Our ultrasound appointment was for 10:15. I had kept myself busy all morning to distract myself from the worry and dread that seemed to occupy my every thought.
When we got to the office, I confessed to the ultrasound tech – a longtime family friend – that I had been paranoid from the beginning. She told me that was normal. She told me often as mothers we feel like there’s an increased likelihood of something going wrong the more children we have but, in reality, we start each pregnancy on a level playing field. She also told me that older mothers worry more because we have more life experience with things going wrong.
When I reminded her we weren’t finding out the sex of the baby, she asked what was the purpose of the ultrasound. I told her Nicholas knew I’d be paranoid by now and we just wanted to take a peak to assuage my fears.
My heart began racing the second she put sensor to my skin. I looked away under the pretense of not wanting to unexpectedly see the sex of the baby, but the truth was I was on the edge of a panic attack. I took a deep breath and finally looked over because she was remaining so quiet.
The baby was curled up. Still. A perfect little silhouette.
“Something’s wrong isn’t it?” I asked.
She looked at me and said, “Sarah, I’m so sorry but I don't see a heartbeat.” The baby measured 16 weeks, which meant it had been dead for three weeks.
“I knew it.” That’s all I could keep saying over and over again.
The doctor was very kind and informed me I could take my time but I would most likely be induced and deliver the baby. Immediately, I felt every cell in my body scream, "I don't want to do that!" Birth is so incredibly special to me. The thought of experiencing all of the medical interventions I have moved heaven and earth to avoid on top of an already traumatic experience was more than I could bear.
I called a close friend of mine for a second opinion and to rage against what seemed like the most unfair scenario possible. He told me that I had a surgical option as well. He told me I could have a D&E but that he didn't perform them. He mentioned another doctor in town who did and I called the office.
The doctor got me in that afternoon. She was kind and compassionate but very straightforward. She answered all my questions and was patient while I thought up more. Her ultrasound tech - a friend from high school - confirmed that the baby was 16 weeks. My surgery was scheduled for Tuesday.
I had four days to be with my baby. If the doctor had offered surgery that afternoon, I would have done it. However, as the days passed, I became strangely protective of our time together.
For the entire pregnancy, I had feared the future. I couldn't be in the present moment because the present moment terrified me. I would look down at my every-growing middle and my head would immediately fill with every dark scenario possible. The only way I could cope was to distract myself and try not to think about being pregnant.
Now that my worse fears had come true there was nothing left but the present moment.
The baby and me and our last few days together were all that was left.
On Monday, we arrived for my pre-op appointment. I signed scary release papers, had my blood drawn, and had to face one of my biggest fears - general anesthesia.
I told the doctor my goal was to never be under general anesthesia.
"Well, we're going to need a new goal."
That evening I took Cytotec and spent most of the evening and the next morning in pain. By the time we got to the hospital, I was having contractions. Once I was in a room, the nurse gave me medication to relieve the pain.
A few drowsy hours later and I was wheeled back to surgery. I vaguely remember a nurse giving me what she described as "I don't care medicine." Then, I was awakened by another nurse telling me I had done great and was already in recovery.
It was completely surreal.
Moments later, the doctor was at my bedside holding my hand. She told me they were able to remove the baby intact and that the cord had been wrapped around the neck twice very tightly.
It was an answer. I had hoped for an answer. Yet, as I laid there, all I had was questions.