Thursday, 16 August 2012

Thank God he was OK

The sixth month mark is creeping up on me.  Soon, before I know it… I’ll be talking about my son dying YEARS ago…
This 27th will be the first 27th that passes on a Monday.  February 27th was a Monday.  The anticipatory sadness leading up to this 27th is particularly heavy.  Maybe I have PMS, and all things are out of focus due to this hell on wheels time of the month.  Maybe it's because we left the last 27 in our story with a budding pregnancy, and lots of hope.  And this 27 will have nothing but time attached to it.  Another month since he died.  What a crule marker in timekeeping.
Let me tell you a story…

It was late November of last year.  I was in Montreal for a 2 day business meeting.  I was 26 and a half weeks pregnant with Alexander (or, “the baby”, or “him/he”.  He was nameless the entire pregnancy).  The night of our arrival, it is custom for upper management to treat us all to a night out.  My colleagues and I settled on a restaurant, and hit the town.  I knew I wasn’t going to stay out late…I needed my rest and it was a long day of meetings ahead of me, and well, I was pregnant!  Let’s not push it!  The restaurant was somewhere on Maisonneuve Boulevard (I can’t believe I don’t remember the name!).  We walked from our hotel.  It was drizzling and threatening to pour… but it was only 10 or so minutes. 
We ate.  We chit chatted.  I was ready for bed.  It was pushing 9:30pm. 
My party of 10-12 gathered at the entrance of the restaurant, and we were all a buzz about how much we were NOT looking forward to the next 2 days.  We were going to be travelling the city, visiting a few different offices, be introduced to a few new bosses, and then would be confined to a board room… talking about numbers, budgets, new products… all with enough excitement to last a life time.  (I was secretly THRILLED to be attending my LAST managers meeting for what I considered to be, maybe, forever.  I've been doing this several times a year, for 5 years.  I was done.)
ANYWAY!  We made our way out of the restaurant and on to the front steps.  The rain was picking up a bit now, and we were splitting up into umbrella groups.  Somehow, I was the last person down the stone steps.  The staircase was about 9 feet wide, with hand rails down both sides.  I walked down the stairs, in the middle, not thinking I’d need the hand rail.  I’ve walked down millions of stairs in my life time, and have never had a spill.  Even while pregnant, I’d race down stairs at work…running for the phone.  Dangerous and needless – I know now… but I still did it, successfully. 
But not this time.  The stone was so wet, and slippery that my usually traction equipped boots slipped right from under me…my foot went straight up, and I fell straight back.  Hard.  Down 6 steps.  Like fingers gliding across a set of piano keys, down my body went.  I let out a loud, “oh no!” and everyone turned around… It went by so quickly.  I reached out, but nothing was there.  It was too late.  I was at the bottom of the staircase.   Pinned.  People were grabbing to pull me up.  I started crying.  I was hurt, but not enough to make me cry.  I was afraid.  I was afraid I hurt him.  I was afraid this was it.  That I ended it.  So I cried.
Two girls pulled me up, and told me it was going to be OK.  I held my belly and cried.  I couldn’t believe I could be so careless.  Why didn’t I hold the rail!?! The hostess at the restaurant came running out, as she must have seen me fall.  She told me she had 911 on the line.  They were going to get me to a hospital.
My backside was throbbing.  I felt a pull in my groin/lower abdomen area.  I was terrified.
I was crying.  I was so embarrassed.  I felt so horribly irresponsible.  How could I have let this happen?  Why am I in a different city, a different province, without my husband, letting myself fall down stairs?  I paced back and forth gently.  I was nervous.  Anxious.  I felt the pain in my back, and was trying to calculate if that severe pain could somehow penetrate my uterus. Did he somehow feel the pain too?  I asked for everyone but the two girls that came straight to my aid to leave.  I felt like a spectacle.    I didn’t want everyone to keep watching… to keep guessing… “Was the pregnant lady going to be ok?  Was her baby going to be ok?” 
The ambulance arrived, and they ushered me into the back.  The EMT’s were both men, and both VERY FRENCH.  I did my best to explain what happened as they did their best to assess my case with their limited English.  The point, THE BIG POINT that I didn’t fall at all on my stomach was received.  They held a stethoscope to my belly…
”I ‘ear a ‘artbeat” 
“Ok, I feel him moving.” 
“dat’s GOOD.  Dat is a good sign”
They suggested I get assessed.  Just to see… just to make sure.  They thought I was ok, and that because I felt the baby move, and had no pain in my uterus… the outcome would probably be a successful monitoring session.  They told me to try not to worry.
It was after 10:30pm.  I was tired…I just wanted to go home.  I wanted to see my doctor, and make sure everything was just as perfect as it was before I had the spill.  They took me to a hospital that would manage my 26 week pregnant state.  If the baby needed to be delivered, this hospital would be able to do it.  I was taken straight to the maternity unit.  I was on a stretcher, with my body STRAPPED down.  One of the straps was loosely over my belly.  He was moving a lot at this point, almost to let me know how incredibly pissed off I’d made him.  Giving kicks and jabs in every direction.  I felt so relieved.  He was active… as he was always active… I felt so reassured, but in a way as if he were giving me the third degree and telling me not to worry all at the same time.  He was such a sweet baby, and always the best company.
