Macabre as it may be, I don’t want to forget a thing that happened to us or any more than I already have. It’s a long hellish tale. I would skip it if I were you.
Saturday, December 4:
When I woke up I didn’t feel Sweet Pea moving, a little unusual but not unheard of these days. My dad’s birthday. We weren’t really planning anything special but I wanted to make him some of his favorite caramel corn. Before I could get started on it, Dad called wanting to change the oil in my car. I went over there and stood around keeping my dad company as he worked. E came and I asked him to help me get our ultrasound pictures from disc to hard drive as there was some sort of glitch. As I was sitting there I began to feel an odd pressure. I’ve never been pregnant before, I thought the baby had just moved into a weird position or something. I sat for a while more chatting with Mom about the plans for my kitchen remodel.
I arrive home and go to the bathroom. I feel a slight pop and a gush of something that is not pee goes into the toilet. Something is definitely wrong. I peek into the toilet and see only clear fluid. When I wipe, there is blood. When I stand up, there is a big gush of blood. I immediately start shaking, pull up my pants and dripping blood, run for the phone which is in my car. I’m shaking very badly and can hardly dial the phone. When I call the doctor’s pager, I mistakenly put in my parents’ phone number, hang up, call again and leave my home number. I very quickly clean myself up and change clothes. The doctor still hasn’t called back so I try again and give my cell number. I get into the car and drive as fast as I dare toward the hospital.
The doctor finally calls back and I tell him what happened and that I’m on the way to the hospital. He asks about the amount of fluid, tells me he will call ahead to the hospital and that the nurses will know what to do. He won’t be able to tell what is going on until we have an ultrasound. I apologize for disturbing his Saturday. My mom calls wondering what’s going on because Dr. H. called her first.
I arrive at the hospital. When I get out of the car another gush of blood comes. I go into the emergency room. I try not to cry while explaining what happened and that the doctor said to come there and he was going to call ahead. The woman acts like she doesn’t know what I’m talking about and starts making calls to the Women’s Pavilion. I’m taken to a little room, where I explain again and say I’m bleeding and don’t want to mess up their chair. Another woman takes my blood pressure and temperature while a wheel chair pulls up and I’m taken to the Women’s Pavilion. It’s a long ride and absurdly the woman pushing me asks me how I’m doing.
I’m rolled into a room and two nurses there tell me to put on a gown and start asking me questions. They put a monitor on my belly and immediately find the baby’s heartbeat. Strong at 140 or so. For the first time, I cry. They tell me the best way to stop the bleeding is to lay on my back very still. I start cramping and although I tell them this, they do nothing. They tell me they’ve ordered the ultrasound and will send it to the doctor.
I call my mother and tell her I’m either in preterm labor or have a ruptured amniotic sac. Somewhere along the line I had been told this. I tell her either way it doesn’t look too good. She asks if she should come. Although, I’m scared out of my mind, I say no, we don’t really know anything, there’s nothing to be done and that I’m in good hands. I keep worrying about the report I was going to work on for my grad class. It was due that day. I call my brother thinking he can get into my email and send a message to my professor, but he doesn’t answer the phone.
12:30 or 1:00
The ultrasound tech finally comes and moves the wand over my belly for what seems a long time. I ask her if she can say what is going on. She says no but that it’s stat and will go immediately to the radiologist, then the doctor. Looking back on it, the tone in her voice should have told me that things are looking grim.
Mom comes and I update her on what has happened so far. She settles in for the duration and somehow with her staring at me, time seems to stop. We try to make idle small talk for a while but are mostly silent.
I lay very still and cry off and on. At some point a nurse tells me that there is only 1.5 cm of fluid around the baby but that sometimes, if the tear is small, it mends itself and the fluid builds back up or that if there wasn’t much fluid to begin with the baby might be ok. She tells me the doctor has some things to do but will come at 5 or 6 and talk to me about it. I’m told all I can do is lay on my back very still. The nurses check on me once in a while. I’m very thirsty but only drink a few sips of the water I’m brought. I tell the nurse I’m scared that if I drink more, I’ll be up down to the bathroom and didn’t think that would be good. She tells me to go ahead and drink, it won’t matter. I keep track of my cramps and they are happening every 5-10 minutes. I am out of my mind worried and scared for my baby. I feel helpless.
The nurses try to find the baby’s heartbeat for a long time with the Doppler and another monitor but they cannot. They push hard on my belly looking. I ask them if all the pushing can push out some of the fluid. They say there is really very little fluid to push out. I begin to cry and panic. They tell me that sometimes the baby moves into a place where they can’t find the heartbeat. He could be hiding. They say maybe the doctor can find it on the ultrasound.
I have a very strong thought that Aunt Alys is there and my baby is in her arms.
