On June 20th my daughter would have been 13 years old. With the passage of time the pain has dimmed but I don't think the sense of "What if ...?" ever will, especially since I have been reading Maggie at Flux Capacitator's heart-breaking posts about her recent loss.
Samantha was born at 28 weeks with a heart valve that pumped in the wrong direction, I can't even remember the medical term for it now. As a result her heart was enlarged and had started to crowd out her other organs. We only found out because I had gone in for a routine check up and had commented that the baby must be sleeping a lot since I hadn't felt much movement in a while. They quickly hooked me up to a fetal monitor and began counting the number of movements per minute - way too few. I was then sent down for an ultrasound and that was when they were able to see her heart which at the 18 week ultrasound looked normal. I was told that they were transferring me to a downtown hospital and put me in an ambulance, I couldn't get a hold of my husband but told my mother what was happening, although I really had no clue. The ambulance ride was surreal, they made me lie on a gurney and I remember thinking that this all seemed like a bit much, that nothing serious could really be wrong.
I arrived downtown and was whisked up to see the doctor on duty who became my lifeline for the next 48 hours. My husband finally arrived and they assigned us a very young nurse who had only recently arrived from Newfoundland. We had to go across the street to have a fetal echo cardiogram at the Hospital for Sick Children and I found myself chatting away to this young woman, asking her how she was finding life in the big city and working at such a busy hospital. We still had no idea what was going to happen. The cardiogram was done and we went back to talk with the specialist who explained that there was very little chance that the baby would live to term and if she did (we knew she was a girl by now) that she would probably not survive the delivery and if she did that she wouldn't live for very long. Then they left us alone.
I don't remember what we said to each other or even how we came to the decision that they had recommended. I was to be induced and the baby would be stillborn. They hooked me up to morphine and started the intravenous drip that would make me go into labour. From that point on I was aware of what was happening but somewhat removed from it all. It's hard to remember what I was feeling, I have a much better recollection of how I felt after we went home. But later that night I delivered a 5 pound baby girl, she was wrapped up in a blanket and looked perfect on the outside, she had thick black hair, my nose and her father's tiny, perfect ears. When the nurse asked me if I wanted to hold her I couldn't. If I could change anything I would have held her.
We had to fill out both a birth and death certificate and make funeral arrangements. The only thing that happened that I will never forgive is when the anesthetist came in to remove the epidural she asked where my baby was. Later I wrote a letter to the hospital and suggested that they need to review their procedures for women who remain on the maternity ward after they lost their babies. After my experience so many people told me about their's. From friends to relatives who had never talked the tragedy of their miscarriages and stillborn babies. It is something that still very few share with others, although as Maggie's posts attest, it is so important to talk, even years later.
I know now that Samantha was never meant to be ours and that if she had lived we never would have known our boys. They wouldn't be the people they are. We talk about her a lot, my eldest once asked when he was about five years old, "Do you think you get old in heaven?" I replied that I didn't know and he said, "I think you get to choose your age because when I go to heaven Samantha will want to be old enough to be my big sister not a baby." I hope he is right.
I still wonder how different our lives would be if Samantha had lived - I wouldn't be the mother of three boys, I wouldn't look on in wonder at the little girls who sit quietly colouring when we are at a party while my guys run and wrestle and eat everything in sight. I know I look at those girls through somewhat rose-tinted glasses but I believe I am entitled to. Sometimes I wonder when people ask me how many children I have if I should say four, but then I would have to explain and that is too complicated. I am content that the boys talk about her and know that she was their big sister and a part of our family before they were born. We placed her ashes under a birch tree planted at the farm where I grew up. My mother doesn't live there anymore and we contemplated having the tree moved but I was worried that the tree might not survive the transplanting and I couldn't bear it dying in another location. Someday I will go back to the farm and see how much the tree has grown and think of how old Samantha would be and wonder again, "What if ...?"
Thank you all for allowing me to write this post, I haven't talked about this in a while and it felt like the right thing to do after 13 years. The boys finish school on Thursday and then we will head to the cottage and camp so I won't be posting regularly. I hope everyone has a wonderful summer and I can't wait to come back and do lots reading and catching up with you.
THE tale as old as time - For years my uncle, Eugene Brock (namesake for our 4th child) rounded up writers to share op-ed for our home-town newspaper (Wichita Falls Times & Record N...