I changed. In the moment I noticed that my baby’s heart was not beating on the ultrasound screen. When the words which now play over and over in my head in slow motion “I’m so sorry, that’s the heart and there is no heartbeat” reached my ears, I changed. A part of me died in that moment too.
I lay there in shock. I was confused. I didn’t know the script but I knew that I didn’t know my lines. What was going to happen next? What was I supposed to do? I had a dead baby inside of me. I asked my husband “what do we do?” And while trying to comfort himself and me he also tried to keep me calm. “We’ll ask the doctor when she comes in.”
We waited for what seemed an eternity. In hindsight we understand we were close enough to the office closing for lunch and the staff wanted to give us as much time as we needed and dignity to leave without having to pass a waiting room full of healthy happy pregnant women. When she came in and I asked what comes next she told me about the clinic they send women to who are in my situation. She gave me the name of the doctor and his number written on a prescription pad. She hugged me and asked to see me two weeks after the procedure.
I don’t know what I expected. We were just two hours from learning the news and I called the number. I sobbed to the woman who answered the phone. She suggested I call back later. That put me off a bit but really, I was incoherent. I pulled myself together and said “No, I need to get this scheduled now.” I explained that my baby had died and I needed a D&C. She scheduled me for the next morning.
My head was spinning. I did not know how to behave. I did not know how to feel. I knew I felt awful. I knew I felt robbed. I knew I was still in shock. I also knew that I wanted to bury my baby. I did not know how to do anything. I reached out to my Rabbi and he gave me the name of someone to contact. He was a close friend which made it a little easier. I could not speak on the phone, I truly was not ready to hear the voice of another, in truth I am still not ready, so I sent him a message on Facebook. It was already late at night.
The next morning we went. I began bleeding on the way. We got to the office and I was in a bit of shock.
Now, I beg you to please not politicize the sentiments I am about to share with you. This is not intended to be political nor to reflect my beliefs about any form of medical practice. Please.
We came in and there were two young women behind a glass partition. I told them who I was and they asked for $545. It would not be put on my insurance. I questioned them further. “It’s a termination so that is not covered by insurance.” I was confused, and angry, this was no termination, had they not heard me? “My baby died.” I repeated firmly. I could see that my husband was confused and did not know how to protect me or to help and let’s not forget, his baby died too. The woman in the back of the room stood up and came to the window. “If you want to use your insurance you have to go to the emergency room. I’m not sure if they will help you though.” I was confused, and hurting, and bleeding. Why would she send me away? Why would I go to the emergency room and sit there to be possibly sent home? Why were they being so crass? I knew I did not want to leave. I also did not want to stay. I also did not want my dead baby inside of me for one more minute. I wanted my alive baby back.
As we sat and waited to be called back all I could think about was that I had not arranged a burial and I did not know what to do about that. When they called me back and I asked to have my husband come with me I could tell that I had made an unusual request. This confused me further but by this point, after signing all the paperwork, it finally hit me. This was an abortion clinic. Yes, they also perform D&C for fetal demise as in my case but it is the rare case.
My husband came back and they began to prep me. The room was spartan. The equipment seemed old. I started to have nightmares about rusty needles. I could see that everything was wrapped and clean as it should have been but it truly felt awful.
They pulled out a small ultrasound machine. They were looking at the baby. They kept the screen away from me. I really wanted to see my Peanut one more time but I was too afraid to ask. This becomes a theme for me… When they asked Michael to leave me so they could start the procedure I asked “What will you do with the baby?” She responded quickly “It will all be incinerated.”
My mind went blank and then scared. Incinerated? I did not want my baby incinerated. I wanted my baby buried. Well, I did not want that either, I just wanted my baby to be alive and healthy. Once more I failed myself and Peanut. I said nothing in response.
As I was waking from the procedure I asked the nurse “Was the baby formed?” She said no but I still think she was lying. I asked a second nurse, I think it was a second nurse I was still very foggy “Was the baby formed?” She too said no.
I did not have any strength. They helped me to the recovery chairs. A room of five recliners. Five recliners? I could not imagine having to recover with five other women around me. Fortunately there were none. I asked for my husband and when he came all I could say was “no more Peanut.” Even then I could not ask him to help me find the baby and get him buried.
These past nights I panic thinking of my poor baby in an incinerator and knowing I put him there because I did not have the strength to ask for a burial. I had so few tasks here on earth for Peanut and I could not complete this one most basic and most important of tasks. I could not give him a respectful end. I sent him to the incinerator.
I have nightmares. They happen while I am awake or asleep. They happen when I am alone. I wish I had known what to do. How to handle myself. What to say to get the help and the dignified end to a too short life that I would have wanted. But who wants to be prepared for that? We make birth plans when we are pregnant not the opposite. I will be giving this to my obstetrician, a truly wonderful woman, in the hopes that something can be done to make the process one that provides dignity to the mom, respect to the dad and closure for the spirit of a baby we never got to meet. I want to say rest in peace to my little Peanut but I fear I did not provide him with such an end.
Author’s request – If you know clergy or are clergy, if you know medical practitioners or practice medicine please share this article so we can create a better experience for women to say goodbye to their unborn with the dignity and care they so need. I am happy to help in any way that may be useful.