At the age of 27, in late 1994, only weeks before finding out I was pregnant, I told my boyfriend that I thought it was time for us to separate, and see if being away from each other could make us happier than we were together.
Driving home from work one night a few weeks later, I stopped at a store and purchased a home pregnancy test. I wasn’t suppose to start my period for another week or so, but I just had a feeling I was pregnant.
Sure enough, it was positive. I took the stick to my bedroom where my mother and boyfriend were waiting. Mad at myself for allowing this to happen, I threw the stick on the bed and glared at my boyfriend. I didn’t hate him. I just needed a different type of man in my life. A man I could count on.
I made an appointment with my doctor to confirm the home test. Until the moment he put his arms around me, I didn’t even know if I wanted a baby yet. (Especially under these circumstances!) The moment the words came out of his mouth, however, I knew I wanted this baby very much.
When I told Mom that my doctor had confirmed it, she too changed her mind about the situation. Her words to the first person that would listen were, “We’re pregnant!”.
My boyfriend was happy, but I felt it necessary to remind him that even though I was pregnant, I had not changed my mind about our relationship. I did tell him he didn’t have to move out immediately. Somewhere deep inside of me I think I was hoping that something would change between us and we could be this perfect little family.
I made several phone calls to family and friends that night when I got home from the doctor’s office. Everyone was excited and happy for us. My father was looking forward to being a grandfather. My older sister was very excited, but upset that she lived so far away at the time.
That same night I also made the decision to quit one of my two jobs. I was an exotic dancer at night, and on weekends. I decided it wasn’t safe to continue dancing. I liked the extra money it brought in, but felt the safety of my baby was more important. I was no longer responsible for only myself.
We didn’t tell my boyfriend’s parents until the following weekend. We knew they’d be very excited so we wanted to tell them in a special way. We invited his parents, his son (from a previous relationship), brothers, and sister to brunch. We pulled his son aside and told him first. I think he was about eight at that time. He was very excited to be having a baby sister or brother. We thought it would be nice for the older-brother-to-be to break the news to everyone else.
About ten minutes into the meal, his son spoke up and said, “I’m going to be a big brother!” My boyfriend’s parents looked at him and said, “Your mother is pregnant?!” He laughed and simply said, “Nope,” and continued eating. Then they all looked at me and you would have thought they won the lottery. In short, they were all very happy.
In the months to follow, everything was going great. It was a textbook pregnancy. The first time I felt the baby flutter inside of me was exciting. It felt as though I had butterflies in my stomach. Every time it would happen I would stop whatever it was that I was doing and just enjoy it for as long as it lasted.
January 27th, 1995, weighing in at 139 pounds, I heard the heartbeat for the first time. If it wasn’t real to me before then, it was certainly real to me that day. I was so excited. Especially because my doctor was not sure if he would be able to find the heartbeat that early.
February 24, weighing in at 142 pounds, I heard the heartbeat again and also had some blood drawn to check for any abnormalities.
My March, April and May appointments were pretty much the same. The blood work came back normal. I enjoyed hearing the heartbeat each time. Every four weeks, while waiting in the waiting room, I could feel myself getting excited just to hear it. I couldn’t believe how fast the time was going. I was nearly there and it felt like only yesterday that I took that home pregnancy test. Now my appointments were moving closer together. I had to wait only three weeks this time to hear the heartbeat.
June 3rd, my friend gave me a baby shower. A few close friends were there. I received a lot of nice things and everything I could possibly need. I couldn’t wait for everyone to leave so I could start putting everything together and have it ready and waiting for the baby.
June 9th, the day of my next scheduled doctor’s appointment, I was at work and felt kind of strange. I had a “full” feeling the last part of the day. I didn’t think much of it because the baby was always so active. I thought it was just doing it’s daily flips. I had mentioned the feeling to a woman I worked with.
She and I didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things but she seemed concerned about what I had just told her. She gave me her home phone number and told me to call her if I needed her, and not to worry if I couldn’t make it in to work for some reason on Monday. I just laughed it off, and told her I would be in because the other woman in the same department was in the hospital, and was not expected back for at least another week.
I showed up for my scheduled appointment that afternoon but had to come back later because the doctor had an emergency at the hospital next door. Since my mom worked around the corner from the doctor, I decided I would pick her up first and take her back to the doctor’s with me.
