Still Thursday, December 15, 2005
At around 9am, shortly following the amniocentesis, I was taken to see Dr. Brennan. She was going to use a medication called Misoprostol to start contractions. She warned me about the intensity of the contractions brought on by Misoprostal. And then she told us to go home and get some rest. Once the contractions started, we were to go back to the hospital.
It already felt like a long day as we drove back home. But I wasn’t sure how much rest I would get. I lay down on the couch and drank cold orange juice. Nothing. Not even a flutter. I wasn’t really sure how to feel about it. I knew about the risks associated with amniocentesis. I would never have considered having the procedure done under any other circumstance. Sure, she inserted that enormous needle through my abdominal wall, uterus and amniotic sac, twice. But did he actually die as a result? Or was he so still because the medication was having an effect of some sort? Why wasn’t he moving? I suddenly felt panicked. Why wouldn’t I? I was his mother and something was wrong. It seemed so ludicrous.
Steve and I tried to nap. And then the contractions started. And I’m going to be honest with you. The next several hours are something of a blur for me. I honestly don’t remember driving back to the hospital. I don’t remember changing or being taken to a delivery room. I do remember being in the delivery room and being offered an epidural. I also remember thinking that epidurals were for real deliveries. Not for deliveries where the baby was so small and the labour probably wouldn’t be very intense. I think, in a way, I felt as though I didn’t deserve an epidural. I should have to feel that pain. So, I refused.
After a couple of hours of mostly mild contractions, Dr. Brennan decided to break my water. So much amniotic fluid. It had obviously never gone back to a normal level, despite what my doctor had told me. I guess it had just ceased to be a major concern, when compared to the other complications. In fact, I think Dr. Brennan had to break my water more than once. Not long after that, the contractions became more intense and so much closer together. I could barely catch my breath. The nurse offered me the epidural again. Again, I refused. However, I did accept the morphine drip that she suggested. It took the edge off. It made the room hazy. It ever-so-slightly eased the pain of the contractions. But only slightly.
Eventually, I became that woman. The one that screams so loudly during labour that it’s distressing for the other laboring women in the vicinity who haven’t yet gotten to that point. I screamed like I was being tortured. Because I was being tortured. Physically. Mentally. All this pain that usually amounts to something wonderful. But not this time. I think parts of me were screaming at the unfairness. Screaming with anger.
Suddenly, I wanted that epidural. Badly. The nurse was there trying to calm me down as we waited for the anesthetist. I remember her saying, “You have to learn to ask for help sooner.” I have no idea why, of all the things that were said that day, that stood out to me. Maybe, because it would be one of several lessons I learned through this experience.
When the anesthetist arrived, the nurse sat me up. At that moment, I felt Seamus drop into my pelvis. He was so small and it was such an odd feeling.
“Something happened. I felt something. I feel like he’s going to come out.”
The nurse had me lie back down so that she could check my dilation.
“He is right there. I’m going to get Dr. Brennan.”
Friday December 16, 2005 at approximately 1:00am
Dr. Brennan and the nurse came back into the room. I was still in terrible pain, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for him to be born. It only took a few pushes for him to come out. So small. Steve stood up near the head of the bed, with me. He held my hand as Dr. Brennan tried to assess the baby’s vital signs. Neither of us looked or even tried to look.
“Is he breathing?”
“I don’t know yet. No. No, he isn’t. Heather, you made the right decision.”
I knew what those words meant. I knew what she was trying to say.
The nurse took Seamus, put a little knit cap on him and swaddled him as she would have with any newborn. She brought him around to show him to us. She had swaddled him so that we couldn’t see the lower portion of his face. Just his eyes. They were open the slightest bit. Enough to see they were blue and beautiful. She asked us if we wanted to hold him. We didn’t move. My empty womb was yelling at me to reach out and feel him in my arms for just a moment. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reach out. I don’t know why. I suppose I could blame shock and trauma. But I also know that I had a picture in my head of what Seamus looked like before we found out he was sick. I wanted so badly to hold on to that picture. I didn’t want to do anything that might change that picture. I just wasn’t ready.
To this day, if I could change anything, it would be that. I would have held him. A strong or brave person would have held him. I know that this is true. It’s painful to think that I didn’t.
The nurse left the room with our lifeless baby. Steve and I just held each other and cried for a while. And then I got some more morphine into me and passed out.
When I woke up, Steve was there in a chair in the corner of the room. He probably hadn’t slept. He was watching The Bridge on the River Kwai. I tried to watch too, but I was barely lucid. Because of the morphine, I kept startling awake and my nose was itchy. I was twitchy and itchy, and I just wanted to go home.
In the morning before we left, the nurse brought me a round box that was painted with butterflies. Inside of it was a paper measuring tape, torn to show how long Seamus was; the tiny little hat he had worn; a tiny knitted sweater and blanket; and a small, blue paper heart with his footprints stamped on it. There were also some pictures of him. But it would take some time before I could look at those.
And so we left the hospital. With our little butterfly box and nothing else. And it did occur to me that the hospital didn’t just have that box lying around. I realized that there were women before me, and there would be women after me who would leave with nothing but a box. And I understood that many of those women went into the delivery room with the reasonable expectation that they would leave with a healthy newborn, and that didn’t come to fruition. I knew I might be luckier than them because at least I had known what to expect. But knowing that and knowing about those women didn’t help. Knowing that there were people that might have hurt more than me. I couldn’t find solace in that.