“Where does this begin? Does it begin adolescence when I was starving myself and my parents said, ‘if you do that, you will never have babies?’ Fast forward many years and I was pregnant. I was very happy because I believed I was cursed based on my adolescent experience, losing my period for many years and all the well-intentioned threats that my parents had told me about what I had done to my body. But I got pregnant and it was a dream come true. The baby was in the breech position. I was 37 weeks and I went in for an ultrasound to discuss inversion. They were checking me and I thought it was normal. And then, the ultrasound technician looked at me kind of funny and said, ‘I’ll be right back.’
She came back with my doctor and I was surprised to see her. She took the wand and put the stuff on my tummy. After a while she said, ‘there’s no heartbeat. It seems as though your baby has died.’
I didn’t understand. How did this happen? Everything was fine; there were no problems. They told me to go home and that a nurse would call me the next day to schedule a delivery. They didn’t give me any information or any counselling, they just sent me home with a pamphlet. There was no human contact - just me and my husband and the biggest tragedy and shock. We went home and I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was so awful. I was just sitting there with this dead baby inside of my stomach and I couldn’t do anything. I was just crying.
We went to the hospital and they gave me Pitocin to start the contractions. My mom and my husband were there. It took so long just sitting and waiting for the Pitocin, and walking a lot trying to hold it together. Eventually I started to have contractions. I pushed the baby out and there was silence. No crying, no sound. It was awful. They clean the baby up and you get to hold it. There’s nothing worse than seeing your husband holding your dead child. They took pictures. They did handprints and footprints and put together a box with other keepsakes. They gave us some pamphlets, referred us to places to get support and then they sent us home with a box of stuff and not much else.
My fourth trimester was awful and empty. I felt like a leper. I looked pregnant and people knew I had been pregnant, so going out was really hard because people would ask or notice. I felt shame and humiliation and the greatest sense of being a failure as a mother. What’s wrong with me? Why would this happen? How could I do this to my child? I failed him. Did he have pain? Did he suffer? All the questions I couldn’t answer.
And I thought a lot about how even as I held him, there was unconditional love. I felt like a failure but I still felt love. But being in public was so hard because from that great sense of beauty, power and pride I had in my pregnancy, I now felt so much shame. We wrote a letter to our friends to say that we didn’t want them to hide their children from us. That was hard. My oldest friend had just had her third, and we were going to have babies together. I was so excited because she was miles ahead of me but somehow, we were having babies together. I was there when she brought him home and we were so excited, but then this happened and it was hard. The only thing that made me feel better was meeting a high risk doctor that gave me hope that I would be able to have healthy babies again.”