I miss you but I am not sure you were ever really here? I would have really liked to know you all the same. You were never here, & now never really gone.
It is 3 days since they told us that our baby had no heartbeat. That little flicker of life we had been mesmerised by only 2 short weeks before was gone. Run away, put out, disappeared…
I already knew but I had hoped on hope & words from Corsmor that everything was okay; that I was just following worry instead of happiness. He was wrong about that but not wrong to hope.
My instant reaction to the news was anger & my head filled with the throb of “I told you so”. I felt strangely vindicated that all these 8 weeks of growing this baby I had known in the back of my mind that it was slipping away & though I had said it many times no one had believed be. Now I felt angry that no one had listened, when in fact nothing could have been done but to wait & to see.
Vindication quickly subsided when looking into the eyes of a truly disappointed & cruelly devastated Husband. One who hoped so hard & held me so many nights while I cried as I bled, as I cramped & as we hoped. His eyes filled with tears looking into my eyes. Not knowing what to say or to do, being only able to stare at me & clumsily rub my leg.
I got up from the table & entered the change room. I wiped the ultrasound material & spots of blood from my between my legs with a scratchy & stiff napkin. Put my still-warm clothing back on, the pants I had bought prematurely & with excitement for my ‘growing belly’ suddenly seemed so big that they could fit me & this entire empty nightmare into them easily. The numb began to wash over my whole body. I gathered myself in full knowledge that the technician & doctor had just gone to arrange to ‘fix this up’ to make sure we ‘get this out of you’. Like it was a dangerous, diseased growth that must be removed & I began to feel that’s exactly what it was.
Walking out of the change room I asked Corsmor if he was okay. He shook his head & said “I’d like to hug my wife’’ to which I requested he did not as I knew that I had a lot more of this to go through today & could not start the crying now. He understood or appeared to.
The technician came back in, her face ashen & so young, no more than 22, not knowing what to do or say except “you have an appointment at 10:30. You don’t have to see our receptionist or pay just leave & go to the hospital at 10:30am”. As I walked past her I said “thank you” & then instantly wondered what I was thanking her for.
So we went back to our house that to me seemed quieter & bigger than it ever had before. He grabbed me in the hall way & the tears escaped me. The heaving, heavy, snotty crying that explodes from you when you cannot hold it in any more – the opening of a terrifying door I was about to walk through. I closed it. I pulled myself away from him. I sat down & I stared. I had nothing to say. To be honest, this is the conversation that I do not remember. I do not remember what we said to each other in the dim, quiet lounge room while the rest of the world ran about on their Tuesday morning beginning to the business day.
I couldn’t stop moving so I called my sister. She came straight down – living only 4 houses up was a blessing this time.
She came in & knew. I shook my head & said “no heartbeat”. Her eyes, like my Husbands only half an hour before filled with tears. But Lara – she is tough & did not let me see too much. Knowing she is the expert on all things baby (having had 2 beautiful babies many years ago) I asked her “what are they going to do to me”. So she gave me some of the run down on what happens now. Why they do it & what all these strange words like “Curette”’, D&C etc. stand for. She really does know it all. The reality sank in a little that my baby was now becoming a ‘product’ that had to be removed. It was not alive anymore. I was not a mum anymore.
Since I could drink it now as I’d fasted for the ultrasound I made myself a double coffee. Making it was warm, it was familiar, it was normal. It was a comfort.
We sat in our lounge room & calm moved over me. As only Lara can she explained why this happens, why she was sorry for us but we talked about the positives too, we joked, we giggled, I winced at the pain from the cramping I was still experiencing.
Only days before I’d finally stopped bleeding & I had felt really well – healthy. I left the house for the first time in a week. My feet were so clumsy in the car that they slipped on the pedals until I was used to driving again by the end of my street. I went to the grocery store just to wander, to get out. I couldn’t believe how much energy I had. Half way down the magazine aisle I almost fainted. It had suddenly occurred to me that I had stopped bleeding & I felt good because the baby was gone. This was terrifying. The thought that I had suddenly felt well & was smiling because my baby had died was enough to make me sick.
It was then that I knew.
4 days later, here we were sitting in my lounge room talking about how they would remove the ‘missed miscarriage’. How they would take away the dead baby. That I would have to go to the hospital & sit in the maternity clinic with the other fortunate Mums & Dads knowing my baby was dead but still inside me. The emptiness was overwhelming. The numbness was a comfort.
We waited in the full car park as a lady reversed her car. Corsmor said “that was lucky wasn’t it”. I could not help but berate him. “Lucky? Yes I feel so lucky”. He apologised. I felt awful. We walked in,
“I’m Violet Ashes, & I have an appointment” I said
“Oh you’re Ashes, okay, yes, the doctor is in theatre but he will see you as soon as he gets out please take a seat” she motioned at the waiting room chairs
“Thank you” again I wondered why I kept saying this?
