"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.
The anesthesiologist snaked the relief into my back. My body hurt no more.
Everyone was gone. Except the nurse. Stephanie. She looked at me. "Paula, we have to talk."
I slowly turned my heard toward her, "Yeah?"
"I think you know, but I have to tell you. There's no heartbeat. Your baby died."
" . . . I know. I know."
I closed my eyes. It was dark. Quiet. Still. Forever changed. My life. I hurt but couldn't cry. My mom still hadn't gotten to the hospital yet. And Scott wasn't by my side.
Everyone came back. Scott sat in a chair. Jackie sat in a chair. Christine sat on the floor. My other midwife wasn't there. I don't know why. I haven't asked. Too painful? I lay in the bed, epidural pleasantly doing its job, and me, pissed because I broke a fingernail on the damn hospital bed rail during an earlier contraction. Focused on a fingernail when my life was falling apart.
Stephanie brought pillows in for everyone. And blankets. She was kind. And thoughtful. And she cried.
I looked over at my precious husband and Jackie, the woman who'd been my rock for the past two months. My heart ached for them. I couldn't say anything except, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry . . ."
"Jackie, remember when I lost it back at home? When I lost control and asked to be taken to the hospital?"
"Well, it happened because I knew my baby was dead. I couldn't focus on the contractions anymore knowing the truth. I just couldn't do it."
"I know that now. I didn't then. I couldn't believe you were 'going there.' I couldn't believe that those words were coming from you."
I looked over at Scott. I've never seen anyone's eyes ever look so empty.
Stephanie began to talk to me about procedures. I'd be giving birth vaginally. [Whoop-de-doo.] I could hold my baby. [Oh my God! How wonderful! Yes, I want to do that! Desperately.] As long as I wanted.
"How long is that? Can others see the baby? My mom is on her way. I want family here." She kindly told me that everything was up to me. As long as I wanted. I could bathe the baby and take the hand and footprints. She'd check and see. She brought her protocol book to me. She said that there was no specified time limit. I could release my baby when I was ready to. No time limit. No time limit. No time limit. No time limit. No time limit. No time limit . . .
My mother arrived. She came to my bed and said, in a somewhat jovial manner with her hands on her hips, "What? No baby yet?"
"No mom. Not yet. [deep breath] There won't be. The baby died."
She turned away. I don't know what she thought. I saw her pain though. Seems like all her life's tragedies coursed through her heart that very moment. And nothing probably matched hearing that her own child's child was dead.
Scott's mother came. She and Scott went somewhere outside of the room to talk. I tried to figure out who needed to call whom. Someone had to call Liana, my sister, who was far far away in New Zealand. I tried to figure out what time it was there because I didn't want her to hear the news while she was at work. We counted. She would be at home. I knew it was too early for Maria and Eric, my other sister and my brother, to be called. Scott's sister Cheryl and his brother Todd and his wife Jeannie had to be called. I'd let Scott and his mom figure that out. My mom called my dad and told him the news. She asked him to call Liana since she was at home.
Alexandria, my darling two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, was at my parents' home sleeping. My mom went home so that my dad could come to the hospital. He did. My mom came back. Then, everyone except for Scott, Jackie, and Christine left to get something to eat.
Several hours passed. I was checked. No progress. My body was tired.
Pitocin. Would I consent? Yes.
One and a half hours later. I was checked again. I was going backwards. I had begun to run a fever. My body was exhausted.
Cesarean . . . cesarean . . . cesarean . . . cesarean . . . section. Would I consent? Yes.
I closed my eyes. I felt my spirit die.
Stephanie asked me if I had any questions about the operation. I told her I had no questions, but several requests: 1) I'd like the drape dropped when our baby was being delivered so that I could see, 2) I wanted my baby laid on my chest, without being cleaned off and without a blanket, and 3) I didn't want anyone to announce the gender. She brought the doctor to my bedside. I repeated my requests to him. No problem. I also asked about being able to keep my baby on my chest while I was being taken back to the birthing room.
No problem again. If there were any complications, Scott could carry the baby. I didn't want my baby to be without her/his mom or dad.
I did ask if they could wait until my mom and dad came back. My parents had been called. They were on their way. They had only a fifteen-minute drive, but the operation had to take place right away because of my escalating fever. So . . .
It began. It felt the same as when I was cut open to have Alexandria. I didn't want to hear what they were doing. Or focus on it. I asked Scott to talk to me. He couldn't. One of the nurses came and chatted with me.
The drape was dropped. I was scared I'd see my insides lying all over the drapes. I didn't. All I saw was this little body.
