I knew I was pregnant…
My husband and I had just started trying for our second child, and having been pregnant before I was picking up on subtle (and not so subtle) changes - what I thought was morning sickness, a certain aching in my back, and the exhaustion that a full night's rest could not cure. Before even mentioning it to my husband he asked if he should pick up a pregnancy test because he was picking up on my symptoms too. Excitedly we waited for a positive result.
And it was negative. I was surprised. I felt that I knew my body enough, and surely I was pregnant. Another week went by and I took another test, also negative. Nearly a month went by and several tests later - all negative. I had felt like my instincts were off. That weekend we were moving into a new home I started getting back pain. I was sweating, pale, and felt my abdomen swelling. I shrugged it off as kidney stones, but the next day the the pain got worse. I felt a stabbing pain in my shoulder blade of all places that nearly took my breath away and I just knew something was wrong. Instead of calling my General Practitioner I called my OB. After describing my symptoms the on call doctor said I should take another pregnancy test, and either way I should probably visit the ER to get checked out.
My husband picked up one more test from the store, and sure enough it came out positive. I couldn't say why but in that moment my heart sunk. My in-laws had come to take care of our first born, and when I shared our news my husband looked worried, my mother-in-law said nothing and my father-in-law was confused about why I was sobbing. Even I was confused about why I was sobbing. It was as if I subconsciously knew what the ER doctor would later confirm.
It was a blur from there. An ultrasound technician scanned my abdomen and said nothing. The ER doctor spoke to me quickly and coldly. "There is a structure, it's ectopic, it's ruptured and you are bleeding internally. We're going to send the surgeon in." My head was spinning as I tried to grasp that I had lost a baby. Every fiber of my being had known I was pregnant but I felt like I somehow failed by not listening to that small voice inside my head.
That small voice was now screaming: It is not a structure! It is a baby!
Through tears I was pumping what would be my last breastfeeding for my daughter at home. My husband looked like he was dying a thousand deaths. Within 2 hours of being in the emergency room I was being prepped and rushed off into surgery.
There was no discussion about my need for surgery or chemotherapeutic drugs, it just was. Though this was something routine for the doctors on staff it was anything but for me and those around me. Where was the guidance and compassion from the people I must trust with my life? We had lost a baby and I felt no one would make eye contact with me and that my tears were being ignored.
What about the support for my loved ones? Too often we forget how the loss of a child can affect our spouses. Suddenly my husband and I had shared grief, but the burden of weaning our daughter cold turkey on his own had fallen on him. Where were the resources for him? Where was the empathy?
Following surgery the surgeon said I was close to 12 weeks pregnant and how lucky I was that there was barely damage to my ovary where "it" had implanted. I received the usual rundown of "here are your meds, be sure to take it easy, and come back to have the stitches removed." Was anyone going to acknowledge that we lost a baby?
Too often in hospitals, people, real people, become like numbers and their tears of pain and anguish fall without acknowledgement. Is it that difficult to acknowledge the pain of grief and loss? There must be a bridge between treating a patient like a human and executing complete, competent and compassionate care. Who is going to answer the call, to become that bridge of compassion?
I can understand that healthcare professionals see death everyday, and I wonder, are they truly desensitized and removed from this sea of grief that all human beings enter when experiencing the loss of someone they love? What if they had learned to see my tears as the same tears they would have witnessed in a different kind of birth? Would that make it easier?
For every parent out there who has lost the gift of life before even knowing it was there: This grief is heavy, and you are not alone. End of Life Doulas help us transition and transform our losses into loving legacies by honoring our grief.
Imagine when, no one dies alone and no one grieves alone.
With Love from an Anonymous Doula
Conscious Dying Institute ©2019