I didn't feel Bowie as much as usual yesterday.
So this morning, I was hoping for big kicks, big movement, big signs that she was okay. And I was getting nothing.
I grab the gel and the Doppler, tuck a towel around my shorts, curl up with Ben on the couch, and wait to hear that heart beat to put my mind at ease.
Over the weeks, I've gotten better at finding that heart beat quickly or at least hearing the cord or the placenta at work.
And this time: nothing.
I start hyperventilating. I start shaking; I can't even keep it steady enough to keep looking.
I dial Justin at work.
I tell him I can't find the heartbeat. I'm pretty sure he starts hyperventilating too. "Do you want me to come home?" he asks. "Or meet you at the hospital?"
The hospital it is.
"Dis no work?" Ben asks, pointing to the Doppler, as I order him to get his shoes on.
He must sense my anxiety because he has his Crocs on quicker than I've ever seen, and waits patiently by the door for me as I rush around putting the dog in the crate and grabbing the Ipad and a snack cup. And wondering if that extra minute would have saved my baby's life. Wondering if I'd always regret that extra minute.
I throw Benjamin in the car and drive ten about the speed limit to the hospital. The same hospital that Ben was born in; the same hospital that Lydia was stillborn in. I fluctuate between telling myself I'm sure everything is just fine, sobbing, and hyperventilating. I debate calling my mom. I curse at stop lights. I picture being told "I'm sorry, there's no heartbeat," being induced, giving birth to my silent, dead child.
I grab Ben from his car seat, run into Labor & Delivery, announce to the front desk woman: "I'm 26 weeks pregnant. I haven't felt much movement. I couldn't find the heartbeat on the Doppler. My daughter was stillborn."
"Have a seat," she gestures to me.
I don't want to fucking sit down.
She slowly taps on her computer, looks up at me, with Benjamin sitting on my lap, and asks, "Is this your first pregnancy?"
I can't make this shit up.
I am led back to a triage room, told to put on the hospital gown.
My two-year-old starts telling me he needs to pee. "Can you hold it?" I ask. "We need to check on Bowie."
"No, mama, no hold it! Go pee."
I poke my head into the hallway, see all these nurses standing around, ask one where the bathroom is. My hospital gown is only half on, and I'm barefoot, but I don't particularly care. I am unsure if my second daughter is dead or alive and I have a two-year-old who needs to pee. And I'm crying. The nurse asks why I'm here. I tell her; I'm 26 weeks pregnant, I haven't felt much movement, the Doppler was silent, my daughter was stillborn. Her face softens. She walks us to the bathroom, tells me she'll be waiting to hook me up when we're done.
I don't make Ben wash his hands.
Back in the room, I'm sobbing as she gets the machine ready. Justin walks in, sees me sobbing, thinks the worst. I see his face crumble seeing me on the bed, "Is she..."
"We don't know anything yet," I interrupt him, and his face changes immediately.
He knows what it's like for your wife to tell you that your daughter is dead.
The monitor is put on me.
And there's Bowie's heartbeat.
Loud and strong.
I lay there and cry and cry and cry.
Listening to that heartbeat.
The nurse pats my arm. "I'll wait to take your blood pressure until you calm down a bit," she tells me.
We watch the heart beat stay between those lines. Between 120 and 160, just where it should be. "Pretty good for a 26 weeker," the nurse says. Babies aren't expected to pass NSTs until 28 weeks.
Soon, Bowie starts kicking. Big kicks. Kicks we can hear, see, feel. Kicks that make my hospital gown jump.
Kicks I would have done anything to feel a couple hours ago.
I feel like an idiot.
I feel more like an idiot when Justin pulls my Doppler out of my purse, mentions that the volume button seems to have been pushed down. (I would like to mention that we don't know for sure that was the issue earlier. But I'm sure wondering.)
They keep me hooked up for a while, and I don't mind, besides the two-year-old getting antsy. I say that they are welcome to keep me here, on this monitor, for the next 11 weeks. They seem to think I'm joking.
They tell me that's how it always is, that babies are quiet until you get there and then they kick away. I think, well, that's not how it always is. Sometimes babies are just dead. Sometimes you still think you feel them after they're dead but it turns out just to be their bums floating around in amniotic fluid. They tell me that I was smart to come in, that I should come in anytime I think something might be wrong.
I don't trust myself to know when something might be wrong. I don't trust myself to know when everything is fine. I don't trust my instincts at all anymore.
They do an ultrasound, watch for Bowie to move, watch her practicing breathing. They tell me she looks great.
They hook me up to the monitors again. They say they're getting a hold of my doctor, and they'll send us home when they get the all-clear from her.
So eventually, that happens. And I get a way-too-tired boy home for nap, and I call my mom and cry, and I eat lunch and wonder how the hell I am going to survive the next 11 weeks.
I know the panic attack while using the Doppler today stemmed from the moment I knew that Lydie was dead. The silent Doppler was so familiar; I know what a silent Doppler means. I can't really imagine giving birth to a live Bowie. It is
easier for me to imagine giving birth to a dead Bowie. I know exactly
what that looks like.
I knew I'd be in L&D at some point because I was worried. I didn't think it would be so soon.