Exactly six months ago, on the fifth of July, I went to what was supposed to be a standard prenatal check up. I was sixteen weeks and five days pregnant with what would have been – what will always be – my fourth child.
I had shared with my doctor that I was concerned about not really feeling much movement from the baby and she reassured me that fetal quickening is not easily detectable before twenty weeks gestation. But this was my fourth pregnancy and I always feel my babies move early. In fact, I was pretty certain I had felt this baby move before. It had just been several days since I felt anything like flutters or bubbles, but I had felt some sharp pains and my hands and feet were swollen. My hands and feet never swell with pregnancy, and especially not in the second trimester.
“Tell you what,” she said, “why don’t I get the ultrasound machine instead of the Doppler and I can show you how much your baby is moving.”
She wheeled the machine into the room, put some gel on my abdomen, and stared at the screen which was facing her and away from my view. She quietly excused herself to get another doctor but I knew what she was going to tell me, what they would tell me. I had already known it deep down, but never wanted it to be true.
For the better part of the previous week, anytime I tried to meditate on my growing baby, or tried to communicate with my baby’s angel in any way, all I could sense was vacancy. I tried my best to convince myself, even my therapist tried to convince me, that this was part of the lingering PTSD with which I was still grappling in association with the devastating delivery of my third baby. But still I felt uneasy.
When the doctor looked at me that morning, holding my hand tightly in her own, trying her best not to cry as she broke the news that there was in fact no heartbeat, the numbness I felt inside was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before or since.
Nothing. I felt nothing.
Later I would feel everything, but in that moment I was a hollow shell of a woman with a dead baby floating inside her womb.
The days that followed were impossibly complicated, sad, surreal. The months that have followed since have been much the same, full of sorrow and confusion and so much pain. And yet, I have come so far from the darkness. But not quite far enough.
I haven’t mentioned this experience publicly anywhere. Only my family and closest friends are aware of the depths of agony associated with this loss, the devastating surgery which left me in the ICU, the personal complications which have arisen in the wake of such an unfortunate calamity. I have not honored this baby or this journey properly. I attempted to write my way through the healing process, but became consumed with the other obstacles I was facing and stopped chronicling my recovery. I never shared a single piece of the story, even my husband has only seen one small segment. I haven’t felt strong enough to open up about what has been the most difficult and delicate experience of my life.
I’m still not sure I feel strong enough, but I do know that keeping quiet isn’t helping me to gain strength.
We were all looking forward to welcoming another member of our family. This loss doesn’t belong to me alone. I can’t speak for anyone else in the telling of this tale, it is only from my own perspective that I can begin to articulate what it has felt like, what it continues to feel like, to love something that will never come into being.
I have decided to open up in this space, to share the disjointed story I wrote in the moment, day by day, as it was unfolding. It was written piece by piece and that is precisely how it will be shared, each entry will be published exactly six months after it was originally authored. Beginning next Tuesday, January 10, I will post the first in a series of brutally honest and awkwardly transparent fragments. They aren’t profound, but they are deeply personal, and an important part of who I have become I the aftermath of such tremendous tragedy.
Six months ago, I may have lost a baby, but I was born again.