Mom to Baby B
February 26, 2014
In early November 2013 my husband and I learned we were going to be first-time parents. Our first baby. Everything went smoothly until 19 weeks. We went to our 19 week anatomy scan excited. We were going to find out the sex of our baby! Make big plans! Our life was never going to be the same! Well, only the last thought was right. During the appointment my OB told us she had concerns, and that we would need to come back the next day to see a Maternal Fetal Specialist. The kidneys – something didn’t look right with the kidneys. Also, was I leaking amniotic fluid? No, I wasn’t.
The next morning we had our appointment with the Maternal Fetal Specialist. We learned that our baby had lethal abnormalities. The baby had only one kidney, and that kidney was enlarged, not functioning, and had cysts. I had virtually no amniotic fluid. The baby still had a heartbeat but it was irregular. The Nuchal Fold fold looked thick. Only a matter of time before the baby would pass in utero. We never did find out the baby’s sex.
That moment in the doctor’s office, with the maternal fetal specialist, was the worst moment of my life. I remember feeling a little last ditch of hope right before the specialist came in. Like maybe, just maybe this was a mistake. This wouldn’t happen to me. Hearing her confirm my OB’s thoughts took my breath away and I felt like I was punched in the gut and that the air had been sucked out of the room. The look on her face, the sad serious look. The tone of her voice, soft and sympathetic. It’s going to be burned into my brain forever. I couldn’t stop the tears. My mind was trying to wrap around it all, and quickly, because there are laws that dictate when and how pregnancies can be terminated and I was already 19 weeks and 2 days. I could not believe that my baby was dying. I had just seen a heartbeat and had felt the kicks. It didn’t make sense that my baby wouldn’t live – I was past the “safe” mark! I was halfway there! My mind kept trying to come up with reasons why this was all a horrible mistake, but I knew. I knew it the day before when my OB said there was a problem, but we needed a Level II ultrasound to confirm. I knew, despite my husband’s best efforts to be optimistic and to keep my head above water the night before the horrible appointment. I knew despite my scattered thoughts.
They gave us our options – 1) wait it out. Wait for what? Wait for the baby to pass on its’ own. Don’t intervene. Just carry on. Then one day I would go in for an appointment and there would be no heartbeat. 2) Induce labor. Go through the pain of labor to give birth to a child that would not live, or would be born sleeping. No chance for the baby to survive, even if born alive because the sole kidney wasn’t functioning. No kidney function meant no amniotic fluid. No amniotic fluid meant the lungs couldn’t develop. 3) Have a procedure. Have a dilation & evacuation, a D&E, the technical term for an abortion. It would spare me the pain and distress of going through a labor, but there would be no autopsy.
The decision to terminate came quickly after assessing my options. In the end, I knew that no matter what I did my baby would not survive. Whether I waited, or had a D&E, or was induced – I knew the end result would never be for us to take this baby home from the hospital. And I knew that I could not be induced. And I knew I couldn’t wait it out. Knowing what I knew, I would feel like a ticking time bomb. Making this decision was the only agency I had in this whole awful experience. I could not control whether or not my baby survived, but I could control what happened to me. I could control how we dealt with this horrible, devastating, awful situation. And I chose to have the D&E.
Later that day we met with the surgeon. I had the cervical dilators inserted that afternoon, and I had never experienced such pain. My state of mind did not help. I was crying the whole time, couldn’t keep still, and was very afraid. Worried that my constant shifting would mess something up and ruin me. Knowing that this was all happening because tomorrow my pregnancy would be terminated.
That night I slept alone in bed, and my husband slept on the couch because I was so uncomfortable. Tossing and turning all night, petting my dog. Knowing this was my last night with my baby. Feeling the dull ache of pain, and then the pain would increase as the Oxycodone wore off. Being thirsty because I couldn’t drink after midnight. It felt somewhat poetic that I was in that pain, I felt like I deserved it. I saw a little person inside of me. I felt that little person and loved that little person. And that was my last night with that little person. That last awful night. The worst of my life.
I had never felt so bitter, so broken down, so emotional in my life. I wanted, more than anything, to take my baby home. To love, to teach, to laugh with my baby. Instead I created a sick baby that would never survive and I felt like a failure.
Almost two years later and I still feel sad. I still feel lonely and I still miss my baby. I cringe when I see other pregnant women or a friend gets pregnant. What if they are next? My mind asks. I don’t have a living child. I don’t know if I ever will. I don’t know if I would ever be able to mentally survive a full term pregnancy after this experience.
Courtney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org