Almost a Year…

I was apprehensive about the pregnancy from almost the beginning, but not enough so that it overshadowed my absolute joy to be having a child with the love of my life. For the first time, it felt as if I was in the healthy, loving and supportive relationship that I had always longed for. I was absolutely in love and we were building a family together. We had 3 amazing kids between us already from previous marriages and things were falling into place seamlessly.

The pregnancy was a gift we never thought we’d be blessed with. My partner had received some serious treatments for a life threatening illness 3 years prior and was told at that point that he’d be sterile. He was upfront about it from the beginning and I was fine with it. I’d had my son, who was a miracle in his own right (for other reasons), and I felt satisfied with my role as a Mother to him and now a Step Mother to 2 amazing kids.

Then one night, while he was at work and the kids were asleep, I began to experience the most piercing pain in my back and abdomen that I’d ever felt. Stubborn as I am, I knew it wasn’t something that should be taken lightly, so I called him, he rushed home and took me immediately to the hospital.

When I got in to see a Doctor, the first question that I was asked, as every woman of age knows, is whether there was a chance I was pregnant. Of course not! It wasn’t even possible with treatments my better half had years before. They did blood work, took x-rays, fed me IV fluids but they couldn’t find any sign of the kidney stones they suspected were causing the pain. Out of habit, the Doctor ordered a pregnancy test with my blood work. As he was discharging me and the words “it’s likely a stone that is traveling in an area we just can’t see at the moment” were coming from his mouth, his eyes darted over the results that had just come back and they began to widen.

“How long have you had your period for now?” He asked. I was menstruating at the time all this happened.

“Um…a few days.” I replied, a question in my tone.

“Well, it looks as if you were, in fact, pregnant, but that you are miscarrying. I’m sorry about that.”

That was all he said before walking out of the room. He didn’t even make eye contact. He didn’t even miss a step in his stride as he hurried out of the room. We were left there, stunned. How could that even be possible? We looked at one another, first a surprised smile at what was impossible suddenly being possible, followed by the sinking realization of that new possibility slipping away in front of us.

This was how we found out that my partner was in fact fertile. What followed were a wash of mixed feelings and confusion about what this all really meant for us. When we were finally able to put words to it, we both articulated how very much we wanted to create a little person together. It was something we had not previously entertained, but now that it was a wide open door, we wanted to walk through it.

A few months later, it happened. I was expecting. Our family was growing. We were going to share a child together. Just when we thought we couldn’t be happier, our happiness grew.

I did everything right. I ate right. I avoided things I was supposed to avoid. I took my vitamins. I drank copious amounts of water. I got my sleep. I rested when I should. I never missed an appointment. Her heartbeat was strong. Yes her. She was a busy girl, from what we saw on the ultrasound monitors. I could swear, even though it was early, I felt her wiggling around inside me. We aptly nicknamed her “Noodle”. She was ours. And we couldn’t wait to meet her.

We purchased everything we would need to welcome her, excitedly, even made sure that she had an abundance of clothes for the first 6 months of the life she would live. At 5 months, we went and had a check up with the Obstetrician. She could see on my face that I was worried. We had gone to get a non-medical ultrasound done and the tech was terrible. Not only did she shame me for my size but she scared the living daylights out of us. Though we’d been told on several occasions that the baby was doing well, she pulled my fiance aside and warned him that the heart rate was slow…which it wasn’t. It was on the low side of average but still average. It fed the nagging feeling I had. I scheduled an appointment with our Obstetrician the following day.

She let us listen to her heart, which was normal (and music to our ears). She even brought in an older ultrasound machine to show us that our Noodle was doing just fine. All of the blood work I had recently gotten done was exactly where it was supposed to be. This was a healthy and thriving pregnancy. Ours was a healthy baby.

Less than 12 hours later, I woke up in the middle of the night, a pain in my abdomen, blood underneath me, and the familiar feeling of contractions. I knew the baby wasn’t ready. I knew she wouldn’t survive. I shook my fiance awake, we gathered my son up into the cold winter night, and we sped toward the hospital.

When we got there, I stood to get out of the car and felt a gush of warmth flow down my legs. My pants were now covered in blood. I screamed for my partner, who was walking ahead with my son to get me a wheelchair. I yelled for my son to turn away. I didn’t want him to have that image of me burned in his memory. This wasn’t the association I wanted him to have of his sister, of the limited time she was around.

