monday, december 13, was a busy, busy day! braxton-hicks contractions were coming regularly, and i looked forward to the next week with anticipation! i thought i felt him once or twice that day, but on tuesday i didn’t feel him at all. i was determined not to freak out too much, but by tuesday night I was worried.
we had been at joel’s office christmas party that evening, and and when we got home at about 9:30pm i did a kick count and texted my head midwife, kori. i was unsure after the kick count (there were some strange feelings), so she told us to meet her at the birth center.
11:30pm. shivering with cold and nerves, we hustled into the dark birth center with two sleepy midwives and strapped on the fetal monitor. no heartbeat. kori switched to the doppler, and in the space of 45 seconds her expression changed from concerned, to shocked, to panicked as she found my heartbeat (racing fast enough to be confused with baby’s) but never his. grasping my clammy hands, she looked in my eyes and said, “lani, I can’t find his heartbeat. we’re going to need to go to the hospital for and ultrasound, and i don’t think your baby’s ok.”
they offered to drive us the few miles to emanuel hospital but we declined. i was too shocked to do or think much, and on the interminably long, five minute drive to the hospital i asked joel over and over, “it could still be ok, right? he could still be fine. this is just a bad scare.” he agreed, and i allowed myself to live in a daydream of years in the future, when we would look back on that night with relief and fond memory of the trials of uncertainty that first time parents go through.
we met the midwives at the hospital and were immediately admitted into labor and delivery by our sweet nurse heather. she ushered us into an out of the way room with no bed; my midwives set about finding me a bed while i numbly stared at the fuss, wondering why on earth i needed a bed. we weren’t going to stay here, right?
the bed was soon procured, and the night obstetrician, a gentle, soft spoken man, set up the ultrasound. he asked several preliminary questions – when we last felt him, what his heartbeat had been, and performed the ultrasound. he studied it for maybe 30 seconds, looked at us, and said, “i’m sorry. your child has died.” our composure was crushed; one awful sob was torn from my throat (there’s truly no other way to say it) and we wept for a lifetime of agony compressed into one, maybe two minutes.
i don’t know when i realized that the world had not stopped, that machines were still beeping and clocks ticking and the doctor blinking and my heart beating, but when i did i started shaking uncontrollably. the crushing suffocating realization that i was still physically one with my dead child terrified me, and without opening my eyes i asked, “what do we do now?”
the next few hours are a blur. i know that they took my blood pressure and it was extremely high – 190/110 – and this sent the doctors and nurses into a tizzy over preeclampsia. i knew i didn’t have preeclampsia. i told them i didn’t have preeclampsia, that i was just in shock. they drew blood for a battery of tests, my 3 midwives were making plans in the corner, my head was pounding and my eyes were dry and hot and my shaking body was rustling the sheets, my husband was crying and giving my long-ish medical history to heather, who had shiny black hair and a kind face. a confusing blur of lights and faces and needles as the wee morning hours ticked off. a hostile ultrasound tech with an eastern european accent performed a long ultrasound, taking many measurements as my midwives eyed her askance like 3 mother lions. i didn’t want to see the screen; i looked in my husband’s red eyes instead.
we were given the customary options of going home and waiting for labor or inducing that night in the hospital. the doctor encouraged us to induce because of my blood pressure, but they were respectful of our choices. i couldn’t fathom the thought of going home. after consulting with my midwives we chose to induce. i had been having regular contractions for a week and was so hopeful that i might already be in early labor, but the exam revealed that I was soft, closed, 60% effaced and -2. the nurse and my midwives projected that i probably had 48 hours of induced labor ahead. 48 hours. i remember clutching at joel’s arm, and telling him very calmly that i was terrified. that i was afraid of all these interventions and afraid of birth and afraid of this death inside me and afraid i was going to die. i told him that i could handle physical pain, but i couldn’t cope with the fullness of both physical and emotional pain at the same time and needed something – i didn’t know what – to help with either or both. he promised that he would take care of me and make sure i had what i needed to get through. (i should insert here – he had just graduated from nursing school and is a natural birth advocate, so putting my medical situation in his hands was the most natural thing in the world.)
at 3 am i received a vaginal dose of misoprostol, iv sedatives, and joel crawled into the narrow hospital bed with me to try to sleep.