I have very sad news to impart. Carey and I have lost the baby.
Let me start from the beginning . . . and it’s better (easier), for me, to be in the third person as I write this because my heart is so heavy right now. . .
He was in Washington, DC on business when Carey called. His plane had just landed. She was spotting, but it was the same day she was supposed to have had her period were she not pregnant. Their doctor, and plenty of their friends, had told them that many women have mini-periods like this even when pregnant; so he wasn’t unduly concerned. Still, he encouraged her to call her doctors and let them know about this spotting. She readily agreed; this baby was too important to let any variable go unrecognized.
Their doctor agreed that it was probably normal, but asked Carey to come in for an ultrasound anyway; just to be sure. He felt terrible that he wasn’t there. When they had found out that they were pregnant, just a few short weeks ago, he had looked her in the eye and promised her that she would never be alone through this. He had gently grasped her hand and kissed her lips, whispering that this was their baby, together, and that he would never leave her side.
And so he was devastated that he wasn’t there to help her, but he agreed that she needed to get the ultrasound. He was heartbroken that his promise was already put to the test and found wanting. He stood in the airport as she told him that the doctor had asked her to immediately come in for a checkup, resentfully watching planes carry people to their destinations; angrily cursing the twist of fate that had taken him almost a thousand miles from his love on the one day that he needed to be with her.
He sucked up his angst and supported her. He had only one request; that she would not look at the pictures of the ultrasound. He wanted to be there, with her, when they saw the baby for the first time. It didn’t matter that the view of the baby at 6 1/2 weeks was nothing spectacular – it would be the first time they saw their baby. It had to be a view seen together. She agreed.
He reluctantly hung up his phone and rode the subway to his destination, waiting expectantly for news from his wife. He desperately wanted to be with her and was so anxious about the news and results of her checkup. He didn’t remember the subway ride or his first hour at the DC office; he was so wrapped in his thoughts and worry about her.
The call came a couple of hour later. she happily informed him that she was fine. The baby was fine; the heartbeat was a little low, but nothing to be concerned about at the moment. The doctors had scheduled another ultrasound a week later just to follow-up – and he would be back in town for this checkup.
She had the ultrasound pictures locked in a sealed envelope and she hadn’t seen them yet. He grinned in relief and could hear the answering smile in her voice as she told him how much she loved him and promised to Skype him later in his hotel room. That evening, he was so excited to see his baby that he asked her to open the envelope and show him via webcam what their baby looked like. It was a bittersweet moment; he was so happy to see his little bean for the first time but was sad, and still heartbroken, that he wasn’t there to hold his wife.
The week passed, as they inevitably do, and soon enough he was back in Orlando and they were ready to go to the doctor again for her checkup. He always got a kick out of the pregnant ladies waddling around the office and today was no exception. In good spirits, they were led back to the ultrasound room and the technician began the ultrasound.
It started normally enough. The baby was quickly spotted, but then the abnormalities immediately became clear. The baby hadn’t grown in a week; it was the same size that it had been the week earlier. After five minutes of searching, the technician had to conclude that she couldn’t definitively find a heartbeat either. There had been a couple of views that looked like they could be a heartbeat, but it should have been much more prominent than it was.
As the ultrasound continued, Carey grabbed his hand and squeezed. The technician did a good job of putting their fears at ease, implying that this might not be bad. It was a straw they eagerly grasped. His heart was pounding in his chest, almost as if it were willing to beat for the baby as well as for himself. With fear and uncertainty, Carey dressed and they were led to a waiting area separate from the “general population.” He didn’t fail to recognize that this was a bad sign – the staff had procedures for dealing with abnormalities and one of them was to make sure that the distraught parents weren’t around others where they could infectiously spread their anxiety.
Eventually they were led back to the doctor’s office, where she immediately placed her hand on Carey’s leg and offered her her condolences. The doctor very clinically informed them that this was not their fault. They had done nothing wrong. Sometimes pregnancies don’t take. The first trimester is a critical time and if there is even one variable not right in the womb, egg, or sperm, the body will stop the pregnancy. It hadn’t quite sunk in yet; he was watching the doctor’s mouth move, but the words hadn’t really registered.
He heard a sound. Carey had dropped her pocketbook and was quietly crying, the tears streaming down her face. Immediate guilt surged in him; he had been so busy trying to understand what the doctor was telling them that he hadn’t noticed Carey’s deteriorating emotional state. He stood quickly and wrapped his arms around her, feeling numb inside as his protective instinct kicked in. He had to help her – she was his priority.
The doctor said she was 90% positive that the pregnancy was ending, but there was still some very faint hope that it could recover. Come back in another week and, if the pregnancy was really over, they would discuss options on how to truly end it.
