Monday, 6 April 2020
Today is a day of grieving, of saying goodbye, extinguishing one light of hope.
It was a 1.30 pm initial appointment with our new Obs, Dr L. She had come recommended, and after we passed the extra cleaning and screening required in these COVID times, we sat waiting for her in the socially distanced chairs of her private rooms.
She was lovely and human – warm, knowledgeable and gentle as she took a history from Karen about what it was like when she had Lexie. Lexie was twirling in the background, pulling at my arms.
And then came time for the ultrasound. ‘We’re looking for a peanut with a heartbeat,’ she said cheerily as Karen lied down on the examination bed. The transabdominal showed the peanut, but no obvious heartbeat.
‘That’s okay,’ she said and she got ready the transvaginal probe. I had been watching with Lexie till then and we stepped out to give Karen some privacy.
A minute later and she says ‘Heng, come in here and see this,’ she says. And I push past the curtains with Lexie. ‘I’m asking you to see this because I can’t ﬁnd a heartbeat.’
My mind did not really register what she was telling me. I guess we had come in never even expecting there to be any other outcome other than a viable pregnancy and baby coming along well. This was meant to be a discussion about the next steps for baby, but it had turned quickly into a breaking the bad news session we had trained so often for in our profession.
‘…doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. You’ll lose this baby and then after that settles, you can try again when you’re ready…’
‘…chromosomal abnormalities and this is the body’s natural way of dealing with it…’
‘… it is hard enough to raise a normal child, you know…’
The shock slows everything down, muddies everything up, mufﬂes the amount of information you are now meant to absorb…
‘Are you okay? How do you feel?’ she asks, her face furrowed with concern.
‘Well obviously this was not the news we were hoping for, but I’m glad that it is you who is delivering it,’ Karen manages to blurt out, the news stealing our breaths.
She talks us through a natural miscarriage and also a D+C and we make a hasty exit, our congenial introduction sullied into awkwardness by this unexpected bad news. It was no one’s fault, and yet it was not right either.
We get home, and we put Lexie down for her afternoon nap. And we sit on the couch and talk. Karen cries a little, and we tell the ones dearest to us about this difﬁcult turn of events. The responses come fast, and they are kind and loving, and we count ourselves lucky to have such good friends and close family.
Talk goes from processing our current grief and loss and slowly evolves to stories of our other friends or colleagues who have had the same situation, and later into planning our next steps.
It wasn’t until later that night when I was putting Lexie to bed that it hit me like a wave.
‘Why is Mummy sleeping on the couch?’ she asks me looking worried. She had noticed Mummy being more languid than usual tonight and she was watching her from the top stairs through the slats, all the while sucking her thumb as she does when deep in concentration.
I bring her to her room and gently sit her on me while I looked at her in the eyes. ‘Well you know the baby that was supposed to be coming?’ She nodded.
‘Well, when we went to the doctor’s today, we saw that the baby was not growing anymore.’ I told her.
‘Baby not growing anymore?’ she asked.
Yup, I said. Baby’s not growing anymore so we have to say goodbye to the baby. And that’s why Mummy’s sad.
‘Did Jesus take the baby away?’
Her simple question catches me off guard, and I find myself crying.
‘Yes, I guess so,’ my eyes were wet with tears, my voice quivering as I tried to soldier through my explanation, ‘Jesus has taken the baby somewhere safe.’
She was confused by my tears, as in her mind ‘grown ups don’t cry, only babies do’. Some little part of her 3-year-old brain registered the gravity of the situation and she began to cry too. And not just a silent sob but a full deep wailing somewhere from the depths of her little three year old self. And I began to sob uncontrollably too, as we grieved the sibling she was not going to have and the hope of a child now extinguished this time.
‘… how I wonder what you are.’