Don't recall ever reading events of a stillborn child, but this is mine.
The Unexpected Visitor
After completing a three and a half year "marital period of adjustment," having recently purchased a
Cape Cod style home, decorating a nursery in pastel colors with a new crib and stuffed animals, who knew my life would be altered so abruptly?
Pregnancy was not an easy task for me. After morning sickness morning, noon, and night, five days of hospitalization for dehydration, and being poked and prodded for numerous medical reasons, I was successfully ready to deliver. I was always told giving life should be the happiest time of one's existence, but I was unaware that birth and death could coincide.
It was December 8, 1980, and after carrying for n long months, I went into labor. Lou and I calmly started driving to the physicians' office. By the time we arrived, I think both of us were ready to burst from anticipation. The physicians’ office was a two-person partnership practice. One I liked and the other I didn't. As luck would have it, the latter was in the office that day. The typical procedures transpired. The nurse took a urine specimen and then my blood pressure. Lastly, she tried to read the fetal heartbeat but couldn't get it to register. After numerous attempts, she finally requested the doctor on duty to come into the exam room. I had learned from past visits that the monitor would read the baby's heartbeat at a rate between one hundred and twenty to one hundred and sixty. Taking a reading was not uncommon. This was something that occurred almost every visit. Thoughts of medical incompetence came to mind because he couldn't get a monitor reading either. As a result, my emotions escalated. My heart went to my throat, my palms got sweaty, and my toes curled, a reaction similar to the one you might expect if you were out and lightning suddenly struck.
At that time, they sent me over to the hospital telling me not to be concerned; they repeatedly stated that the hospital equipment could better detect "hiding" babies. Nurses at the hospital situated me in a labor room which was nothing more than any other hospital room supplied with monitoring equipment. The staff connected me with all the normal IVs and monitors, but once again, a reading could not be detected. I didn't understand why everyone was having such a difficult time. All they needed to accomplish was the connection from the monitor. This was nothing more than a nine-inch television with cords that plugged into a three-inch band, which then, in turn, was placed around my belly button area.
Doctor Sadeghi, the doctor I favored, was at the hospital. He was small in stature, stood about five foot three inches, was of Indian descent, and was extremely gentle. He entered my room, addressed me politely, and hooked up an internal monitor which would read the vitals without fail. I was one big knot. The connection was complete: zero. Losing all composure, tears rushed down my face uncontrollably. Then I became hysterical; my emotions dominated. I repeatedly shouted, "This can't be true!" Lou embraced me with more passion than when we were married.
Dr. Sadeghi moved swiftly. I was given a drug to help delete and erase memories and another to kill physical pain because I still had to deliver this baby. Rapidly the team of medical personnel in my room doubled from three to six. Two of the team members laid my bed out flat. I turned my head left and saw one rush Lou out the door with pen and paperwork in hand. Another placed an oxygen mask over my face, which made me feel like a suffocation victim. Nurse Rita snapped plastic and crinkled cellophane to prepare for the insertion of yet another IV. Dr. Sadaghi expressed such a look of loss: you would have thought it was his child. Nevertheless, he managed to keep all necessary functions running. I heard a continuous beeping sound, turned my head to the right, and the red LED zero embedded its image in my mind. It zoomed into my view like a boxer's fist coming toward you for a knockout.
Hospital personnel told me that I fought the labor all the way. I had been strapped down, and even with the restraints, I broke one arm free. They also added that Lou had stuck with me the entire time. This meant Lou not only withstood hours of mental anguish and physical fatigue during that thirty-six hours of labor; he then aided in the delivery of our dead baby. On Wednesday, December 10, 1980, at 6:32 a.m., I gave birth to an eleven-pound stillborn girl.
She had beautiful, dark brown hair, plump baby cheeks, and no obvious physical abnormalities. They tell me she died because the cord got pinched when she dropped. They explained that with her size, she had no room to struggle. It must have been like drowning in a car underwater. I repeatedly visualized the days previous to her death, taking a microscopic look at what I might have been able to do differently. Should I not have moved the furniture, carried the vacuum up the stairs, or have taken that long walk? What should I have done differently? Lou's strength seemed unending. But for me, this was not enough. For the next few months, not only did I experience deep depression because of her death, but in my mind's eye, I was a failure. As a result, I didn't think I would or could carry another child, much less deliver a healthy live baby. I was not very religious; therefore that was not a resource of strength.
The events that followed are ones I'm not sure how to explain. I went through many flashbacks of the red zero, that vivid reading, and the continuous beep that surrounded the silent faces and the concerned looks. This was a constant memory. No distraction was potent enough to divert my thoughts. All I wanted was to forget everything. Then, one blustery night in late December, I experienced what I call a vision, for lack of another term. This ghost-like vision materialized without warning. A gleam appeared out of the corner of my eye. I brushed off the temptation to glance because it was not uncommon for a passing car's headlights to glare up through our windows.
I noticed it wasn't going away. I turned my head to scan our bedroom looking in a counter-clockwise direction. There was no light coming through either window. I then looked towards the stairwell. There was a radiating brilliance, yet it was a soft white glow with its back towards the nursery wall. I looked harder, almost squinting, and saw a figure floating over the staircase. Reminiscent of linens in a spring breeze hanging on the line to dry, she swayed gently. Even in our dimly lit room, I could make out that this vision had the face of a beautiful baby girl. Hazy as it was, like a photo taken out of focus, she resembled our stillborn. She had a round face and serene expression. This spirit wore a simple white gown, similar to many christening dresses. Her hands and arms were extended as if reaching for help or a hug. I was able to detect this even though her translucent image glowed like a full moon in a cloudless sky. She graced me frequently for nine months, always appearing in the darkness of the stairwell and against the connecting wall of the nursery. As a result of her appearances, she gradually healed my aching heart and mended my mental state. When I discovered I was pregnant again, the anger and self-doubt were replaced with anxiety, warmth, and hopes for my future. Although I never discussed her visits with others, significant is how I perceive her. Eventually, I resolved that this apparition was there for purposes of reassurance, encouragement, support, and the soothing of my mind and soul. To this day, I am thankful to her, whether she was a figment of my imagination or an angel.