Twenty six years old, twenty two months pregnant, and planning her husbands thirtieth surprise birthday party, Kate found herself denying the worst day of her life. She and her brother Bob entered the hospital and took the elevator up to Labor and Delivery, as her doctor had instructed them to. The cramps had her bending over every five minutes or so.
"Are you here to deliver your baby?", asked the woman at the labor and delivery reception desk.
"No" replied Kate, in between sobs.
"Why are you here?" questioned the the stone cold, middle aged woman.
"My doctor told me to meet him here; Dr Harold" Kate managed to blurt out with her tears.
"Then you are here to deliver your baby" the woman insisted.
"No! No, I am NOT delivering my baby!" Kate insisted, almost hysterical. Bob placed his hand on her shoulder, hoping to calm her. Just then a young, gentle nurse came, got Kate into a wheel chair and brought her to an empty room.
"I'm going to try to reach David" Bob called to her as she was being wheeled away.
The nurse took her to a big sterile room, removed her clothing and put a johnny on her. She lay shivering on a gurney, sniffling and listening. Dr Harold came in and was talking to her, but she couldn't seem to understand what he was saying.
"I can't breathe" she said in a panic as she looked to the nurse who was holding her hand. "I can't breathe".
"You will be fine. You are breathing. Do you see the blankets rising and falling on your chest? We just gave you a spinal; you are are fine. You are breathing. Just try to relax and squeeze my hand.
"She is in shock" the nurse said to the Dr.
"I'm giving her some valium" the anesthesiologist responded.
"It won't hurt my baby, will it?" Kate cried.
"No. It won't hurt your baby Kate." Whispered the nurse. "Try to relax and just breathe". All the while the nurse was gently stroking Kate's forehead. Kate felt the presence of her mother.
Later, in a room with her parents at her side, she layed reclined back with her lower body elevated. The doctor had not been successful at pushing the membrane back into the cervix, so he was hoping it would slide back on it's own. He gave her some medicine, hoping to stop the labor.
Suddenly, there is a loud gushing sound and her father says "what was that?".
"Her water has broken; get the doctor" Kate's mother responds, quickly pushing him towards the door.
It was over in a moment. She heard a strong, rapid heartbeat. And then, a bubble passed thru her vagina, and the heartbeat stopped. He was still born on December 16, 1983, weighing 1lb 4oz.
"Do you want to hold him?" the doctor softly asked.
"No" Kate whispered as she slowly shook her head.
"Can I get you anything" the nurse sweetly offered.
"A cigarette?" Kate sheepishly asked.
That's when Kate's brother appeared. "David is on his way here; I just spoke with him."
"Thank you Bob" Kate replied. "For everything".
Kate's husband arrived and the nurse wheeled her bed out into the hallway so that she could smoke a cigarette with him. Kate's' parents kissed her goodbye, leaving her with David and Bob in the hallway. She smoked her cigarette in silence. David kissed her on the forehead and said "good night". Kate looked at her brother, smiled, and said "don't leave him alone, please?" Kate finished her cigarette alone, feeling like nothing had happened. What happened??
Later, alone in a large room with 3 other sleeping women, Kate asked the nurse for a cup of water and one last cigarette. The nurse returned with the water and a cigarette she had borrowed from a co-worker. Kate was grateful. She smoked that cigarette as she grappled with the days events. She inhaled slowly, every single moment that had passed...grocery shopping for the birthday party, the pain that doubled her over, the dream of motherhood, and where had her husband really been? Then she exhaled, blowing out all the smoke of the day...as if she could just blowing everything away...it isn't real...it didn't happen...it's a night mare.
Kate put out her cigarette in a cup of water. She lay her head on he pillow, closed her eyes and dosed off to sleep with her thoughts. She was no longer pregnant. She no longer felt pain. She no longer felt anything. Her cocoon of love had been broken. She felt like a shell. All of her life she wanted nothing more than to be a mother, perhaps even more than she wanted to be a wife. She was so happy to be pregnant; so proud when her belly popped. And now...empty; empty of child...empty of love...empty of feeling. Empty. And finally....asleep.
In the morning, a social worker came in and sat on Kate's bed. "I have pictures of your baby. I know you didn't hold him. Would you like to see him?"
Kate reached for the photos, nodding her head.
The social worker handed them to her and said, "you can keep them; they are yours".
Kate looked at the photos and silent tears began to roll down her cheeks.
The social worker asked, "would you like to talk about it?"
Kate shook her head no.
The social worker handed Kate a business card and said, "Okay, well, here is my number if you would like to talk later on; any time".
"Thank you", Kate responded as she stared at the photos of her baby boy. He is so tiny, she thought to herself, yet so perfectly formed with the cutest little button nose. She touched her finger to his nose. He had a blue hat on and was wrapped in a blue blanket. "Scotty" She thought, "1 lb 4 oz; he would have just fit in my hand".
The nurse came in and announced that Kate's husband was on his way to pick her up, and that the doctor will be in shortly. She helped Kate to get dressed and then situated in the chair. David walked in just as they finished.
"Ready to go?" he asked as he walked in the room.
"She has to see the Dr before she can go", the nurse explained.
David sat on the bed beside Kate's chair. Kate handed him the pictures and said, "do you want to see him?".
David took the pictures, looked at him, and let a few tears loose to roll down his cheeks. He handed the pictures back to Kate, just as the social worker returned to the room. Kate introduced David, and the social worker asked them if they planned to bury their son. They looked at each other and then David looked at the social worker and said "no". The social worker explained that the hospital has a place where the baby's are buried and asked if we wanted to give him a name. They looked at each other again, and David said "no". Tears poured freely from Kate's eyes as she turned away from both of them. The social worker turned and left the room.
They both sat silent for a few minutes, then Kate asked David, "how did you sleep?".
"Ok" David responded; "How about you?"
"I had a tough time getting to sleep, but I slept good once I got there."
The on-call Doctor came in and went over the discharge paperwork, and told them they could leave. They walked to the car without speaking a word. The thirty minute ride home to their apartment was also in silence. When they got home, David announced that he was going to go do the grocery shopping. Kate withdrew to her thinking space...the shower. She took a long, hot, emotional shower. And, when she was finished she got into clean night clothes and went into the bedroom to take a long nap.