Monday, July 27, 2009

A Day of Firsts

Today I tackled two big firsts - I made my first trip back to my OB's office at the hospital where Isla was born and my first trip back to work. I'm exhausted.

Tim was by my side all day and is currently making my dinner (something he does everyday, and has been doing since we first started dating). I'm pretty sure if it weren't for him my heart would have stopped beating right along with Isla's.

I've been having some unusual cramps and some other somewhat concerning physical symptoms for the past week, and while I have called her office several times, I have avoided an actual visit to my OB simply out of fear. When the cramps started again last night, Tim did not suggest that I go see the doctor today, he told me "we are going". I loved the "we". He didn't say it like a dictator. Rather, he expressed an understanding about my fears to return to the hospital and expressed his own concerns, and promised me he would be right there beside me holding my hand the entire time (which he was). He gave me no option other than to go though. He told me I had to because his babies were going to grow "in there" too, and he needed to make sure everything was okay. How could I argue with that?

So, after about thirty minutes of sobbing and mustering my courage this morning, I got myself ready and together we headed down to the hospital. The drive brought back memories. The parking garage brought back memories. The lobby brought back memories. I started to lose it in the elevator, and when Tim hugged me, I could feel how anxious he was too. Something about watching him grieve or seeing him nervous, forces me back to put my brave face on, and so brave faced I confronted checking in with the receptionist and the waiting room full of pregnant bellies.

I kept my brave face on as we met with the doctor. She wasn't too concerned about my physical symptoms, but wanted to schedule an ultrasound just to make certain everything is okay. She advised us that the results of Isla's autopsy were not ready yet, and she had no new information about what happened. She explained that while there was a lot of Isla's blood found in my blood, suggesting a placental abruption, until the autopsy results were received she could not be certain whether the abruption was the cause of her death or whether it occurred subsequently. While she explained all of this, the doctor was her usual cheerful, laid back self. There is something about her demeanour that I found very comforting during my pregnancy, and found discomforting today. Today, she seemed just a little too laid back. I understood that she did not have answers for us yet, but felt that she didn't seem to understand mine and Tim's need to eventually understand exactly what went wrong. Then as we were leaving, with a cheerful smile, she said to us, "I still can't believe you came in early enough for us to watch the whole thing unravel."

The day Isla died I arrived at the hospital at 11 am complaining of decreased fetal movement and after two ultrasounds and over six hours of sitting in waiting rooms, my doctor, a high risk specialist, and a resident sat in an observation room and watched my baby die during a third ultrasound at 6:45 p.m. They were meeting to discuss whether or not to deliver her by emergency cesarean. Isla made the decision for them.

I was shocked by the comment made by my doctor. The way she said it, it almost sounded as though to her it was like witnessing some really neat science experiment watching "the whole thing (my daughter's life) unravel". I'm still trying to figure out what she meant by it. Whatever she meant, I know she didn't intend to be insensitive. After all, this is the doctor who hugged me and cried along with us when the bad news was delivered. But seriously, was it necessary to discuss the "unravelling" of my daughter's life with a cheerful smile?!

I left the appointment feeling crushed. Not only was it emotionally taxing just being there, but now, this doctor, who I still had complete trust in faith in even though my baby died under her watch, left me feeling as though she really did not understand the magnitude of our loss. I'm not sure what I was expecting from her. Sympathy and sensitivity for certain, and perhaps I wanted her to be agonizing a bit over having not been able to save my baby. Maybe she is. I understand that she has to detach in order to do her job properly. It just would have been nice to feel as though the loss of Isla was more to her than just another "cost of doing business."

From the doctor's office we headed over to the hospital lab to have some blood work done. The hospital specializes in women's health, so the waiting room there was also full of pregnant bellies. Despite the bellies, I was holding up okay. A woman came in with her two month old son in a sling. At first I craned my neck to sneak a peak and gave Tim a smile to let him know the little guy's presence actually made me happy, not sad. But then, some eccentric elderly woman spotted the baby, and announced far to loudly "oh there is a baby in there". She proceeded to ask the mother how old the baby was, his gender, etc. Each question asked loud enough for everyone waiting to hear. Before I had time to gain control of myself, I was in tears.