When I arrived back at his office, he wasn’t back yet, but was expected to walk through the door at any moment. I weighed in at 156 pounds. I was surprised, but not concerned that I had weighed a pound less than I had weighed at my appointment three weeks earlier. When I was on the examining table, I noticed the doctor was sweating. I thought maybe he ran from the hospital, or was just hot from walking back from the hospital. It was summer in California. Everybody sweats!
He searched and searched for the heartbeat, the sound I longed to hear every visit. He couldn’t find it. I don’t know if I was in denial, or if I just didn’t understand what was really going on. I was still not concerned when he asked me to get dressed and told me I needed to go to the hospital and have a sonogram. He gave me a slip of paper to give to the hospital when I got there. It simply read “Sonogram-no fetal heartbeat”.
I returned to my car, where my mother was waiting. I told her we had to go to the hospital because he couldn’t find the heartbeat. I think she knew it was not going to end well but she never showed her fear to me. “Maybe the baby is hiding or something”, she said.
I had the sonogram, was escorted to a hospital room, and the nurse said “Wait here, the doctor is on his way.”
I still could not understand what the big deal was. I felt fine. Everything had been fine up until this point. I refused to believe anything was wrong with me or the baby. I waited in the room for what seemed to be forever. My doctor came in, stood by my side and with a tear running down his face said, “The baby is gone.” A lot of the rest is a blur to me now. By what he could see from the sonogram, the cord had been wrapped around the baby’s neck. He was so active that the cord had stretched and stretched and he just got tangled up in it. He told me he could do a cesarean but would feel better if I would allow my body to go through the labor and delivery naturally. Though I didn’t like the idea much, I trusted him enough to take his advice. If my cervix had been open, he could have induced labor right then and there. He wanted me to come back to his office Monday to see if there were any changes. Why was this happening to me?
I arrived home around 7:00 that night to find my boyfriend and a package of baby clothes from my grandmother waiting for me. I don’t remember the ride home but I remember throwing that package of clothes at the wall and yelling at him that there was no baby! Gone! The baby is gone! I know he was hurting, but at that moment I couldn’t think of anyone but me and the baby I would never get to see grow up, or even breathe.
Again, I made a lot of phone calls that evening. The first call I made was to the woman from work. I told her what had happened and told her I wasn’t sure when I would return to work because I wasn’t sure when I was going to deliver. I don’t remember sleeping or even being awake that night. I only remember crying. I cried while I slept. I cried while I was awake. I called my father the following day. I was glad to hear his wife say he wasn’t home. I didn’t want to be the one that had to tell him. He called me back only minutes after hanging up with her. To this day, he still won’t talk to me about what happened. He took it very hard. I was having pains once in awhile that day. Though I cried the entire day and night, it still did not feel real to me.
All weekend I thought about what I had done wrong during the pregnancy, or if there were something I had done in my past to deserve such a fate. My doctor told me not to blame myself. “This just happens sometimes” he said. I was sure I was being punished.
The weekend came and went, and I found myself in the doctor’s office that Monday. There was no change since Friday. My cervix was still closed. He wanted to get a drug that would cause the cervix to open but the insurance company said it was not life threatening so they were just sitting on the paperwork. He thought we could get it by Thursday. What a bunch of bullshit! The doctor told me he would like me to consider looking at and holding my baby once he was delivered. I thought he was crazy. He told me that I may not realize it now but it will actually help me get through this if I see that my baby was perfectly normal with ten fingers and ten toes . He wanted to do an autopsy on the baby and said he would take care of the remains if I wanted him to. I was not thinking clearly, and decided to let him do what he wanted.
June 13th I went to the hospital at 3:00 a.m.. The pains felt very close. They ended up sending me home at 4:30 a.m. because my cervix was still closed and the pain started getting better. I remember sitting in a hot tub for about an hour that afternoon. I couldn’t sit, sleep or walk. I finally decided we should go to my boyfriend’s parents house since they were closer to the hospital. As soon as we got there I got worse. I could not even speak. We got to the hospital by 6:15 p.m. and my baby boy was born at 6:50 p.m. We cut it very close. The physical pain was over but the emotional pain had only just begun.
He weighed 1 pound and 11 ounces when born. He measured 13” long. Once I delivered him the nurses wanted to know if I wanted to hold him. I told them I wasn’t sure yet. He was born with the cord wrapped around his neck several times, as the doctor had predicted. He arrived shortly after I delivered the baby. He stayed with me for a bit and tried to convince me to stay in the hospital at least overnight.
