The day started in an ordinary way. I woke up this morning. Took a shower. It was boring even, as I filled my cup with coffee.I thought back to August 24th, 2015. The day of my 20-week ultrasound that told us Nelle was growth restricted and something was very wrong with my pregnancy. I cancelled my afternoon meetings when an amniocentesis was needed. I didn’t write anything for several days. I only told a few people. Ten days later, she was gone.
I think of the other parents I know whose worlds collapsed one day. You baby has a fatal genetic condition. Your baby had a cord accident. You have gone into premature labor. We couldn’t save your baby. I’m sorry but… your baby has no heartbeat.
I recently watched an episode in season 11 of Grey’s Anatomy. There has previously been episodes about miscarriage. Abortion. Infertility. Emergency deliveries. All were hard to watch, but none were my situation. Then this episode. A couple, there for a routine ultrasound, told that their baby had a fatal condition and would not live – at most a few hours after birth, and he was in pain in utero. The screaming of the mother, the crying. And then the decision: to induce labor at 24 weeks and deliver a baby who would die.
There was a brief scene around delivery where the husband clutched his sobbing wife. It is a scene not often depicted, because it is hard to watch. The parents had a vacant look as the husband pushed his wife in a wheelchair and they went home. No longer pregnant. Without their baby. I cried so hard, because I lived through both of those moments. Those moments of the worst possible outcome of a pregnancy. And then being wheeled from the hospital with empty arms. Only one day after watching this, a friend send me this article, written by a woman about leaving the hospital without her baby. She writes: “There’s no word or phrase that names a mother who is wheeled to the hospital doors without her baby in her arms — just a stark picture.”
I do not remember taking my two older sons home, the exact moment of climbing into the car with a baby secured tightly in the car seat. I do not remember taking my rainbow baby home. But I clearly remember being wheeled to the hospital exit without my babies. Waiting for my husband to pull up our vehicle, with a nurse who didn’t know what to say. Needle marks in my hands from IV fluids and a bag of the clothes I was wearing when admitted, and a box of mementos the hospital gave me instead of a baby.
That day. The day that began the worst journey of our lives. The day that set into motion ten days of agonizing over what we would do only to, by some small mercy, have that part of the journey decided for us. I was spared only the choice that they made, but I know we were facing that choice; both times. I know other women who have faced that choice and it is one made from the deepest hollows of the soul.
The day our courses shift. An ordinary morning. And then coming home and nothing is the same, ever. One moment, you know one thing, and the next moment, it is completely different.
What happened that morning? I can’t even remember, because it was so ordinary and we were so unknowing.