Monday, October 26, 2015

Unwanted Membership

October 26, 2004. The absolute worst day of my life.

I remember it as if it just happened. No one talks about still born babies. No one. It is a secret until it happens to you and then you are a part of a club with unwanted membership.

It was a Sunday afternoon, one day shy of 29 weeks gestation. I was laying on our black leather couch watching TV when our baby kicked. Being acutely aware that my husband had only felt this a handful of times, I started to say his name and walk up the stairs. By the time I reached the upstairs, he had stopped. I thought, oh well- next time. I did not know there would be no next time.

We went to Target for more maternity clothes and dinner at my parents' house that night. I remember the yellow maternity shirt I was wearing. I remember not feeling the baby. I remember saying something to my husband. I remember him reminding me how a few weeks prior the baby had turned in a way that prevented me from feeling his kicks. I remember thinking wishful thinking.

We went to sleep that night deciding my husband should meet me at the doctor for my already scheduled appointment.
I remember praying. I remember crying myself to sleep.

The next morning I woke to no movement. Nothing.
My husband asked, I said nothing, he sad it'd be OK. It would not.

I went to work. I sat on the bench outside the 6th grade wing and monitored the hallways and performed my weekly morning duty. I remember a colleague, one of the 6th grade English teachers, asking me if I was alright. I remember telling her the baby had not moved. She told me how her daughter was a lazy baby during her pregnancy and not to worry, but her face said otherwise.

I taught 120+ students that day and kept busy. I drove myself to the OB/Gyn's office and cried the entire way. 
I remember signing in. I remember the silence as the nurse searched for the heartbeat. She searched three times. I cried. 
We moved to the ultrasound room. It was there we saw no movement. No noise. We saw a baby sleeping. I'm not sure who said he had died- the nurse? The doctor? That is the only thing I do not remember. 
I remember all the times I heard, "We are so sorry."

I remember my mom being there. She made phone calls to family and to my oncologist. I called one friend. I told her to call everyone else. I remember telling my husband I was sorry. I remember the doctor, with amazing bedside manner, telling us he would see us again and believe it or not, this happens a lot. 
We were never patients of his again.

They inserted a device into my cervix to start my labor and sent me home. There I was, at home, laying on that same black couch, but this time family was in my home. Whispering, comforting us, trying to help pass the time. 
Again, I cried myself to sleep.

We checked into the hospital early in the morning. We had to go talk to the insurance department. You still have to square away your deductible even if the baby you are delivering is dead. There is no bill me later for people who are in their darkest hour. I sat in a gray chair as my husband dealt with the bill. 
As I watched the clock, I began to get angry. Angry that my son was dead, angry that I had to deliver him, and angry that the deductible needed to be paid. The insurance lady assured me that this was the most annoying part of my day and wished us luck in our new journey of parenthood. 
I remember telling her with venom in my voice that our baby was dead. 
I remember walking out.

I remember the labor & delivery room. I remember getting an epidural. I remember getting so many other drugs because in the words of a delivery nurse "there was no need to feel anything."
I remember our aunt sitting to the right of my bed reading a newspaper as the day progressed. 
I remember my brother sitting on the floor across from my feet as the day progressed. 
I remember nurses telling my husband there was no way I should be awake with all the drugs they had given me.
But I was awake. I was awake and remembering. 
I remember telling my husband to get everyone out of the room. I remember crying and screaming to get them out now.

The baby was coming. I could feel our son. With my husband by my side, I delivered our still born son. There was no cry from him, just from us. There was nothing but silence. There were only our tears. There was no joy. There was nothing. 

Our Rabbi came later that day. We discussed a memorial service and burial procedures. I remember eating a cheeseburger while he was there and thinking, why bother keeping kosher and following G-d's law if this is how life turned out. I remember the Rabbi telling me my emotions were justified.

I was brought to the maternity ward. The only redeeming part of this entire ordeal was the mesh panties the hospital gives you when you have had a baby. 
That night other mothers nursed their babies. We watched TV. 
That night families came to join in joy in the surrounding rooms, our room was filled with mourning people. 
I was released the next day. I was wheeled out of the hospital with no baby in my arm, no car seat in the car, no nursery at home, nothing. We were left with nothing.

We performed an autopsy to make sure it was not my Leukemia that caused the baby's death.
It was not. 
It was a 'typical' umbilical cord accident.  We still have the autopsy report. 

Only our family came to the cemetery. A casket small enough to fit a baby is something no one should see. It was raining. We cried. The Rabbi cried. As we went to bury our son, our uncle jumped in the way and grabbed the casket from the cemetery workman's hands. I gasped and yelled through tears. 
It is a mitzvah to help bury the dead for it is a deed that cannot be repaid. My husband's two uncles then placed the casket into the ground. 

For two weeks I stayed on that black couch. I did not sleep. I did not go back to work. I just stayed there, not moving. I felt sorry for myself and my husband. I cried. I felt the heat from my breasts as my milk came in and then took over a week to dry out. Friends came over, but no one knows what to say. I went shopping for normal clothes and cried hysterically in the dressing room because a pregnant belly with no baby is just fat and that fat was a size 16. I yelled at the sales people in the mall. 
A friend that came in town had to apologize for me and tell them why I was so mad.

I was really mad.

Two and half weeks later, the day before I was supposed to return to work I hemorrhaged. Like a nightmare that would not end, my husband sped me to the doctor's office while I bled profusely in his car. I lost half my body's blood supply. I was in and out of consciousness with nurses telling me I would be home soon with my baby. 
I remember with barely enough strength to lift my head, I yelled "Read a fucking chart. My baby is dead."

My husband signed papers saying the doctor could perform a hysterectomy if necessary. It was not. The Dr. removed a piece of placenta that had been been stuck and caused the hemorrhaging. I remember that evening, my husband told the ICU nurses that he was not going home, that our baby was dead, that I almost died, that I had cancer, and he was in fact going to sleep in that damn chair in my ICU room. 
I remember family coming to visit, again. I remember thinking I was officially off the bad thing market. Bad things happen in three - cancer, dead baby, almost dying. I was officially done. 
I remember calling my aunt, who I worked with, asking her to go to my classroom the next morning and apologize to the parent and explain why I was missing our scheduled conference.

I remember the next morning. I remember telling the ICU nurses to wake up my doctor because I was finished. I was going home. I was trying to pull out my own IV when they finally believed me. The doctor came. I was discharged, again. 
And again, I left the hospital in a wheelchair with nothing.

We moved months later to a home in the suburbs. We left the city where we felt suffocated. We started our life over.
Now years later with all those terrible memories, I can tell you it all worked out in the end for us. 
Eli, our son, saved my life. My pregnancy had brought my Leukemia to light and after Eli died I was able to start treatment. I am alive because he is not.

I have two amazing daughters, both named in memory of their brother. My husband and I have a strong marriage as we made it through the most difficult time in our lives. 
The four of us get to laugh, sing, dance, and enjoy life. We embrace the fun. 
Because of my life being saved, we do not look back and think why us. We look back and think, thank G-d. 

Annually, we stand at Eli's grave and say thank you. Thank you for our life. Thank you for my life.