After some paper work, and room preparation…  I was hooked up to a fetal heart monitor and was told I’d be left for 4 hours.  FOUR HOURS!! I was starting to feel like everything would be ok, and that MAYBE 4 hours wasn’t necessary.  I was selfishly thinking about the next day of meetings, and my sleep… and 4 hours put me at close to 3AM before I’d get back to my hotel. 
One of the girls rode with me to the hospital.  She carried my purse, and got me seamlessly through triage with the EMT’s.  I told her to go get some rest.  It was nearing 1AM, and she was fighting sleep in the chair next to me.  She didn’t want to leave until I saw a doctor.  I laid on the bed, listening to his heart beat.  He was always a night owl, at his squirmiest in the late PM to early AM.  He kept kicking the disc on my belly.  The entire room filled with a muffling static.  The same sound as someone blowing into a microphone.  Then his heartbeat would fill the room again.   “PPPFFFFFFFFHHHHHHFFFFPPPPFFFHHHHF……whoooca, whoooca, whoooca, whoooca, whoooca….PPPFFFFFFHHHPPPPPHHHHHFFFFFF”.  Just adorable.
The doctor paid me a visit.  He was from Toronto…English speaking!  (Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the French, and I love Quebec… I was just needing to converse with a medical professional that was as English speaking as I was).   He told me that it’s standard to monitor for 2-4 hours after a fall.  If there was any impact on my front, then they would keep me for 24 hours.  And without hesitation, they would do a c-section if need be.  Thankfully, I didn’t qualify for anything more than a few hours of listening in, and I was beyond relieved.  I was still nervous… they couldn’t exactly examine him through and through to make sure he hadn’t experienced any trauma whatsoever… but I’d have to trust that he was okay.
I sent my friend home.  Knowing that things were OK, I didn’t want her hanging around just for the sake of being with me.  I was OK.  I was going to try to close my eyes.  She left.  Nurses came in… they needed to move me.  I was in a private room… and I was no longer an “emergency”, so they would move me over to the L&D assessment room.  I was not alone any longer.  I had to listen to his heartbeat over the beats of other babies with their mums’ strapped to monitors.  After I settled in… I pulled the monitor close to my bedside, and turned up the volume.  It drowned everything else out.  I closed my eyes again.  Put my hands on my belly.  I felt his kicks coincide with the muffled feedback as he nudged the disc on my belly again and again.  Ahhh, just the two of us.  Me and my boy.  What a treat.
It was almost 3 AM.  The nurses checked on me one last time, and told me I’d be able to leave in less than 20 minutes.  Everything he was producing was absolutely perfect.  He was healthy, and strong. 
I got a cab and made my way back to my hotel.  I texted my boss.  Told her I would be missing the first half of the day’s events.  I needed to sleep.  I needed to rest.  I got to my room, and looked at my back.  It was sore.  There was a bruise the size of Texas on my upper right ass cheek.  I tried to take pictures of it in the bathroom mirror… I wanted to have this story to share one day with picture evidence.  I wanted to show my son how I fell like an idiot while in Montreal on business with him in my belly at almost 7 months pregnant… and he made it out perfectly fine.  Amazing, at that. 
I went to sleep feeling him lightly swish about.  The heels of his feet and the caps of his knees stroking the anterior wall of my uterus.  I let out a sigh of relief that I’d finally be able to rest my body, and that he was doing just fine.  I had a twinge of guilt because I was on business, all expenses paid, with the purpose to educate myself and gather information to report back to my team, and get them prepared to function while I was on my maternity leave.  And I’d have to sit out for a quarter of it… because of my carelessness… but also, because I was pregnant.  If I wasn’t pregnant… I’d drag myself to the meeting at 8AM.  I’d manage through the pain no problem – I have been more hurt, and forced myself through tougher circumstances.  But it was 3:30AM.  I was 6 and half months pregnant.  It was time to stop thinking about what I could maybe put myself through if I hadn’t been pregnant, and quit trying to keep myself on an equal playing field in the world of business as a pregnant woman… and just focus on the baby in my belly and sleep.
When I was pregnant, I thought of that fall as one of the worst things that could have happened.  I walked away thinking, “Thank God he was ok.”  Because I don’t know what I would have done.  I would have never been able to carry on if I ever let anything happen to my little man.  I was so so careful of my every step throughout the following winter.  I would always revert back to this experience and say, “I can’t believe I fell!”  But all was well.  I finished my pregnancy without an additional scratch. 
But he died anyway.  At the very end.  He just slipped away. 
My entire pregnancy is summed up with “he died.”  That was it.  That’s the whole story.  Everything else just gets dismissed.  It was all a useless, pointless, dead pregnancy.  That is what I’m afraid people will think.  (That is what I have thought, once, too.)  The pregnancy was veiled, and eventually showed its dead baby ending face after all.…
So where does my stupid success story of my fall while pregnant fit in?
It’s strange, but I still think…”but thank god he was ok”
That fall is one of the best parts of my entire pregnancy.  Because he made it out of the hospital alive at the end. 


