The night before, we were laughing at my stomach contortions. I had just had a cup of hot chocolate and we joked that she had my sweet tooth. Looking back, I can’t remember the last real kick she had. I didn’t do the kick count, and I regret that very much, that it wasn’t stressed by my doctor. But I felt movement, so I wasn’t concerned. Now I believe that I had been having contractions, off and on, for a week or two, and those were the “movements” I thought I felt, not her turning to a weird position that hurt for a brief minute or two. The last time I had heard her heartbeat was two weeks prior, at my 28 week check up.
On Monday, 12/27/10, I went to my routine appt. I was in a hurry, my appt was at 11:30 and I had a dentist appointment at 2:30 that same day. It was my first full week off for Christmas break and I was so excited. I had just completed my baby shower registry at Target and Babies r Us. I had a manicure and pedicure scheduled, a bikini wax, hair cut, eyebrow thread. I wanted to look my best, and to show off how thrilled we were with my blooming pregnancy. My maternity pics were to be taken that Thursday! I was thrilled, one of my good friends was the photographer and the night before I was picture texting her some of the props I had bought. I had Emily’s name blocks, a multi-colored yarn wrap to cover my breasts for the much-waited for belly shots. She matched the damask rose color in them to a backdrop she had.
In the waiting room I was chatting with another woman a few weeks ahead of me. We joked about how we had gained “too much weight”, but couldn’t stop eating! I was telling her how badly I was swelling, even early on in the day. I showed her my ankles, and remember a frisson of alarm going through me. “That’s weird,” I told her. “I’m usually more swollen than that.” Then they called me back and did the routine weigh in (oh! I kept gaining a lot of weight! The nurse didn’t seem concerned. I was 30 weeks and 5 days and had gained 32 pounds. She explained that I was underweight when I became pregnant so would gain more weight than average) then I did the urine, the blood pressure check, we reviewed my glucose test done 2 weeks before. Fine, fine, and fine. Then it was time to wait for the doctor.
I laid on the table while he asked me the routine questions and measured my belly. I remember him getting a quizical look in his eyes when he recorded my measurements. Now I believe my little Emily passed not long after my last appointment 2 weeks ago, at my 28 week appointment.
He began looking for the heartbeat. Sometimes it took a minute. When it took longer than usual I began chatting inanely as the alarm began to settle into my bones, my soul. “C’mon, I know you’re in there.” he joked, and then “I’m going to check that no one is in the ultrasound room. We’re just going to take a peek.” He left, and my mind went numb. I didn’t think of anything. I couldn’t. How can you think of your precious child dying inside of you.
He came back in and told me “Let’s go. Quick.” “Is this common?” I asked, knowing it was not but hoping for reassurance. “We just need to take a look.” was all he said and I laid down for the ultrasound. I clearly remember just watching his eyes. Nothing else. I saw searching, questioning, pain, sorrow as he went up and down the length of my belly and finally settling on one spot.
He said something like “I’m sorry, so sorry. There is no heartbeat.” I only heard the words “no heartbeat,” the words no mother should ever, ever hear. He turned the screen toward me and I stared in the spot where I knew the heartbeat should be. Nothing. Nothing.
My mind went blessedly numb. I need to call someone? Can I drive? Do I want to go straight to the hospital? Yes, yes, no. I want to go home first. I can come in later, good. The doctor will call me in a few hours. OK. I can drive, talk, walk, breath. My baby girl can’t. She never would. I called Alex and told him. He didn’t seem to believe me. He was on his way home. Are you sure? he asked, and I couldn’t do it over the phone. I told him I would see him at home.
I don’t remember the drive home. I remember I pulled in the driveway right after him. “Are you sure?” he asked again. “Yes” I told him. “I saw the ultrasound. No heartbeat.” and watched him deflate in front of me while he processed. We entered the house and went upstairs to the media center. I began texting people, I couldn’t talk, couldn’t say it out loud. He went to her room and laid on the floor holding a sleeping gown of hers and crying his soul out. Not me. I couldn’t. I knew what lay ahead. The doctor had spoken of being induced and giving birth. I knew what I had to do, and that this would be the most horrific experience of my life. I called the dentist and canceled. They talked about a no-show fee because it wasn’t 24 hours in advance, so I told them what happened. Silence. Then she said the fee was waived and to call and re-schedule whenever I wanted. I missed my mother at the same time as my baby. She had passed away 2 years before, at the young age of 58. If she had been alive, she is the one person I would have called, and not texted. I still think how strange that I could call and speak to a stranger at the dentist office and not anyone I was close to. Perhaps that was self preservation, I don’t know.
We laid on the bed together. “Do you think it is something I did? Is this my fault?” he asked. “No. Never,” I told him. I couldn’t blame anyone then, not even myself. My mind was totally shut down. In shock, numb. Somewhere else, I just don’t know where, but didn’t care. I couldn’t feel anything.
The doctor called at 5:30. We could come in that night, or in the morning. “Right now.” I told him. “as soon as possible.” We packed a quick bag. I grabbed the sweet Emily blanket, with her name sewn on it. I had no baby clothes. The few things we bought were 0-3 months and 3-6 months. My sisters told me not to get much, and buy big when I did. Wait for the baby shower, they told me, and I did.
Then we headed to the hospital, me still texting away to my sisters, two aunts, and a close friend.