Mom to Joel
Died on May 26th, 2009, stillborn on May 28th, 2009
We make the longest drive to the hospital I’d ever had. On the way up the the OB floor, women in the elevator make small talk with our son telling him that he’s obviously about to be a big brother. I wanted to curl up & die right then. We made our way to the OB window, where we are met with the most uncompassinate person I’d encountered in my life up to that point. Even though my midwife called ahead & a room was prepared for us, this nurse refused to let us back because she said we needed to go to the first floor to register. I finally blurted out that my baby had no heartbeat, to which she responded with “it doesn’t matter, you can’t come back.” My husband yelling got the attention of the doctor & nurses who were waiting on us & we were taken back to a little room with an ultrasound machine. They hand me a gown to change into, while I do this I hurry hoping for any chance for our baby. If I move fast enough, it’ll be OK.
But it wasn’t. As the med student did the ultrasound, pointing out his chest area with no heartbeat, the resident went down her laundry list of things I could have done to make my baby die. She did it in a way that it wasn’t offensive & I understand why she asked, but it just reminds me that the initial reaction is “what could she have done or had to cause this?
Did I drink? Did I do any drugs? Did I have high blood pressure? How about diabetes? Did I smoke? C-sections? Any gushes of fluid? And how about smoking…did I smoke? Drink? Do drugs? Have prenatal care? Get abducted by aliens?
She was looking for that one thing, the thing that they could say “THAT!” & have an answer for this. Because see, babies shouldn’t just die. But mine had. I did nothing and he died. And I wondered, maybe he died because I did nothing. It was a surreal position to be in.
We went from talking about a baby to talking about a funeral, all in just a couple short hours. Looking in a phone book to see funeral home ads, picking one just because it listed “infant services.” Never got around to picking out his first outfit, instead we went into his room that night and picked out the only outfit he would wear, complete with a hat and fuzzy socks. I insisted on the fuzzy socks. Two blankets, one to leave with him and one to bring home. Only thing I knew for sure we’d be bringing home. I’d been holding onto a 50% off coupon for Sears to get the boys pictures made in a matching outfit. Instead, I threw it away & went on to call Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, because those would be the only pictures I’d ever have.
The next day I was given another ultrasound & lab work before I was sent to labor & delivery again. My husband wasn’t allowed in the room with me during the ultrasound, the tech had no idea our son had already been confirmed dead & made small talk asking why I was worried that something was wrong. I’d hoped she would tell me he was alright, that they’d been wrong the night before. I asked her to tell me something, she told me she couldn’t but the radiologist would when he came back. When the radiologist came back, he stood a foot away from me, never making eye contact, and pointing at the screen talking about “head deformities” and commented that there is “no way to know how long it’s been dead” with the technician. He finally did make eye contact with me, smiled, & told me to go back to my doctors office for a report of the ultrasound. As if I didn’t just hear everything he’d said about my son. After that I spent about 2 hours in the lobby, hysterically crying, horrified about what he’d just said about my son, scared to deliver and even scared to ever see my son. I was induced after being denied the c-section I sat in a waiting room & cried & begged for because I couldn’t handle going though a long labor & delivery like I’d had with my older son. During my induction people came in the room who obviously had no idea what was going on, as one woman talked about her induction & labors with her living children like it was nothing. Everyone who came in the room asked, “so, you gonna try again?” Of course, as we sat in the doctors office while he filled out my admit paperwork & other things, he went on & on himself about how we can have another & if I had this problem or that it’d be easily fixed as if I, well, wasn’t sitting there 40 weeks pregnant with my child dead & about to go through labor & delivery with him.
Women talk about what gets them through labor is thinking of little toes, little ears, holding their babies…all that jazz. In between my morphine induced naps, I talked to my midwife about what our baby may look like and to my husband, who as a child wanted to grow up to be a dad, about if we should have our son cremated. Afterall, that was the only way we’d ever get to bring him home.
Joel wasn’t born until 26 hours later (yes, 26 hours). It was just after 4pm on May 28th, he weighed 6lbs 8ozs & was 20 inches in length. I waited for him to cry, because until he was born & wasn’t alive he had a chance, we all had a chance for this nightmare to end.
The room was silent.
After his birth, I endured someone who was a “grief counselor” suggesting that we take all of our baby stuff back for store credit. A lab worker came in to take my blood hours after I delivered and she looked at our baby with disgust the entire time she was in my room, even as she was taking my blood she was looking at him out of the corner of her eyes, she actually made me feel ashamed for having him with me. The lovely “grief counselor” came in our room first thing in the morning & told us “you have to let us take him sometime, you know” then picked a time on the clock she’d come back. We almost felt as though we were in hostage negations to keep our son with us the only chance we had to ever be with him. My discharge paperwork explained to me foods to avoid while nursing and not to lift anything heavier than my newborn. The nurse was very apologetic about that fact, but it didn’t keep me from going to the bathroom and crying before pulling it together enough to walk out the back door of the OB department, carrying nothing but a baby blanket and a bowl that held his tape measure and a lock of his hair.
We came home without a baby & we’ve never truly been ourselves again. Normal for us isn’t what it once was. We opted for an autopsy which did give us some answers & it’s possible his death could have been prevented, at the very least he could have had a chance at life. Looking back, for every ounce of sadness I have, I have even more anger. Anger at doctors who missed things with our son, anger that people ignored me when I was concerned about our son & blew off my concerns as paranoid, & anger at myself because I didn’t push for extra care & investigating even if I was just being paranoid. I’m angry that I never got to hear my son cry, that he never got to experience any of his life in this world. Angry that forever there will be someone missing & most people will never know. And that when we do mention him, some people will want to avoid the topic because it’s too sad or awkward to discuss. But while I couldn’t save Joel & I can’t invent a time machine to go back & change things, I can always remember him, discuss him, & show people that even though he isn’t alive, he is still a part of our lives. His life was short, but it will forever have an impact on us & he will always be loved & seen as one of our sons.