I went that day knowing the outcome. I knew what they would tell me before I ever walked through the door. They would tell me the time was near, that they wouldn’t be able to stop the inevitable.
I lay on the thin mattress reminding myself of all the woman who have done this. Women who have survived laying for months on the plastic coated mattress that creaks whenever you move and makes you sweat horribly at night. Women who have survived being hooked up to a variety of monitors and tubes for days on end. I lay there with 3 fetal heart monitors and a contraction monitor across my swollen abdomen. I lay there with 2 IVs, one in my hand and one in my arm, providing me with medication and fluids. I lay there praying that what I know to be the future of my babies will only be a bad nightmare I am sure to awaken from.
One by one they are delivered. One by one I say goodbye to them. Shock taking over because my brain simply cannot wrap itself around the enormous heartache. “Be angry at God, he can handle it” I recall a family member saying. How can a God do this to me? Yet I find myself calling to the nun who has been with us throughout. I call to her to comfort my family. They are in pain and I don’t know how to make it better for them. I cannot focus on them now but someone needs to help.
The room I am in is in the labor and delivery wing, immediately off the elevator. I keep my door closed. I cannot bear to hear the sounds of women giving birth to healthy babies, the sounds of their excited families coming off the elevator, rushing to see the new life entering the world. The doctor asks about moving me to the nursery wing for recovery after my deliveries. He gives me the option to stay where I am. The only thing worse than hearing the delivery is watching the new parents with their perfect new babies roaming the halls, planning for their journey home and the lives ahead of them.
I get the liberty of having a doctor check me to make sure I’m ok and that I’m recovering from the deliveries appropriately. I get the liberty of filling out birth certificates for each of my children and applying for social security cards. I get the liberty of nurses who avoid my room because they simply don’t know what to say.
The NICU nurses have brought me mementos. Proof that my babies existed, if only for a moment. I have a book that has a clipping of my daughter’s hair and her tiny hand and feet prints. It’s text begs me in her words not to cry. I have a crocheted blanket that my son was wrapped in briefly. I am given a box for each of them that holds some of the medical technology used on them, the wristbands placed on them to prove they were mine. I am given a disposable camera that holds precious photographs of the babies that will never grow to be children. A friend takes the camera from my hands and has it developed at a one hour place and returns the photographic proof of the lives I produced to me in a heartbeat.
A hospital representative – likely a social worker – comes in to check on me. In her arms she carries 3 teddy bears. A pink one, a large tan one and a small brown one. A local mother who’d lost her baby started an organization to give mother’s teddy bears to carry home from the hospital when they have lost a baby so they would not have to leave with empty arms. I cried when I thought of the brave thing that this mother who I would never meet had done for me. I cried when I held them, all 3 of them, close to my heart. They certainly did not come close to healing the ache. They did begin to fill the void that was left in my arms. I was supposed to be holding my babies, bonding with them, loving them. Instead, my world was empty.
We weren’t planning our trip home with joy. I was wheeled out of the hospital like all of the other mother’s. One of my doctor’s escorted me into the elevator and out to my honey’s car. She made small talk during the journey and told me that this was not the end. She knew we would have children. She’d never seen people as strong as we were. I held onto my bears tightly and knew in my heart she was right. But my heart wasn’t ready to move on yet, to open myself to more heartache.
There was family waiting to greet us when we arrived home. I wandered through our house, filled with the reminders of happier times. A swing in the basement that a friend had given us. 2 cribs set up in the nursery with a changing table in between. Tiny infant clothes that hung in the closet. A bag of baby gifts from the missed baby shower that my work friends threw for me, that I was unable to attend because I was attempting to save my babies from their destiny. The tears stained my cheeks silently.
My honey cradles her brother’s infant son. She starts to change his diaper and the reality of everything comes crashing down on her. She will not change our babies diapers. Ever. She leaves the room crying.
The phone rings and the caller asks for me. I don’t want to speak to anyone, but I don’t want to let down the friends and family who are calling to send their love. The caller scolds me instead for missing a doctor appointment with a new maternal/fetal medicine specialist who was supposed to take over my care because my doctors were both leaving town. I explain what happened, trying desperately to hold myself together. I will not let this caller know the effect he is having on my already broken heart. He scolds me again for not having the courtesy to call and let the doctor know. I begin sobbing uncontrollably and someone takes the phone from my hands. I sit on the stairs unable to move.
Slowly everyone exits our home. Darkness falls around us like a blanket. I feel no need to turn on a light. I lay in bed feeling pain throughout my entire body. There is no medication that can take this pain away. The shock has worn off. Heartache has taken over. My life without my babies has begun. For now there is no future. For now there is no understanding. For now there is only the two of us, trying desperately to find peace and comfort in the shadows.