The doctor wanders in and tries for a long time to find the heartbeat with the ultrasound. I never take my eyes off the screen. Sweet Pea is on the screen, still as a stone. From the first moment I see him, I know. The doctor keeps pointing to the chest cavity saying we should see something in this area. We do not. He examines me and says I’m 1cm.
It takes me several minutes to realize what he is saying. He never actually says the words and I cannot remember how he phrased it. Something about it being “a cruel thing” and they only see about one of these situations a year. That I’ll want to know why and that he’ll turn every stone but there is usually no answer. It’s nothing I did to cause it. I ask if it’s a problem with the baby or me. He says there’s no way of knowing but everything will be sent to the lab. I ask if garderella has anything to do with it or the violent cough I had last week. He says no, there probably is no reason, these things just sometimes happen. He says we had to wait and make sure there was no heartbeat because there’s nothing they can do with a 20 week baby. He tells me I can either wait for a while and see if the cervix opens and things happen naturally or he can give medication to make it happen faster.
I ask if it’s going to hurt a lot and he says they will give me an epidural or morphine pump, whatever I need to be comfortable. I ask him if he has anything for a broken heart. My mother starts to cry. He says no, only sympathy. I ask him when I’ll be able to go home and he says we have to watch the bleeding for 6-8 hours afterward but if it looks ok, then I can go home. I insanely ask him about going to work next week. He says it depends on how I feel but that he’ll give me any amount of time I need, a few days or a few weeks, that I should be sure to take time mentally as well.
My mom asks can’t he just do a D and C, he says it would come out piecemeal that way and they want it intact for an autopsy. I say I’ll do whatever he recommends. He yammers some more saying something about do I want to rest for a while and do it tomorrow or if not he’s fine to go ahead tonight. I say it would be better to get it over with and ask Mom what she thinks. He tells me and Mom to talk it over and he’ll be back. Before the door closes behind them, I hear them resume a conversation they had obviously started before, something about the doctor’s daughter, in medical school. Like it’s just a normal workday for them.
We do not talk. I begin to cry in earnest and I think Mom did too. I tell Mom I’d like to know where God is now and ask why He would only give me half a pregnancy. I ask if some lives are meant to be miserable. I say it’s like I’m only allowed so much happiness. Mom, of course, has no answers but takes the onslaught as best she can.
The doctor comes back and says if I’m ready to go ahead, they’ll take me to a room in Labor & Delivery. Will I be ok there? he asks. I might hear babies crying. Mom gasps when he says this. I say I’ve heard them crying from this room, let’s just go ahead. At this point, it still hasn’t occurred to me what is actually happening. My baby is dead inside me and they are telling me I have to deliver it. I think I was in shock at this point. He talks about how it might go, it takes time for the medicine to work but sometimes when the time comes it happens suddenly before the nurse can even get there but that he would come and deliver the placenta. I think he said something about checking on me in a while.
A slip of a girl comes with a small wheelchair that is cold when I squeeze into it. I’m unsure the little gal will be able to push me but she does. Past all the blue and pink footprints on the wall, past the rooms where all the real mothers have their living babies down to the very end of the hallway where there are no other patients.
A new nurse, Jamie, comes in and asks me all kinds of questions. At one point she asks Mom to leave the room so that she can ask if I have various STDs or if I’ve been kicked, slapped, punched or beaten in the last year. I wonder what type of people they get in there. She sticks me twice trying to put in the IV, then asks another nurse to try. I tell them about the last time I had blood drawn when after 6 sticks they still couldn’t get it and I had to come back the next day. Finally, the anesthesiologist comes in and says he will put in the IV, I wish him the best of luck. After looking carefully and using a small needle he gets it in on his first try. Shortly after they take 10 tubes of blood from the other hand.
We cry off and on as we wait and wait for this horrid medicine that will bring on dilation and the birth of my dead son. At about 8:00 Mom says it’s ridiculous and huffs out of the room. I know she’s going to do her version of Shirley McLaine in Terms of Endearment. She’s told it will be about 30 more minutes, they have to wait for the pharmacy to send it down. This makes me worry that the pain medication won’t be readily available and that by the time I ask for it and wait for it, it will be agonizing. I’m terrified that this will be physically excruciating.
Jamie brings in the medicine and I’m shocked to realize it will be inserted vaginally to sit against my cervix. This Jamie is a small woman but she uses force to insert the appalling capsule making me gasp. She tells me there will be another dose in 4 hours. I’m unbelieving. Another dose? Four hours? 4 hours!? I ask her. She says there will probably be a second and maybe third dose. I take a deep breath and try to steel myself for what will be an all night ordeal. I try to send Mom home. Looking back, I can’t believe this happened. I just can’t believe they let people lay around all night with babies dead inside them. The nightmare is spiralling into hellish proportions and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.