Four years ago today...
...was probably the most traumatic day of my life.
I woke up at nearly 11am, having slept like a rock all night. Matt was already up and showered, and just letting me sleep. I asked him what time it was and thought "wow, I must have been tired!" At that point it didn't occur to me that I probably didn't wake up because there was nothing to wake me up. No kicks in the ribs or anything. At that point, I was still blissfully unaware.
I called my sister to wish her happy birthday and tell her I wasn't in labor. I was a bit disappointed. The moment she had found out my due date was May 14th (my mother's due date with her), she had said that Cora would be born on her birthday. I had begun to believe her. That disappointment, however, pales in significance to what was to come.
We had several errands to run, so I grabbed a brownie (or something like that. Maybe a chocolate chip cookie?) to have something in my stomach so I wouldn't get nauseated in the shower. I didn't feel like sitting down for a real breakfast.
As I stood in the water rinsing shampoo out of my hair is when I realized it. Cora had always gone crazy the moment the hot water hit my belly. I don't know whether she liked it or didn't like it, but it never failed. Except for that day. Except for right then. I immediately started poking my belly, forgetting about my half-rinsed hair. I bruised myself that day, in several places, poking trying to get a response. And there was nothing. At that point I collapsed onto my elbows and knees sobbing, so very scared. Deep down I knew then. There was no other explanation for the utter lack of any sort of anything. I was there, sobbing like that with the water running down my back and into my eyes and mouth, for several minutes. Then I decided I had to finish my shower. I had to go eat something more substantial and drink a cold glass of koolaid. She always reacted to koolaid.
I was kind of in zombie mode at that point. I walked into the bedroom after getting dressed to tell Matt in a robotic voice that I was worried, that I couldn't get her to move, that I thought something was wrong. He offered to listen to my belly, and I laid down on our bed with his ear to my abdomen. After a couple of silent minutes with him moving his head this way and that, he admitted he didn't hear anything but my heartbeat. I wanted to throw up (which, admittedly, is not an uncommon occurrence for me in pregnancy). I went out to the kitchen, got myself a meal, and the glass of koolaid, and sat down at my computer to wait. 20 minutes later there was still nothing. It was time to call my OB.
But they were on their lunch break and would be back after 1pm (it was just shortly after noon at this point). I had nearly an hour during which there was nothing I could do. So we decided to run our errands. Matt had to renew his health insurance through the school, so we went up to campus. Campus is a pretty hilly place, with lots of stairs, and every time I'd gone up there for the past several weeks I'd get contractions with every step almost.
But not then. There was nothing. Everything had stopped. My belly just felt...heavy.
We went into the office and I sat down on a chair as Matt talked to one of the secretaries. The other started asking me all those pregnant-lady questions.
"When are you due?"
"Oh, so any day now!"
"Are you excited?"
"More nervous than anything right now."
I didn't tell her what I was really thinking. How do you say that? How do you tell someone, "Actually, I haven't been able to get her to move at all so far today and I think there's something really wrong. I'm terrified that my baby might be dead." It's not the sort of thing you tell people.
By the time we got out of the office it was mere minutes after 1 so I called the office. I told the receptionist the short version of what was going on, and she got me the nurse practitioner, since she was free at the moment. I never liked the woman, she's probably one of the most uncaring, uncompassionate people I've ever met, and I thought so before this point. But this sealed it.
It told her what was going on and robotically told me that babies slow down toward the end and that I should lay down and drink some juice and eat something sugary, etc. I explained to her again everything I had done, and I hadn't gotten any response. And that I couldn't get her to move. At all. Nothing. Nothing all day. I was near hysterical by this point, and she finally told me to come in and they'd check me out. She sounded like it was a bother, unneeded, and that she was humoring the needlessly hysterical paranoid pregnant lady. I still haven't forgiven her for that.
So in we went. I started to quietly explain to the receptionist why I was there, and interrupted me telling me she knew already, and if I'd have a seat she'd get me back as soon as possible.
The only free seats were next to a very happy pregnant lady, her husband, and their son. It was awkward sitting there in silence, so I asked her how far along she was. I wanted so desperately for everything to be normal, so I acted "normal." She was 22 weeks, there for the big ultrasound. They wanted a girl, because they already had a boy, but would be fine with a boy, because they're fun, too. She asked me all the same questions, excited for me. She asked what I was there for, and I said "we're just going to check some things." She must have heard it in my voice, because she steered away from any further questions about either pregnancy, instead talking about the beautiful weather. It was so nice to have sun after such a long winter.
