Last week at this time I was peacefully sleeping, preparing to spend a Sunday with my husband and 2.5 year old son cleaning the house. It was a boring, mundane day in the life of our small family. Put away the toys, vacuum the dog hair, wash the floors, do the laundry. I was 21 weeks 5 days pregnant with our second child, a girl. It had not been an easy pregnancy, I had hyperemesis with my first, and while there was less actual throwing up this time, the nausea was pretty debilitating and my apetite had been poor since the start of the pregnancy. Anyway, back to last Sunday, which right now seems a million years ago. I can't even remember the final details of the day, but I know we ate corn on the cob, green beans and tomatoes for dinner. It was a lovely summer supper. Then we went to bed early.
The next day we had a follow-up ultrasound scheduled at 2pm. I worked in the morning and we drove to Boston together. We were nervous. At our last scan our baby, a girl, was measuring about 2 weeks behind normal growth for her gestational age. At the scan before that they had found a hyperechoic bowel. We had been referred by our obstetrician to the maternal fetal medicine practice at Brigham and Women's Hospital for a consult. We got in to see them as soon as possible and ended up doing an amnio at 19 weeks in order to test for CMV and for any chromosomal issues that might be causing the signs we were seeing. So we were nervous going the appointment, hoping our little girl had grown and that things were looking up. The ultrasound practice was very busy, and we had to wait over a half hour. We were then brought into an exam room and the technician started the scan. The room was completely quiet. My husband was holding my hand. We were very scared to hear anything. After only a moment, the doctor came in and within a minute of looking at the screen she said, "I'm sorry I don't have very good news for you, your baby has no heartbeat."
We fell apart. We were so afraid she wasn't growing right but we had just not considered that she wouldn't even be alive anymore. They let us have the room for a few moments to console each other and to prepare to make our way across the hall to our obstetrician's office. Once we got there, we were whisked into one of the doctor's offices and waited to hear about what would happen next. Our doctor was on vacation, so we met with one of her partners. She led us through our options. It was very important to us to deliver the baby so that she would be as intact as possible, and so that I wouldn't have to undergo any unnecessary surgery. We also wanted another ultrasound to confirm that her heart had stopped beating. I had still felt movement over the weekend and even that day, but the doctor explained that that is very common. I felt so foolish, having considered the movement such a positive thing. It gave me hope over the past weeks, even through the worry. How much I miss it now that my belly is empty.
We opted to go to the hospital to prepare for an induction the following day. We'd be able to go home and sleep for the night in our own bed, see our 2.5 year old son, and then come back in the morning. I desperately wanted to keep her inside me, I was not ready to let her go at all and would have considered letting it all happen naturally. I was so afraid that if we did that, we would jeopardize our chances of learning how she had died. A scheduled induction seemed the best of the terrible options: we would hopefully deliver her intact, avoid surgery, and get to hold our baby and say goodbye to her in a safe environment where help was near if we needed it. We left the hospital and headed home, stopping by the pharmacy to pick up my second dose of misoprostol and some ativan.
On the way home, I called my Mom, and a couple of friends to break the news. My husband phoned his parents.
My Mom brought our son home shortly after we'd arrived. She said she thought he had a temperature, so we took it. 104.5! A quick call to his doctor and we were back in the car and off to the the pediatric non-urgent care. An hour and a half later, after one nebulizing treatment, a prescription for amoxicillin, and some ibuprofen, we were on our way home. Five minutes into the drive home my Mom yelled "pull over!", so we did. Looking into the back seat, my son, who had been happily chattering away a moment before, was now frozen, his eyes rolled to one side, his hands jerking. A seizure. His first. On this night.
We all yelled, "call 911," but in our panic, no one was doing it. I was the most free, not driving or tending to our son, so I called. My Mom got my son out of his car seat to hold him. He was spitting stuff up. My husband turned and drove back to the non-urgent care and I called an ambulance. None of us knew what this was at first. I was afraid it was a reaction to the meds we'd just given him. We made it to the doctor and banged on the door to be let in. A janitor let us in and the one doctor left in the place looked after our son while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. At that point, my mind just stopped. I focused all my energy on our dear son, telling him that his Mommy was right there, and that we love him, that he didn't have to be afraid. I forgot for a few minutes that our other cherished child, our daughter, was lost forever in the sea inside me and would emerge tomorrow, not breathing. Our son slowly came to, was awake and watching, but still not speaking or responding. I boarded the ambulance and held his hand as we made our way to the emergency room.
Its taken me 2 week to get this post finished. It's only the beginning of our story, but it's enough for now.