I looked down at the form on the clipboard, and then up at R beside the bed next to me.
“What if they’re wrong?” I whispered.
We’d waited in the ultrasound room for nearly an hour before the nurse advised me that my doctor was on the phone for me. I walked over and picked up the receiver, hoping he wasn’t going to say what I thought he would say. But he did.
“Your baby has died,” he’d said firmly, but sympathetically. “It died several weeks ago, that was why it measured so much smaller than it should have.”
“But,” I sputtered, shaking my head towards R across the room, “the technician. She said she heard the heart beating. She told us that.”
The doctor sighed on the other end of the line. “I know she did, and I’m so sorry that she did that. She shouldn’t have said anything like that. She was wrong. She heard your heartbeat, which was probably elevated because you’re worried, and mistook it for the baby’s.”
I had stood there, silent, holding the phone, the rest of the conversation a blur. He’d told me my options; I could wait it out and let nature “take its course”. When I asked how long that could take, the waiting around for your inevitable miscarriage, he said sometimes it could take a while; it had already been weeks. When I asked what the alternative was, he told me that he could perform a D and C.
I knew the term. I’d read it a million times in my mother’s “Ms. Guide To A Woman’s Health”. The description of the procedure was in the section titled, “Abortion”. I cringed at the visuals floating around in my head at that moment, but the thought of carrying my dead fetus any longer made me so sick and so sad that I told him that I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.
Which was how I landed in a hospital bed that Monday morning, with R at my side, looking at the paperwork the nurse had given me. One was a consent form, authorizing the doctor to perform the “procedure”. The second, which had literally taken my breath away when I flipped the pages on the clipboard, was titled “Certificate of Fetal Death”.
“What if they’re wrong,” I repeated to R, who hadn’t heard me the first time. I showed him the form. “If they’re wrong, we’re about to kill our baby.”
R touched my shoulder and squeezed it lightly. “Do you think they’re wrong?” he asked gently.
I wanted to say yes, to shout, to wake up, to make everything stop. “I saw it, R. I could see the whole thing.” I could hear my throat closing up as it did when I talked and cried at the same time. “The hands, the legs…there were fingers…I could see them on the screen.”
“I know,” he answered quietly. “I saw them too.”
The tears were silently running down my face. “How could this have happened? I was supposed to be safe, nearly twelve weeks. How could I have not known that the baby died? And here I was all excited that I was feeling better. I was feeling better because my baby was dead. How sick is that?”
R just shook his head, and reached for my hand in silence. He had no words of consolation, because there were none. Nothing could console me.
I looked back down at the form. The word “death” seemed somehow bolded. I looked at the date on the form: 2/10/99. A gasp escaped my lips.
“What is it?” R asked.
I pointed to the date. “It’s six years. Six years since the day my mother took her turn for the worse. The day we knew she was going to die. It had been the tenth.”
R looked at me, eyes full of sympathy. “I’m so, so sorry.”
I signed the form and waited for the rest of this awful day to begin.