Day One: Bereaved Parents

It is strange to think back to Friday, June 8th. For one thing, I can’t believe it’s already been twelve days since then. For another, I can’t believe it’s only been twelve days since then. But above all, it was an inherently strange day.

We left the hospital with our painful news and a prescription in hand. Sean had parked far enough from the hospital that we didn’t have to pay; it was good to walk, and we were grateful that it was such a beautiful day. Still alternating between calm and tears, we also agreed we were glad we had already named Sebastian – just in time.

We went straight to the mall to get the prescription filled. It’s hard to feel connected to tragedy at the mall, what with all the superficiality and consumerism, so while we waited for the prescription, we wandered around feeling disjointed. We had smoothies, which felt like a far too normal thing to do – but I was in a weird state of being hungry without being able to imagine actually eating. We saw quite a few babies, and I still found myself wanting to ogle them, as I always do.

After we picked up my pills, we wondered aloud to each other: does this pharmacist know automatically what has happened, because she knows what pills she’s given us? Like the ultrasound technician being the first person ever to know of the death of our baby, does this other stranger now know before we have a chance to tell our own families?

We both had wanted, from the first moment we found out, to go hug our vivacious living son, even as we wondered desolately how we would talk to him about this. But since he was at the babysitter’s, we took advantage of the time to go home and call our parents (all three sets) and my sisters.

We had begun to realize right away, from the moment we got the news ourselves, that there is a fundamental truth about our situation: it’s awkward. It sounds callous to say it like that, but on that first day, while we were still half in shock, some of the more mundane things were strikingly clear. When you lose a baby five-and-a-half weeks from your due date, awkward and upsetting situations are just lying in wait all over the place. For the mother, the evidence of her loss is on her person, under her shirt. At least if you lose someone else, you can choose not to tell people if you’re not ready… but in my case, once the baby was born, I would need to tell everyone. Otherwise I would just be asking for bad things, for people to see I’m not pregnant anymore and congratulate me on the baby.

Furthermore, we could see it was going to suck, spreading this news. There is nothing cool about making a phone call you know is going to ruin someone’s day/week/summer.

My husband is an absolute brick. He did basically all the talking to all the parents, even mine – despite fighting tears in each conversation. Especially at the part where he had to say, “The baby is no longer alive.” (Somehow, it doesn’t sound quite as harsh as “The baby is dead.”) I was mostly unable to speak – and he held on tight to me and didn’t ask me to say anything.

Sure enough, it sucked. One by one, we made people we love sorrow and cry.

We couldn’t handle much more news-spreading that day.

Now, there was the nitty-gritty. This baby couldn’t stay in there forever. The midwives had said, “You’ll know in your heart when you’re ready to take the prescription. There’s no rush.” The pharmacist had said, “Take one dose at bedtime and the next one in the morning, twelve hours later.”

I was torn, in a way. I didn’t want to let go of my little boy… but knowing you have a deceased child inside you is awful. Partly because, it seems to me, society would see it that way. Since there is an element of horror to the whole idea of dead people, the idea of giving birth to a dead baby, at first glance, seems macabre, maybe even gruesome. I had felt a moment of that, realizing that this was exactly what I would be doing… but it was fleeting. This is my child. I am his mother. Love cancels out the rest.

The idea was to take the pills that evening, and spend the next day at the hospital. Might be a long labour, but at least I would be comfortable… and it couldn’t take as long as E had, right? We did call Auntie Beth again, and she and D came over – just in case we had to leave in the middle of the night. I had a feeling I wouldn’t take as long as predicted – that we might be leaving before morning – but even I was shocked at how fast this stuff worked.

The first dose was administered at 10 pm. We never got to the second one. By midnight, I was sure I was having contractions. Remembering a tip from prenatal class before E was born, I decided to try to calm my body down a bit so I could sleep. I found Auntie Beth in the living room, and we shared a beer. It was nice, but didn’t do the trick. I took the recommended acetaminophen too, and headed to bed, but that didn’t work either. In fact, I suddenly had the most bizarre sensation of itchy palms and violent shivering – made me think of Animagi, about to transform. (I didn’t.)

I’m not going to go into detail (maybe that’s for another blog), but I can say that this was easily the most intense night of my entire life – and probably Sean’s too. It involved getting our midwife out of bed at 1:30 or so, going to the hospital for a shot of painkillers, going home to “sleep” and instead finding myself engulfed in a pain that was far beyond what I’d experienced during my first birth – and turning right back around to head to the hospital again. My poor little boy was very nearly born in the car, on the street outside the hospital. If he’d been alive, he would have been. As it was, because we didn’t have to worry about him surviving this breech birth, we made it into the hospital, into a birthing room. Sebastian was born at 2:45 a.m., delivered by our midwife (it was so fast the doctor couldn’t get there in time).

There is something to be said for the combination of Demerol and a sudden release from acute pain. The result is a blissful calm approaching euphoria. Neither Sean nor I was euphoric, of course: being brokenhearted doesn’t allow for this. But relief and love were the more powerful feelings at that moment. I was able to look at Sebastian, gather him in my arms when the midwife handed him to me, and feel peace. He was beautiful, precious, and amazing. Just as he would have been if his heart had been beating.

***

This is all I can manage right now. But please don’t worry. I know some of you are concerned about this being painful for me to write about, but trust me: it would be far more painful not to. If I cry as I write, it’s what needs to happen.

Once again, thank you so much for reading, and for your loving comments. I’m really glad you’re here.

***


 

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15 thoughts on “Day One: Bereaved Parents

  1. Carol Leigh Wehking says:

    oh, Diana, my sunshine.

    i cry while reading it, and feel sure that’s true of everyone else who reads. your gift of being able so fluently to write is crucial to your healing, i know. thank you for sharing it with us, your bereaved extended family. sending love to you and Sean and Everett.

  2. Arwen says:

    (And I don’t think ‘awkward’ sounds callous but instead sounds really true; a dimension to the loss of a near-term baby that is different than so many other sorts of loss.)

  3. Naomi says:

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I will be thinking of you all in the coming weeks. I’m sure Sebastian was beautiful and will live in your hearts forever.

  4. Lili says:

    Dearest Diana and Sean I sit hear through tears reading about what you had to go through. I am so sad for you and cannot imagine what you have gone through. I wish you peace and healing. Sebastien was so blessed to be loved by two beautiful parents like you. In firendship, Lili

  5. Andrea says:

    Diana, I wish there was something comforting I could say, but I just can’t imagine what it would be. I can’t begin to imagine your experience, but I wanted to let you know that reading your posts has been such a bittersweet experience. Your pain is so clear but the way that you are walking through this is so amazing to me. Your insightfulness, bravery and open heart are truly an inspiration. Thank you for giving at a time that is so challenging.

  6. emerge says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us. There are tears being shed for Sebastian and for you, far and wide. A small tribute, but a heartfelt one.

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