“I’m so sorry,” she told me, just before she announced what I already knew. “Your baby’s heart isn’t beating.”
I was in shock then, struggling to believe that my baby had somehow died at 14 weeks. I’d already delivered one healthy little girl, and I’d thought that since I’d advanced to my second trimester, miscarriage wasn’t really a possibility.
My doctor held my hand and offered me tissues. She told me her own story of loss and what she had learned from it. “You won’t feel better for months,” she told me. “The pain will never really go away.”
I didn’t know in that moment what a gift her words were to me, what enormous validation they would offer in the dark days to come, when I felt convinced I would never be truly happy again.
And she was there during those days too, ordering every test she could think of and following up on all of my questions, both of us working to make sure we hadn’t missed any possible cause for my loss. We never found one, but she understood that I needed to try, that I wouldn’t have courage to attempt another pregnancy unless I was convinced I’d done everything I could.
When I did get pregnant again, she had me come in earlier and more frequently than usual for heartbeat checks. And as we approached the 14 week point of the pregnancy, she offered to let me come every week if I wanted – or even more frequently. “If you need to come in, just call,” she said.
She held my hand on the day of my C-section when the first spinal block didn’t work and I had to get another. And moments later, she was the one who delivered my second living daughter and then stitched my broken body back together.
She was happy to see me again when I became pregnant for the fourth time. “You’ll always make me a little nervous,” she joked, but we both believed the miscarriage had just been “one of those things” and that it wasn’t likely to reoccur. Especially when I hit the 16 weeks with a strong and steady heartbeat.
But it did happen again, at my 20 week appointment. The sonographer called her in to the same ultrasound room where we’d sat on a similarly difficult day three and a half years before. “I can’t believe it,” she said. I couldn’t either.
I was induced the following evening, and early the morning after that, I delivered little Lily Mae. I knew my doctor was on her way to the hospital, and I tried to wait until she got there to push. But I couldn’t.
Surrounded by unfamiliar nurses, I was afraid to look at my little girl, afraid of what I might see. But my doctor arrived just in time, and she was the one to place Lily in my arms, to introduce me to the marvelous humanity of her tiny body.
A nurse asked her to sign some paperwork, and she waved her away. “I’m with a patient right now,” she said, her voice uncharacteristically brusque. “We have all day for that.”
“You take as much time as you want with her,” she said to me and my husband. “Do not let them rush you.”
And I saw the tears in her eyes as she walked away.
My story of recurrent pregnancy loss is not an easy one, but because of her compassion and care, there are moments of warmth and beauty wrapped into even the most painful of memories.
She will always be a hero to me.