A very black year

From my journal dated November 2, 2002:

Yesterday I was reading a book written by a hospice worker on how to help grieving people, and it made me think about the baby we lost. I remember thinking of that as a very black year for me.

We weren’t really wanting more kids…thought we were done at three. Then I got pregnant in the fall of 1986, due June 13, 1987. We didn’t initially tell a lot of people (or even the kids), because Joe and I were trying to get used to the idea ourselves.

We had reconciled ourselves to the idea of four kids, could feel the baby move, and were excited and looking forward to having another baby when I started having some problems. I went to my ob/gyn who sent me over to the hospital for an ultrasound.

I knew something wasn’t right when the technician kept the screen away from me and then left so the doctor could talk to me. The doctor told me that there was no heartbeat. The baby had died.

I called Joe at work and told him. We had to decide whether to schedule a D&C or to wait for the baby to miscarry naturally. I was 19 weeks pregnant, nearly half way.

The problem with waiting to miscarry was not knowing when it might happen. With three kids under the age of seven at home, the doctor felt it might be too traumatic for them…and for me if I were by myself while Joe was at work. We decided to go ahead with the D&C.

We scheduled the procedure at the hospital for the next day, January 30, 1987. They decided to put me totally out during the procedure…for which I was very grateful.

It’s called an “incomplete abortion” – at least that’s how they had it listed on my paperwork. A miscarriage is your body aborting a baby who has died. If they do a D&C, it’s the same procedure as they would do for an abortion. They “help” your body complete the miscarry/abortion process.

The next day, Joe took the kids out to a friend’s house, and then we went to the hospital. There were some major problems at work that day, so Joe spent a lot of time on the phone with a co-worker trying to take care of things while staying with me. Needless to say, he was very distracted and not a whole lot of support.

They got me ready to go into the operating room, and the anesthesiologist asked me what number [of baby] this was. I told him number 4 and started to cry. He was very sympathetic, telling me something along the line that “at least you have three” and that we “can try again.”

After the procedure, they put me in the OR recovery room. It was late in the afternoon, so I was the only patient. I was freezing, shaking, and nauseous from the anesthetic. The nurse that was “watching” me was so busy flirting with some guy that she hardly paid any attention to me.

When she finally came over, I told her I was really nauseous. She put a little pan beside me. Then she started wheeling me down the main hallway of the hospital to the room where I was to finish my recovery.

At the time, the OR was away from the outpatient recovery room, so we had to go down main hospital halls with everyone else – all the visitors, all the regular foot traffic, all the janitors, everyone!

About halfway there, I threw up. The force of throwing up caused my stomach muscles to push out all the pooled blood from the surgery. It soaked me and the thin blanket that was on top of me. It was a lot of blood. As a matter of fact, they had to keep me longer than most because I wasn’t stopping bleeding.

Anyway, I’m sure it was quite a sight for those walking by – a blood-soaked, retching woman being pushed down the halls. Talk about incompetence! It was awful. I was so embarrassed on top of feeling physically terrible. Joe was absolutely shocked when they pushed me into the outpatient recovery room where he was waiting. What a mess!

While Joe and I were in the outpatient recovery room (after they got me cleaned up), a nurse came in and asked if we wanted to see our baby. We talked about it for a while…it was an agonizing decision. We tried to decide if it would help us. Did we need a chance to say goodbye or would it make it even harder? Such a horrible, difficult decision. We eventually decided not to see the baby.

I had a really rough, long recovery because of my reaction to the anesthesia. Joe took me home and then went to get the kids. When I called to say he was on his way, my friend asked me how I felt. I said, “Punched in the stomach, physically and emotionally.”

When I went back in a few days to my doctor for my check-up, I decided to ask the doctor whether it was a boy or girl. I just really wanted to know to help myself with my reactions losing the baby. She was really taken aback by my question. She told me that when they preform a D&C, it’s just like an abortion. The baby is not delivered in tact. She said they use a powerful suction that sort of sucks the baby out in pieces so there was really no way to tell if it was a boy or girl. I didn’t know that…it was so hard to hear. I guess I should have asked more questions at the onset, but I was so shocked at the time to learn that the baby had died.

I told her about our conversation with the nurse, and the decision we made. She was so upset!! She was upset with the nurse for asking us that question about seeing the baby, said she must have been an anti-abortion activist who didn’t know she (the doctor) didn’t do abortions. The nurse must have thought that we didn’t want the baby so were aborting it…instead of taking the time to find out the fact that our baby had died.

The doctor was so appalled that someone would have asked us that. Who knows what the nurse would have shown us if we had said yes!! The doctor said she was going to try to track down whoever it was…don’t know whatever happened there.

I remember they announced in church that we’d lost the baby, but I don’t remember anyone saying anything much to me about it. Another gal and I were pregnant at the same time, due within days of each other. I don’t remember the subject every coming up again, not even between Joe and me.

That summer my dad had some serious heart problems and nearly died. By August, we had to transfer him from the hospital to a nursing home. All of the nursing homes in Wyoming, which was where my folks lived at the time, were full. There were no openings anywhere. We had to move Dad to Denver, 450 miles away from home.

My sister and I flew to Denver to help Mom. That was an agonizing time. It was so hard to see Dad so sick and dwindling away. My strong, independent Norwegian dad – so far away from home and in a nursing home. I think I grieved more then than when he died.

It was on a Sunday morning six months later when we got the call that Dad had died. We told the kids that my dad – their grandpa – had died and was in heaven. I remember Jason, who was 5 1/2 at the time, cried and cried. He was so sad that he wouldn’t see him again.

And so now, all three of them are together – my dad, Jason, and our baby we never got to meet.

7 thoughts on “A very black year

  1. Pingback: Always a Mother | Grief: One Woman's Perspective

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It’s so tough to tell these stories. It’ll be a year for me in September and I definitely know that, like you, it’s been a black year. I’m so sorry you had to endure that. Your courage in posting this has helped me have the courage to write about my own loss. I appreciate all of your support 🙂


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