The day of the 8 week appointment finally arrived. And sure enough, there on the ultrasound screen, a fuzzy little peanut. Our baby. By that evening, everyone was telling everyone and our joyous news was out!
The pregnancy was uneventful, easy even. I laughed when my doctor called me high risk because I’d have been 35 for a month when I delivered…if I’d made it to the due date of May 13. As it turned out, God had different plans for us.
On the Sunday before it happened, I spent the day with Billy’s family making Christmas candy and cookies. I began feeling a little crampy, and my back hurt. I thought it was from being on my feet too long. The next two days at school, the back pain was pretty bad. I remember telling a friend that if this is what the rest of the pregnancy was going to be like, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to May! How ironic. I called my doctor’s office, and they listened to my symptoms. The nurse told me basically, you’re pregnant. That’s what happens. So I chalked it up to a healthy, growing baby. By Wednesday I was feeling much better so I wasn’t worried in the least. I guess I should have been.
The day that we lost Jesse was not really just an average day. It was the last day of school before winter break, Friday, December 18. (I’m a teacher. That’s a big deal.)We’d taken the whole school to see The Princess and the Frog. I’d felt good all day; there was no indication that anything was amiss. Anyway, I was excited about the winter break, excited about our 20 week ultrasound, which was scheduled for the following Tuesday. I was positive that the baby was a girl, but we were excited to find out for sure. Billy wanted a boy in the worst way!
We went to eat at Old Chicago that night, and after dinner I started having stomach pains. I thought, honestly, that it was gas. Thinking back, I should’ve known something was wrong. I’d never had gas pains like that before, but I guess my mind just wouldn’t allow me to think that it could be a problem with the baby. After all,we were past that “danger zone,” past the 12 week mark, so what could go wrong now? I went home to lie down and rest. I was so sure it was nothing that I told Billy to stay and finish his drink, that there was no reason for him to leave a perfectly good beer sitting there because of a little stomach ache. He was going to take a cab when he finished, and I drove myself home. I laid down for a while, but the pains did not go away. It wasn’t much later that my water broke. I remember being completely and utterly confused about what was happening, not comprehending. Because it was too early for my water to break. My brain was trying to protect me from the horror of what was going on, I think. And then there was blood. Lots of it. I tried frantically to call Billy, but in the bar he couldn’t hear his phone ringing, so I called his parents instead. They live 20 minutes away, but reached our place in 15. We collected Billy on the way to the hospital, and arrived around 8:30 p.m.
When we got to the E.R. it felt like an eternity while we waited for them to decide whether to keep me there or send me “upstairs.” Finally, someone pushed my wheelchair to an elevator. I didn’t really get where we were headed at this point, but when I saw the signs for Labor & Delivery, my heart sank. I was going to have this baby tonight. This was NOT what I’d pictured my first visit here to be. I do have to say that the staff on duty, especially our nurse, Sarah, were phenomenal. I was the only patient on that wing, and I do feel exceptionally fortunate to have had such compassionate care.
They did an ultrasound, and it showed that there was no fluid around the baby. There was a heartbeat, but it was slow, about 60 beats per minute. They couldn’t tell the gender from the ultrasound. The doctor told me that the only option was to induce labor, and that obviously, it was too early. The heartbeat would cease before the baby was born. They left us to digest this. By this time I was just numb. The whole scene was surreal. I remember Billy saying over and over that the baby was going to be okay, but I knew that he didn’t have a chance. I felt oddly calm throughout this time. They induced labor at about 11:30 and then we waited. It wasn’t long. I remember thinking that my baby was dying inside me as I lay there. Around 1 a.m., the nurse came in and checked me and said that we could probably start to push. The labor itself was not difficult. He was so tiny…
At 1:45, our precious baby was born in silence. A little boy. Sarah cleaned him and wrapped him in a blanket. We had decided that we would hold him; that it might be hard, but we would regret it if we didn’t take this opportunity. He was tiny. Perfect. Sleeping. We held him for a short time and then he was taken to another room. Exhausted, we slept then, or tried to, Billy on the couch he pushed up against my hospital bed.
On Saturday around noon, I checked out of the hospital. How empty I felt as the nurse wheeled me out to the car. No baby. Only the crushing emptiness. How empty the apartment felt when we came home. How empty I felt, literally, the life I’d carried for 19 weeks, gone. Just like that.