January 11th, we had a doctor's appointment at 2:45pm. The Nurse Practitioner did an exam and it showed that I was 2 cm dilated and that the water sac was starting to protrude out of my cervix. She told us that Mark Allen is on his way and that we need to quickly go to the hosptial. I was mentally prepared that this might be the finding at the appointment but I was praying so hard that it might not come true, but the reality was that the time had come. We went home got our bags and made quite a few frantic phone calls to try to get family down.
By 4:45pm, I was admitted to Scripps Memorial in La Jolla. They immediately began to monitor my contractions, started an IV, and drew labs. I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes but my dilation was the same. The pain was tolerable and it was just more that I was uncomfortable. In fact, it was the same pain I had been feeling since I was 16 weeks with my "cramping" which the doctor informed me must have been contractions all along. Then the waiting game began. The doctor told me that they could immediately start an epidural and the pitocin in order to move labor along but I did not want to yet. I wanted to wait for family to arrive first.
My sister, Abby, was already here. She had flown down on the 10th in order to keep me company and I felt so blessed to have her by my side for everything. My Mom took the last flight out of Oakland and landed at 10:00pm. Rob's grandparents live in San Diego and they were ready at a moments notice. My dear friend Brittany (we met in nursing school), came down after working a long 12 hour shift, then had to drive a couple of hours and arrived at 11:00pm. My Dad, Allen, and Teddy drove all night after dropping my mom off at the airport and got here around 3:30am. That was all the family that was coming although my brother Bobby, Rob's Mom, and his sister, Jamie, were deeply missed...It was time to begin.
At 4:30am, the anesthesiologist came and started my epidural. After about 15 minutes, the numbness and pain control started to kick in. The nurse started my pitocin drip to help my contractions get stronger and for my dilation to progress. Once the doctor and nurse left the room and it was just Rob and I, I realized that I will never feel our sweet little boy kick again. The tears were rolling down my face and then by God's sweet mercy, I felt one last kick. It was precious and it was as if Mark was telling me, "It's okay Mommy."
The intensity and frequency of my contractions did increase, but for the most part I was very comfortable and able to rest. At 10:00am, the doctor came in and checked my progression. I was 4 cm dilated. She broke my water in order to speed things up. The doctors were not lying when the said I had a lot of amniotic fluid. It was a ton. It sounded like someone had turned a 2-liter soda bottle over and was pouring it out. My pregnant belly vanished right away. The time was approaching. By 12:00pm, I was still at 4cm so they turned up the pitocin. Due to the fact that I was only 24 weeks pregnant and Mark was going to be so small, I only had to get to 5 cm in order to deliver. One hour later, the time had come...
After five sets of pushing, our little boy was here...1:26pm...he did not survive the birth. He was already in Jesus' arms. He was meeting his Grandpa Mark, all his great-grandparents, his second cousin, and so many other loved ones. Rob and I picture him just running around with his brother and that they are laughing, sweet little laughs, with all the adults surrounding them with huge smiles. He is in a better place....
When the doctor placed him on my chest, all I could say was "Hello, Handsome. We love you!" Despite his many bodily abnormalities, he was perfect. I have never seen anything that was more beautiful and that I love more...He was very small, 14 oz and 9 1/2 inches long. He had the cutest arms and legs. They were an exact replica of Rob's except for maybe his calves those might have been mine :). I just kept looking at Rob's hands and looking at Mark's and marveling how much they looked the same. In comparision to his size, he had a long torso and big hands and feet just like his Daddy. Like Father, Like Son.
Once we got him cleaned up and put a cute little cap on him, we brought the family in to see the most precious little boy. Everyone had smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, an organization of professional photographers who volunteer their time for fatal prenatal diagnosis, came in and captured a few minutes of all of us holding Mark and loving him. I am so grateful that they were able to come in and I cannot wait to see the pictures that I will treasure forever. Once the photographers left, we circled around and dedicated Mark Allen back to Jesus. Beautiful words of thankfulness, grace, and love were prayed. His life started and ended in the womb with God's hand surrounding him.
He received a lot of cuddling and kisses from everyone. We took lots of pictures. I had brought quite a few things in to capture Mark's perfect hands and feet on: picture mats, special paper, ceramic plaster, and our bibles. Brittany, Abby, and Kristin (aka Woodie, we played soccer and survived nursing school together at PLNU. She works at the hospital and was able to join us during this special time) spent two hours and a lot of energy getting all the handprints and footprints. It was quite a task, but I am so appreciative.
Around 5:30pm all the family decided to leave for the day and give Rob and I some time alone. It was just the three of us. We were our own family. We were complete. The floodgates of tears poured out of us as we held our son and each other. I could not stop saying how sorry, how very sorry, I was to our perfect little Mark Allen. I wish that I could have given up anything to have protected him and to have him here. We told him that we love him so so much! We kissed him and once again examined his perfect little body. After physical and emotional exhaustion, I finally fell asleep with our son in my arms. It was so special. After a couple of hours, Rob got to hold him and sleep with Mark in his arms. Around midnight we woke up and knew the time was coming that we needed to give up our son's body for his soul was already in heaven. We took more photos and showered him with kisses. We bathed him as we wept and sung Jesus Loves Me. We put his cap on, wrapped him tightly up in a blanket and placed a tiny stuffed dog in his arms. It fit just right. I did not know if I would have the strength to give him up but by God's provision I had a peace that I could only attribute to the Lord. The nurse came and took him at 1:26am....we had twelve wonderful hours with him. We will always love you Mark! We will never forgot you! We cannot wait to tell your brothers and sisters about their big brother Mark!