Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thursday, August 6, 1998: In limbo

I don't think either of us slept much that night. I woke up from a fitful sleep early the next morning -- another grey, rainy, humid day. The memory of what had happened hit me like a ton of bricks all over again, & I started crying quietly.

I can't remember if it was the night before or that day, but my mother called me. "I'm coming," she said. "I'm not sure how, but P. (who worked in the travel office that shared office space with my dad's real estate agency -- gotta love small towns...!) is working the phone to see what's available & whether we can change my airplane ticket." I felt a huge wave of relief, knowing that my mother would be coming soon to take care of me.

(P. -- who sadly passed away a few short years later -- managed to get my mother on a Friday flight that would get her into Toronto by Friday afternoon. We asked FIL to pick her up & bring her straight to the hospital. My mother was told to bring her old ticket & be prepared to pay a fee for changing her plans. When she got to the counter, there must have been some notes on the computer, because the girl said to her, "Oh -- you're going to be with your daughter." "Yes," my mother said, "it's not a very happy day." "I'm not going to charge you," she said firmly. My mother wrote a note to the airline later to say how much she appreciated this.)

My mother said, "Do you want to talk to your dad?" There was a pause & then she said, her voice breaking, "Daddy can't talk right now." My eyes filled with tears at the thought of my father's grief (they still do at the memory).

I got in the shower & rubbed the soap suds over my belly, still round & pregnant looking. "This is my last day to be pregnant," I thought sadly. The dr had explained that he would induce labour by inserting some pills into my vagina. I knew the baby was gone, but the thought of taking action, of doing something that would actually bring about an end to my pregnancy (even thought it really was over anyway), filled me with dread.

Later in the day, I began to cramp and spot. I called Dr. Ob-gyn, and he said it could be that things were beginning to happen naturally on their own. "Should I come to the hospital earlier?" I asked. "Only if you start experiencing regular contractions," he said.

His receptionist called me earlier in the day to ask how we were doing & give us the details. We were to report to the admitting desk at 1 p.m. the next day, Friday, August 7th. She also told us that a social worker would be giving us a call.

I had a long, long conversation with the social worker, a lovely woman. I told her I hadn't been to prenatal classes yet, so I had no idea what to expect from labour & delivery, & she assured me the nurses (not to mention meds, lol) would help me. I asked her what I should pack, & she encouraged us to bring a camera. (We didn't, & I have been kicking myself ever since then.) I asked her when I should go back to work, & she emphatically told me to take my time, that it would probably take a lot longer than I thought it would to start feeling remotely like myself again. (Boy, was she right.)

Did we want to see and hold the baby? I wasn't sure. Is this something that was normally done in this situation? (I had no idea.) "Most parents find that it helps," she said. Would we like a visit from the chaplain? (We would. She said she'd arrange it.) She told me we'd be required to arrange for burial or cremation, & encouraged us to start thinking about what we wanted to do.

Earlier in the day, my mother had called me & asked, "Do you think, when Daddy gets there, we could have a little memorial service?" The thought hadn't occurred to me -- was it "done?" But why not?? I felt relieved when the social worker told us we would HAVE to arrange for burial or cremation. My baby would not be incinerated along with the hospital waste or placed in some mass unmarked grave where I would never know where she was. And the traditionlist in me liked the idea of arranging for a funeral or ritual of some sort.

Mid-morning, I realized that we had not had any calls from anyone else in dh's family. Obviously, the grapevine was not working. I took a deep breath, picked up the phone & called cousin/neighbour's wife (the one who was supposed to be throwing me the shower on the September long weekend). "I lost the baby," I told her flatly. "What??" she said. "I'll be right over." I calmly, methodically put on a pot of coffee.

She was -- even though she was busy getting ready to leave the next morning to drive several hours to be with her sister, who was expecting HER first baby any day now, & was several centimetres dilated already. (The baby, a boy, was born on Saturday, August 8th.) "I don't want any," she said when I offered her coffee as she arrived. We all sat in stunned silence in the living room, the conversation stilted. (I noticed the K-Mart flyer for Baby Week sitting among the papers on the coffee table & turned it over so that I couldn't see the cherubic faces.) She asked whether we'd like her to call the other members of the extended family. "Would you?" I said. I couldn't picture myself making any more phone calls.

