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Love and Grief: Ilana's Story, Part I
Editor: Ofer Koren
February 4th, 2022: Only three days before the baby’s due date. We had a delightful dinner with family, and parted with the joyful knowledge that the next time we meet, there will be a tiny new family member to share. Our baby girl was invited to this world with all of the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual preparations in place.
As we snuggled in bed that night, with the tiny baby crib attached to ours, I had this concerning realization — I hadn’t felt the baby move for a while. What if the baby…died? We both agreed she’s probably fine and just sleeping. Let’s get some rest. We’ll call the midwives tomorrow if I’m still worried.
Saturday Morning: I still didn’t feel her. I just sensed that something wasn’t right. But… what was that just now? did she move?… I called my midwives. I just wanted them to come and listen for a heartbeat, to put our minds at ease. To my surprise they said that if I really didn’t feel the baby move, I need to go to the emergency room. I need to get a fetal monitor. They also said it’s very normal to have worried thoughts about the baby right now, and yeah, she’s probably just sleeping. I ate something sweet, laid down and waited. I was not met with the usual play of kicks and rolling around.
We decided to do the responsible thing and go to the emergency room. As I grabbed our hospital “go bag” I got a sort of queasy feeling — Would I actually be relying on this bag today? We left our son at the neighbor’s house - fairly confident that we’d be back in a couple hours.
If you want to get a receptionist’s attention in the ER you say — “I don’t feel my baby kicking”. They’ll attend to you right away. I was escorted into a little room where a midwife started to look for a heartbeat with a fetal monitor. Usually when someone does that to my belly, we hear a little heartbeat. This time - static. Maybe it’s because the baby’s back was in front. Maybe because the placenta was in front. More checking by more people with more equipment.
Two doctors invited us into a neighboring room where my silent tummy was checked repeatedly until…
One doctor looked at me with kind, assertive eyes and plainly said “I’m sorry to say this but your baby has no heart beat. She’s gone.” “That’s it?” I asked. I didn’t know what else I could even say. The doctor gravely nodded yes.
“WHAT THE FUCK!?” I said stupefied as I slid off the examination table. I was emotionless, numb. It’s difficult to describe the sensation of knowing rationally that there’s something terribly wrong, but not feeling anything’s wrong inside my body because how could there be anything wrong when in two days the baby will be born at home and my belly is so full and round and she’s so healthy and we did everything right and this kind of thing doesn’t happen to me because I’m protected by a sphere of white healing light! WHAT…THE…FUCK!?
When I heard the absence of a heartbeat, I knew the baby had passed. Yet there was an element of deeply seated optimism which kept me suspended in a realm of hope and observation.
Then the words came that I never in my life thought I’d hear: “We’re going to admit you to the hospital and induce your labor.” Please wake me up, this is not real, this is not… real. I’m going to go home and our baby is just fine.
We learned that a late term fetal death happens to about one in one thousand pregnancies, and often, as in our case, there is absolutely no medical explanation. I was searching for something to blame: we shouldn’t have built the baby crib; I shouldn’t have gotten a massage; I shouldn’t have gotten vaccinated; my parents should have been here. More painfully though, I knew it was simply bad luck.
We were given some time to ourselves to discuss. We both said we are sorry, we are mad… we are sad, so very sad. We are afraid of the coming pain. I conjured a calming wisdom — that we can endure anything and we will take it one step at a time, together.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Dedicated to Carrie Fisher who said "Take your broken heart, make it into art."
Note from the author: Please consider giving feedback in the form of a comment. If this story touches you or even triggers you, I would really like to know.
I felt the need to write this story as a form of therapy for me and my family. I also hope that perhaps the emotions illustrated can give comfort to others who have experienced a loss.
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