I don’t remember too much after I gave up Mabel. My nurse wheeled me up to my room. I had a few options of where to go. I could go to a gyn floor where they send most people who have losses. There are no babies there. I could return to the room I had spent the last couple weeks in. Labor came on suddenly and I had two weeks of stuff sitting up there. I could even go home- my midwife offered me close follow up. In the end I opted to return to my room with all my belongings. It felt easier. I remember when real labor started I freaked out a little because we had so much stuff. Chris had asked me days before, what do we do with all this stuff when I’m in labor. We had pillows, blankets, clothes, exercise stuff, computers, books, board games among other things. It would have taken Chris multiple trips to the car to clear it all. I told him it would be easy- either I’d be rushed down for an emergency c-section in which case we’d leave our stuff there. Or I’d be induced as scheduled in which case he could bring stuff home the days before. I hadn’t counted on labor starting spontaneously.
In reflecting on my experience so far, I find I often felt compelled to be the ideal patient. Prenatally I tried not to call my midwives for things. In the hospital I put took myself on and off the monitor. After Mabel died I gave her up sooner than I think I should have. I’m a midwife and so felt some self-imposed pressure to excel at whatever the task at hand was. I still feel that way- that I should be an ideal griever. It clouds my thoughts as I make plans to return to work- wouldn’t an ideal midwife be able to return to work by now?
So when asking where I’d like to go for my postpartum recovery I opted to return to my room. It just seemed easiest. The idea of transporting all our stuff seemed like too much work and I was embarrassed by all the stuff we had accumulated in my room. Returning to that room had an additional benefit- I was returning to nurses I knew.
As I was wheeled back onto that floor I saw several familiar faces who looked at me sympathetically and told me they were sorry. I remember thinking that these women saw me all during my pregnancy while I worked there and cared for me in the past two weeks- and they didn’t even get a chance to meet Mabel. Twenty-four hours before, I was complaining to these women that my calves hurt so much from climbing the stairs in that section of the hospital (an exercise break involving 28 flights of stairs). They would watch me trudge down the hall with the monitors on my protruding belly to grab towels. They chased my baby with the monitors so they could continuously see her heartbeat. They helped me eat all the gifted candy I received so that my hips didn’t grow as much as my belly did. These women saw me at my most worry free time in pregnancy, when I felt unburdened and could actually enjoy being pregnant. And not one of them got to meet Mabel. I left the floor with a baby in my belly and returned with a sagging belly and empty arms.
Once we got to my room, Chris and I simply climbed into the narrow hospital bed together and fell asleep. We recently bought a king bed at home, which I especially enjoyed because I’m a hot sleeper and need my space. For the first time in I can’t remember when, I was wanted Chris to be beside me as I slept. We settled into that small space curled up next to each other in a fog of disbelief and fell asleep.
We probably could have slept straight through the night, but my sister and brother were arriving later that night and I had told my parents to bring them. I’m not sure why. I guess it seemed logical at the time. We woke around nine at night to have pizza with them. I remember thinking it was surreal to be there, smiling with my three-year old niece, hours after my own baby died. I don’t think I cried. They all left shortly after we were done eating. Chris retreated to his cot and I popped an ambien- the ambien I was supposed to take while I was in early labor, but never did. We slept through the night. If I dreamt, I don’t remember about what.
I was woken to my cell phone ringing at 8 am on the dot. It was AmEx calling to alert me to credit card fraud. I remember the representative said that someone bought flights in Europe overnight with my card. He apologized because though it happened hours ago, policy doesn’t allow them to call until 8am. When I was awoken by the call, I took the phone with me to the bathroom because, having just had a baby, I was bleeding. He asked me if I still had my credit card in my possession. There I sat at 8am on a Sunday morning, hours after holding the body of my dead daughter, on a toilet, bleeding- and thinking how am I going to get to my wallet in the other room? I didn’t want to wake Chris and I didn’t think to call AmEx back. Why I even answered the phone in the first place, I don’t know.
That morning I ordered breakfast- French toast and bacon, which I nibbled on. I remember because when my midwife came in, she said she was glad to see at least I had some protein on my plate. I wondered why it mattered, because why would I need protein- my baby was dead. She did the job I was too familiar with- reviewed discharge instructions and talked of birth control. We talked about when I wanted to try again, another surreal conversation to have twenty-four hours after we decided to let my baby die peacefully.
We had several other visitors in the morning. The birth certificate lady, a woman I know well from our crisscrossing paths when I did postpartum rounds. She got married only a few months after me, so we shared wedding excitement together. I remember when she saw me in the hallway, noticing my pregnant belly for the first time. She came to visit me while I was admitted prenatally. I always thought the first time she’d be seeing me professionally would be a happier time.
A doctor from our pediatrician’s office came by. He expressed his condolences and told us they’d be happy to help with any future concerns, like reviewing our daughter’s autopsy when it came in. I remember thinking, how nice he’s visiting us- he had never met us and here he is talking to us with no baby to examine.
Our day nurse came to complete the final discharge tasks and we were free to go. I walked out, running into one of the doctors in my practice. That’s the nature of being a patient on the floor you work on, lots of familiar faces. When I was first admitted back in December, I came out of my room and at the computer station was a doctor from another practice. I saw her do a double take, realizing who I was. Though we only know each other from superficial chats in the charting room, I almost wanted to tell her what was going on because she was an obstetrician. All I would have to say is that I have oligohydramnios at 27 weeks and she’d understand in an instance the gravity of the situation. I know she learned the situation not long after. She had asked her colleague, my old midwife and friend who I was seeing up until I was became pregnant, if she knew why I was admitted. I happened to have talked to that midwife during my weekend admission. She had called just to check up on me, knowing I was struggling with worry after the Down Syndrome diagnosis. I thought she was calling because she had heard the more serious news, but it was mere coincidence. I was glad she was able to tell her colleagues- I wanted people to know. I wanted their understanding and their sympathy. I wanted everyone in the OB department to know because it was such a unique and terrifying situation. I felt like I just kept living out my worst fears. The reaction of my colleagues validated my feelings.
So I stood there in the hallway, talking for a few minutes to my doctor colleague. I remembered that I had a bag that belonged to our fellow midwife and gave it to the doctor to return for me. It all seemed so surreal. I look back and think I was playing a role- the role of a newly bereaved mother. I didn’t know how to act; I was numb. We left the floor and got into our car. I don’t think we spoke much on the way home.