  1. And how wonderful to have had those hours of listening to him on the monitor...maybe only a fellow dead baby mother can understand what a gift that seems like in retrospect. It is terrible to have our pregnancies end in 'the baby died,' not only because of the obvious and most terrible fact of the death itself, but also because the fact that the babies die seems to cancel out the pregnancy for everyone else. You can't just throw off a 'when I was pregnant with A' story and have it be just like anyone else's pregnancy story because everyone else is completely hung up on the ending. We lived with our babies for months, and it is so very hard to accept that even that little bit of their lives that we shared is not easily accepted by others.

    What a horrifying scare you had. I'm glad he was ok then. I completely understand why you are still thinking 'thank god he was ok.' I am too.

    1. There are awkward gal pal pregnancy conversations that go a little like this:

      "is it ok to work out while you're pregnant?" says the never pregnant friend

      "oh yeah, just dont engage your core too much, and you're fine" says the mother of 2 friend

      "yeah, I worked out while I was pregnant... and really as long as you listen to your body, you can do as much or as little as you feel." says me, pregnant to full term friend who had a dead baby.

      -insert darting eyes, and uncomfortable silence-

      I have a photographic memory of that hospital, and that night. I hope it never goes away. I am so thankful I got to have that. I know not everyone gets significant memories from their pregnancies that end in stillbirth. So, on that front, I'm very fortunate.

  2. Oh hun. First, I am just so damn sorry for your loss. So sorry for your son, for you, for your family and everything that should have been.

