My baby girl died. She was alive on Tuesday evening but an ultrasound on Wednesday morning showed that she no longer was. The ultrasound showed a tiny little girl with her legs crossed and her head bowed peacefully – and a flat line where the heart rate should have been. The ultrasound technician cried. A nurse brought me to a room and talked to me while I waited for the doctor. The doctor told me that there was a problem with the placenta. She told me the name of the problem but it doesn’t really matter what it was. She told me that the problem was evident in my 16-week blood work, that the placenta was aging too quickly. She showed me the lab report that outlined the elevated hormone levels in my blood at 16 weeks. My previous doctor, the one who later was so certain that my baby girl had a chromosomal abnormality, had reviewed this very same piece of paper with me while telling me that everything looked good. When the issues did become evident to him in my 20-week ultrasound, he told me that he didn’t know what was wrong but that termination was an option. He told me that I could terminate up until 24 weeks without any legal trouble but that the state of Oregon determines fetal age by measuring the baby’s head circumference. He said that I was lucky that the baby’s head was so small because I would be able to terminate after 24 weeks without any issues. Luck does not come into play when you are being told that your baby girl will not be born alive. His superiors have been notified of his failures as a doctor and as a human being.
During the two days and nights that I spent in the hospital, I stared at the Olympic Warmette that was directly across from my bed. It was filled with receiving blankets and tiny pink and blue hats, warmed to a perfect 110℉, waiting to welcome the newly born. I watched the orange light turn on and off every few minutes, indicating that the warming mechanism was running. I thought about switching it off; of pulling the cord from the wall. But I didn’t. What if the doctors were all wrong? What if the ultrasound tech was new? When my baby came, what if she was cold and there were no warm blankets for her?
Mabel Joan was born on Saturday afternoon at 3:11. I knew that the baby was coming and I waited until the nurse left the room so that I could give birth alone. Mabel did not need anything from the Olympic Warmette. She was wrapped in her big sister’s baby blankets before she left for the funeral home. Late that night, I stole a tiny pink hat and tucked it into my bag.
I find myself surprised by the number of friends and family members who have not acknowledged my daughter’s death. I find myself annoyed by the number of people who have shared stories with me of early miscarriage and I feel guilty for wanting to scream at them; for wanting to tell them that this was a stillbirth and not a miscarriage. I feel guilty that I even need to make a separation between the two – as if losing your child hurts any less if it’s earlier. I’m certain that this can’t be true.
I don’t know if we will try to have another child. If we do, we will make no announcements until after the baby is born. This simply cannot happen again. If it must, the world will not know about it. I will not ever again tell my daughter that she will be a big sister and then have to tell her that actually she won’t; that actually Mommy is a liar.
Three weeks ago, I was anxiously awaiting my 20-week ultrasound. I was buying maternity underwear and drinking red raspberry leaf tea. I was wearing sensible shoes and taking stairs one at a time so that I could peek over my belly and avoid a fall. I was pregnant. And now I’m not. Sometimes I wake up in the night wondering if I ever was. Maybe I’ve lost my mind. Maybe everybody has just been going along with it all to keep from hurting my feelings; to keep from waking me. Maybe this is actually just a dream after all.