The child we lost
When our first child was 11 months old we were trying for number two. It was the first of July and my wife informed me she just had her period, so it’d be another month before we’d have a chance to get pregnant. We attended a 4th of July party and the host asked my wife when she was due. When my wife informed her that she wasn’t pregnant the host seemed very confused and apologized and explained that she really thought someone told her about the pregnancy.
Well, the whole thing seemed strange enough to my wife that she went and took a pregnancy test the next day. The test revealed that she was pregnant. She took another just to confirm. Still pregnant. We were super excited. Her doctor said blood work confirmed her pregnancy but it was so early they couldn’t detect the baby yet with the ultra-sound.
She returned in two days to the doctor’s office but they were once again unable to locate the baby. Her doctor informed her that she was going on vacation but to come back in two days and see her partner. It was the day before we were planning to leave for a week-long camping trip to the far tip of Cape Cod.
My wife had a mid-morning appointment. I was at work when I got a call from her. Her voice was trembling as she told me the doctor had found the baby and it was in her Fallopian tube. She had what is called an Ectopic Pregnancy. They needed to do emergency surgery before her tube ruptured.
I went numb. Not only were we going to lose our child, I could lose my wife. It was too much to process in an instant. I went to tell my boss I had to leave. She was having a meeting with three of her supervisors including the company owner.
I must have looked horrible; as I poked my head in the room they all somehow immediately knew something was wrong. My boss came right over to me and I could barely get the words out. She gave me a hug, told me everything was going to be OK and told me to go.
I had about a 45-minute drive to meet my wife. I called my parents and a few other close friends to tell them what was going on and to ask for prayer. I also called our friends who were watching our son for what was supposed to be a couple hours and informed them what was going on. They, of course, said not to worry about him; he could stay as long as necessary.
I meet up with my wife at a Target. We had a little bit of time to kill before she had to be at the hospital. It was the most surreal Target shopping trip I’ve ever been on. I remember walking around looking at stuff but I was like a zombie. I couldn’t really wrap my head around what was happening. I ended up buying some dress shoes that I still wear to this day.
We made our way to the hospital. We got checked into the hospital and she was prepped for surgery. I remember saying good-bye hoping it wasn’t the last time I’d see her. I was directed to a waiting room and told someone would get me when the surgery was over.
The waiting room was just for family of people who were in surgery. The room didn’t have any windows and it was very poorly lit. There was one other family in the room when I arrived. They were nervously talking quietly to each other. I sat down in a small seating area tucked away on the other side of the room. I didn’t know what to do. I prayed. At some point the other family left. I kept trying to prepare myself for the worst possible scenario.
Had she not taken that test, her Fallopian tube would have ruptured on our camping trip and in all likelihood she would have died.
I have no idea how long I was sitting there. Time seemed to not exist. I have never felt so lonely in my whole life. I think I was occasionally texting people updates, but I had nothing to update. I felt like I needed to move or walk around but I just sat motionless in my chair staring at the wall. The door opened and a small old woman came walking in. She looked as scared and lonely as I felt.
She sat down near me. Some time passed and we sat in silence. It might have been three minutes or it might have been 45; I have no idea. Somehow we began to speak to each other. I can’t remember who spoke first. Her husband was in surgery and he was getting a hip replaced (or maybe a knee). I was thankful for her company.
Good to their word, someone finally came and got me. I was told surgery went well and lead to an area where I was informed she’d be coming soon. I waited in the hallway for a few moments and her bed was wheeled down toward me. We hugged; she was still very groggy from the anesthesia. She was taken to a recovery room. I honestly don’t remember much about being in that room.
We were told her tube had not yet ruptured and didn’t need to be removed. My wife wanted to leave the hospital as soon as possible and since everything had gone so well, she was discharged after a couple hours in the recovery room. It was getting really late into the night by now. Our friends told us our son was asleep and he was welcome to stay the night but my wife wanted to see him so we went and picked him up.
The next day was supposed to be the start of camping trip. I don’t remember the exact details of the next morning. I think there might have been a follow-up appointment in the morning. At any rate, we asked the doctor if there was any reason why we couldn’t still go on our trip. He said we could still go. So we packed up our camping gear and headed off.
It was actually the perfect thing for us at the time. The opportunity to get away from everyone and reconnect with each other and heal. It all happened so incredibly fast I hardly had time to process it all. Within a matter of hours I went from being excited over a pregnancy to being thankful my wife was alive. Had my wife never had the conversation with the woman at the party, she would have never taken a pregnancy test. Had she not taken that test, her Fallopian tube would have ruptured on our camping trip and in all likelihood she would have died.
Ruptured tubes are the leading cause of death among pregnant women in the first trimester and it’s only within the last half century or so that modern medicine has been able to detect or treat such an emergency. If this had happened during my grandparents’ generation, I would be a widower today. For each of her subsequent pregnancies we breathed a lot easier once the doctors were able to detect the baby within the uterus.
My heart goes out to all the parents who have lost babies. It’s a challenging thing. Everyone experiences it differently. Some want to talk about it, some don’t. Some want to be surrounded by friends or family and some just want to be alone. I think I read somewhere that one in four women have experienced the loss of a baby. That’s a lot of women. For the majority of these women there was also a brokenhearted father-to-be.
So while there is a rightful focus on the women who have suffered SIDS, infancy and pregnancy loss, let us also remember there might be some guys out there hurting pretty bad too.
Mike Smith, a.k.a. Sunshine Dad, is a Florida-based stay-at-home dad of five. This article was previously published on his blog, sunshinedad.com, and has been republished with permission.