I really wanted to write about this song because it means so much to me. It’s a sweet song about pregnancy but the last few words hit home. I’m dedicating this song and this post to all of my friends that have lost a baby and to all of those I’ve never met. Below is part one of my story. If you are friends with me, you’ve heard this story before and I thank you for listening when I talk about Gabriel. It’s means so much to me to know that he is not forgotten.
This is Small Bump by Ed Sheeran:
Cold winds blew in Minneapolis on the first day of December in 2000. My fiancé Jeffrey and I were warm with excitement though, as we hurried to the exam room. The typical hospital smells of alcohol mixed with medicine and a touch of sickness didn’t bother me today.
“My mom wants us to come over after and show her the ultrasound pics.” I told Jeffrey. “She can’t wait to start buying tiny pink or blue footy pajamas.” I said, looking forward to that myself. I grabbed his hand and looked up at him. I was still amazed that this was happening to us.
In the exam room, I laid back on the hospital bed and pulled my light blue and white striped maternity shirt up to expose the khaki pouch on the belly of my new maternity pants. Under that was my very small baby bump. I was just starting to wear maternity clothes- mostly in excited anticipation of watching my belly get big and fat. I couldn’t wait for the day when I’d be waddling around like a penguin.
The technician turned the lights down and stood to my right with all of the ultrasound equipment. Jeffrey sat to my left and he watched the screen with eager anticipation. She squeezed some cold blue goo on my belly and placed the ultrasound wand on my stomach “Let’s get started.” she said happily.
She began to move the wand around while looking up at the screen. I didn’t really know what I was looking at exactly. I was waiting to hear something like “So here is the head, and this is the baby’s heart.” But she didn’t say any of those things. She was completely silent. A few long minutes crept by. I looked at Jeff nervously and he grabbed my hand. Finally, she stopped and said “I’m going to go get the doctor.” I raised my brows in question at her but she quickly left the room.
“Oh my God, Jeffrey. Something is wrong.” I said desperately.
He looked nervous but tried to reassure me “It’s okay, let’s just wait and see.” He held my hand tighter.
The technician came back with the doctor. They got right down to business continuing with the ultrasound, both of them looking at the screen and conversing with each other, but in whispers, too quiet for us to hear. It seemed to take forever for them to be finished. I tried not to imagine all the little things that can go wrong, all the things that might cause problems in a growing baby. Finally, they stopped and the doctor turned on the lights and it was a shock to my senses and made my eyes water.
“There are some problems” he said. I braced myself for the bad news. He continued “The baby has Anencephaly. It’s a neural tube disorder and is incompatible with life.”
My stomach dropped. I felt all the blood leave my face. I’m not sure what I thought he might say but it wasn’t that. This was more than just bad news. This was the worst possible scenario. The one I hadn’t even considered. I’m not sure I had ever heard the term “incompatible with life” before that. I knew what it meant, though. I thought to myself my baby is going to die.
On the outside I was amazingly calm and I asked a lot of questions as I turned into “information seeker.” The doctor explained everything to us. “He literally has a hole in the top of his head.” The doctor was saying, as he gestured to the top of his own head in demonstration.
I interrupted him then. “It’s a boy?” I asked shakily.
“Yes.” the doctor confirmed nodding his head.
My baby boy is going to die. I thought.
I surprised myself by asking in a strong voice “So, now what?”
He seemed surprised yet pleased at my direct approach. He took a deep breath as if to steady himself and began, “You have three options. You can attempt to carry to term. If the baby makes it that far, you’ll likely have to induce because Anencephalic babies don’t trigger labor on their own. Your second option is to have a D&C, where the baby might not come out whole.” He paused then to let that sink in. And it did.
“The third option” he continued “is to induce early.”
I imagined myself then, late in my pregnancy, waddling around with a fat belly and middle aged ladies coming up to me exclaiming “Oh! Look at you! When are you due? Is this your first baby?” They would be all excited and totally oblivious.
And I’d lie, and say with a fake smile, “He’s coming mid-April!”
Then I imaged myself getting tired of the lie and from my mouth a comment would come tumbling out like “Thanks, but actually the baby isn’t going to make it.” And then it would be all awkward and sad and I’d have to console them, saying “Oh, its okay, there was no way you could have known.” And I’d reassure them it would all be okay, somehow.
They would pat my shoulder solemnly and say stuff like “God has a plan, you know.”
I knew right then that I couldn’t go through that. I had already decided what I wanted to do, but I agreed to think about it over the weekend and to discuss it with Jeffrey. We left the hospital in stunned silence carrying ultrasound pictures of our baby boy with a crooked head, and a book called A Time to Decide, A Time to Heal. We drove the short distance to my mom’s house to tell the first of many, our very sad news.
Later, I cried.
I will post more about my story on a future blog post.
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See you back here on Wednesday when I will tell you about a funny podcast about depression.
All the best,
Question of the day: Have you suffered the loss of a child? Do you want to share your story on a memorial page? I’m creating one and am looking for stories to share.