There was no way in hell I was staying there. My boyfriend’s parents came with us to the hospital. His mother was very supportive. Even though she was clearly upset, she held it together long enough for me to get through it. She held one hand while my boyfriend held the other. They were both very helpful to me. It was when I delivered the baby that both of them broke down. It was the first time I had seen my boyfriend cry for the loss. I’m still not sure if he cried because we lost the baby, or if it was because he hated seeing me in pain. About 20 minutes after delivering, I told the nurse I would like to hold him.
Even today, as I write, I cry thinking about his tiny little fingers and toes. He looked like a sleeping angel. Sure he was a little discolored but he was a perfect pint-size little baby. I kept wishing for him to open his eyes. I held him for a bit and then allowed my boyfriend’s parents to hold the grandson they would never get to spoil. I think his mother held him longer than any of us. She just kept rocking him back and forth as though she were comforting him after a bad dream. Once his parents left, my boyfriend held the baby for a few minutes. I could tell he wasn’t sure what he should say or do. I think we were all in a fog at that point. They kept him in the room with me for as long as I was there that night. He was kept in a little bed that kept him warm. The nurse took a couple of pictures of him and I think they are beautiful. However, they don’t show his beauty that could be seen only when you were in the room with him.
I left the hospital a few hours after having him. Long enough for them to pump me full of antibiotics. I remember it was a full moon. It was so depressing to go through all that physical pain and to leave that hospital empty handed. I felt so cheated. I don’t think we said two words to each other all the way home. The nurse told me that my boyfriend would mourn in his own way and that I should accept that. I thought I was ready to accept it but in reality, I could think only of myself.
When I got home I told Mom all the details and she just held me for awhile. It was clear that she did not know what to say. This is something she never had to experience. My sister and I use to kid her that she could get pregnant just standing downwind of a fertile man. She took off the rest of the week with me. My doctor was pleased that I would not be spending this time alone. He had given me a prescription for a tranquilizer and told me not to be afraid to use it if I needed it. I remember taking it only once during the time I spent home from work. I didn’t like it because I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t cry if I was sad and couldn’t laugh if I heard a funny joke.
The day after coming home from the hospital, a woman from Social Services called me to find out what I planned to do. I explained to her that my doctor wanted to do an autopsy and said he would take care of the remains. She blew up at me, telling me I HAD to make arrangements because he was 28 weeks. The way she explained it was anything over 24 weeks could not just be disposed of or, as she put it, “thrown away”. She made me feel guilty for not giving him a name at the hospital. She made me feel worse and I didn’t think that was possible. In any case, I called the hospital and told them I would make the arrangements and for them to let me know when the funeral home could pick him up.
I tried to talk to my boyfriend during my week home but he didn’t want to talk about it. I am the type of person that needs to talk about what is bothering me or it builds up and the smallest of things can make me fly off the handle. I thought this loss would bring us closer together, but it only made me dislike him even more. He was busy “playing” while I felt I had to deal with this all on my own. Even his eight year old son had more compassion than he did. He spent that weekend with us and the first words out of his mouth were “How are you? Do you feel any better?”. I felt so bad for him but didn’t know how to talk to an eight year old about what had happened. I had one friend that had gone through something similar that I talked to. Her baby actually took a breath before she died. Talking to her helped me a lot. She made me see things differently. We cried and laughed together on the phone. I think it helped her a lot also being able to talk about what happened to her daughter.
I tried to get out of the house once while I was home. I made the mistake of going to the grocery store. I had a cart full of groceries and heard a baby crying behind me. I couldn’t take it. I felt my eyes welling up with tears and felt my heartbeat getting faster. I left the cart where it stood, full of groceries, and ran out the door. I felt like an idiot, but I think that I’d have felt worse if I’d broken down right there in front of everyone.
When I returned back to work nobody knew how to approach me. I was fine with that because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to talk about it. Working seemed to help a little. I almost lost control a couple of times but somehow I kept it together.
On June 30th I went to Forest Lawn to pick up my son's ashes. It was not easy. I saw “baby boy Dukes” on the box and started feeling guilty all over again. “Why didn’t I give him a name at the hospital?!” I couldn’t believe my son was in this little brass box. He was supposed to be in a crib or in my arms in just six short weeks and here he is, in a box.
