The first time I heard our daughter’s heartbeat, at just 9 weeks along, I cried.
Our little bean had a strong, racing heart beat. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl, we didn’t know how much hair or what color of eyes Baby Dub would have, we just knew Baby Dub was strong, alive and kicking.
Every time we went in to see the doctor after that, we got to listen to our baby’s heart beat. I looked forward to hearing that telltale thump-thump through the Doppler, the proof that all the “hard work” I was doing was paying off.
Towards the end of our pregnancy, working with less room in the uterus, Hudson tended to lean a little to the right. I could feel her back along my right side, feel her kicks and punches on the left. And her heart was right there by my belly button, on the right side, the “Sweet Spot”, as Doctor K put it.
When I went into labor, one of the monitors they strapped on to me was to monitor Hudson’s heartbeat. Throughout labor, breathing through contractions, I could focus on the thump-thump of our daughter’s heartbeat, so strong and steady and reassuring and THERE.
But as labor got complicated and two hours of pushing yielded no results, Hudson’s heart started to falter. The sounds of our daughter’s distress were there in her heartbeat. And as they wheeled me downstairs for an emergency C-Section, and I faded into the haze of general anesthesia, I stayed focused on that heartbeat. Was it still there? Less regular, slower, but there… right?
Our daughter was born without a heartbeat. But she was born, and thanks to the hard work of a team of doctors, her heart started beating at a solid 150, and we were given the three beautiful days of Hudson’s life that made me a mommy, made The Hubs a daddy, and made me realize how much is missing in a life without our baby.
Every time we went in to visit Hudson at the NICU, I checked her vitals repeatedly on the monitor. Heart Rate was always high – somewhere between 130 and 135, but there, steady, every time. The oxygenation of her blood would oscillate, or her blood pressure, but that heartrate was steady and solid every time.
While the Hubs was stuck in Spokane without me, a woman came to visit from an organization that helped families create memories with their seriously ill children. The first thing they did was record Hudson’s heartbeat on a little box that was then placed inside of a stuffed bear. You can hear her heart, and you can hear her daddy sniffle in the background. I want to squeeze that bear every minute, to hear our daughter’s heart beat again.
Even more, I want our daughter’s heart to beat.
The night our daughter passed away, we decided to spend as much time with her as possible. The rewarming process was supposed to start at 7 am on Saturday morning, and we knew it was going to be a rough day for Hudson, so we wanted to cherish as many moments with her as we could. It was late, my feet were swollen, and our night nurse had set me up with a reclining chair and some pillows to get my feet up, and I was nodding off. The Hubs was staring at her vitals monitor. All of a sudden the monitor made it’s telltale “Something’s Wrong” sound and Hudson’s heartrate shot up to 180 and then dropped to 90.
Just like that, our daughter was making all the tough decisions for us. We stepped aside, let the doctors and nurses get to Hudson, knowing that these were our last moments with our baby. The Doctor asked us if we wanted to hold her without her ventilator and the choice was made – let our baby be in peace, hold her without any tubes or wires, say goodbye to our precious baby, let her heart stop beating.
As we sobbed and held our baby close, the doctor had to come check for a heartbeat periodically. The first check, she had a faint heartbeat. Knowing she was still there, we sang to our baby girl “With Hudson in the family, happy happy home.” I held her face close to mine and told her all the ways I was proud to be her mommy, how precious she’d made the last three days.
Another check from the doctor. Same, faint heart beat. We sang another song, swaddled our baby in her silky purple blanket, held her tighter, ran our hands through her legendary hair.
Third check. No heart beat. Our baby was gone.
The next morning, after a few hours of fitful sleep, a nurse came to speak to the Hubs and I. Hudson was eligible to donate her heart valves. Would we be willing?
Our daughter’s entire life was a miracle, from that first heartbeat to the last. And now, her heart valves might be a miracle for somebody else’s miracle baby, and somebody else might be able to take their baby home because of our daughter’s amazing heart.