Warning: this post contains depressing talk about a stillbirth. You can skip it, I won’t be offended.
On Friday, August 15, 2008 I was just over 19 weeks pregnant and was in an ultrasound lab having what I assumed would be a routine scan wherein we may be able to determine the sex of our second baby. Instead, what I had was an hour-and-a-half scan (mostly spent with my heart in my throat because I knew the news before it was broken to me) while my husband and then-23-month-old daughter waited patiently in the other room.
The technicians are instructed to give no news at all to the patients. And sometimes silence is the loudest proclamation. Before the midwife told me, I knew.
“There is no heartbeat, your baby has passed away.”
And the world stopped. At this point my husband was in the room. I shook my head. Tears came, words fell from the telephone held to my ear, my daughter chattered, my life shattered.
Mine’s not a unique story, sadly. But until you’re in the position, you have no idea what an impact the loss of a baby has on a life. On a family.
Maybe one day I’ll blog about the complete ineptitude of the midwives under whose care I was for the pregnancy. Or how, at 17 weeks the back-up midwife could not find a heartbeat but brushed off my concerns. Or how my primary care midwife passed my husband in the hall while I was being induced to birth a dead baby and said, “How’s Alexandria?” as though they were old friends, but didn’t even bother to come see me personally. Maybe.
It was a torturous 10.5 hour process before that baby was born. My husband and daughter stayed near by, and went for a walk when The Time came. I delivered with the strangers by my side.
I didn’t look at my baby.
I sputtered a wet, “Thankyouthankyouthankyou” to the attending OB who hugged me and held me for what felt like eternity.
They couldn’t identify the sex.
Fingerprints hadn’t developed. (Oh, oh, oh god this meant I had carried a dead baby for weeks? WEEKS? My body shuddered and heaved.)
When I thought the very worst was over, it wasn’t. I had retained a piece of placenta and wasn’t allowed to go home for fear of hemmorhaging. I waited. Waited more. Waited some more. Shift change happened and the next OB on duty told me I could wait another 5.5 hours for the ER or I could trust him.
They jabbed my leg with morphine and I had a D&C right there in the delivery room.
Inside. Outside. From every inch and every part of my being: pure, sheer, unadulterated agony.
And it was over. I painted a brave face and left the hospital emptier than I had ever felt possible.
Over the following months I cowered inside myself. I retreated so far into myself that I’m not sure I’ll ever fully emerge. My family didn’t really understand what was happening in my head. My parents didn’t want to talk to me about the baby. I felt like my husband had heard it enough. My daughter needed me. I reached out to a support group but my calls and emails were sadly overlooked.
And one day it seemed like maybe, just maybe we could try again. And we did. And 5.5 years later I look at my amazing little son every day and wonder who that other child would have been. It is not with regret. It is not anything I could ever explain. When he was born, I shook with sobs and everyone thought it was joy for his birth. It was joy for having birthed a live baby who would come home with me. It was joy in knowing I’d never, ever have to live through a fear-ridden pregnancy like the last nine months. It was joy knowing I wasn’t completely broken. At least physically. And everyone thought I would move on, that I was healed.
I still try to cover the anguish with humour. When the going gets rough I throw out uncomfortable lines like, “Hey, I birthed a dead baby, I can deal with ANYTHING”. But the reality is that no, no I cannot. I’m still broken, but really… it’s been 5.5 years, isn’t it time I let it go? Even I don’t know anymore. I don’t talk about it. And no matter how much time goes by, I’ll never forget that baby, the experience, the shock and horror of it all.
Sometimes time doesn’t heal.
(inspiration for finally having the guts to write this post courtesy this ridiculous study: http://www.thestar.com/mobile/article/living/948942)