I arrived at the office at 8 a.m. as usual, wearing one of my favourite outfits -- my navy drawstring palazzo pants with the tiny flowers on them, a white cotton knit collared top with a V neck, and white loafers. Several people were away that day, including my senior manager & my best friend/officemate. I knew I would likely be out for most of the day with my appointments, but my datebook notes indicate I still got a few things done in the short time before I had to leave.
My lawyer college roommate had left me a voice mail message with the name of a girl she'd known in law school who had a small family practice & could do wills for dh & I for a reasonable price, and I left a message to thank her.
I left the office around 9:45 (leaving my briefcase & its contents behind to pick up later) for my 10:30 appointment with Dr. Ob-gyn. Before heading to the subway, I stopped at the automated banking machine to withdraw some cash. I still have the time-stamped withdrawal slip. I look at the time & marvel. The dividing line -- the last few minutes of life as I once knew it.
I got to Dr. Ob-gyn's office, produced a sample to be tested, had my blood pressure checked & weighed in. I'd gained four pounds since my last checkup, about 15 overall since I got pregnant. I was handed a slip of paper (which I still have) with the date of my next (7 month) checkup written on it: Wednesday, September 2nd at 10:30 a.m. After that, I would start coming for checkups once every two weeks, and then once every week for the last few weeks of the pregnancy.
But one hour prior to that, I was to report to the lab to have my glucose challenge test, to check for gestational diabetes. The nurse gave me a handout describing what the test involved, where to go, & a lab requisition form. I was also given a handout describing a study that was being done at the hospital & asking whether I'd consider taking part.
Eventually I got called in to see Dr. Ob-gyn. He'd been on vacation, of course, and it felt like a long time since I had last seen him. We chatted about the amnio results and I told him that those three & a half weeks of waiting had been the absolute worst weeks of my life.
Then he took out his stethoscope, & went to listen for the heartbeat.
He kept moving the doppler over & over my stomach. He'd had problems finding it before. I showed him the spot where he usually found it, but still nothing, except -- for one brief, hopeful moment -- a sound that turned out to be my own heart beating. The minutes ticked silently on -- & on.
He asked me whether I'd been feeling any movement. "Yes," I said, trying frantically to think of the last time I'd felt that baby move. "Lots and lots?" he said, just a tad sharply. I had to admit I hadn't.
Finally he said, "Well, you can wait for the ultrasound you have scheduled this afternoon -- or I can send you upstairs right now. But you have to be prepared for what they might tell you."
Prepared? Who is ever prepared?
I called dh from a payphone en route up to the ultrasound unit. I tried not to sound panicked. I don't think it had really sunk in what might be happening. The dr had trouble finding the heartbeat before -- of course the ultrasound tech would find it.
"We're swamped here & we're short staffed -- I can't leave right now," he said, sounding totally stressed out. I told him that was OK and I would call him back. (Do you think we were both in denial??) I sat in the waiting room, drinking water, reading my book ("A Dry Spell," by Susie Maloney -- which I wrote about before here) and trying to keep the creeping feeling of dread at bay. (The book, a thriller full of the supernatural & malevolent spirits, didn't help.)
I told the u/s tech why I was there, and her face was very grave as she moved the doppler around my stomach. I kept asking, "Did you find it yet?" & she kept shaking her head. Finally she told me I could clean up and go to the bathroom.
Reality started to dawn on me.
Quietly, fearfully, I said, "Did you find it?"
Quietly, she said, "No. I'm so sorry. I'm not supposed to tell you anything, but I know I'd want to know."
I started sobbing as the realization hit me. She gave me a big hug. "Oh, I feel so bad for you!" she said. (In retrospect, I felt bad for her. She was just a young thing. How awful to have to deliver that kind of news.) She handed me a towel to cry into (!), & left me alone (!!)(as I sobbed in bewilderment, "Why is this happening to me???") while she went to talk to the radiologist. (In retrospect, I really don't think I should have been left alone, and that someone should have escorted me back downstairs to Dr. Ob-gyn's office.)
