of blood, but there was no spotting, so I figured you were safe inside there. I called the doctor and he suggested a dose of flu medicine - the flu is running rampant in this area and it was his first call, said if I got a higher fever, to go into the emergency room. I relied on some natural remedies and went back to sleep. By Sunday morning the fever had broken, but was coming back, with cramping. A good friend took me to the ER, so O could stay home with Papa and continue life as normal as possible. He knew I'd been sick and figured I was just tired of it and going in to get some medicine.
Once in the ER, after hours of waiting and feeling absolutely horrible, I was finally seen. The doctor checked on you, the ultrasound tech checked on you, and you were absolutely perfect. They measured you a bit bigger than we expected, but you were a squirmy wormy and very hard to measure. Your heartbeat was strong. They found a urinary tract infection, which would explain the cramping and the fever. They prescribed an antibiotic and told me to monitor the fever. I went back to the house, crawled into bed thanking the Father that you were okay, took my meds, and went to sleep. I woke up shaking violently with no fever, but I could not stop shaking. It scared me, so, very much, and again I reverted to those first 12 weeks, checking every few minutes for that horrible, dreadful red stain. But it didn't come. After two more rounds of getting and breaking a fever, I woke early Monday morning, unable to break it. It had soared far higher than it should have and our friend immediately came to get me, taking me to another ER room - this one with no wait time, thank goodness.
They hooked me up to some fluids to re-hydrate me, and took labs right away. Another ultrasound - this time of the kidneys, revealed kidney stones - and a still-healthy you, rolling around all over the place. Labs came back and revealed bacteria, leading them to diagnose a kidney infection - worse than a UTI and reason enough to get me checked into the maternity ward at our hospital.
I was relieved beyond belief when my fever came down, the shaking stopped, and they were treating me with the proper antibiotic to cure the kidney infection. Being admitted to the maternity floor was only a precaution - kidney infections in pregnancy aren't uncommon, and they just wanted to keep an eye on you.
Sally*, our nurse, found your heartbeat - not that you didn't give her a run for her money with all your squirming around, mister - and it was going strong. Relieved, I rolled over and attempted sleep. It was about 4:00am, and it had been a very long weekend. Around 12:00 in the afternoon the cramping had changed - it felt ever-so-much like contractions. I called in Sally and told her, she hooked up the machine around my belly, and wasn't picking up anything. They became so strong I was having to breathe through them, and she was baffled she wasn't able to pick them up on the monitor, but believed me as she watched them come and go every few minutes. At 1:00, with a horribly strong contraction, I felt a gush. I knew my water had broken, but I didn't want to believe it. I wanted so much to believe it was just incontinence, that I'd peed my pants from the pain. But as Sally carried away my soiled pad (bless her!) to test it, the look on her face when she returned said it all.
I immediately cried out in agony, squeezing your papa's hand. There was far too much fluid gone to be able to turn this around now. Your papa & I locked eyes, each brimming with tears, and squeezed tighter to each other's hands. We knew then, we were losing you.
"Call J*" I told him. "I want her here, please, call her." Our pastor's wife had been praying so fervently for you, sweet boy. She prayed life over you every chance she got, while we were out of the country, before we'd even conceived, the minute we walked through the door of the church, almost every Sunday, she was always praying for you. And I knew I wanted her there to pray when I just couldn't find the words myself. She came immediately and held my hand through every tear, every contraction. She filled the room with prayers and the Holy Spirit came stronger than he had been before. At one point, I opened my eyes to see another friend had joined us - the same friend that had driven me to the ER twice in the days before. Your papa was on my right, tears streaming, hand squeezing mine the entire time.
An hour later, at 2:23pm, 29th January 2018, I gave two pushes and felt you leave me. As I gave the final push, a flash of fire came before my eyes and I saw your name emblazoned in black letters against the flames: Malachi. I didn't yet know you were a little boy - I had my notions but it had been too early to tell on the ultrasounds. I asked the nurse if she could see your gender, and a few quiet moments later she softly said, "It's a boy." You were born weighing only 1.8 oz (51g), and measuring a long 5 1/2 inches (14cm).
"I want to call him Malachi," I said, sobbing uncontrollably but having to share your name with everyone in that room. Papa nodded, and the nurse asked if I wanted to hold you, to see you.
And this is the hardest thing for me to tell you, Malachi. The tears won't stop even now as I confess: I said no. Through my tears that wouldn't stop flowing, I just couldn't fathom looking at you. And I still regret that decision. I so long to hold you in my arms, even if just for a moment. I was terrified at what I would see when I peered into that blanket, sweet boy. Because I made the mistake last year of reading the medical report after having Bean, and I still have horrible, sad, devastating images of that sweet baby engrained into my mind's eye. I didn't want to remember you that way. I wanted to remember that sweet silhouette we saw on the ultrasound machine. And I was scared. I am so sorry Malachi, please, please forgive your Mama. I wasn't strong enough, and I'm sorry.
