I’m sitting on the couch tonight watching old SVU’s on-demand, and I saw a commercial for the Olympics that are coming up. The last Winter Olympics were in 2010. I know that, because I was in the hospital during them. Because I watched curling for many, many hours in a row. Because I used to love the Olympics (Still do, I suppose). Plus, it’s that time of year. You know.
So here’s how it was. That moment when he died. I remember every piece of it. We all have that moment in our lives that makes us who we are; defines our very essence. This is mine. Despite things that had happened before and have happened since, I still feel that Carter’s death was a catalyst to several different things within my life.
I was a merchandising manager for a local company, working about fifty hours a week. I carried an extremely good benefits plan and had been employed with the company for about five months when we found out I was pregnant. Everything went well with the company at first, and they sent me the appropriate leave paperwork in October 2009. My due date was March 30th, 2010. In February of 2010, when I turned in the paperwork for my leave, I was informed that my FMLA could not officially begin until two days before my due date, because that would be my year anniversary. (They didn’t tell me this in October.). I would not be allowed to leave earlier, and if I did, I would only be able to take my one week of paid vacation, one week of sick leave, and four week of unpaid personal leave that I would have coming to me. If I did not return after that, I would have no job. At this same time, I was placed on a work restriction that stated I had to spend half of shift standing up and half of it sitting down. The company called me a liability, and a week later forced me into taking my leave early because there “was no reasonable way to accommodate my medical needs”. The date that was my final day working would put my return date if I wanted to keep the job to be just a few days after my due date–so when I finished work that day, I was uncertain that I would be able to return. I had an appointment that day with my OB, and I figured that he and could discuss it then.
I went to my doctors appointment, but I was almost an hour early. Instead of going in, I went to the grocery store downstairs to get something to eat before I registered with the front desk. I selected a fruit juice smoothie; I was pissed off at the time that there was no apple juice. The baby liked apple juice. I bumped a display of travel mugs, I believe with my giant purse. Several of them fell on the floor, making a ridiculous clatter. One of the employees told me not to worry about cleaning it up. She asked me when I was due, and I told her. Then I went to my appointment. I was warm, so I left my coat in the car even though it was the end of February.
I hung out in the waiting room for about twenty minutes playing around on my phone, and then they took me back early. The nurse hooked me up to this machine and then put all of these different sensors around my belly before she turned it on…and couldn’t pick up anything. I shrugged it off. The nurse three days prior hadn’t even known how to properly load the paper in the machine, and this nurse apparently didn’t know how to turn it on. So I sat and waited, still somewhat patiently. The first nurse came back with a second nurse. She messed around with the sensors some and then they both left the room. The second nurse came back in without the original nurse and said they were going to get one of the on call doctors to come in and do an ultrasound because they were having trouble with the machine. I started to feel weird then. I didn’t like the looks on their faces. I asked for my doctor, but it was his day off. No point in calling him in, I was told, for something routine. But it didn’t feel routine at ALL.
One thing that I can’t remember is when I started to cry. It just happened. I’m not a crier. The nurse must have been told that she had to stay in the room with me until the on call doctor came, because there was a wait for the ultrasound machine and they didn’t know know how long it would be. She plopped a box of Kleenex into my lap and started asking me questions….what did I do for a living….what did my husband do….had I ever left the country? We started talking about the mission trip I took to Jamaica my senior year of high school. At some point the doctor came in. The nurse stood between me and the ultrasound screen so I couldn’t see. I was crying so hard I doubt I would have seen anything anyway. I jumped every time I heard sound come from the machine, but she kept telling me it was the uterine artery, not a heartbeat. They looked for about twenty minutes. And then it came…
“I think you should call your husband.”
I knew then. I think I already knew, but I KNEW then.
My doctor arrived about five minutes later. I thought offhandedly that it must no longer be routine. He pulled up a chair in front of me, sat on it backwards, and said those two words that I wish I would never hear again.
“I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry.”
That was it. That was the moment when my entire life changed. My child, who I had never held, never seen, except on a little screen, was gone.
And that’s how it was. The rest has already been written. This moment, these couple hours of my life, set me up for the rest of…well…everything.
I’m bracing myself, February. For the first time in these (nearly) four years, I think I’m ready for you. And that doesn’t mean I’m forgetting. It just simply means that this has happened, and that I am learning to be okay.