It was Good Friday, April 14th 2006 and I was watching The Passion of the Christ at home and preparing for Easter with my family. I had started cramping and just feeling tense. I tried to brush it off as a reaction to the serious subject matter of the movie. You see, I was 11 weeks pregnant with my 7th child. We had not disclosed this to family, just a few friends. Holy Saturday, found me still feeling “off” and I decided to go to the hospital to “put my mind at ease” that everything was fine, since I had yet to be seen by my O.B. Everything wasn’t fine. I knew it wasn’t, just didn’t know definitively.
While at the hospital, a Catholic hospital too, I was greeted with questions like “HOW many pregnancies?!” (It wasn’t what was being asked, but HOW it was asked that was the trouble) and I tried to answer them a patiently as possible.
At first, no one believed that I was pregnant and blood work was ordered. This was frustrating, since I had taken about 5 home pregnancy tests and had been missing that monthly reminder of fertility for a while. We did the blood work. Yup, I was pregnant. Then I was shuttled back and forth to ultrasound and watched the tech take measurements etc., all the while she kept the chatter going to distract me. I knew, but did not want to admit it. As someone who has seen multiple ultrasound screens, I knew what to look for. The tech did not have to say a word. There wasn’t a heartbeat. All I could see was my child fully formed, but not moving. Suspended. Perfect. Silent. I thought I saw some movement and I gasped. I realize now it was my desperate desire, my mind playing tricks on me.
However, since the scan still needed to be read by the doctors we were sent back to our room to wait. The hospital staff left us alone. Hours went by. I prayed silently. My husband sat in the corner, silent. When the door opened and a discharge nurse walked in with the paperwork asking if we were ready to go home. I felt relief – “I guess there is nothing wrong if they are sending us home without talking to us.” How naïve I was. This poor nurse, shocked that the doctor hadn’t come in, “The doctor hasn’t spoken to you?! Wait, I’m going to go get him.”
When the doctor walked in he had the ultrasound report in his hand and he tossed it at me from about 3 feet away. “Here” And he started to walk out. The nurse, upset at the doctor’s behavior, blocked the door and he couldn’t leave. I said, “What is this?” “You can read can’t you,” he flippantly responded. “Yes, but please explain what this is.” “It says we don’t know if your kid is alive or dead.” I looked down at the paper in my hand, saw the words “suggests fetal demise” and started to shake. Still staring at the paper I asked the doctor if he had a heart. I don’t think that he heard me so I asked a second time, a little louder. “What?” he asked. I looked up, tears rolling down my face and demanded “How can you just throw a piece of paper at me and try to leave without speaking the words? Don’t you know that this is a child that has been lost? COWARD! This was a child! My child…” At this point, the nurse came forward grabbed me and held me – my husband too. I pulled my rosary out of my purse and clutched it to my chest. The nurse, I don’t even know her name, cried with me, prayed with me.
Later on that evening I received a phone call from a person close to my family and they demanded to know what was going on. This person had called while we were at the hospital and was told where we were. I answered, “What do you think?” They answered, in a derisive tone, “You’re pregnant!” My heart sank as I answered back sadly, “not anymore…” There was a pause on the line. “Why that’s awful!” was the response, where just moments before the fact that I was pregnant was the most awful news they could’ve imagined. I had to get off the phone. “I can’t talk to you right now.” And I hung up. I don’t feel bad for practically hanging up on this person. It hurt. It still does. How can one go from such a nasty tone to one of sympathy about the same subject? Really?! Now, after years, do I realize that this person did not mean what they said in the way that it was said. While this person did worry about what another pregnancy meant for me, this person never wished me to not be pregnant, to lose the baby. However, at the time, the manner in which it was spoken left a lot to be desired.
No matter the number of children I already had at home, this child was just as wanted, just as important, just as unique. I never really got to mourn. How do you talk about a child people didn’t even know existed? Miscarriage is not discussed and if it is it is with words like “there must have been something wrong with it,” or some other nonsense. It isn’t viewed as the loss of a child. Rarely do you have someone say to you “I’m so sorry.” As a society we need to recognize these CHILDREN.
I feel that there is a serious attitude adjustment that needs to be made! We need courage to talk about the humanity lost, the person to be mourned. Just as on Good Friday, Holy Saturday – we mourn the death of Jesus. Easter has a new, deeper meaning for me. It was the day I buried my child. The day I choose to celebrate the brief life that was given along with the everlasting life Jesus gave us with His Resurrection!
As I told that doctor, this is a subject that needed words, not a piece of paper thrown down at someone. His callous attitude toward us, our child was chilling. He just stood there. This was not some young fresh out of med school doctor either. He was older, should’ve known better. What were needed were words of comfort, words of healing, like the nurse that held my hand and prayed with me as I clutched my rosary. I’ll never forget the look on his face after I was done with him. He was truly sorry, tears were in his eyes. I hope that was the lesson that needed to be learned. That my child’s death was meant to help that doctor to realize that what was needed was to give voice to the humanity!