Dec 07, 2001
Ectopic pregnancy. Before Nov. 2000, I couldn’t have even told you the meaning of ectopic. But, on Nov. 14-15, 2000, my life changed forever. I was out of town on business, about 4 hours from home. At an event on Nov. 13, I began to have some bleeding, but no cramping. I thought this was weird because I had just had my period the week before. By the amount of blood, I knew immediately that this was something I would need to see my gynecologist about. Feeling kind of silly because I felt good otherwise, I went about my event and then went to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
I slept like a rock, and the next morning felt pressure in my lower abdomen, especially on my left side. I still did not suspect pregnancy. I had never been pregnant before, but this certainly wasn’t what I understood it should be like. On the way home, I called my doctor. She was out that day, but her associate evaluated my situation through what I had told the nurse. He sent me for a pregnancy test as soon as I got to my hometown. At the clinic, I could barely walk to the lab and back to the van.
By the time I got home, the phone was ringing. It was the nurse saying how sorry she was. Yes, I was pregnant. No, I probably wouldn’t be by morning. No, no need to go to the hospital, unless the pain should move or become extremely severe. No, there was nothing to be done to stop the process. I should call my doctor in a couple of days.
Wow, a baby. We were about to lose hope in getting pregnant without medical help. Talk about mixed emotions. I was so happy to be pregnant, but so devastated already at the loss that I was told was inevitable. I immediately felt that this baby inside me was our precious girl.
My husband was in another town at a funeral of a friend who had died of a brain aneurysm. I was not about to call him home from that. Besides, there was nothing to do to change the ultimate outcome. So, I called a friend who is an RN. She brought me dinner and sat with me, cried with me. We prayed for a miracle that was not to be had.
For the few hours that I had with my baby, I told her how very much I love her and want her. I tried to bargain with God. I would have done anything to avoid the inevitable – stand on my head, eat sardines, anything! I even offered my own life to God in exchange for the life of this precious little one inside me.
My husband arrived home at about 9:30 p.m. By this time, the pain was severe in my back, left lower abdomen, and under my ribs. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand. My friend suggested that if the pain didn’t subside soon that we should call the emergency room. We did as soon as my husband got home and was told the basics of the situation.
When we arrived at the hospital, they took me right into a curtain area and the doctor tried to examine me. He needed me to lay flat, but I could not because it took my breath away. We fought about this as he said he couldn’t examine me without me laying down flat. I said he wouldn’t need to bother to examine me if I couldn’t breathe. The nurse took a good guess at the situation and suggested an ultrasound, which showed a mess of blood all over my abdomen and a ruptured left fallopian tube.
We had arrived at the hospital at a little after 10 p.m. By 11:30 p.m., I was meeting the gynecologist who would do my surgery and talking to my father on the phone. I begged him not to drive the two hours to the hospital in the middle of the night and not to let mother get upset. I assured him I would see him in the morning, though I was not so sure myself.
As they wheeled me to the emergency room, I held tight to my husband’s hand. In the weeks prior, we had been looking at a home in the country in his hometown to buy, but couldn’t agree on a price. When they told him he couldn’t go any further, I told him to call the realtor (in the middle of the night!) and tell her we’d meet their price and buy the house. With that to look forward to, surely I would make it through this surgery.
As I drifted off under the anesthesia, I began dreaming my dreams for my baby that I was later to learn was no bigger than the end of my pinky finger. Her heart had probably started beating just days before the rupture. Even though I knew there was no hope for earthly life for this baby, I still felt her presence, I loved her immediately.
The next thing I knew, I was awake, but in terrible pain – over my whole body. My lips were dry and I wanted water so badly. They gave me Vaseline on my lips and more drugs to send me back to sleep. Then, in the distance, I heard my husband and others calling for me. But the baby, I can’t leave the baby. No, the baby is gone, remember? It’s okay, we’ll try again. It’s not your fault. It just happened. It was so early, not really a baby yet. At least you know you can get pregnant. So sorry …….
Then, I was entertaining people for the rest of the morning. I guess I was fun to be around while on morphine. Then they took that away, and friends and family began leaving one by one. All were sorry. We don’t have to speak of this. No need to drag it out. We’ll just pretend like it never happen, they’d say. But how could I do that? My baby was dead, and it was all my fault, I was sure of it! My lousy body couldn’t do the job it was made for – to protect my baby until she joined us after nine glorious months of growing inside of me.
Thanksgiving – nothing to be thankful for. Christmas – no celebrating a newborn babe for me. Then, selling our house and moving to the new one. This took until March. In the meantime, my husband’s father was diagnosed with cancer and died, all within two weeks in February. All the while, I was devouring books on pregnancy loss looking for some reason why this had happened to my baby and me. But, sadly, I had none of the risk factors for ectopic pregnancies.
The next few weeks were spent with lots of busyness – helping my mother-in-law with all that goes along with losing a spouse, doing those mundane tasks that go along with moving to a new community and a new house. Then, springtime, which was beautiful at our new place in the country. But, with springtime had to come Mother’s Day and those Mother-Daughter Banquets.
All the while, we were not having any progress in getting pregnant again. I barely held up in church on Mother’s Day and dashed home to drink the rest of the rum and bourbon that I had in the back of the cabinet for cooking. That took the edge off the pain, albeit not a good choice of methods.
At dinner at a local restaurant, my sister-in-law asked why I would be wearing a corsage. (My husband had bought it for me.) She also asked why I would get a gift at church with all of the other mothers. No one told her she was being rude. No one stopped her. No one corrected her. Perhaps she was right, I thought. That’s it, I don’t deserve to be a mother. That next week, my husband was tired of my depression, crying, blaming myself, and ultimately, claiming that I had “killed our baby.” So, off to the doctor I went, and ended up on anti-depressants and seeing a counselor. I am of the firm belief that counseling is more work for the counselee than the counselor. But, I have also learned that only I can deal with my moods, feelings, and reactions to my baby’s death.
We named our baby Madeline Rose. We planted a rose bush in her honor and a dogwood next to it for my father-in-law. There are also a stone angel, a special stepping stone, and a stone squirrel in Madeline’s garden.
We dedicated the garden on July 29, 2001, my 32nd birthday. I never dreamed that I would be 32 and not have my own babies to hold and to love. The dedication felt to me like a consecration of that ground as holy ground. I attended the ceremony barefoot, as Moses did in the presence of the Lord.
I also helped to plan A Walk to Remember in October 2001 for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. At the Walk, we honored 153 babies by name, each receiving a toll of the bell. More than 250 people attend the Walk. When we started planning the Walk to Remember, we hoped to honor about 50 babies. In our hearts, we honored all the babies. And, Madeline gave me the strength to do all that it took to make the Walk happen.
Giving Madeline her name, the walk, the dedication, the rose bush, the plaque -- all of these have helped me to bring a tiny bit of fairness to a totally unfair situation. Grief is a strong emotion. I have heard that you must deal with grief sooner or later, or grief will deal with you. I believe that to be true and hope that I can help others deal with their grief and honor their angel babies.
Madeline, we love you and we miss you! Here’s a kiss from Mommy’s heart.
Rebecca A. "Becca" Stare