The joy that comes with that second pink line on a pregnancy test is hard to imagine for someone who hasn’t experienced it. It fills the mind of a soon-to-be mother with images of bassinets and pastel colored nursing blankets. Even all of those time consuming trips to the doctor’s office seem like a small price to pay for the promise of what that pink line will bring.
This wasn’t my first pregnancy and I thought I had it all figured out. I knew when I’d be able to hear the heartbeat, when I’d be able to see the baby on an ultrasound monitor for the first time and when I’d have to drink that awful orange slime. Needless to say, when things didn’t happen on schedule, I began to panic.
My first round of blood work showed that my HCG levels were low. My doctor didn’t think this was anything to worry about- not yet, anyway. However, when it came time to listen for baby’s heartbeat, there was no sound. My doctor could not conceal the look of concern on his face. He told me we’d try again in a week and sent me home to spend the next seven days in a state of anxious depression.
When the week was finally over and it was time to check for the heartbeat again, nothing had changed. There was still no sound on the Doppler. The doctor requested that I re-do my blood work and I went immediately to be jabbed at again.
The next day, my doctor’s secretary called and said that the doctor would like to see me as soon as possible regarding my blood test results. My heart sank. I couldn’t remember a time when my doctor ever had my blood test results that quickly, let alone a time he’d rushed anyone in to see him. I knew the news wasn’t good. I cried the whole way to the clinic.
Upon arrival, my doctor explained that my HCG levels should have increased drastically since my last blood work. They didn’t. In fact, they barely increased at all. I scribbled down the numbers that he gave me, not entirely sure what they meant.
My doctor offered to try to find the heartbeat with the Doppler one last time. I agreed, laying down and trying to fight back tears as the little machine failed to find a heartbeat once again. The doctor offered to let another doctor in the clinic try “just to be sure” and I agreed to that, too. There was still no heartbeat.
It was explained to me that the barely increasing HCG levels meant that the baby had stopped growing quite some time ago. Because there was no heartbeat, my doctor believed that the baby had died in the womb. I hadn’t had any bleeding so my doctor said someone would call me the next day with an appointment to have the remains evacuated. He apologized for my loss and sent me on my way. I left the office numb.
That evening, I called my parents to tell them the horrible news. I tried to explain to them about the HCG levels but I had a difficult time doing so, as I didn’t completely understand what the numbers meant. My dad agreed that it sounded like I had lost the baby, but the more I talked about it, the more I realized I didn’t know. I had a lot of questions: what if the change in HCG levels meant not that the baby had stopped growing, but instead was growing very slowly? And most importantly, wouldn’t I know if my baby had died?
The next day, rather than waiting for a phone call about when to go in for my evacuation, I called the secretary. With a shaking voice, I told her that I’d like an appointment for a visual ultrasound. She seemed skeptical. After a few minutes of trying to convince her, she said she’d have to talk to the doctor and hung up. I walked around for the rest of day feeling like I was carrying s corpse inside my body.
I was a little surprised when the hospital called and offered me an ultrasound appointment for the following day. The woman on the phone explained that there had been a cancellation and she could sneak me in. I accepted gratefully.
The would-be proud father took the time off work to come with me. I told him I was grateful for his presence but I made him stay in the waiting room. I didn’t want him to have to see a clump of cells on the screen. I didn’t want to see it myself.
The ultrasound technician explained that she hadn’t had time to see my file as I’d just been snuck into someone’s cancellation. She asked me some basic questions- Was this my first pregnancy? Had I ever had an abortion? She didn’t ask if everyone thought the baby was dead, so I didn’t mention it.
She put the gel all over my stomach and began searching. I wasn’t looking at the screen. I heard her say, “Baby is still very tiny. Look, there’s the heartbeat.”
I was crying before my eyes could even get to the screen. She continued showing me parts of my tiny little baby. Finally she asked, “What did they think the problem was?”
“I-they-my doctor thought the baby had passed,” I managed to choke out. Clearly that wasn’t the case.
When I emerged from the room, I was balling. The father came to console me and was shocked when I managed to tell him that our baby was, in fact, alive. We braced ourselves for the complications the pregnancy might bring but couldn’t be happier just knowing that our baby hadn’t died.
Over the next number of months, the biggest problem we had was trying to date the pregnancy. Because baby’s growth rate was off, it was very difficult to tell how far along I was. Due to this, I went way overdue. After what felt like an eternity, I gave birth to a wrinkled, “over-done” baby girl.
As I write this, the baby sticks her head in my bedroom door. “Mommy, wake up!” she calls. She is two-years-old, has the chubbiest little cheeks and is happy and healthy. She hasn’t returned to the hospital since the day I brought her home. This is the baby I almost evacuated.
LifeNews Note: Melissa Marie Maillet (Keeping) is a proud young mother of two. She is an aspiring writer and long-time activist from Nova Scotia, Canada.