This little body was laid on my chest. Not clean nor swaddled. Just a towel draped over the baby. Onto my naked skin. Onto my breasts. I saw only my child. I parted the legs. And before I looked, I turned toward Scott. I saw the tears first in his eyes. Then, they rolled down and got lost in his face mask. I turned back. A son. My son. Our son. We had a boy. I knew Scott's world just shattered for the second time. Scott's son. I looked up at our son's face. "Scott, he looks just like Alexandria." He did. Exactly. I got to do what I didn't get to do with Alexandria after the Cesarean with her. I got to hold my son. The only difference was, this baby, my son, was dead. I felt the urge. The desperate, burning desire. I wanted to nurse my baby. I somehow believed that if I just nursed him, he'd breathe. I believed I could will the breath back into him. I could make him breathe if only I could get some milk into him. Reality came back. I felt as if I'd died.
I began to shake violently. My arms wouldn't stop. Then my shoulders. My chest. My hands. All I could see were these arms shaking. Were they mine? I fell asleep. Shortly. I awoke. I looked at my son. I fell asleep. I awoke.
Why was I falling asleep? I fell asleep. I awoke. I looked at my son. I squeezed him tightly to my chest so he wouldn't fall off. I fell asleep. I awoke. I told Scott he had to hold him because I was afraid I'd drop him. He said, "I can't." I told him, through chattering teeth, that he had to. I'd drop him. I was passing out. I fell asleep. I awoke. A nurse was helping me give our son to Scott. Scott was crying. I passed out.
I awoke at eleven-something. It was light. It was morning. I didn't know how long I'd been asleep. My dad was standing next to me. He was talking on the phone. "Do you want to talk to Paige?"
"No." [Hey, how come I have this oxygen mask on my face? I can't breathe with it on.] I pulled the oxygen mask down a little bit.
"Dad, I need some water."
My mom walked to the end of my bed when she saw that I was awake. She said, "You scared us, Paula. We thought we were going to lose you." That's all she said. No explanation beyond that. I was too weak to question.
My dad started feeding me ice chips. Within a short time, I felt really good.
Just like I had after I'd come out of the operating room with Alexandria. I just couldn't figure out why my mom and the nurse were cleaning my baby.
My Aunt Anna and Uncle Raymond came into the room. They looked at our baby. They cried. He was in a bassinet between the door and my bed. I wanted to hold him. I couldn't talk. They seemed so far away. My mom was standing there with them. They were talking. I couldn't hear. I watched them. They opened his blanket. They looked at his body. They touched him all over. They cried.
I cannot remember when, but at some point, I was asked his name. By someone. I told them.
Kadin. Kadin Scott William Long.
I cannot remember exactly when, but I was given my son to hold. I don't even remember who gave him to me. I was holding Kadin. I hurt. I was lying down. I couldn't sit up. I wanted to hold him like a mother holds her new baby. Not lying down, but sitting up. I wanted him cradled against my breast. His head next to mine. I wanted to kiss him. To envelope him with my soul. My love. My tears. I wanted to nurse him. I wanted him to know how much I loved him. To see it. And to feel it.
I remember being shown Kadin's tiny hand and footprints. We took pictures (actually, lots of them), and I held my precious Kadin for almost twenty-four hours. I slept with him on my chest that night. I cried. Told him how sorry I was. Told him over and over how much I loved him. My family and friends came to see him. To hold him. And to say hello and goodbye. I don't think those who held him will ever regret touching his sweet body. I remember finally being able to sit up. Someone helped me to pull back his blanket and search his body, which I seared into my soul's memory. I wanted to be sure I memorized every patch of his beauty. His little butt was as fluffy and soft as the nape of his neck. He was simply . . . beautiful.
We chose to not have an autopsy performed, but later discovered that I almost died, too, due to a systemic infection. One of the bacterias was e-coli. I also had an intrauterine infection . . . again, e-coli was one of the bacteria present. We believe that these infections caused the placenta to shut down within minutes, for there were no signs of Kadin's impending death. His heartbeat was good and strong throughout and after contractions. Fifteen minutes after the last check, there was no heartbeat. I showed absolutely no signs of infection until approximately six hours after transporting to the hospital. Tragic. But I don't believe Kadin was meant to be here, no matter what path we'd chosen for our birth. I believe he needed to know love . . . fully and unconditionally . . . and that's all he needed from me and his short life. I hope his need was fulfilled. I hope he knows that every decision we made during my pregnancy with regard to his birth was made because we loved him and wanted the best start for his life. I visit his grave often. I talk to him daily. I miss him. And my heart hurts as I know it will forever. I'm learning now how to live forever with a broken heart.
Paula Long lives in Texas with her husband, Scott, and their daughter, Alexandria. Her son, Kadin Scott William Long, was born still on July 29, 1998.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.