Mom to Robert Emerson
May 12th, 2010
December 2009 was a big time in my life. December 5 I was turning 30 and December 16 I was graduating nursing school. I was so happy and excited and I felt like I was on top of the world, that my life could really now “begin”. We would soon be trying to start a family; life was good. Unfortunately, this was my first lesson in “life doesn’t go according to plan”. I had struggled that last semester of nursing school and when it all came down to it, I had to end up withdrawing and taking that last semester all over again. I was so devastated and so mad that the beginning of 2010 wasn’t what I expected, and I started the semester/year out with a lot of negativity.
A little bright spot came a few weeks into January. The semester was in full swing, and I’d been busy so when my period was a week late, I thought “hm, this is weird”. I took a pregnancy test, it was negative, I moved on. Figuring that maybe the stress in December of withdrawing from school messed things up and it would be here soon, I didn’t’ think much of it. Another week or so went by without my period and at that point I thought, “ok this is REALLY weird”, and I took another test that was still negative. I finally decided I should bite the bullet and call the Dr. for blood work. I went on a Monday and was so antsy all day the next day that Tuesday, I was at clinical and it’s all I could think about was wondering what my blood results were. I was at clinical at the same hospital I work at and wanted to badly to get into the system to look at my results. But I didn’t, I somehow made it through that day and as soon as I got to my car I got on the phone with the Dr.
Going right along with the pattern of what had been happening for me, the nurse on the phone told me my results were “inconclusive”. I was incredulous and asked the nurse, “what does that mean!?” She explained to me that it meant that I had enough HCG in my system to be “more than normal” but not enough yet that would indicate positive for pregnancy. At this point, I was getting my hopes up and trying to tell myself not to. They suggested that I wait a few days and get blood work again on Saturday. She explained that if I was pregnant, my HCG levels should be doubling/tripling every few days so that by Saturday I would hopefully have a clearer answer. Those few days seemed to drag on, and finally Saturday came and I went and had blood work done that morning.
I was feeling “normal”, nothing was making me sick, and I just felt like myself. I had plans to meet my friends from nursing school that Saturday night for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I just had a little niggling thought in my head about all of this going on, so when they ordered alcoholic drinks, I just had water. I’m the type of person who has a hard time keeping my mouth shut/hiding my feelings, especially when I’m super excited about something. Finally at the end of dinner, I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I told them my suspicion. A thought had been flitting through my head all night at dinner and when talking to them I realized I was going to do it: drive in to work, and look at my results myself. I had realized that I wasn’t going to hear from the Dr. until Monday. There was NO WAY I could wait that long.
We left dinner and I did just that. Drove right to the hospital and went onto the floor where I work. It was 7:30 pm, so nightshift had just begun; it was nice and quiet on the floor. I found and empty computer and logged on. My heart was pounding so badly when I was pulling up my chart, I was starting to shake. I pulled up my labs and saw “beta quantitative HCG=99”. The rubric that went along with it said that it correlated to 1-2 weeks gestation. Holy early! My last period had been Dec. 2, so I was a little confused, but more than that, I was beyond excited, I was….well, and I can’t even describe it. It was earlier than we’d planned, but it was here! I remember that my heart was beating so fast, and I think to myself I was saying over and over again “omg omg omg omg”.
I had always sort of had an idea of how I was going to tell my husband when I knew I was pregnant. I didn’t have a whole lot of time, but I left the hospital, and ran to wal-mart where I went to the baby section and bought 2 things: a Phillies onesie and an Eagles onesie (he is a huge Philly fan). He was texting me asking where I was because at this point I’d been gone several hours, so I rushed through and got home. I will never forget the look on his face when I handed him the baggie with the baby clothes in them. His eyes filled with tears, he was so surprised and happy. We stood in the kitchen and hugged and cried. We were so excited that we called our parents and told them right away. It was Saturday January 23, 2010: my dad’s 56th birthday.
My brother and sister-in-law had been trying to get pregnant and had just announced around Christmas time that they were expecting. It was such an exciting time for not just us, but our family as well, that it was going to suddenly grow so quickly. I thought it was so neat that our kids would grow up so close in age. The next few months flew by since I was in nursing school full time. Thankfully I didn’t have any morning sickness or anything-in fact I had no “typical” pregnancy symptoms at all. I was so thankful for that, since I had class 2 days a week and clinical 2 days a week; some mornings I was getting up at 4am to drive almost an hour to clinical. At my first ultrasound appointment, they ended up having to do a trans-vaginal (ew!) because it turned out that my hcg WAS correlating correctly-at my ultrasound I measured 6weeks and 2days. I’ll never forget the way that little heartbeat looked flickering on that screen, or the sweet sound of my baby’s heart beat a few weeks later for that first time.
As the months rushed closer to May, when I was finally graduating, I had my monthly OB appointments, where everything went routinely-I got chided a bit for my weight, which I was so worried about at the time, but otherwise things were going smoothly and perfectly. I had opted to do a Quad Screen, and my AFP levels had come back slightly elevated. This was a possible indication of some type of neural tube defect, such as spina bifida. It was a little scary, even though it was protocol, to get a phone call from the Maternal Fetal office to make an appointment for Genetic Counseling. They assured me that it was routine, that my levels weren’t “that elevated” and it was no big deal. The appointment was scheduled for when I was 19 weeks, and they said they would go ahead that day and tell us the sex of our baby, since they would be doing a more detailed ultrasound that day to look at the anatomy of the baby. I made sure to make the appointment on a day when my husband could come along. I had some jitters about it, naturally, hoping and praying that there was nothing wrong and I was excited too, to learn the sex of our baby.