I saw the doctor that day also. I was fine until I saw him and then I just broke down. He has been such a kind man throughout the years and has become a big part of my family.
I had a follow up appointment with him July 21st. Other than the weight I had gained, my body seemed to be back to normal. We discussed the autopsy report. Nothing was found. He had simply strangled. I didn’t break down this time.
On August 10th, the expected due date, I left early from work. I could not keep it together. I wasn’t even thinking about it at first and then it crossed my thoughts and it was over. I tried to control myself but it was no use.
The next day was Friday and the place I worked for had scheduled a bus trip to Laughlin for it’s employees. I thought if I went it would get my mind off of things. Needless to say, I got drunk on the bus on the way up and was feeling no pain by the time we reached Laughlin. My boyfriend went along also. I thought maybe, just maybe, we could get closer or at least try to enjoy each other. The only thing he enjoyed was the money I brought along with me. He went through the money faster than I did. I spent a lot of time in the hotel room trying to collect myself. I didn’t have a bad time, but I certainly did not have a good time. I was glad when we finally got back home that Sunday.
One day in August, I don’t remember the exact day, my boyfriend’s five year old second cousin was killed in an automobile accident. We were all shocked. We had just seen her weeks before it happened. I know that it is petty but I couldn’t help wanting to yell at my boyfriend. When he got the news, he was clearly upset, as were the rest of us. However, when he talked to people on the phone about it, he cried. He did everything I wanted him to do when his own son died. Why didn’t he rate tears or conversation? Why was the little girl more important than my son? I know it is wrong to feel that way but at the time it felt logical to think the things I did. He mourned for weeks after she died. It was like his (and mine) entire family forgot about the baby when this happened. Nobody cared he was gone, or even remembered that he existed.
During the last difficult months of 1995, one of my dogs almost died from parvo and one of my friends was dying from A.I.D.S. On top of all this, my car was costing me a fortune trying to find out what was wrong with it. I had been to the dealer three times by August and nothing was being done. This is when everything came to a head. One day after coming back from the Ford dealer, I buried myself in the back room and started playing on the computer. My boyfriend came in the room and said HE was going to fix the car. I barked at him and told him no. If he were to do something to the car and something happened, they would not honor the warranty I had on the car and I was still fighting with the Ford dealer at this point. He got pissy and stormed out of the room. He returned a few minutes later and sort of apologized and said he had been “a little stressed lately”. HE had been stressed? A man that works when he feels like it?? A man who has no concept of the word “responsibility”?
I blew and I blew big!! I let it all go at that point. Here I was, suffering with the worst thing that had ever happened in my life, and nobody wanted to talk to me about it or, comfort me. I told him to get his belongings and get the hell out of my house! He was offering me nothing and I felt I could heal better without him in my life. I told him he had finally driven me to the point of no return and it was over. I had no desire to even be friends at this point. I told him I didn’t care where he went or what he did, I just wanted him out...NOW!
He tried talking his way back into my heart. When I get to that point, I see nothing but red and hear nothing but an annoying hum. He didn’t move out immediately but he did leave soon thereafter. I didn’t make his last few weeks with me pleasant, I assure you. I didn’t speak to him unless he asked me a question. My mother and I started eating dinner on the way home from work and let him take care of his own meals for a change. I was tired of carrying him, and getting nothing in return.
The trauma never seemed to let up during the last months of 1995. My 15 year old Golden Retriever, Hustler, had to be put to sleep. My friend died due to complications of A.I.D.S. Everything started falling apart again. For some reason, I was stronger through these disasters. Maybe I was nothing but numb. My boyfriend was out of the house and that was a relief . I felt a strain had been lifted when he was gone.
The last time I remember hearing from him was in June of 1996. I was on my way to spend the weekend alone to remember my son in my own way. He called before I left. When I heard his voice on the phone, I actually gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought he was calling because he was feeling low because of the time of year. His exact words were, “Well, I thought it happened sometime in June...blah, blah, blah.” I can’t believe he couldn’t remember when he lost his son. I guess I should give him credit for even knowing how to dial the phone on his own. Bitter? You bet! I have known 15 year olds who have been more responsible and mature.
