This story is continued from a previous post
When I first became pregnant I was thrilled, and of course I told everyone our exciting news. I went for routine checkups; everything was progressing well. At 24 weeks gestation we went on vacation to visit my sister in Texas. She is a nurse and was able to listen to our baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope. Her prediction was that I was carrying a girl because the heartbeat was slow. We stayed in Texas for two weeks, and then drove through the Gulf States to Florida. I remember feeling nauseous and tired at Disney World, otherwise I had no reason to believe anything was wrong.
Upon arrival back home, I went to my scheduled 28 week check up. The doctor could not detect a heartbeat and sent me to the hospital for further testing. I remember being in “automatic pilot” after that news, most concerned about whether or not I could still go to work the next day. We were sent to a high risk unit at a local hospital where they were able to determine that the baby had died several weeks earlier from hydrops fetalis, which is a buildup of fluid around at least two of the internal organs, showing up on ultrasound as a halo-like white lining around the organs. This fluid had prevented the baby’s lungs from forming properly and put strain on the heart. When I thought back to the slow heartbeat and little movement, I realized these were signs that all was not well. Of course, I had nothing to compare the symptoms to as it was my first pregnancy.
Labor was induced and I delivered a stillborn son. A C-section was discouraged because of my hope for future pregnancies. I was given Demerol which sent me into wild hallucinations, but did not do anything for the pain. We can joke now about the spiders I was convinced were all over the ceiling in my room.
I remember debating on whether or not we wanted to hold the dead baby; somehow it seemed morbid at the time, but we could not resist, and later were so glad we did. He was tiny, less than 3 pounds, but a perfectly formed little boy on the outside. It was an incredibly sad moment, but did provide the closure we needed to move on.
Although I had many blood tests done, they could not find a reason for the hydrops fetalis. At that time (the law has changed since then) we did not have to make funeral arrangements, and the baby was sent to the pathology lab of the hospital. We were too numb with shock and too naïve to request anything else.
We returned home and I was required to stay off work for a week to physically heal. I believe it was more mentally stressful for me to sit around and do nothing; all I could think of is why I was home. Even watching TV was difficult as all the commercials seemed to be about babies or families.
I remember a neighbor telling me jokingly that we were the only house on our street without children as she introduced herself and her young daughter to me. We had all just moved into our new houses in a brand new development and so were just getting to know each other as neighbors. Of course she did not realize that I had been pregnant as it was winter when I finally began to show in this first pregnancy, so my long wool coat had concealed my growing belly. I did not have the heart to tell her the truth. I have since gotten to know her very well; she would be horrified to know how I felt at the time. A few years later her daughter was my eldest son’s first crush…