The ultrasound/genetic counseling was set for May 12, a Wednesday. I took my final for nursing school on Monday, May 10. I was so happy and overwhelmed that day, after finding out that I had finally passed nursing school. I drove the 40mins home, and was actually crying, realizing that this part of my life was finally over, something I’d had to work so hard for for so long. I literally found myself bawling. The very next morning, Tuesday, I had my regular OB appointment. I will never forget that morning as long as I live. I was driving to my appointment. It was a beautiful spring morning and I cracked my window to feel and smell the fresh morning air. I felt elated, I felt happy, I felt good, I felt a bit cocky. I remember thinking that here I am, 30years old, and FINALLY my life is falling into place. Everything I’d worked so hard for was coming to me: I was finished nursing school, I had a husband who loved and supported me, an amazing family, great friends, and most importantly, my husband and I were expecting the biggest and most important little person in our lives, someone who was going to change us forever. It was such a powerful feeling, the emotions of that morning, those feelings of…yes, superiorority. Well, I guess you get my point. I was on top of the world.
My OB appointment went as scheduled-I was in and out in 10mins, heartbeat was strong and fast, in the 140’s, everything was good. I left there and went about my day, running errands, before I had to go into work for my friend from 3-7. At work that evening, I saw a girl I worked with who was pregnant and due a week behind me. We talked about how we were feeling; I had just started feeling the baby moving a week or so before, and I was telling her what it felt like as she hadn’t experienced that yet. I went home that night and when we went to bed, my husband put his hand over my stomach, and we remarked on how firm my belly was and that I was finally starting to “pop”. Little did I know that when I went to bed that night, I would never be the same person ever again.
We got up the next morning, Wed. May 12, and headed over to Maternal Fetal. We sat through the genetic counseling, which took about 45mins. I know I was nervous and jittery, as I answered all the questions about family history, because I just couldn’t wait to get to the ultra sound, to see my baby, to know for sure that there was nothing wrong and also to find out the sex. After those 45 agonizing minutes were finally over, we headed over to the ultrasound room. The technician started doing her thing, and there was our beautiful baby up on the screen. This was the first time we’d seen him/her since my 6 week appointment, so it was amazing to see a fully formed little person curled up on the screen. In hindsight, I should have realized that something looked terribly wrong; the technician’s face was very serious and somber as she moved the wand around, took measurements, and typed on her keyboard. I was so excited and I remember looking at my husband and saying “look there’s the spine!” and “aw, look it’s the femur”. After I don’t know how long, she turned to us, and we eagerly anticipated the big moment: would it be a boy or girl? Instead, she looked at us, and she had a pinched look on her face. She said “I’m so sorry….but I don’t see a heartbeat”.
I was still lying there, with gel on my stomach, my pants folded down. I think I was in shock; I barely remember my husband sob “oh my god” as he grabbed my hand. I remember that I was saying things like “what are you talking about”, “how can that be”, and insisting that the heartbeat had just been there 24hours ago. She said over again how sorry she was, and that she was going to get the Dr. I just broke down and was bawling, sobbing, shaking. A Dr. came in and reviewed the pictures “just to be sure”, and of course she confirmed that our baby was dead. I was still in shock, practically hysterical; as she went on to tell me that if I wanted to, I could go over to the hospital right then and there to induce labor. At that moment, I couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe, I just remember that I half screamed at her “no, no, do I have to?! Isn’t there a way that you can just take it out?!” They explained that I could have a procedure done called a D&E, but the only Dr. that performs them was out of town and wouldn’t be back in the office until Monday.
We went home, and I walked straight upstairs and got into bed, where I stayed for almost the next week straight. It was so hard to walk around and know that my baby was dead inside of me; I didn’t want to touch my stomach or look at it, it made me sick. I felt like my body had betrayed me. I just slept and cried. I made my poor husband make the phone calls to our parents and friends to tell them.
Monday night, instead of going to my graduation for nursing school, I had to go to the OB office to have them insert something into my cervix for it to start to open. We were shocked that evening to learn that we had to make a decision over what to do with the “remains”. Apparently it’s Pa. state law, that anything over 16 weeks gestation, you are responsible for the remains. We aren’t religious, and this was sprung on us so quickly, so we opted for cremation. The procedure itself wasn’t terrible, and I haven’t had any side effects-other than a broken heart. Up until that day, I still didn’t know the sex of my baby. I learned a few weeks later, when I was ready to know, that it was a boy. My beautiful son, whom we named Robert Emerson after our grandfathers, sits on our mantle so that he is always with his mommy and daddy and big doggie brother Myles.
It’s been almost 9 months, and I am just now writing this all down. It’s taken me this long to even be able to do that. I have tears streaming down my face as I type this. I’m still “coming to terms” with everything. Trying to figure out answers that aren’t there—there was nothing wrong with my son. He measured perfectly for 19 weeks; all tests done on him, the placenta and me have turned up normal. The Dr. thinks that we are an unfortunate “fluke”, a twist of fate, that 1 in a million shot. He said there was a small clot on the baby’s side of the placenta, and is surmising that there was a weakened blood vessel, that may have been leaking-which would have explained the elevated AFP-that must have just hemorrhaged. It is very frustrating that that is our only answer. I will always wonder if I did something wrong to cause my baby to die. That Tuesday night when I was at work, did I lift a patient that was too heavy? That kind of stuff will always be in the back of my mind, even though the Dr. has assured me that there is nothing that I did that could have hurt him.
Someone once told me that this grief was like a roller coaster. I had no idea how right they were. I’ve realized I will be riding it for the rest of my life…
You can contact Amber at email@example.com