We sat… & we sat. The tears came & fell as I watched the beautiful mothers & their round healthy bellies. They all had fuzzy black & white photos of babies to be born & I thought of the photos I had. The baby with no heart, the yolk sack, the foetal pole, our everything; our nothing. I watched their attentive husbands & their smiles. I felt so happy for them all, not begrudging at all. How wonderful it must be, I thought. Do they know how lucky they are?
It was half an hour before the doctor came in. Still in full scrubs & dragging another female doctor with him. He was hobbled. His back looked sore. He made a joke about the long walk to the consult room. I didn’t laugh. We sat in Birthing Room 4. He explained slowly what had happened, the hows & the whys. I heard words like ‘chromosome’, ‘natural’, & ‘25% of women’. I wasn’t really listening. He explained my options. Like any option except ‘get this out of me’ would have been acceptable. For the first time I started to listen. I was shocked. The option of ‘you can wait & hope your body expels the foetus’ & ‘we can give you medication that does that & you will bleed it out’. Was he serious? Does he expect me to unceremoniously & with absolutely no dignity or medical assistance bleed my baby out into the toilet over ‘the next few days’? I was disgusted that this was even an option. As if I had not been through enough. I opted for number 3. Put me under, take it out, & send me home – an abortion. The idiot in my head felt relieved; at least I would not have to deal with right to lifers.
He explained he would have to get me on the end of the surgical register as I had explained that it being Tuesday, waiting until Friday was not an option.
“They will not be happy when I tell them they have to stay late” He said.
Again, shocked, I quipped,
“Well I will swap places with them if they like. I would love to be at work complaining about working late instead of here.”
The next few hours were the worst in my life.
My husband & I were shuffled off into another waiting room. I could not hear what the Doctor said to the nurses except,
“You can take of that can’t you? …”
“Okay, take a seat” the nurse said to us.
We sat & waited, filled out some paperwork. It was quiet. We were quiet.
We sat in uncomfortable chairs, uncomfortable with each other, not knowing what to say. My mind drifted in & out of consciousness. Another nurse came out to ask if I’d been given any instructions & I opened my fist to show her two pills I’d been given by the Doctor.
“Did he tell you when to take them?” she asked, to which I replied,
“No, he said you would ‘take care of that’.” So she left us to call him — more waiting.
After 10 or so minutes she came back & said she would take us through to the next waiting room & a nurse would help me. Corsmor made himself comfortable & I looked for & used the bathroom. A typical hospital bathroom it had the smell of having been used extensively. That acrid scent of dry urine filled my nostrils & the bright fluorescent lights made me look pale.
Only six months prior to this I had been in hospital to remove a benign tumour from my left ovary. It was a terrifying & extensive experience. One I was not sure could ever be topped for sheer terror factor, until now. When I’d been led into surgery that day by a very grumpy nurse she had lost her mind over the fact that I had not taken off my make up (apparently I was supposed to know to take it off despite the fact I’d never been in hospital before). So, knowing this, I took my make up off this time. Most of it was blurred & sketchy now from all the crying – but I removed what I could with paper towel, hand soap & water. The taste of Glycerine filled my mouth – I turned to vomit but having eaten nothing that day I wretched.
Exiting the bathroom I was confronted by another nurse; but I smiled at this for the first time in days. It was a woman I’d known most of my life. Her daughter & I had grown up together in a round-about sort of way. Her face was kind & soft, I was pleased to finally see someone I knew & automatically trusted.
In preparation for my coming abortion I had to put 2 tablets in my vagina in order to widen my cervix. A most disconcerting & inaccurate thing to be asked to do – no real instructions given to me, just insert & wait so that half the job is done by the time the doctor comes to remove the ‘material’ from my womb. Yes, because that’s what really matters here, I thought to myself. Ensuring the surgeon can get home to his family on time & doesn’t have to mess around with me for too long. I’m all about the help. “Thank you…” rang in my ears.
Back in the bathroom again she’d instructed me on how to put on the oversized gown, hat, shoes & dressing gown made of paper. It was so big on me I thought I might disappear in it. Disposable clothing. Just like this pregnancy now felt to me, disposable.
Corsmor grinned a little at me as I came back to him & settled in one of the maroon, 70’s shaped & well-worn recovery chairs. Not long after this the cramping started again. Heavy cramping & I could feel the blood seeping from between my legs into the industrial sized pad the nurse had given me. I began to cry again. Tears, inescapable ran freely down my cheeks. Corsmor looked panicked & I told him he felt so far away. He picked up an office chair & moved as close to me as he could. His strong, twice-the-size-of-mine hands wrapped around mine & he stared at me unable to speak.
I began to tell him how I had known, how I had understood all along that I was losing the baby but that I had wanted to hope so much it was not true. He nodded along to what I had to say like it was an old favourite tune. Insecurities began to swallow my brain & I explained that I expected he might leave me now, not being able to follow through with the birth of our first child. He looked confused, hurt, astonished.
Corsmor is 12 years my senior & with me at age 32 I had always felt this was a race against time. Despite this we had done things the traditional way; the courtship, the marriage & then the baby. This is how we had planned & how we had wanted it. In the back of my mind a crazy lady (& I am sure many of our friends) whispered that he had married me to have his kids because of the age gap this could be the only explanation. Of course! This was obvious! How that lady misunderstood.