    I worry too that because my son died it cancelled out the time I had with him. I know it doesn't to me, but it's a constant effort to make sure that it doesn't to others. What's hard is that I thankfully now having a living son and I am trying to find the balance between talking about him and talking about my dead son. But when it comes to pregnancy, and even delivery - I feel guilty if I don't talk about him. Because I didn't just have one experience - I just happened to only have one GOOD experience . . .at least in the end.

    Looking back, I'm sure you are so grateful for that time with him. I just wish it was more.

    1. Oh thank you Caroline.
      I've read about your Finn and Cale... both such sweet boys.
      I'm so grateful to have had that time. Now, as melodramatic as it sounds, that's all I have. I HAVE to eat it all up, and hold it all close. Just so so bittersweet though.
      And as I've watched many a subsequent pregnancy unfold with other BLMs... I see it doesn't all come to an end when a live baby crosses your path.
      Thank you for being such a wonderful example ... and for popping over.

  3. Oh god I get this, I really do. I feel the same about my pregnancy, that it was all for nought, because she died. All the pictures, all the appointments, all the preparation - everything. What was the bloody point? Just set me up to look like a damn fool, because she died, and that in the end seems to be the only thing that matters. I too would feel like an idiot giving advice to pregnant people, because who on earth would want to listen to my advice when in the end, I couldn't even get the most crucial part of it right.
    Oh I miss her, and I'm sorry you're living this shitty existence, too.

    1. I loved my pregnancy so, but oh god what a disaster at the end. I cant even think of it sometimes... and its sad, because it's all I have of him

      Love to you Sally
      Thinking of you in these tender days ahead

  4. I read this post first thing this morning and it has been swirling around my mind all day. I'm just so sorry. I wish that this was, in fact, story of the time that mummy fell down the steps on a business trip and how she was worried but you were perfectly fine.

    And that is that horrible feeling of being fooled, cheated, led up the garden path? I still feel it now, that I was visibly pregnant, that I told people I was expecting twins. It just makes me feel a terrible idiot.

    I can only imagine how bittersweet and how closely and tenderly you must keep this memory. Of you and your night owl boy, listening to his heart beat. Healthy, strong and lightly swishing about.

    Oh it's just so desperately unfair. As I've often said to Sally, I can understand why Georgina died. She simply couldn't live. She tried very hard but she was too small and too sick. But . . . oh to come so close. To feel them brush your fingertips. Incomprehensible really. Sigh.

    Your dear Alexander. I hope you know how loved you are, how loved you were, in that hospital room as your mama listened to your heart beating. I have to believe that you knew. And that makes it something other than useless or pointless. The exact opposite maybe. Just with a desperately sad ending.

    1. Catherine. That last sentiment. Be still, my beating heart. Oh how perfectly you've captured my one and only.

      That boy is quite simply the most beautiful thing I've ever done.

      There are times I can't even long for him, he is just too beautiful a thing to think I could ever possess. And things rest peacefully as they are. I was fortunate enough to have EVER known him.

  5. Veronica....I am here. Finally... This fall, that dang fall. So glad he was okay. Did something in that fall make him die in the end? This is what would haunt me. Why oh why oh why? How could a person so loved, whose heart beat so strong and sure, who filled their mama with joy, and anticipation just stop living? how does this exist? I wish the worst thing that happened during your pregnancy was your fall.

    1. Renel, oh Renel. During your very trying home stretch, it means so much to me that you've popped over.

      I too wish that fall was all the drama to speak of regarding my pregnancy. I retell the story, and I still say, "but he was fine. He was perfectly fine. They're so well protected in there." and depending on who I'm talking to, I leave the 'he died at the end' in or out.

      Sometimes I wish the fall had been worse (it's awful to say, I know) so maybe I would have been monitored more closely at the end...and they would have done a few more ultrasounds nearing and after my due date, and maybe, just maybe, they would taken him out before my body became a death chamber.

      God, so morbidly put. His Death Chamber. But there's really no other way to put it.