They drove home in silence, his hand in hers as he maneuvered through traffic, and quiet tears rolling don her face the entire time. When they got home, she broke down. She sobbed in his arms. He cried with her, but not very much; she needed him to be strong. He needed to be there for her. As a problem solver, his first (male) instinct was to tell her that they could still have a baby – just not this baby. He wanted to enumerate their options and plan for the next week – making plans made him feel better, but he knew instinctively that they would not make her feel better. So he didn’t say anything; he just held her and told her how much he loved her. He kissed the tears on her cheeks as she cried and mourned internally as she cried for the both of them.
The next few days were difficult. Extremely. Both of them went through the gamut of emotions one normally goes through when confronted with a sudden and unexpected loss. He was amazed at how much this was hurting him. People have miscarriages all the time; it seemed like a thing that just happened to people and they moved on. He hadn’t realized how much he had attached himself to his unborn baby and how much love he already had for it. He was, literally, mourning the loss of a child. A child he had never met, but his child.
Carey was even worse. She had felt her body change as her pregnancy commenced. She had looked at her belly in the mirror every day. She had suffered from the morning sickness. She had bought maternity clothes. She had registered for childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes, and had bonded with other pregnant women she knew. She had invested everything she was into her baby and her grief was so sharp and immense as a result.
They had to tell the children. That was hard; all three children grieved with them. He was surprised at how much they children were hurt by the loss of the baby, but he shouldn’t have been. All three of his kids were loving, empathetic, and had embraced their new brother/sister.
To make matters worse, babies were everywhere. On television, at the office, family members, at the mall. They couldn’t escape baby fever, spring fever, that was everywhere. He started getting resentful of other people who had babies, and then felt immediately guilty for it. He surprised himself at Publix when he was shopping. He unconsciously walked through the baby aisle and when he realized where he was, he felt a lump form in his throat and he had to quickly move to the next aisle.
And every evening, they lay in bed together and he wrapped his arms around her as she cried.
A long, agonizing, week passed. They had slowly come to grips that the pregnancy was over. They were ready to put it behind them and move on, but it was hard. When the womb becomes a tomb it affects everything in a couple’s life. A final ultrasound confirmed what they knew; the baby was gone and all that remained was a mass of dead tissue taking up real estate in her uterus. They were much more stoic and reserved when they met the doctor again. They had lost some vital part of them selves. They had been tempered by grief and loss and just wanted to move on.
But it wasn’t so easy. The dead fetus wasn’t moving out of her system. The doctor told them that it would eventually take care of itself, but the thought of waiting for a miscarriage, knowing that the baby was dead, was intolerable. And so, she opted for a D&C later the same week. They would forcibly go in and remove the dead tissue.
The next few days were a little better for him. They had a plan. He liked plans.
Finally, Friday (today) arrived. They woke early, drove the kids to school, and went to Winnie Palmer Hospital for the D & C.
He was filled with conflicted emotions as she was prepped for surgery. His heart broke when he saw her in a hospital bed, wearing a hospital gown, and with an IV in her arm. For the first time he had some inkling of what Carey when through when he was in the hospital for his cancer treatments. He hadn’t realized how hard, painful, and heartbreaking it was to see someone you loved so much in a hospital bed. Of course, he joked his way through his emotions and got an honest bark of laughter as he watched Carey’s reaction to the versed, the relaxant they give you just before surgery (she started giggling uncontrollably).
He felt a pang as she was wheeled back to the operating room and then endured two hours of anxiety as he waited for the doctor to tell him she was OK and that he could see her. Finally, he was allowed to see her. She had come through the procedure just fine and was waking up. He eagerly went to her recovery room.
She looked at him, and with immense sadness, said she felt like something was missing. And then she started crying. All he could do was hold her and stroke her hair. The doctor had told him, before she had let him back to see Carey, that she would definitely feel emotional. She went into surgery pregnant, even if the baby was dead, and she came out not pregnant. Her body would know. Her hormones were suddenly and drastically different and her emotional state would be affected. She would feel the loss of the baby.
And she did feel the loss. His heart broke again, but his love for her swelled to new heights. This was his wife; the woman he loved more than anyone else in the world – a love equaled only by the love he felt for his children. She was so beautiful and so strong. Through tears she looked up at him and whispered, “I love you.” He nodded and stroked her head, not trusting himself to speak.
Eventually she was released and they drove home. She was tired, sore, and the pain meds hadn’t worn off, but she smiled, grabbed his hand, and looked him in the eye and said, “We’re going to try again as soon as I am better. We’re going to have our baby.”
And he believed her.