I thought I was going to spend that weekend alone. I went to the wineries, picked up a few bottles of wine. One bottle was not going to do it. I was going to be there for three days. I was shocked by a knock at the door the first night. It was a male friend of mine who wanted to see how I was doing. Here was a man I hadn’t known long showing more compassion for me than the people I had known for years. He called every evening to see if I wanted company while I was there. I looked forward to seeing a friendly face those nights. Being alone was not the goal. Finding peace within, alone or not, was the goal. I don’t think he knows how much he helped me through that difficult time. He expected nothing of me, and I expected nothing of him. He gave me more than I could have asked for. Maybe one day I will thank him for his compassion and willingness to listen.
The following June, I met a man who has been a blessing. We officially started seeing each other two days after my son's 2nd “birth”day. He gave me a reason to look at June with a smile. He has been supportive, loving and caring. We’ve been together since the first date. We married in November of 1999.
If only I could have known him in 1995, I think life would have been a lot easier back then. I am just thankful I have him in my life now and that is where he is going to stay. To this day, I feel blessed to be loved by him. He is the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
It wasn’t until long after I met Richard, my husband, that I finally got the strength to get the baby items I had together and figure out what I should do with them. I didn’t think it would be right to have a garage sale and somehow “profit” from my loss. I knew of a couple that was going through some hard times, and didn’t have the money to buy the things they needed for their baby.
I decided to give them everything. If nothing else, my son made it easier for a new baby to have a better start than she would have if I didn’t have those things. They were very appreciative and overwhelmed at the fact that someone they hardly knew would do that for them. It helped them and it made me feel good in the process. What could be wrong with that? Nothing.
Next month, June 2000, will be his 5th “birth”day. I have been thinking about him on a daily basis. I think about him starting school or making me a picture to put on the refrigerator. I can see him crying because he has fallen down and skinned his knees, and I am there blowing on the knee trying to comfort him. This is a very tough year. I haven’t felt this bad since the day I found out I would never get to hear him cry.
Mother’s Day is especially hard. Just because he is not here with me, people tend to forget I was and am a mother. I have a special friend whom I lost contact with until recently and she is so thoughtful that she sent me a Mother’s Day card this year. People don’t realize that it is the smallest of things that make people happy. The card will be treasured always just as every other memento of his will be.
I learned some valuable things these last five years. Everyone mourns and deals with stressful situations differently. There is no right or wrong way to get through it. The most important thing to do, however, is deal with it. You have to face it and find out what works best for you. I have always been the type of person who writes when I am upset or just want to get my emotions and feelings in check. It has helped me through some difficult times. We need to remember we are not the only ones suffering. The people that are closest to us suffer also. They don’t want to see us in pain, but they don’t always say or do what we consider appropriate. Most people responded to my situation as something I needed to get past. “He’s in a better place now.” Why is that place better than in my arms? I want him here with me. “You’re young, you can have other children.” “Well at least it happened now instead of after he was born.” “You really need to get over this.” That last statement was made by my mother. I know she didn’t mean it as harshly as it sounded. This was something she never had to deal with so she didn’t know what I was thinking or feeling. Another popular comment was “I know how you feel....” I don’t care if a person has gone through the exact same thing, they have no idea how you feel about it! Everyone responds to situations differently. Nobody but YOU knows how you feel.
Some people think they are helping by saying nothing at all. Sometimes it does help but there were times that I just wanted to talk to somebody about what was going on, and I felt there was nobody there willing to listen. I can see how all of these comments and actions are easily done. Last year a woman, the wife of the gentleman than cleans our pool, suffered a great loss. She lost their child 4 or 5 months into the pregnancy. The first thing I wanted to say, but caught myself, was I knew how she felt. There was no way I knew how she felt. They had been trying for quite some time to have another child so this pregnancy was a blessing. Just because she had another child didn’t make the loss easier to bear. Just because she lost the child earlier in the pregnancy didn’t mean that my loss was worse than hers.
I tried to do for her what I think would have helped me when I felt lost. I wrote her a letter explaining that I had gone through something similar (much different than saying “I went through the same thing...”) and that nobody can tell her how she feels or how she should feel but know that she wasn’t alone. I basically gave her a person to call or write if she just needed to talk to someone that wasn’t going to judge her. If she just wanted someone to yell at I would be her sounding board. One of the ways her situation was different is that she had a husband willing to help her through this in any way that he could. I didn’t know her husband very well at that time but he seemed to be very supportive. Although I’ve never met her in person, I feel that if ever I needed anyone to talk to, she would be there. That is what people need to know to get through any situation. They need to know that someone is out there and that they are not alone.
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