By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
"Take me to the hospital! Now! I want this baby cut out of me! Let them do it! I have to go! I just can't do it any . . . more . . ." As I leaned over the barstool next to my bed with my screaming eyes reaching to the skies, someone attempted to calm me. It was either my husband, Scott, or Jackie, my midwife. Someone suggested I get into the shower to help me reclaim my focus. I let myself be led. I knew I had to regain control or my body would take over, and I'd end up in a heap on the floor, writhing in pain.
It was dark except for several candles flickering. The smell of musk came over me. I leaned across the second barstool as the water hit my back.
I hated the shower when the contractions came. The sharp, wet needles pierced my skin. It hurt. I laid my head down and the truth came. A single thought came repeatedly: "My baby's dead. My baby's dead. My baby's dead . . ."
Scott stood in the flamed dark beside me. Wet. He didn't know what I was thinking. I didn't say it out loud. I was scared. He led me out of the shower and dried me off. I had to go to the bathroom. This was worse than the needles (I had earlier learned that I had to stand over the toilet to release so the spasms wouldn't circulate when I bent my pelvis). Another wave hit me. I moved over and leaned onto the bathroom counter . . . breathe, breathe, breathe . . . Scott intently whispered, "You can do this. You will do this. This baby will come soon. Tonight. Focus. Stay focused . . ." His face flickered. I turned toward the source. It was the musk candle, lighting this man's face who would later be told his baby was dead. Something I already knew but didn't dare utter aloud. I buried my head in my chest. I didn't know where else to go.
I returned to my bedside stool. I lowered my torso over it, hung my head toward the ground, and blacked out the existence around me. I don't remember anything else until I heard Jackie say, "Paula, we have to go to the hospital. I just cannot find the heartbeat." I looked up into her eyes, straightened my body, and replied, "Let's go. Now." To Scott, I ordered, "Go into the closet and get my red shorts outfit. Get my shoes. They're over there." He complied and got me dressed. I heard Jackie on the phone talking to the hospital. Then I heard Scott call his mother and mine. We were ready to go. I climbed into Christine's--my labor support person's--van and focused on the clock. I hugged a pillow tightly against my swollen belly. Christine would periodically rub my leg and offer encouraging words during the unbearable pain. I focused on the fact that when I got to the hospital, I'd demand pain relief. Yes. Drugs. That which I never thought I'd need. Or want. I had to shut out one of the pains. The other, I knew, couldn't be shut out by any drug. I never uttered a sound. And no one ever uttered what I thought only I knew.
I rolled out of the van and stumbled through the emergency-room doors. It was the middle of the night. Around midnight. It was quiet except for a man asking me if I wanted a wheelchair or a stretcher. I couldn't answer as I leaned up against the wall in agony. I was able to mutter, "Wheelchair--I can't be on my back." I closed my eyes and soon I was in a birthing room getting undressed. It was light. Bright. I was helped onto the bed where I said, "Jackie, I'm sorry, but I have to . . ." and to the nurse I pleaded, "I have to have drugs. When can I have them? I need an epidural." She told me I'd have to wait just a little while. They needed to get an ultrasound and get the doctor. "Who's on call?"
The nurse told me, and I felt fear run through me. I'd heard this doctor was a high intervention OB. No chance for a natural birth for me here. In this hospital. Nor with this doctor. What was I thinking . . . natural birth? Ha. It was over. I remembered what I knew. What I knew and no one else did.
I lay on my back. Several people were standing over me. Someone moved the ultrasound wand over my belly. There were no voices. It was silent. I wanted to remind someone to turn up the volume on the machine because I couldn't hear the 'swish swish' of the heartbeat. I had forgotten. But then I remembered.
I sat up. They gave me some kind of drug in my IV. I asked how long it would be before it would take affect. Thirty seconds. Wham. I felt a contraction. They lied to me. I screamed. I wanted pain relief, but instead, I got Stadol. My head felt heavy. My body felt heavy. But still I felt. A lab tech came and took some blood. The doctor came. I lay back down. The ultrasound wand swept over my belly again. This time, I looked at the monitor. I saw a picture. It was my baby's heart. It was still. And, it was quiet in the room. Again.