I was stone-still, my heart racing, blood pumping, body paralyzed when my husband Scott arrived shortly after I received the awful news. In a flurry he came into the small dark room dimly lit by a single small light over the hospital bed. Searching our faces, he looked scared. Dr. B put her hand on his arm and said “I am so sorry Scott.”
He rounded the hospital bed to be closest to my side and grabbing my hand searched my face for explanations I didn’t want to give.
“We lost him” I said.
Tears broke and started streaming down the sides of my face, into my hair and onto the pillow cushioning my head on the exam bed. My body was starting to tremble. “Our baby is gone. He has no heartbeat.”
“No!” His face was pained and his voice started to choke as tears showed in his eyes.
Dr. B offered to do the ultrasound again so he could see for himself. He looked at me and I said it would be okay not to. I didn’t want him to have to live with that image. He said no to protect me and I agreed to protect him. As much as I dreaded doing it again, I wanted to, thought maybe the answer would be different. I also desperately wanted to push rewind and have him with me in that awful moment. I wanted to go further back than that; to this morning when he had hiccups, to Saturday when I had gone into labor and contractions were nearing 5 minutes apart but just went away after I had laid down to rest. Why didn’t I just come to the hospital then? Just moments, moments, sooner than this moment he might be with us. There must be something I still could do, some way to turn back time. We were so close, so very close to having him with us. “Oh dear, dear God, how could this possibly have happened to my sweet baby boy?”
I prayed in vain; nothing, absolutely nothing could be done to change the awful truth. It is hard to describe how utterly painful and terribly helpless a feeling; to have such a tidal wave of life-creating momentum over months and months, building and building and growing and gaining, to be at the precipice of the crest and suddenly, sudden-ly, out of nowhere, there’s flat, lifeless calm and it is the dark of night. I could blow and cry and howl with everything that is in me and nothing, nothing will bring back the wave of life I was courting.
Hard questions were swimming around in my head as my body took on a new sensation of pain like none other I’d experienced before. Deep in my chest, and at the base of my throat a hard mass of hurt was taking residence in my body that covered over anything blithe I ever had the luxury of feeling.
Dr. B talked about the rarity of the circumstances, which somehow felt reassuring, affirming. It was so very wrong to have happened, I needed to hear it was uncommon. She said it had only happened once in all her time of practicing about 20 years or so prior. She said we might be able to discover why once he is born.
“I took some homeopathic cough syrup, could it have been that?” I asked.
“No” she said reassuringly, “it wouldn’t be that.”
“I ate brie. I carried my kids up the stairs. I laid on my back at night…” I confessed my pregnancy sins, desperate and terrified to find out why, horrified at the thought that I may have done something to cause my baby’s death.
“Please God, don’t let it be anything I have done.” I prayed. I am not sure how I would survive the guilt of that.
I felt like a pregnancy pro by now, having done this two times before. I had felt so self-assured, this pregnancy was so easy, so routine. “I’m sure women in France don’t give up Brie” I would joke. How terrible of me.
Dr. B said she’d give Scott and I some time alone and walked out of the room. We held each other, starting to cry, still caught off guard and in shock. We hurt so much.
All the statistics about how hard it is on a couple to lose a child flashed through my mind. We’d already walked through our hard year as new parents after my second child was born when we weren’t sure our marriage was going to make it. We’d done the hard work to rebuild a solid life-giving relationship and I couldn’t bear to go back to that lonely awful place. As our embrace loosened I put a hand on each side of his face, looking into his eyes I said emphatically “I promise to be good to you through this” as serious as I was when I said each word of our wedding vows.
He often said how important those words were to him. This was a promise I would keep to the ends of the earth, through hell and back, which was exactly where I feared we were headed.
When Dr. B returned she gave me the option to go home and rest for the night or go directly to the hospital to be induced. Without a doubt I said I wanted to go then. Scott held my hand and we both asked Dr.B when we could try for another baby. We wanted our baby. We wanted this baby. She gave a generic answer of a few months. It felt like an eternity to wait, coupled with a whole nine month gestation all over again. That felt so hard to bear, so long.
A wheelchair came to get me and my sweet nurse wheeled me over to labor and delivery while Scott went to get my bag of things from the car. Thank God I had insisted on bringing my hospital bag. I wondered if somehow I had known. Somewhere deep in my body where my mind was yet to bring to my conscious awareness, had I known my baby was gone? How could I have known? How could I not have known?
And the long night of waiting, laboring to give birth to death began. I secretly hoped, in the dark shadow that had overcome me, like a single pale star in an overcast grey night sky, that once my sweet baby boy was born he would be the miracle I longed for and take the deep life giving breath he was always meant to take, proving all forces of faulty human technology wrong. And I would have the boy that I, together with my Creator, had worked so hard to give life to all these long days and months; the boy I already knew and loved with the depths of my whole being.