“It’s not good, Candace”. The words I never thought I would hear at my scheduled 21 week ultrasound. A flood of tears overwhelm me. “Where’s Josh? Is he here yet?” I ask the tech through sobs and gasps for air. This can’t be happening to me. This isn’t real.
Josh comes in and I tell him that the baby is gone. “There’s no heartbeat!” I sob.
I don’t remember if he says anything, all I know is that he rubs my back and strokes my hair for what seems like an eternity until my doctor arrives to confirm the news. I call everywhere looking for my mom. I finally think to call her at work (which is just upstairs from where I am, on the second floor of the hospital).
“Lorna speaking”, she says into the phone. She is barely finished answering and I’m bawling,
“I lost the baby, Mom!”
The crying has overcome me again and I’m now wailing like a child. What is this feeling? Anguish? Heartbreak? Anger? Fear? To put it into words just doesn’t do justice.
“Oh, Candace!” She gasps. If she says anything else I don’t hear it. Minutes later she holds me while I sob.
My doctor arrives shortly after to confirm that my baby is, in fact, gone. Dead.
Next come all the questions. What happened? Did I do something wrong? Can someone tell me what the reason is that this baby no longer has a little heart that is beating? WHY, WHY, WHY? Oh God, what is happening to me? What are you punishing me for?
My head is pounding with every tear that falls down my face.
“Now what?” I hear myself ask. This isn’t my life anymore, I’m sitting in this cold dark room in someone else’s life. Wearing someone else’s maternity pants, hanging on to someone else’s husband. How do I tell my girls? They’re going to be so angry with me.
They offer to induce me immediately, since the scan shows that I had lost the baby a couple weeks prior already. Every angle of guilt hits me. How did I not know? Why didn’t I listen to my body? I had told my mom 2 or 3 weeks before that I hadn’t felt the baby move in a few days. We both agreed not to worry, as I was only about 18 weeks along, and feeling movement that early isn’t normal for everyone. I ask how this all works, how will they induce me, how long will it take, will it be like labor, do I have to go through contractions, and how will I have the endurance to get through the worst pain a woman faces in her life knowing the end result will not be living, breathing child?
“It can take anywhere from 4 to 24 hours” she tells me. She apologetically can’t tell me anything more about this procedure, as this isn’t something they deal with frequently.
“No. Not today then. Can we please wait? My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow, and I am not wrecking her 2nd birthday.”
We make an appointment for induction the following Monday which is 4 days away. How am I going to make it until then? How am I going to make it at all? If ever there was a time I felt like a horrible mother, this has it beat. I was solely responsible for this baby’s life. And now, he is gone. I had finally come to terms with having a very unplanned baby number 3. Did this baby die thinking I didn’t want him here? Oh God, my heart is breaking. I can feel it physically breaking. My chest is being crushed and I can’t breathe. Every time my lungs fill with air is a betrayal.
Life should just stop when you lose your child. But it’s too cruel to let you out of your misery.
I get it together enough to walk to my truck. Josh kisses me goodbye, he is running by the shop before he comes home to be with me and the girls. I sit on the cold seat and just stare. Every bit of energy I have goes into turning on the key and putting it in gear. I pull up to my driveway and a dear friend is waiting there for me. She gets out of the car and opens my door and hugs me. Oh God, thank you for this beautiful woman. I don’t remember what she says, if she says anything. I head down the driveway and try to mentally prepare myself to see my girls. I get inside and my sister-in-law meets me with tears. She had offered to babysit while I went to the ultrasound in exchange for being the first one to know if it was a boy or a girl. But I don’t even know. All I know is that my baby’s heart stopped beating and no one can tell me why.
My head—my head hurts so badly—the throbbing is almost unbearable. I go to the cupboard and hesitantly take some Tylenol. Oh right, I can take 2, it won’t hurt my baby because my baby is dead.
How??? The questions just keep coming. The girls are still napping so I run a bath, a hot one, because I don’t have to be careful about the temperature anymore. I get in and stare at the swell in my tummy. My nose and eyes start burning as the tears return. How do I have any left? I sit there tear-stained and heartbroken, rubbing my little baby bump.
“I’m sorry, baby. Mommy is so, so, so sorry. Oh God, why are you doing this to me?”
I can’t imagine that I will ever feel normal again. How am I going to keep going? How am I going to be a good mom to my girls when I feel like this?
I crawl out of the bath and hear Josh at the table with the girls. I catch the tail-end of him saying,
“..Baby is with Jesus now, and he’s happy there. Mommy is going to be sad for awhile, but she still knows that he is safe.”
Thank you, God, for Josh. Thank you for what a wonderful dad he is to my precious girls.
I’m scared to face my own daughters, but I am grateful to be able to hug them tight. Somehow I manage to keep it together in front of them. They don’t seem to grasp what is happening. For now that’s ok with me. I have a party to plan for tomorrow and a cake to make for my little girl.
Adrenaline kicks in. I start baking and cleaning for the party. As much as I am angry at God for all this, I am thankful that I have a weekend full of things to do before the induction. The phone is ringing constantly, people sending their condolences. Family and friends keep stopping in, and I am also grateful for that, it gives me a break from denial to cry.
I survive the weekend. At 9 am Monday morning, we head to the hospital admissions desk.
I am no longer a woman, I am an empty shell. There is nothing left inside of me except my baby, who is dead. I think I’ve cried every tear I have. Until I get up to the maternity ward and I bawl as I hand my paperwork to the nurse at the desk.
We get to the hospital room and I try to prepare myself for what lies ahead. I don’t do death. I’ve never lost someone close to me before. Some people hold their babies even though they have passed on. I don’t think I can do that, but I’ve packed a little baby blanket just in case. The doctor comes in and starts the induction. The nurse hands me a packet. I open it and find our options for what to do with the baby after. Funeral? Memorial? Community memorial? Cremation? My throat is thick and I’m offended that this is what my life has become. At about noon the contractions are strong, but it’s different from labour. I’m contracting but my uterus doesn’t totally let go. I’m on my side and this pain is something I can’t put into words. They offer me morphine but tell me it could slow everything down. I say no, and my mom suggests Ativan instead. I agree, and am able to calm down a little.
Baby boy Flynn was born sleeping at 3:42 pm on April 4th, 2011.
He weighed 3 ounces and was 16.5 cm long. My wonderful nurse took his handprints and footprints and brought him to me. We wrapped him in the blanky I brought for him. All of my hesitations about holding him were gone. This was the only chance I was going to have to be with him. He fit in the palm of my hand. Family came to be with us. We talked about who he looked like, we cried together and prayed together. After holding him and crying for him, and begging God to let him open his eyes and look at me, I did the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I lay that little baby boy down on the hospital bed all alone, and I left. I walked out of the hospital empty handed and brokenhearted.
This was just the beginning. I didn’t think I would survive, nor did I want to. But I am still here and I can tell you there is life on the other side. It’s not what I had planned, but if I could go back in time with the choice to skip all this heartache, I would choose Flynn and I would do it again.
Candace is the leader of Southeast Share Chapter in Steinbach, Manitoba. Read more about the Southeast Share Chapter.