7 pounds, 10 ounces
June 4, 2006
After being in labor for more than 24 hours, I am told that I am fully dilated and that it is time to push. I am sure that most women are encouraged along with statements such as, "It's almost time to meet your new baby," but in my situation no such statements are made. We all know what the end result is going to be.
I push like I am supposed to. I am following the nurse's orders and trying to be a good patient. A good mother. An hour goes by. And then another. And then another. I soon tire. I am emotionally and physically drained at this point. I fall asleep in between contractions and the nurse has to keep waking me up.
My original birth plan, which was thrown out the window upon my arrival at the Labor and Delivery unit of the hospital, included giving natural childbirth a try. Rich and I attended a birthing class at the hospital a few months ago. The nurse teaching the class had distributed a sheet of paper comparing natural childbirth to marathon running and being a runner, I wanted to give it a try. I thought I could do it. Plus, the thought of having someone stick a needle in my spine was a bit frightening.
But here I am with an epidural because everyone is trying to make it easy for me. No one even bothered to ask me what I wanted to do. I was told that there is only one anesthesiologist on call in the unit and I need to give advanced warning when I begin to feel that the epidural is losing its power. I don't.
My body and my mind are numb and I want to feel something so I allow the epidural to slowly wear off. I don't want to say anything to the nurse. I want to feel the pain of the contractions. That pain isn't nearly as bad as the hole in my heart. The nurse finally figures out that I need more medication and I give in as she pages the anesthesiologist.
After four hours of pushing, the doctor tells me that he doesn't know why the baby isn't coming out. I want to scream, "IT'S BECAUSE THE BABY IS DEAD. IT'S NOT A SECRET. WE ALL KNOW IT. IF THAT'S THE REASON, PLEASE JUST SAY IT." But I am so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open. I just want to curl up in a ball and sleep. I want to awaken to find that this had just been a horrible nightmare.
But I go on because there is a tiny little part of me that believes that the doctors are wrong. That doctor who had been on call when we arrived the day before hadn't seemed so sure. She was using one of those portable ultrasound machines and she had even asked the resident if he agreed. Why ask the resident if you know for sure? Why? Why do that in front of the patient?
I am also fully aware that the heart rate monitor intended for the baby has not been in use since I was ushered into the room. What if they are wrong and my baby is born alive? I imagine the scene of shock and surprise, the calling for a doctor and nurses to tend to the baby. I want it to be over so I agree to allow the doctor to use forceps.
My baby's birth is marked with silence. There is no cheering. No tears of joy. No celebratory cutting of the cord. The baby, my baby, isn't born alive. The doctors were correct. I have questions. "Did I have a girl or a boy?" Our wonderful, kind nurse leans past me to look. I have trouble controlling myself when she tells me that I had a baby girl. The beautiful baby girl of my dreams. I am too numb to do anything but sob silent tears.
I want answers. "Was the cord wrapped around her neck?"
No. It wasn't.
I will soon learn that sometimes there are no answers.
I do not write this for sympathy. Or to make anyone feel bad. Or for attention. I want to be a voice for my daughter, my baby, and for all of the other missing babies out there. My daughter will never be able to tell her story so I will tell it for her. I want everyone to know that this happens. That sometimes full term, completely healthy babies die for no known reason.
Think of 100 women you know or know of. Come on, they don't have to be your best friends. You can surely come up with 100 women. Family, friends, acquaintances, classmates, professors, teachers, neighbors, co-workers. Chances are that at least one of these women will give birth to a stillborn baby.
That's one baby. A baby is different from a percent. Think about that the next time you hear someone say, "There's only a 1% chance of something going wrong after you reach the second trimester." That's one baby.