Everything from that point seemed absolutely unreal. I think I numbed myself a little, in part to make it easier on my partner and son and in part because my heart was shattered. While my love and my boy sat outside the room, 2 of the kindest nurses I’ll never forget held my hand, wiped my tears, while a matter-of-fact but gentle Doctor helped me deliver my tiny daughter. The blood was everywhere. Sheets were changed twice. The floor was hurriedly mopped, but even then, there were still spots missed, or where the mop was too saturated to sop up any more of it. My pants were thrown out, having been drenched.

I sat up. Tears rolled down my cheeks silently. While one nurse entertained my son, even though her shift had ended 20 minutes before, the other held my hand in hers, and with tears in her own eyes, said, “It’s days like this I hate my job.” She asked if she could hug me. I think I nodded. As she squeezed me by the shoulders, I began to sob. I will never be more grateful for a hug from a stranger, I don’t think, than I was in that moment.

As she let go, I asked if I could hold my daughter. They had put her in a kidney shaped metal dish, roughly the width of an orange and the length of a banana. Yet as tiny as it was, it was still twice her size. She was wrapped in a hospital gown. I suppose because it was the first thing readily available to them as she came out of me so suddenly.

I pulled away the top layer of fabric, and there she was. So still. Her eyes shut. I counted her ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. As my wet eyes poured over her in examination, I could see she had her Daddy’s lips and my little nose. Her underdeveloped skin was waxy and pale, almost alarming, but I didn’t care. She was mine.

I pressed my lips on her forehead and gave her a warm kiss. I cried through the apology I made to her, for not being able to keep her safe, for not being able to give her the amazing life we had planned for her. For the brother who was so eager and anxious to meet her, who never would. And for her other two siblings who were going to find out that very weekend that she was going to be added to the family.

There she was. Perfectly formed, not ready to make her debut, a thread like cord around her neck, the very thing that was supposed to sustain her…I have never felt so betrayed by my own body.

When I looked up, my partner had been let into the room. A close friend had come to pick up my son and look after him a while for us. The first words I could muster were “I’m sorry.” We cried together. For a long time. He held our daughter and I watched his heart break. We decided to name her Amina, which means trustworthy, faithful. Qualities we wished for her. I was going to nickname her Mina. We had, in fact, just decided on it two days before. The same day we purchased a framed Shakespeare quote to put up in her room. It read; “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” And she was.

When the Doctor came in to check on the pain I was in, I admit, I embellished so that he would give me something strong enough to knock me out, to numb me, to drug me up so I wouldn’t have to feel anything. I was too full already with sorrow and grief. It was the first and last time I’ve ever done that and I feel no shame for it . I didn’t have it in me to feel the incredible pain and heaviness in my heart. I just couldn’t. And you know, it worked.

It’s almost been a year. I still can’t believe all of this happened, let alone everything in between then and now. I’ve had to take breaks from writing this piece because the streams of tears were too thick to see through, but I know I need to get it out. Because my girl was here. It may not have been for long, but she was. She was born. She was alive. Not for long, only for a few seconds, but she was. And I, as her Mother, could not save her. It is the most helpless I have ever felt in my life. I failed to fulfill the most basic duty as a Mother to her. Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe how this feels.

There are no words that make this better. No condolences that improve on the situation and certainly no consolations. It almost destroyed everything I love. My relationship, my family as I knew it, and they’re both fragile to this day, but they survived and they are getting stronger too.

I am not the same as I was before we lost Amina. We lost more than our baby in all of this. It feels so very raw some days that it’s as if it happened yesterday. Although I have isolated myself a great deal since and because of this, I know I’m not going through this alone. I have had my support system there, my love, who walks this journey along side me, an unfortunate ally. At times we are islands from each other, but we come back to one another with understanding and a deep love that I know cannot be easily severed.

That is what I take from this. That my tiny daughter, not ready for our world, showed her Daddy and I the depth of love we are capable of giving each other. For that, I am grateful every day. Though I may not have been able to give that love to her directly, it is there when I hold her Father’s hand, when I stroke his hair, when I am in his arms. This is her legacy, that I honour through our love. It’s almost been a year now, and I have come out the other side, without my Noodle, my girl, my Mina. I miss you, Amina, though I barely had you. Mommy loves you. Always.