What I Learned About Survival When My Baby Died
How an experience 17 years ago prepped me for the pandemic
In the early days of February 2003, the amniotic sac in my uterus ruptured. It came as a spurt of viscous fluid soaking my sheets in the wee gloomy hours of a morning. At 12 weeks pregnant, nothing about that puddle was a good sign.
The event marked the beginning of a three-month ordeal that would take me through the murky depths of omnipresent fear and uncertainty to the gut-punch of trauma, loss, and grief. The experience would also send me to the giddy heights of existential transcendence. The time I had with that baby would explode my worldview and change my life forever. It’s also the period in my life that is most on my mind these last few weeks. Of all the experiences I’ve had in nearly 50 years on this planet, the season of my first baby most prepared me for life in pandemic times.
The morning my uterus ruptured, I assumed I was losing the baby. But it turns out these things take some time to determine. A trip to the ER, some hours of waiting, hospital maxi pads, a worn-out hospital gown, more hours of waiting, busy doctors who had more significant lives to save than my baby’s— or at least lives to save that they could indeed save—a visit with my obstetrician, an ultrasound. By midafternoon, we had a heartbeat, and it seemed I wasn’t losing the baby after all.
Except that I was losing the baby. Just slowly. There was no way for me to know what was coming in advance, but the baby dying was going to take another three months. For 90 days that felt like a million, I was living in the throes of extreme limbo. It was going to take almost daily bleeding and more amniotic fluid draining from my womb. A dozen trips to the medical center, nine ultrasounds, more hospital maxi pads. Stress tests and dozens upon dozens of utterances of “We just don’t know” and “We just have to wait.” A few weeks before the end, chunks of fascinating and strange red lumpy stuff fell out of me. That turned out to be the placenta. Even after that, there was a heartbeat. Life is amazing. Every time we went to the doctor, which was a freaking hell of a lot, I expected to hear that my baby was dead. And every time there was a heartbeat and he…