“Is that it?” I asked, trying to make out the baby on the sonographer’s screen. It was my 30th birthday and David sat nearby as we tried to glimpse our child for the first time.
“Yeah . . .” she said. Her tone unsettled me, and I felt my heart-rate pick up.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“I need to talk to your doctor,” she said.
Now my heart was pounding. “Can you tell me what’s wrong?”
“I’ll need to talk to your doctor,” she said again.
I knew she was following protocol, but I wasn’t willing to wait for a phone call. “Is it okay?” I asked. “I can’t figure out what you’re seeing.”
She hesitated, then said, “I don’t see a heartbeat.”
I had thought she was going to tell me there was something terribly wrong with the way the baby was developing. Miscarriage had never occurred to me.
I looked at David’s saddened face, relieved he was there.
“I don’t understand,” I said. “I just had an HcG blood test that showed my pregnancy hormone is high.”
“It can take awhile for the numbers to come down,” she answered. “The baby measured 9 weeks and 4 days, and then stopped growing.”
I felt sick. This baby had to have died very recently.
“When does the heart start beating?” I asked, trying to remember from previous pregnancies.
“Six weeks,” she answered.
I had been carrying a baby I hadn’t known about, and somehow it had died and I hadn’t known that either.What did I do wrong? I thought. What should I have done differently? How did I hurt this baby?
I waited with David while the sonographer called my doctor’s office to report the “fetal demise” of our baby. “Your doctor will call to make a follow-up appointment,” she said before we left.
I started crying in the car. “I remember something from church,” I told David as we went to pick up the kids. “A few months ago, I felt like God was trying to get my attention during a sermon. One of the pastors was preaching on sorrow and joy, and something he said really stood out. He said, ‘One day, God will trade every sorrow we have for joy — complete joy.’ It seemed like God wanted me to hold onto that for this year, but I wasn’t sure so I wrote it down and saved it in my Bible. Maybe this is why.”
We picked up the kids from my sister’s house and I shared the news with her. At home I turned to a few books on my shelf, trying to understand causes for miscarriage. “Chromosomal abnormalities” came in first place, but I didn’t really understand it. I still felt like it was my fault. I pulled out my pregnancy journal and started praying, then called our family members to tell them about the ultrasound, and each one prayed over the phone.
Later the nurse called. “It was fetal demise,” she said. “It wasn’t your fault.” She scheduled my follow-up appointment for the next morning.
I went into the bathroom and cried harder than I’ve ever cried before, then went out to the kitchen for gyros, ice cream cake, and the “Happy birthday” song sung by my sweet husband and kids.
David had put together a card several nights earlier, with different surprises related to the number “30.” The first gift was “30 words” of affirmation. He hadn’t known how much I would need to hear it as he looked me in the eyes and told me why he loves me.
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