I woke up that morning, happy. The bleeding that had marked most days of my pregnancy had stopped 2 weeks prior. I had reached 10 weeks. The heartbeat had been seen on ultrasound. I was finally going to my first actually scheduled OB appointment. After, I would return to my 5th grade classroom, armed with cupcakes, juice, chips, and everything else a 5th grader longs for in a Valentine's party.
Mr. W and I sat with the OB patient coordinator. She explained how the appointment scheduling would work, the rotation through multiple doctors so we could be prepared should I go into labor when my doctor was out. She talked about cord blood banking, gave samples, went over our insurance coverage and what our responsibilities were, what we needed to give to the business office, forms we needed to fill out for their records. She put a colored sticker on my file - a sticker that indicated this was an OB file and not a GYN file. She confided in me that when she had bouts of nausea with her pregnancies, Bryer's mint chip ice cream always did the trick.
We got up and went to the business office and wrote a check as our first payment toward our portion of the prenatal care and delivery.
We walked up the stairs of the beautiful old house. I'll never forget the ornate rug on the wooden stairs, the creaks with each step. At the top, I was handed a cup and ushered into a bathroom for a urine sample. I came out and was weighed, my finger stuck for a glucose check.
My name was called and I went back for my first exam. The doctor thought it all felt fine. My uterus felt like it was stretching and growing appropriately by palpation. He smiled and asked if I would like to try to hear the baby's heartbeat as he pulled out the doppler. He said it was early, but that with as long ago as the records of my emergency visits were picking up strong heartbeats, he thought there was a chance.
He placed the doppler on my stomach, moved it around. We were greeted with silence. The loudest kind of silence. It was a gut-wrenching silence. The doctor assured me that it was still early, but that, given my history, he would be happy to sneak me in for a visit with Walter, the ultrasound tech, downstairs if I would like. I nodded my head silently as he picked up the phone.
Mr. W and I walked back down the stairs and Walter was waiting for us at the base of the stairs. He took us into his room, gave me the gown to slip on, turned down the lights, adjusted his stereo (forever playing the Beatles). He stepped out and a couple of moments later, knocked 2 times and slipped back into the room with a nurse.
He was very quiet as he performed the trans-vaginal ultrasound. Mr. W standing by my head, the nurse with one hand on my knee, the other gently rubbing my leg. Walter knew us well by this point, having performed many emergency ultrasounds due to the bleeding. He knew that we knew what we were looking at by this point...that we knew where the heart had been beating just 2 weeks prior.
But now, it wasn't. It was just a quiet, unmoving little mass. I knew. I knew it in every fiber of my being before a word was spoken. I don't think I was crying then. I remember silently getting up, wiping the lubricant from my skin, pulling my clothes on. I remember walking, clinging to Mr. W, up those creaky stairs.
I stopped at the top of the stairs not knowing what to do or where to go. Looking wildly around the small waiting area filled with visibly pregnant women happily rubbing their bellies. I couldn't move. I just stood there, shell shocked. Several nurses, I have no idea how many, swooped over, put their arms around me, circled me so that I couldn't see what was in front of me as we were escorted into an office and seated in front of a large, ornate desk.
The doctor came in. He said all the things they all say, so sorry, these things happen, nature's way, for the best... I just stared at the floor. He told me what our options were and suggested that maybe a D&C would be the best thing for my emotional state, to get it done and over with. I nodded. He called the hospital to see if they could do it right away, if there was an operating room available if we all drove there right then. They said there would be if we came now, but had I had anything to eat or drink? I had been drinking a chai latte on the way to the doctor's office (the only pregnancy in which I consumed any caffeine). The anesthesiologist said no. Despite my not having negative reactions to anesthesia, he felt that milk on my stomach was too much of a risk of illness. He wouldn't do it that day. The surgery was scheduled for Monday morning.
I remember walking out of the office, staring at the floor. I had sent Mr. W to pull the car around. I walked past those happily pregnant women alone. I listened to the creaking of the 200 year old wood floor. At the foot of the steps, I didn't know what to do. I just started to silently cry. Again, I was swarmed by caring women. The receptionists pulled me into an office directly below the one I had been in. They offered me water. They helped me to a small settee near the window where I cried.
Mr. W came in to get me, wrapped his arms around me and walked me to our car. Once inside, we agreed we needed to tell our families and that I needed to let the school know that my substitute teacher needed to stay the full day and to see if maybe the other 5th grade teachers could split my class, take them in to their valentines parties. I picked up my cell, dialed my mom's number. The second I heard her voice, I fell apart. I don't think I told her what happened. I just started crying and begging, "Mommy, I need you. Mommy please come!" I can still hear the sound of her crying in my memory. Mr. W took the phone, stepped out of the car and gave her all the details.
When we got home, there was a call. My Monday D&C was cancelled. It was President's Day and they would not do "elective" surgeries on that day. I would have to wait until Tuesday. Knowing that the baby in my body was dead, had been dead for nearly 2 weeks as the doctor had explained to us after the ultrasound. Yet my body continued to be pregnant, continued to produce the hormones, continued to feel all the symptoms of pregnancy.
It's been 5 years since the day that all of my naive beliefs about pregnancy and babies were destroyed.
Friday, February 13, 2004.