Last night I woke nearly hourly, at 9 months pregnant (tomorrow is my due date) that is hardly abnormal. I either had to pee or my hip was screaming at me to roll over. At 5:20 I had to turn, I noticed the baby wasn’t moving and thought “Well that should make it easy to fall back asleep”, but as a parent who has had a baby die at term in utero I placed my hand on my belly to wait for him to move. I fell asleep again before I noticed any movement.
This morning when I woke up around 6:15 I noticed he was still very still. I calmed the panicky voice in my head, rolled on to my left side, and waited for him to move. The alarm to get up and get the kids ready sounded, and I could wait no more.
“No matter” I thought. “I’ll get the kids dressed and make lunches. Surely, the distraction is what I need, and moving around is likely to get him rolling about.”
I made it down the stairs, peered into the kitchen and told Kyle right away, even though I had told myself I would wait to worry him. Kyle made me a coffee, that the toddler took an infinitely long time to stir for me. I wanted that coffee now. I took a few sips, then decided downing the whole thing at once would be best. A hot belly full of coffee would warm his toes, he would move, and that would be the end of the shallow breathing I had adopted. Fifteen minutes later, as I made grilled cheese and washed strawberries for lunches, there was nothing. After three glasses of full strength orange juice with no indication of a slight wiggle, I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t pretend to be okay in front of my kids, who were being particularly sweet this morning.
I went upstairs to get dressed and called the midwife. I told her our baby was dead, a huge bubble of sobs poured out, she thought I had delivered and I corrected her. Arrangements were made for me to go to the hospital. I stopped crying, and pulled on the first pair of pants I could find, a pair of capris, even though the weather called for long pants.
The school bus had not arrived yet, it was 7:45, and I couldn’t bear waiting any longer. I told Kyle he could bring the kids to the hospital or stay and wait for the bus. He opted to wait for the bus. A flame of resentment flickered up.
I couldn’t find my glasses, so I borrowed Kyle’s to drive.
As I walked out I told Kyle “Today is going not going to be a good day” and left.
All this time I thought (hoped) any minute now I’m going to get a kick that tells me I’m being ridiculous. It didn’t happen.
The hospital is a 30 minute drive. About 10 minutes in I hit a point of resignment. It was all over. It had been hours since I felt him move. I was sure he was dead. I’ve never been sure before.
On my third subsequent pregnancy since Kate was stillborn. I’ve had plenty of scares. It was a fear more constant with the twin’s pregnancy, and less so with the last. I made 17 trips to the LD ward with the twins for non- movement, never for such a long periods of non-movement, and usually on the way someone would move, and I would head in just to be sure. With Natalia and Micah I never actually made a trip in to the hospital, or stopped in to see my midwife to be reassured. I feared they would die all the time, but I never felt they had, or were at risk, warranting a trip in.
This baby is a wiggler, perhaps the wiggliest, at least as wiggly as Kate was. Now it was going to be the same end.
Today I thought of things I haven’t thought of this time around. I have every other time. This being an unplanned pregnancy I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to deal with a 5th living baby, not what we’ll do if he dies. Driving calmly without tears, poking at my belly in less than gentle ways, hoping, waiting for him to move, proving this trip was unnecessary. I thought of all the things I had avoided.
Where will we bury him? With Kate? With us?
I have to cancel a presentation.
We haven’t found a home church, who would do the funeral?
I’m just going to Facebook and Twitter. I can’t bear phone calls. Everyone finds out the same way this way.
Why was God doing this? Two dead babies and a kid with Autism who is currently not adapting well to school? Really what was I supposed to endure?
How was I going to convince the the hospital staff I could not wait for an induction? It would have to be today.
Who would pick up my kids from school? How would we tell them. Would they be okay?
How was I going to be a parent and grieve?
Have we actually settled on a name? Why haven’t we been using it?
Would I call Kyle to confirm he had died from the hospital, or just wait until he got there? How was he going to react?
Arriving at the hospital I let small tears roll from the corners of my eyes. My midwife met me at my car. I shook my head when I saw her.
“Nothing” I said, answering the question of if he had moved that she never asked, “It’s all over”.
She hugged me and walked me in. Calling for the elevator she said we’d know in a few minutes. I already knew.
After a coffee and three orange juices I went pee before laying down, so she could put the heart rate monitor on me. I stared at the curtain track and noticed that a couple of the hooks had come undone causing the curtain to sag in an nonuniform manner.
It only took a minute. A steady fast heartbeat.
“Is that me?” Certain it wasn’t, but I was sure it must be. I was still convinced I was about to get confirmation of the terrible I already knew.
I sprang up to sitting.
“Then why isn’t he moving?” shot from my mouth without consciously forming the thought, and a flood of tears I didn’t know I was holding back sprang forth. The sheer volume seemed more appropriate to the opposite news. The midwife handed me my phone to call Kyle. I couldn’t. There were too many tears. The relief and sheer disbelief that I had been wrong still needed to pour out before I could even physically dial. I had been sure.
When I did finally call to say he’s not dead, Kyle made me repeat myself, the sigh of relief from the other end of the phone told me he was as worried as I was.
So, I laid there listening to the thump of his heartbeat, in the silence, while waiting to find out what the midwife thought we ought to do next, knowing Kyle was on his way. Still wondering how it was possible my certainty was so wrong? Grateful it was.