It's All Fun and Games Until the Baby Dies

Just so you know, this was my submission for this blog's name, but I was overruled by the less cynical.  Hmph.  

But truth be known, it's not really accurate -- in my case anyway.  My pregnancy with Maddy was hardly fun and games.  A subchorionic bleed from weeks 6-18w, low-lying placenta through 28w at which point they discovered the echogenic bowel, which disappeared by 32w, all overclouded by extreme exhaustion brought on by selling my house in a volatile market, moving to another state, and continuing my role as the primary caretaker of my then 2-year old.  I should’ve been daintily sipping water, fingering fabrics for a unisex nursery (Maddy was a surprise, to say the least), going to the gym for mild exercise every few days.  Instead I ran off to the emergency room a few times when blood gushed down my legs, spent every two to four weeks on my back under the ultrasound wand, and daily implored my toddler to please, please just lie down for a few minutes so mommy could have some “quiet time.”

Maddy was in fact my third pregnancy; my pregnancy in 2002 ended in miscarriage around 8w.  So Bella wasn’t exactly fun and games either, even though hers at least kept the blood and ER visits to a minimum.  I go through pregnancies tentatively, cautiously optimistic that things will work out fine, but knowing full well that often they don’t.  With Bella I managed to remain detached enough to question the return policy on her nursery furniture – delivered when I was 36w; with Maddy I decided not to even set up the room.

One of the smarter moves I’ve made in my life.

In retrospect, I missed a lot of signs -- falling anvils, blinking red lights, screaming horns, black cats --  during Maddy’s pregnancy that perhaps were the universe’s way trying to tell me things would not end well.  A lot of bloggers talk about the “I knew I’d never really have my child with me” syndrome, but I guess I wasn’t that prescient, or I had my fingers in my ears, or had read enough mystery novels to blow a lot of it off as red herrings.  I kept waving my “perfect” amnio results around to bat away the bizarre plague of locusts.  But I kept my distance, and hindsight is 20/20 and all that:

There was the overwhelming amount of blood.  Which they repeatedly told me was not unheard of, and the baby was always fine, heart ticking away.  Which they told me in the post-mortem might’ve been my body trying to rid itself of the pregnancy and failing.

There were the little things that began going wrong in clusters, not just the echogenic bowel, but the car stalling out on New Year’s Day.  The washer/dryer collapsing around 35w.  The plumbers screwing up the installation of the new set.  The newly set deadline at my husband’s job, days before the due date.  Going to bed that week, praying for the baby not to come while her daddy was far away.   Going over my due date.  Going a week over my due date.  The sink was broken in my delivery room, and a plumber worked on it as I tried to sleep through the gaps of my induced contractions.

Not wanting to jinx anything, but letting it slip to a few people that this was absolutely my last pregnancy.  Never again.  I was never going through the stress and exhaustion again.  Period.  My husband always wanted three children, I always held up my hand and said “we’re stopping at two.  And I hold the trump card, dear.”

I didn’t want a shower (I didn’t with Bella either), but no one sent anything.  With Bella, a few people finally caved when things got close.  Not this time.  Maddy had nothing waiting for her on the other side.

Standing in my lush yard on a warm autumn day, examining my new forever-home, marveling at my lovely, gracious neighbors, and telling my husband I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  And then placing my hand on my swollen tummy, and asking out loud, “what if the baby is the other shoe?”  He smiled and said nothing.

Never being able to look beyond the date of the baby’s birth.  That day to me was my goal, my dream.  Everything from that point would be all right.  I could finally put down the Doppler, and allow myself to accept the pregnancy as successful.  I never fantasized an older baby, a toddler, a child.  I dreamed only of getting the baby out of me so that I might better control things on the outside.  So I might spend two weeks, with my husband ensconced at home caring for my toddler, curled up with a newborn alternating between feeding and sleeping.   Sleeping.  I dreamed of rest for myself.  Peace in my head.  Relief.  Exhalation.  I never dreamed of the baby.


I’m always so impressed?  bewildered?  slightly perturbed?  by women who tell others of the their pregnancies when the second line turns blue, create a registry after the first OB appointment at 10w, pick names after the big scan at 20w, hold showers at 26w, enroll in their Lamaze and breastfeeding classes at 30w, and then pre-order their announcements, stock their freezers, and paint and decorate their future baby’s room.  Frankly, if none of this had ever happened to me, I don’t think I’d be one of those people anyway, not my style.  But now I’m so thankful I’m not.  I’m constantly heartbroken when I read women’s stories of canceling their showers, wondering whether and how to return gifts, and perhaps most gut-wrenching of all, dismantling their child’s room.  If you had prepared like this and then were clocked upside the head, I’m so sorry.  I feel as if I had it easy, that somehow I knew, that somehow my mind was telling me to create some distance, just in case.  I had very little to deal with materially after my child died. 

I knew things could go wrong, just not how wrong.   And I missed a lot of signs.  I did dream of this baby, without acknowledging it.  I did pick names, even though I never dared speak them aloud.  (The one we most wanted adorns her death certificate.)  I did figure out which room in my house would be hers, even though I never moved furniture or lifted a paint brush.  (It’s now an office.)  I did, eventually, around 38w, run some clothes through the washer/dryer and buy some diapers.  (They are all, diapers unopened, in plastic blue bins in my basement.)  I think I did know something was wrong, something about the way things were going, that it couldn’t possibly turn out well, that eventually the testing and the scans and the blood draws would come home to roost.  It was fun and games, my entire life until that day, I just didn’t know it until the day had passed.