Somehow, I got dressed and found my way to the payphone to call dh. (I heard them paging Dr. Ob-gyn as I did, and thought, "They're paging him about me.")
"There was no heartbeat," I gasped. "I'll be RIGHT THERE," he said as he hung up.
In a daze, I stumbled back downstairs to Dr. Ob-gyn's office. One of his nurses was waiting outside in the hallway for me and enveloped me in a huge hug, as I sobbed on her shoulder. She told me that her sister had lost a baby, and that I would never forget this child. (Prophetically, she added, "People are going to say a lot of DUMB things to you.") I'll never forget that -- she was there with a hug the one moment in my life when I needed one the most. Thank God it was now after noon, and no other patients were waiting to see him. I was, not surprisingly, a wreck.
I sat alone in Dr. Ob-gyn's office, stunned at this turn of events. Dh finally arrived, out of breath. The nurse showed him into the office and closed the door to give us some privacy. He had gotten it into his head that the subway would be too slow (!) & had RAN the entire way to the hospital (about four or five subway stops). We clung to each other, sobbing and sobbing.
I called my boss, choked out the words, told her I didn't know when I'd be back to work, probably a few weeks at least. It was a brief conversation -- what more was there to say? I could hear the shock in her voice. Dh called his partner at work -- a bereaved father whose first child, a daughter, had died after several days in the NICU, some 5 years earlier. He started sobbing as dh told him what had happened.
Dr. Ob-gyn walked in & patted me on the shoulder and remarked, "And you thought waiting for the amnio results was rough."
I also remember him saying, "We knew this baby had problems."
He also said something that has stuck with me. "This is a tragedy," he said emphastically, shaking his head.
"But someone has to move the process along -- and that someone has to be me." His tone was kind and slightly apologetic. I understood what he meant. I did not resent him for that.
He told us I would have to be induced, probably Friday. "I'm being selfish here -- I'm on duty Saturday, & I'd like to be there when you deliver," he said with a slight smile. (Don't worry, doc, I want you there too.) He told us to go home & he would call us later with the details, & would have a hospital social worker call us too. He told us we would have a private room with one to one care. He mentioned something about pictures and footprints, but it was all starting to become a big blur.
Leaving the hospital, I remembered I had left my briefcase & my precious Dayrunner back at the office. I always said I couldn't function without it... and right now, I REALLY couldn't function. We went back to our office tower. I gave dh my access card & sat on a bench in the concourse, while he snuck into my office (undetected, thankfully) and retrieved my stuff. Someone I knew walked by & waved but thankfully did not come over to talk. I waved half-heartedly back.
We got on the next commuter train heading out of the city in our direction (which, being early in the afternoon, was more than half empty), & sat staring out the windows in stunned silence. It was overcast, and lightly raining.
Then -- wouldn't you know it! -- one of the transit cops came checking tickets!! The commuter train system here operates on the honour system. You have to produce a valid ticket upon request. Transit cops walk up & down the trains, a couple of times a month (normally near the beginning & end).
Normally, dh & I buy monthly passes, which you simply have to produce on demand. However, since we were planning to be on vacation for most of the month of August, we had thought we'd save some money by buying 10-ride passes, which must be punched/time stamped before boarding the train. We weren't used to having to do this and, needless to say, we had other things on our mind when we hurried up to the platform that afternoon. Both of us were facing hefty fines (I can't remember what it was then, but it's currently in the neighbourhood of $100).
Dh took him aside & quietly said, "Look, we just found out we've lost our baby. You can give us tickets if you want, but we'll fight it every step of the way." The guy took one look at my tear-stained face & took pity on us. "Just cancel your tickets when you get off the train, " he said, and moved on.
We drove home. Dh called his brother & dad, while I made the hardest telephone call I've ever had to make in my life, to my mother.
My mother said to me, through her tears: "We'll always remember we had a little girl."