Before they carried you out of the room, J said the most beautiful, sincere and comforting prayer over you. And we all cried countless tears of pain and sorrow.
After I came around a bit, I told your papa to chose your middle name. Dr. K told us my placenta still hadn't come, and it wasn't cooperating with her efforts to retrieve it. She gave me some medicine to put me through contractions again and we waited. For four hours I went through excruciating contractions, trying so very hard to naturally pass the placenta, but only passing a lot of blood clots. Until, in the final moments, it finally came out. I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful I wouldn't have to go through another horrible procedure like with Bean. Though, it was discovered it had come out incompletely. I was taken to surgery for a D&E to remove all the remaining pieces, barely conscious of what was even happening at this point, due to the pain, shock and sorrow of it all.
Once out of surgery, your papa told me he'd chosen your middle name. You are our Malachi James. Born much too soon, exactly five months before you were due to enter this world. Our sweet, sweet angel baby. And you are loved. You are cherished. Not just by your papa and I, but by so many dear, close friends scattered around the globe, from America to Tanzania to Australia.
So many have grieved with us, prayed with us, and supported us through losing you, Malachi. I'm sorry I didn't love you as I should have while you were growing inside me. I'm sorry I didn't get attached to you sooner. I'm sorry, so, so sorry I didn't hold you in my arms after I birthed you. But it gives me such hope, solace to know you are up with our Father in heaven, playing and meeting your siblings and friends.
Because I don't blame God. I don't believe "God is in control," or that, "He won't give us more than we can handle." He is a God of love, and losing a child is a pain he knows all too well. I know he mourns with us, that he feels our pain. I know he gave me your name as I pushed that final push. I know he was there, making sure I survived, though yet again, at the expense of a child we love.
Because the doctors discovered later, it may not have been a kidney infection that caused the premature labor. I went septic again, just like with Bean, but since I'd been on a couple antibiotics already, it didn't get as severe as it did before. The bacteria they found in my blood looked very close to E. coli (a sure sign of kidney infection), but upon further prodding from the doctor, the lab confirmed that it was not, in fact, E. coli, but a strain that would only be found in the upper GI tract. Somehow, bacteria that is normally good (needed for breaking down food) got into my uterus. It caused the amniotic sac to weaken, causing my water to break, signaling you to make your exit far too early.
What happened with Bean was no longer an anomaly, now it had happened twice.
I wasn't the only one with this thought in my mind, Dr. C also expressed his concern, and promised to dig and dig until he could figure out how that bacteria was possibly getting from my upper GI to my uterus, even that he would confer with Dr. N since he'd previously been my doctor. Dr. N even called and checked on me in the hospital buddy, and he was so, so sad to hear that you'd left us to go to Heaven. He reassured us though, that we would solve this mystery. That we would get to the bottom of this so it didn't happen again. That even though there aren't any other cases like mine, that we would figure this out. To save others from this horrible pain should it happen to them, and also to save us should we try again.
The thing is, buddy, I'm not sure we could go through this again anyway. Even before all of this started, while I was still holding onto hope and gazing at your sweet profile, we had decided not to get pregnant again. Each pregnancy since your brother O had gotten harder and harder. Not only emotionally, but physically. I was so sick this time I could barely function for those 14 weeks - we were in full survival mode and I felt so close to drowning. Your papa & I have always said, even before your big brother came along, that we wanted to adopt. We wanted to have two biological children, then adopt a third. I know there are three of you in heaven now, but it was different with your first sibling, and with Bean. This time was different. Somehow, laboring and birthing you after only moments before seeing your sweet face and hearing your strong heartbeat - feeling every pain and every sensation - made it feel like we had done it. Like we have had two biological children. So we aren't saying 'absolutely no' for another biological sibling for you all, but God would have to be very blatantly clear that we try again because it's just too much to even think about for us.
In the mean time, I stare in awe and wonder at your teeny, tiny little footprints that Sally so graciously captured for us. I look at the photos she took of your sweet, tiny little body and my heart swells with love. You. Are. Loved, Malachi James. More than you will ever know. And I can't wait to finally hold you in my arms when we meet in Heaven someday.
All My Love,
**** For those of you that are local friends, we are happy to talk about our story in person, but please be mindful that O still doesn't know, and we prefer to keep it that way for now, your discretion is HIGHLY sought after in this matter. ***
*names have been changed out of consideration.