Mother to Angel
Born into Summerland on March 4th, 2011
San Antonio, Texas
My fiancé and had been living together for three months and hadn’t even told our parents about our engagement yet when my period was late. Not late. Absent. I was on birth control, so I thought it was no big deal, that I was just overreacting. Finally, after a week of waiting for at least some spotting and none showing, I broke down and bought a pregnancy test. I got a three pack of electronic tests – the ones that clearly state “pregnant” or “not pregnant” after peeing on them. The first one I did in a McDonald’s bathroom. I was so nervous that I peed on it too much (I didn’t even know it was possible) and it came out with an error. The second one, I did in an Arby’s bathroom the next day. It said “pregnant” but I didn’t believe it so I used the last one and the results matched. At 20 years old, I was pregnant with an unplanned child.
It took until we went to bed that night for me to tell my fiancé because I was so nervous. Finally, I took lipstick and wrote on the bathroom mirror, “we have a problem” with an arrow pointing down to where I’d placed the positive pregnancy test. I thought he would be more upset, but he was very supportive, holding me as I cried and talked about how this wasn’t supposed to happen right now and asked him what we should do. It didn’t take long (a day or two) for us to decide to keep the baby. We wanted children. Maybe now hadn’t been the plan, but we wanted children and knowing that the embryo probably already had a heartbeat sealed the deal for me. I’m an Army medic. The most important thing, aside from insuring that your patient is breathing, is keeping their heart beating. In my mind, a heartbeat means a life and who was I to stop it from being? Just to be certain, we went to Planned Parenthood for a blood test. The result was positive.
We didn’t tell our parents, only a couple close friends. Everything seemed okay with the pregnancy. I got a little morning sickness and was more tired than usual, but overall, I felt good (aside from the time I went with my father to his clinic to help with sick-call and almost passed out while holding a light for a minor procedure, but I didn‘t think anything of it). My first appointment, around 8 weeks, I just talked to a nurse and provided some blood for all the routine tests. All the tests came back normal, so we assumed everything was O.K.
At 12 weeks, I went into my appointment, my fiancé by my side, overwhelmingly excited. I had finally come to accept, even look forward to, this child; had myself convinced that it was a girl. We were already talking about names and godparents. When they asked my to lay down so they could use the doppler to find the heartbeat, I was so excited, I was barely breathing. It took only seconds for me to realize that something wasn’t right but the nurse didn’t seem worried. “That’s the mother’s heartbeat,” she said of the only sound we could hear. Then, “maybe a little lower down.” Finally, she asked if I had ever been told I had a tilted uterus.
After what seemed like forever, the nurse left and returned with a portable ultrasound machine. They tried looking through my abdomen, but couldn’t find anything. Then, they called in the doctor, who tried an internal ultrasound. After what seemed like forever, the nurse said to my fiancé, “You see that. That’s your baby.” I almost cried with joy. It was okay! It was so small, but it was okay! Then came the part I didn’t want to hear: talk of ultrasounds, questions about the first day of my last period (“Are you sure?”). Two days later, I had an ultrasound. The tech left the room and returned with the radiologist and a box of tissues, which she handed to me as the news was unceremoniously announced: the baby was there but it measured at 6 weeks, not 12 and there were abnormalities with the yolk sac. We were told there was a high chance for loss, that if I experienced bleeding or cramping to call the clinic or go to the ER.
Four weeks later, I was still feeling great, by which I mean experiencing normal pregnancy symptoms. There had been no bleeding or cramping. I had prayed for a miracle and was convinced I had been heard. My, at this point, husband – we had married two days prior – couldn’t be with me for the 16 week appointment, but he dropped me off, promising to be back as soon as possible, implying that if everything wasn’t all right, he wanted to be there for me. I was nervous, but I shrugged it off. If anything was wrong, I was convinced, I would already know – wouldn’t I?
Suddenly, I found myself reliving my 12 weeks exam: reviewing test results, laying down as the gel for the doppler was applied to my abdomen. The same questions. “Are you sure you’re 16 weeks? If you are wrong, that would explain…” The nurse seemed to be reaching for any explanation, any reason for my baby to be okay but I knew she was wrong. I knew when my period had been. She must be wrong. Maybe she just wasn’t holding the doppler in the right place. Maybe she didn’t know what she was doing.
Then she asked for an ultrasound, except this time it wasn’t “as soon as you can” it was “stat,” the medical term used for “right now, because something is seriously wrong.” There was a woman at the ultrasound waiting room with a big, happy pregnant belly, a little boy crawling over her lap. I overheard the ultrasound tech talking to her, saying that “because you are bleeding we want to get you in soon, but we don’t have room right now. Can you come in tomorrow morning?” I thought for certain, there it was: I would have to wait until tomorrow or the day after, wouldn’t know when I went home. I was next at the counter, gave her my ID and she said she needed to get me in right away. That’s when I knew it was worse than I thought. My baby wasn’t just little. They thought it was dead. Four weeks from a gender-scan and I was being rushed passed a bleeding woman because my baby’s heart wasn’t beating. But at the same time, I was in denial. During the whole scan, the ultrasound tech had the screen turned away from me. She left the room once to talk to the radiologist then came back to take more pictures then led me out and said that some one would call me, to let me know.
I cried all night, frantically researching anything that would explain and leave a positive outcome. There was nothing, nothing that I could find, but I was convinced that it was out there, somewhere, if I looked hard enough. It was as if my baby’s life depended upon me finding the answer, but I never did.
The next morning, I got a call from the nurse, asking me to come in. She needed to talk to me and on my way over, could I stop at the lab, they needed to do some tests. I don’t remember at what point in the conversation she said that there was no heartbeat, but I remember being numb. I remember wondering – why me? This baby wasn’t planned, I thought, but it was wanted. We wanted it. Why would it die? I did everything right. I kept questioning myself, over and over again in my head as my husband drove me to the hospital so we could talk to the nurse about my doctor’s recommendations.
They explained that the cause was unknown. They called it a “missed abortion” or “embryonic demise” likely due to a chromosomal abnormality. The nurse suggested that it was just a nonviable pregnancy, that it should have been detected earlier, apologized as if it were her fault it wasn’t detected. It made me angry. Of course it was viable. We saw the heartbeat at 12 weeks. They said “That’s your baby,” and pointed to a little throbbing grey mass on the screen. Our baby.
I was scheduled for a D&C. The doctors, there were multiple involved now, didn’t want to wait for a natural miscarriage because they weren’t sure how long it would take my body to recognize the loss and the longer it took, the higher the risk of infections and other complications. They apologized, over and over, promised that this loss didn’t mean that there was anything wrong with me. Despite all their considerations, I felt angry at the doctors and the hospital. Why was I reporting to the OB clinic for my pre-operation appointment? Why did everyone in pre-admissions keep asking if I had been pregnant in the last 90 days? Of course I had been pregnant in the last 90 days! I had been pregnant for all of the last 90 days. That’s why I was there. Didn’t they read charts?
Then, on March 4th, 2011, I said good-bye to my baby forever. I was put under and when I woke, it was all over. My first pregnancy ended in unconsciousness with a team of doctors and nurses and surgical tools scraping what remained of my baby out of my body. I was numb and confused. Some days, I still am. As I write this, it hasn’t even been a month. I would be finding out the gender this week and I find myself still counting down until August 10th, my estimated date of delivery. I pray that it will get better, but deep down in my heart, I know it will always hurt and I will always miss the angel who should have been our first child.
Laura blogs at http://wordsofel.blogspot.com/
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org