She called us awhile later to say she'd made all the necessary calls. "I told them you might or might not answer, depending on how you were feeling," she said. Shortly afterward, the phone started ringing. And ringing. We answered some calls & let others go to voice mail. I let dh take most of them (especially since they were coming from his family). I remember answering one, from dh's aunt, an emotional Italian lady -- the soul of generosity (& a fabulous cook to boot) -- his mother's sister, who cooked & cleaned & fussed over dh, his brother & his dad after their mother's death in 1982 at the far-too-young age of 53.

"Why aren't you in the hospital??" she sobbed. "You should be in the hospital now." How could I explain to her that I was glad to have this time to absorb what had happened to us, to allow time for my mother to get here... one day more to have my baby with me?

Two of dh's other aunts called, both of whom had had stillborn babies some 35 years earlier (one his mother's sister in law, the other his dad's sister). We later learned that another of his father's sisters had also experienced stillbirth. Her eyes teared up as she told us, in Italian, "It was a little girl. I was seven months." Dh was stunned; he didn't know this. The silent sisterhood of stillbirth was revealing itself to us.


  1. Still with you - in limbo and everywhere else.

    Thinking of you . . .

  2. The silent sisterhood indeed.

    Just reading along, lump in my throat, tears in my eyes. Your memory is incredible, Loribeth.

  3. This limbo must have been . . . exhausting. I had my own version of limbo, but this I really can't imagine. It's amazing how many stories this brought out of the woodwork -- I'm so glad your family was supportive at that time.

    you're in my thoughts this week.

  4. Wow, it is indeed a silent much more common than perhaps we realize, yet...we just don't know. I was shocked when I found out my physiotherapist had three stillborn babies, and I never knew.
    What a difficult, difficult time...but I'm glad and I'm sure you are as well that you have been able to capture it so well in your memory and in your writing.

  5. I am also here, listening.

    We opted to induce right when we found out. I couldn't face going home. Small differences in larger common truth. Sisterhood, not so silent anymore.

    We didn't bring a camera either, but I had a high resolution cell phone. Now I wish I had a better camera.

  6. Oh that time in are right, it seems like you need it to just get your thoughts together, but it also feels so strange, like limbo.

    I'm crying along as I read this and thinking about you.

  7. Tears in my eyes and lump in my throat. How I wish this had turned out differently. A prayer has been said for you, your husband and Katie.

  8. I'm listening and grieving for your loss, for all losses. And honouring your strength as you tell your story.

  9. I'm so sorry Lori - there are so many familiar echoes in your words and words escape me at the moment. I would never presume to know how much you hurt - I just know that this hurts, a lot. The 10 years thing is really getting to me too.

  10. Oh Loribeth. I have no words. Just know I'm thinking of you, your husband, and Katie.

  11. silent sisterhood indeed.

    I am glad you had your time and got some information while at home and before being in the hospital.


  12. Lori ... I just wanted you to know I am here, reading your memories, and just not knowing what to say. I went back to yesterday's post several times. It just seems so unreal, so unright, that Katie can be here one minute, and gone the next.

    It is a privlege to hear your story, to be in your confidence as it were. I wish there were something I could do, or even something to say, but no words come.

    I am listening and thinking of you all.


  13. sitting with you loribeth, holding your virtual hand...

  14. Oh, how hard that must have been! I don't know how you made it through, but you obviously did. If you don't mind my asking, I'm wondering how it is for you to write about it now? Hugs to you while you relive these difficult memories.

  15. No words here, either -- just tears and prayers for your family during this sad anniversary. Thank you for sharing your story.

  16. Just sitting here quietly with you as you relive these terrible days.

    My thoughts are with you, Loribeth.

  17. Some anniversaries really suck. Love to you.

  18. Loribeth, I just wanted to say that I've been reading your story, and your account of your days with Katie. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    I'm thinking of you, today, espeically.