By Kori Miller
The day our third baby died, I knew before I picked up the phone to call the doctor. I sat at the kitchen table. My husband left that morning for a month-long business trip to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Our two other children played in the T.V. room. My palms were tacky as I picked up the phone. I spoke with a nurse. My voice — mechanical, flat.
“You should come into the office,” the nurse implored.
I disconnected. My hands shook. “Breathe,” I said.
“We need to go,” I instructed my children.
I got the kids and I cleaned-up and dressed in record time. “The bleeding wasn’t much. Maybe I was wrong,” I thought, as I secured the children into their car seats.
We’d decided to try a different doctor, closer to our new home, for our third child. Even now, years later, I can’t seem to forgive myself for that decision. I keep thinking, “If I’d gone back to our midwives, they’d have known. The new doctor didn’t find the heartbeat at our first office visit. That was a sign. A warning. Our pain could have ended much sooner.” She pretended it was normal. It wasn’t. I was in my late thirties.
There are experiences I can recall with complete clarity. My children were five and two. We entered the office — cold, unfriendly place I’d only visited once before. My new doctor was on vacation. They led me in to see a doctor I’d never met — a man.
I’d selected my new doctor in part because of gender. I didn’t want a male doctor. I made that clear from the beginning. Here I was, naked below the waist, being probed by this man. My children, hidden behind a curtain, giggled and played as this very calm man finished his inspection. He sat in a chair next to the ultrasound monitor.
There it was. It floated. It looked like all those images you see when protesters show you an unborn child. Ours should have been four months old by now. It wasn’t.
“What’s that?” My voice trembled. I knew, but I couldn’t say it aloud. I needed him to say it.
“It’s not moving,” I said.
“The baby is dead,” he replied. No emotion. Not even a hint.
“What? What are you talking about?” I demanded. There was my voice. The room chilled. My children became very quiet.
“I’m sorry. It probably died in the first several weeks,” he explained.
I was on auto-pilot. The rest was simply Charlie Brown listening to his teacher. He left the room. I got dressed. The children followed me to the car. “Hold it together,” I yelled at myself. “Don’t cry in front of the children,” I shouted in my head.
In the car, I reached for my cell phone.
“There’s something wrong. We lost it. It’s gone,” I sounded like a robot.
“What? What do you mean?” My husband just landed in Calgary.
“We lost it. The baby is gone,” I almost whispered it. The children didn’t understand the doctor. They knew something was wrong, but they didn’t know what. I couldn’t tell them this way.
“I’ll be right home,” my husband answered.
The tears flowed. I couldn’t stop them.
Nothing prepares you for losing a child. Society doesn’t grieve the loss of a child who wasn’t born yet the same way as one that was. There aren’t funerals or memorials. Maybe, we’re not supposed to. I felt wrong grieving. Losing our baby tore something from me. It was like a bit of my spirit died in that office. We received his ashes in a tiny box. I keep them in a safe place — one I only know.
Our children talk about Baby E #3. We don’t “shush” them. We can’t explain why Baby E died. That’s one of the hardest things for them to understand. They felt the sadness and even now, four years later, long for another sibling.
For so long all I felt was pain and anger. I lost myself and hid behind a bottle of wine. About a year ago, my heart finally felt joy at the thought of Baby E. This year, I stopped hiding behind a bottle. Today, I can celebrate, with or without the wine — though I still like reds — the experience that was Baby E. I can recall the happiness I felt when that little stick announced his presence.
I welcomed myself back with renewed purpose and am squarely focused on those things that enrich my life: my husband, our children, my budding writing career, martial arts training, our businesses, and the various projects that make me smile.
This is my life. I only get one. No regrets. Eyes wide open. Laughing loudly. When it’s over, I’ll be worn out and completely satisfied.