Corsmor squeezed my hand so tightly that my nails dug into my palm. He told me how wrong I was. How I was what mattered to him. Not a baby. That if there was a choice between me & the ‘pip’ it was always me. This was new information to me. It was wondrous & it was heart breaking at the same time. Heartbreaking that I had never realised how truly amazing my Husband was & how much he loved me. I was as much a part of him as one of his limbs & I felt so humble.
Tears plummeted down my face, as much from the cramping as from the emotional boxing match I was in. It was truly exhausting. Nurses came & went with more pieces of paper & more signing. More intimate questions about my pregnancy, my health. I cried all the way through the Anaesthetist telling me this was normal, & what the risks were.
The sound of risk sounded thrilling. The thought occurred to me I might not wake up. I embraced this thought. I went numb. I stopped crying & I was all business. Something inside me snapped, or woke up. I am not sure which.
Soon they came to walk me to surgery. A nurse took my arm. I kissed my Husband good bye. My helpless, lonely, hungry & tired Husband had to let me go. I watched him walk out, knowing he had to drive home & sit in silence until they called him to say it was done. & there was that face again. That terrified, only-just-holding-it-together face that he had shown me six month earlier when they had wheeled me away to surgery. I could not think about it & I turned away.
A nurse told me to lie down on the table. My paper gown ripped & rustled as I unceremoniously climbed up. They bickered with each other over their duties & how late they were now that I was on the register. They pricked me with needles, they put sticky tape all over my arms. I lied back staring. I felt like a piece of meat on a chopping block. No one smiled, no one looked me in the eye. I begged the universe not to let me wake up. Let me die.
“Count back from 100” the nurse to my left whispered in my ear. My lips did not move. My mouth was dry & I could not speak. As a cloud of cotton wool filled my memory the nurse on my right removed my underwear.
I woke in recovery with a nurse holding my hand & stroking the fringe of hair on my forehead. “There she is” she whispered. “How do you feel?” she asked
“Sad” was all I could manage before a barrage of tears broke through. I was confused & I was in pain. Nothing felt as if it was real & yet too real at the same time. I was cold & my body shivered. I cried. The nurse sat by me for half an hour. She talked me round to a soft sob.
“The Doctors will tell you to wait to try again but they don’t know what women know. Wait until your next period then try again, you will be very fertile & I’ll see you in here before Xmas giving birth to a healthy baby.” She explained
“I don’t think so. I can’t see me wanting to ever risk this again” I said.
“Is your hubby waiting outside, when did you get married? The small talk had started & I told her about Corsmor. How much I loved him & asked when I could see him. I had never wanted to see anyone so much before. The nurse wiped my tears & brushed my hair with her fingers.
“Let’s brush your hair for your husband & wipe those tears, okay” she said.
The woman in the bed next to me explained to the nurse that she had opted for an abortion because she was single & too old to have a baby. The nurse brushing my hair, her breasts knocking against my arm, breathed in sharply & looked at me with terror in her eyes. There was no escaping the conversation next to me.
“It’s okay, that’s her choice & her right” I said. The nurse looked relieved. Here I was, just had the baby I had wanted more than anything removed & I was making the nurse feel better. No one can ever say that I am not charitable again.
They wheeled me out into the recovery lounge & I settled back into the 70’s recliner.
I do not remember a whole lot from this time. I felt sick & dizzy. Corsmor looking worried & the nurse would not let me go until I drank something. I got myself undressed & dressed in my own clothes in the overused bathroom again & wore another industrial sized pad that no oversized pants was ever going to hide.
Corsmor walked me to the car which he had parked too far away & expressed his guilt. The walk in the open warm air was nice, I never told him that.
The last 3 days have been a blur. Mum, Lara & Bella have visited, flowers from my boss & friends have arrived. The house looks like a funeral parlour. Corsmor has not yet gone back to work & does not let me out of his sight. His ‘unbirthday’ passed on the 28th February & he was miserable. My mum visited with cake but the rest of the world either forgot or stayed away which has only added to my guilt. I feel as if I have ruined his life.
I called my Dad & told him about it all today. He was upset. I couldn’t handle the disappointment in his voice & I hung up.
The anger is just about to come through me in the next week or so – I can feel it welling up inside. This whole process has been nothing short of the worst 8 weeks of my life. What began as something magical & joyful has become clinical & heart-breaking. The words ‘our baby died inside me’, torture me. The heart we saw beat had simply stopped. Even though everyone tells me that there was nothing I could have done, that I did everything right, the guilt the bare fact that I lost our baby that will never leave me. I will never be the same, I will never be that innocent again.
It is unlike me to think of a positive at a time like this. However, the one thing that I have learned in these 8 weeks that I will carry with me forever, the only positive, is exactly how much my Husband loves me. How much he supports me. That what happens to me happens to him too. He feels what I feel & he understands. I understand for the first time that his love is way beyond anything I ever imagined. I may have lost our baby but I will carry that with me, always.