Afterward, Amber and I struggled with what to do with the remaining baby we had left behind. This child remained frozen. Quietly sleeping in suspended animation. Almost every day we looked at the pictures we had of the "embryos" and talked through our options. Earlier this year we decided that it was time to bring her home. And so we began the process. This time round was anything but smooth. The initial shots and pills and probing went well, but after implantation it was anything but.
Early on we were told that things were not progressing the way they should and we had lost the baby. I took that call. The doctor told me that we needed to schedule a DNC as soon as possible. I asked for them to give us one week and let us come back in for a second opinion. They reluctantly gave us this stay of execution. We spent the time between in tears. Crying out to God and pleading for our little girl.
On October 31, Amber and I went in to the office the next week weak and weary from grieving but somehow hopeful. When they started the ultra sound, the NP paused. She looked astounded. There was a heart beat. Against all odds our little girl had somehow regenerated. Words cannot even begin to express what it was like to see and hear that tiny little heart. They told us that it was shy of a miracle. They said to be cautiously optimistic. Weeks progressed and her tiny heart continued to grow stronger and stronger.
On November 13th we went in to see a specialist to get their take on our baby. What a day of highs and lows this was. We heard Nellie's heart beat at 152 beats per minute. So strong and beautiful, just like her mom. And then, the doctor told us that Nellie was growing very far down in Amber's uterus and had decided to grow in a place where she would likely grow into Amber’s body if she hadn't already. Obviously, this was a very dangerous pregnancy. He suggested that we should terminate immediately if Amber was to have any chance of survival. What a day of highs and lows it was. To go from hearing a strong steady beat to being asked what we were being asked was unimaginable.
I will not forget going out to the truck with Amber and her simply stating, "So I have a few months to live, what the fuck do I do with that?" Nor will I forget seeing my baby's heart beating so damn strong. Beating every odd thrown her way.
Things only got worse from there. On Wednesday night we were eating dinner. Amber excused herself from the table and went upstairs to hangout with our son Robert. At seven pm I heard her yell. I ran up the stairs to see amber standing there, drops of blood pooling.
Within minutes we were in the emergency room.
Here's the thing about losing a baby. It just happens. Sometimes there’s an absolute reason that can be dealt with and addressed, and sometimes, as we found, there is absolutely nothing that anybody—not the greatest specialists, pastor and prayer group, or psychic—can do to stop it from happening. While miscarriages are common, they occur in about 20% pregnancies, in our case we were at less than 8% chance of it.* But then add in the complexity of the pregnancy and science goes out the window.
In the end, no matter what anyone will tell you, there’s no reason. All you’re left with are questions and pain.
For every person enduring this, it is poignant to the point that you want to rip your heart out of your chest. As a man, we find ourselves in this strange place. We suffer, but we are called to be the rock, to be steady. But, I can attest, our hearts are broken and we are as lost as our partner.
As I was attempting my best to navigate I was called to task by my wife. I was not sharing, holding up in my own spirit rather than freely letting the tears flow. Attempting to navigate the necessary logistics as a hard-stoic man. But perhaps there is a better way. A way that I wish I hadn’t had to learn.
So how should we, how can we navigate this while supporting our partners?
Amber and I spent close to five hours in the ER room. Amber was laying on the table while I stood next to her softly stroking her hair. A slew of doctors came by to draw blood, poke and prod and ask cold-hearted questions. Each time someone new came in the scabs were ripped asunder as we had to recount everything over again. While there were times we were on our own, we did not talk much. The deft silence louder than our voices could overcome. Finally, the doctors were able to get an ultrasound machine from the labor floor. Three nurses came in, dimmed the lights, cracked the door and began the scan.
The ultrasound room was quiet as they explored the warm depths of our baby’s home. After what seemed like hours, the nurse cleared her throat. We anticipated the worst finding each breath harder than the last. I silently prayed for a miracle but there was none to be had. What, two days before, was a picture with a blinking, flickering heart, was now still. No heartbeat. Nothing.
I will never be able to describe the sense of complete and utter loss at that moment. There are no words to carry the feeling of the abyss.
After this, things only got worse. Without any time to cope with the loss, we had to schedule surgery for the next day. And since our children were home alone, I had to leave my bride there. Both of us in this together but completely alone. The next day, when I arrived we just sat together in the hospital room and waited. In silence, in tears, in anger, in pain.
They took Amber back and at 245pm on November 16, 2017 our little baby was born. Not the way we had intended, and perhaps not born to us. But she, we named her Nellie Abagail, was brought into this world none the less. At this point, nothing seems right. The past week has been a blur.
I wanted to give this little girl everything, but in the end the only thing I could give her was a coffin that my wife and I built.