She went back before me.
And then they called my name. I was in the office with the old ultrasound machine. Dr. Barton decided to try with the doppler first after I explained everything, that there was still no movement at all. I could see it in his eyes. He tried the doppler for several minutes unsuccessfully. I told him he was making me want to cry. He told me not to cry yet, that he didn't always get it with the doppler. Any doctor who got it on the first try every time was a miracle worker. I reminded him that I was 38 weeks. He hesitated but said, "Well, still. The ultrasound is more accurate." I watched the screen as the image came up. I saw her there...completely still. I saw it before he said anything.
Then he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, "I'm so sorry Brittanie. There's her heart. And it isn't beating." Those words still echo in my mind sometimes. In my dreams. That image, forever seared into my memory. My sweet baby...so very still.
The next couple of hours were a whirlwind of phonecalls. Dr. Barton let us use his office phone because our cells didn't get reception back there. My parents didn't answer, so I called my best friend (who was in Las Vegas because her father had been hospitalized because of complications from the cancer he had. He died 3 weeks later), explained to her what was happening, and asked her to stop by my house. She said she'd call them, and if she couldn't get them, she'd go over, if not she'd have them call me. Luckily I got just enough reception to realize that I was getting a call, so I called them back on Dr. Barton's phone. My mother was in shock at first, I had to explain to her twice that Cora didn't have a heartbeat because it didn't sink in the first time. She was then crying so hard that my dad took the phone and I had to explain it to him. And then I asked him to call everyone and let them know because I just couldn't, I couldn't go over it again. Dr. Barton had called the hospital, the earliest I could get in for an induction was 7:30 the next morning. I was actually bumping someone who was being induced because she was overdue. All I had to do was show up and they'd take care of everything. He then gave me a prescription for Ambien, so that I could sleep that night.
So we headed to Walmart to have it filled. On our way in, we passed the very lady I had sat next to in the waiting area. She saw the tears in my eyes. I saw the questioning look on her face, and I ducked down a different aisle. I just couldn't admit it. Except that Matt worked at Walmart so we knew the girl in the pharmacy, and she asked what was going on, seeing our faces. Medicaid wouldn't cover Ambien, though, since it wasn't "necessary" so they called the OB office and they said they'd give us samples if we came back. Dr. Barton felt so bad. Before we left Walmart we went to talk to Matt's manager, as he obviously wouldn't be in to work the next day. He gave Matt the rest of the week off with bereavement pay (even though he hadn't quite been there long enough to qualify for it yet).
After stopping by the OB office and Matt running in to get the samples, we stopped by my workplace. The next day was supposed to be my last day of work before maternity leave anyway, so I was only missing one day.
After we got home, our bishop came by to see us. After giving each of us a blessing of peace, we talked over funerary arrangements. I couldn't bear the idea of burying here there, when we knew we'd be moving in two or three years. Having her buried where either set of grandparents lived just didn't seem like a really viable option. So we settled on cremation, with the plan that we would eventually choose a spot to spread her ashes. Bishop Allen offered to call around to funeral homes to find one for us, and make arrangements. After that he left, with the promise to "spread the word" for us. I honestly don't remember how the rest of the evening was spent. I do remember working up the courage to post on the pregnancy message board I had been a member of (but am not any longer) to explain what had happened, since I had posted my worries earlier. I remember a couple of phone calls from relatives. Both my grandmothers had lost a baby (my maternal grandmother's first was stillborn, and then my paternal grandmother lost a little girl a few months before she turned 3), and their empathetic tears were a comfort.
I had been avoiding touching my pregnant belly all day. It disgusted me. I tried to avoid thinking about what Cora would look like, because the only images that came to my mind were horrid B movie zombies. I didn't want my baby to look like that (and she didn't). I slept fitfully, even with the medication, dreading more than anything the next day.
May 1st is harder for me than May 2nd. The only redeeming quality it has is that it's my sister's birthday, but it makes me angry that my sister's birthday has been ruined for me. In the end though, Adrienne was sort of right. Not only am I sure I would have gone into labor the night she died if she hadn't been wrapped up in her cord, but when it comes to a person's eternal existence the day of death is a very important day too. So Cora does share a special day with her Aunt Adi. Just not in the way we had hoped.