I was pregnant on Thursday. On Friday I was not. This time I had been four months pregnant. The other two losses had both been a lot earlier.
We came home from the hospital, my husband and I, and picked up our daughter. She's almost 2.
We have been together since our teens. We got married in our early 20s and had our baby when I was 26.
When she was less than a year old, we decided to keep expanding our family. We had our first loss in January, our second in June and our third in November.
The last one involved a much wider circle of friends and acquaintances. My body doesn't keep secrets well, and I had been obviously pregnant for several weeks.
We had told our families, I had told my boss and we were set for this one, this time, to work out.
I had an ultrasound at the end of the first trimester, and everything looked good. The baby was wiggling around and had all the right parts in all the right places.
However, I had some blood work that showed a slightly increased risk for chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. After lots of agonizing debate, we decided to get amniocentesis done, which is a definitive test of whether the baby has chromosomal abnormalities. The procedure has risks, but we decided in the end that the stress of not knowing was also a health concern. We felt that knowing (either way) would at least allow us to prepare.
What we would do with the test results, I didn't know, and will never know. When we went in to get the test, the ultrasound technician asked us to wait while she got a doctor because something didn't look right.
Watching the monitor, something didn't look right to us either - the baby wasn't moving. The doctor came in and told us that the baby was dead.
Of all the outcomes I had prepared myself for, this one wasn't on the list. I remember feeling dead inside as I cried in my husband's arms, a disembodied voice in my head recognizing the shattered sobs as deep loss.
I left the office with orders for a D&C, the procedure that would empty my uterus of the dead baby, in five days' time when a doctor was available.
It was the most incredibly awful five days I have endured. Knowing that there was something dead in my body. Still looking pregnant and having to deal with questions and congratulations. Waiting for the bleeding to start and worrying about the possibility of having to deal with delivering the stillborn fetus in my bathroom by myself. The intense feeling of being unclean and unwell.
I went back to work a few days after the procedure. I nodded my acceptance of condolences through the first week and painfully corrected people who told me I was hardly showing.
Throughout the ordeal, my friends and family told me how strong I was and remarked on how well I was dealing with everything.
I find this sentiment odd. No one gets a choice - things happen and life marches on. My only option, as I see it, is to accept this loss, as I accepted the previous two, because no amount of anger, sadness or thought will change what happened.
I am still sometimes overwhelmed by intense sadness. But I try not to linger there. I can't do anything to change my situation beyond choosing my response, and this period of struggle and sadness is part of what constitutes life.
My problems are no more or less important than those of any other person. The loss of another child really represents the loss of a dream: that perfect family picture I have in my mind's eye.
Our heartbreak seems to be augmented by the paradigm shift of having to embrace a different future than the one that's been shaping our actions.
My husband has been exceptional in helping my type-A personality understand that we can't control everything. He has helped me see how incredibly lucky we are to share a fairy-tale romance and the gift of our daughter on top of that.
The word "unfair" tends to rise in my mind when I think of what we are going through; I have to temper that with the fact that life has been more than fair in other aspects. And that fairness isn't really on the world's balance sheet anyway. Life is just a series of events that are sometimes the outcome of decisions and sometimes not.
In my journal is an entry I wrote after finding out our baby had died. I wrote it not believing it, but desperately wanting to believe it: "Life is viewed by contrast. Without dark we cannot understand light. The depth of our deepest sorrow is what enables us to experience new heights of joy."
If we have another girl, her name will be Hope.
Teresa Waddington lives in Calgary.
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