Three days before Christmas a doctor I had just met removed my dead baby from my body.
The procedure was short and painless… too painless.
I had known I was “pregnant” for exactly one month when I was told the baby had no heartbeat and hadn’t grown in almost two weeks.
One month. Long enough to go from a state of panic, denial, and disbelief, to having re-organized my whole life and my whole heart around being a mother of three.
My baby would have been born in July, 18 months after her twin brother and sister. I had had the strong feeling that she was a girl.
What had seemed impossible, three children in one bedroom and an au pair in my tiny house, had become routine, along with plans to finish the basement, and gearing up for more sleepless nights.
I found out she had died on a Sunday night from an ER doctor. My husband was crying, but I felt numb. I could finally exhale, having an answer about why I was bleeding, but this left me completely empty.
Yes, she was still in there, but the future with her in it had died.
My mind became lost in my first pregnancy – imaging the pain of this happening then lessened the blow. Without a baby, and believing as I had that I couldn’t conceive, I could only imagine it would have been utter devastation.
But still, I felt lost, afloat, obsessed with determining what to focus my mind on without all that planning to do. What had I thought about before her?
The next day my little O wouldn’t take her late morning bottle. I couldn’t figure out why, but then I saw something shiny in her mouth. My instincts kicked in fast, I swooped my finger in hard and with precision, and removed the object, a jagged, hard piece of plastic. When I saw the blood on her little mouth I broke down.
The next few days I was full of terror. The house felt like mine field. I only felt calm behind the wheel in my parked car with the babes strapped into their car seats.
I had been told I would never have a baby. What if O and J had been a mistake? What if some kind of cosmic policing agency had found out that I’d gotten away with something? Would they too be taken from me? Paralyzed, all I could do was stare at them and cry at the slightest hint they were in danger. I hated being alone with them, felt like they were safer with anyone but me.
Saturday came and it was Christmas Eve. For 48 hours straight I ate until I was sick and in pain. Guests were a distraction, but underneath was a gnawing sense of dread.
I felt sad, for sure. Felt like every loss in my life was bearing down on me (as I sometimes did during the holidays anyway).
But I also felt relief, in so many strange forms. I kept having this flash like I had just barely avoided some kind of accident. I had the strong feeling that I’d almost lost everything, Seth, the babies, and felt every moment like a giant sigh of relief.
My therapist said I was relieved because I did avoid something potentially damaging to me and my family… the pregnancy. The truth was we were not prepared financially or psychologically for another baby. We were still reeling from the transition of having had twins after experiencing infertility and me being on bed rest three months.
But this was a burdensome kind of relief. If only I could un-know the baby, and go back to life before.
But I did know. I knew I hadn’t wanted her, and then I had wanted her, and I’d not wanted and wanted her all at the same time. Now that she was gone I felt I had just barely escaped with what was left of my life, and yet I felt that she had been ripped away so cruelly.
The family picture of four that once felt just right now felt empty. She will always be missing from that picture, no matter how much better off we might be without her.
So I guess most of all the loss I feel is for the innocence of not knowing… the July I would have had, full of chaos and joy, my babies at 18 months, my arms not feeling empty without her.
Now whatever joy I feel in the attention and time I have for my babies, whatever time I find for myself, whatever pleasure in mothering two, and only two, will be partially because she never got to be.
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