My doctor didn't fully complete the blood requisition form, so when I finally was called in to see the technician she had to ask me a bunch of questions. Question number two, have you been pregnant in the last three months? Yes. I read ahead to question number three - have you had a recent miscarriage or stillbirth. I was bracing myself to also have to answer yes, only the technician didn't ask. Instead, she said, "you're pregnant now, right?". I managed to mumble "stillbirth". She apologized quickly and proceeded to poke me. While she was drawing my blood, another technician came in to ask her about some misplaced paperwork. The technician holding the needle in my arm seemed concerned about the missing documents and was so distracted by the conversation she was having, she was wiggling the needle all about in my arm. After she was done, she started to get up, then sat back down, squeezed my forearm, and said, "I'm really sorry about everything". She seemed sincere, and I was touched she took that moment. But, it was only a moment, and she quickly got up and began fussing over the missing paperwork. I certainly did not expect this woman I never met to do or say more, but again, it felt like to the hospital staff, Isla's death really was just part of the cost of doing business.

I too detach myself from my work (I'm a family law lawyer, but learned to detach in my previous life working as a case worker at the welfare office), so I understand. It was just a bit painful today to feel as though no one at the hospital really cared about me or my baby anymore (the day of Isla's death and in the days proceeding it, before and after I delivered her, the hospital staff were very caring and compassionate).

After the hospital, I kept my brave face on and went into the office for the first time. A bit rattled from the hospital experience, I brought Tim with me. We didn't stay long. Just long enough for me to check my email and voicemail, and speak to a few colleagues. I had a voice message regarding prenatal classes and an Outlook reminder for my 3D ultrasound appointment scheduled for yesterday. I was prepared for the voice mail, but had forgotten about the ultrasound appointment, but my brave face didn't crack. Tim and I then chatted with my colleagues briefly. During the conversation, I think we both felt as though we had to justify the depths of our grief and explain to everyone that she was our daughter - a whole, perfectly formed, beautiful little baby - and she died.

After a quick trip to the cemetery, we were home by late afternoon. I was passed out within minutes of hitting the couch.

I am trying not to have expectations of other people right now, and trying to forgive insensitive remarks and actions. But what is really getting to me today, is this feeling that everyone other than Tim and I (and a very few close friends and family members) have moved on. It's been less than four weeks, and it feels as though Isla's death is old news. Insignificant. Forgotten about. And worse is this feeling that I need to defend our grief and that fact that we haven't moved on. She was our daughter and she died!!! Why do people not understand that? I wonder how differently things would be if she had drawn even a single breath outside of my body. If she had lived for a minute, and hour, a day, would people "get it" then? Would they relate our loss to the loss of their own children? Would they understand? Would they be little more sensitive? Would she matter a little more?

I hate the word "stillbirth". I hate that there is a word for babies who die before they are born. Stillborn babies are still babies, our babies. They were born and they died, just like everyone else has and will do. So why do they need to be distinguished as "stillborn"? It only serves to diminish the lives of precious little ones and the grief of the parents they leave behind.

Today was my first day back in my "real" world (up until today I've been only in the company of family or strangers). It was exhausting and much more difficult than I anticipated it would be.


  1. So sorry today was a bad day for you. Unfortunately we are the only ones who understand. I was sharing a ritual of watching a video of our son that was made and a very close friend told me,"Oh my God. You guys love to torture yourself." They will never understand.

  2. This does sound like an impossibly long and exhausting day. Its hard isn't it? Walking around with the knowledge that your child has died, it being all that you know, all that you think of, and how can people NOT understand how much that means to your life. How can they not understand or see that you'll never be the same again.

    Be gentle on yourself - sending you much love.