I Knew it was Over

Posted on Posted in Stories, Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome)

By G. P.

All of this happened in my 13th week of pregnancy, at the 13th hour, on the 13th day.
All of this happened in my 13th week of pregnancy, at the 13th hour, on the 13th day.

I don’t know how I am going to be able to write this story. I don’t know how to put into words the enormous shock, heartbreak and horror I feel at the loss my most hoped for, most wanted baby. I still can’t believe that my baby is gone, which seems crazy, as it is nearly 11 weeks now since my baby and I left each other.

It took nine months for my husband and I to conceive our baby. All the experts tell you that if you conceive within a year, you are doing well. But when you love your husband with all your heart and want to impart that same love to a baby you have created together, nine months seems an eternity.

I had a very stressful job and began to worry after five or so months that it was that stress, or something else that I couldn’t change—infertility on my part or my husband’s—that was causing the delay in becoming pregnant. I went to see a specialist and was told that I had polycystic ovaries, which in certain instances (particularly when you have the syndrome leg of it, which I didn’t) can cause a delay in conception. That, and the stressful job, were the reasons we weren’t conceiving. I went home thinking the delay was all my fault; I had something physically wrong with me, and been pursuing my career without a forethought as to the consequences to my fertility.

Having a baby was more important than my career, so I changed roles at my work to something far less stressful and more enjoyable. The very next month there were the two dark blue lines of the pregnancy test. Positive. I was going to be a mother. I put my hands on my stomach and told my baby, “I am going to love you so much. I am always going to love you and be here for you.”

Every morning I’d wake up and joyfully think I’m pregnant.  All that hope and anticipation came immediately. The second I found out I was having a baby, it changed my life. My husband and I talked about the due date, names for the baby, having my mother come to stay after the baby came and my husband returned to work. Our baby was our number one topic of discussion.

I had a really good first three months of pregnancy, although I worried about miscarriage. At the eight-week scan I saw the baby’s heart beating for the first time, and that changed everything. From that point I felt certain the baby was just fine and there would be no problems. It was so amazing to think of this life growing inside me. I thought of myself as two people, not one.

When it came time for our three month scan, I was starting to show. I looked and felt pregnant, and by this time the majority of our family and friends knew we were expecting. I noticed a couple in the hospital excitedly talking and hugging together over their scan picture, and looked forward to doing the same with my husband. We agreed to the Down syndrome scan although we thought there was no way we could have a Down syndrome baby. I was 31, for goodness sake, and in prime good health.

My first inkling that something could be wrong was when the scanning technician said, “Usually we don’t get them to lie still like this.”  She asked me to go and half empty my bladder so she could get a better look at the baby. I did so, and before going back into the room, hugged my husband excitedly. I didn’t think anything was wrong, because how could it be? When we got back the scanner said she was sure of what she had first suspected – the reading for Down syndrome was very high: 3.6. The upper side of normal is 2.0. The odds of the baby having Down syndrome were 1 in 11.

I sat there in stunned disbelief. My husband looked shell-shocked. This couldn’t be happening to us. It was unfathomable. Surreal. These things only happened to other people, not to us.

They offered to give us the CVS test following day to confirm the baby’s chromosome count. From the moment we got the news in that first scan, I felt it was over. I knew from that point that Down syndrome would be confirmed. I never started hoping or getting optimistic or positive. I knew it was over from the get go, and I still don’t know why.

My husband and I spent the rest of the afternoon and night in shock and tears. We didn’t discuss what we would if the CVS results came back positive for Down syndrome. We both knew. We knew each other. We knew what we wanted for our future children.

The CVS was awful. We had to go back to the same ultrasound area; all the happy expectant parents were waiting there. That was beginning of the end, some kind of hell. We saw the baby on the scan screen again. The specialist asked me to cough to see if the baby would move and the reading would alter. When I did so, the baby scrunched up his/her face. Peaceful. Happy. Warm. I cried all the way through the CVS and so did my husband. It was terrible to see my beloved husband cry.

I felt terrible after the CVS and subsequent blood test. I was beside myself when I started to cramp, as I thought I was miscarrying. The next 5 days passed in a blur. Everything people said to me during that time, with the exception of my husband, hurt me. Nothing anyone said came out right. I went to church and asked God for mercy. I did this holding my stomach, but no mercy came.

On the fifth day I got the call from the hospital with the news I had come to expect. The baby definitely had Down syndrome. I told the nurse who had called with the news that we needed to end the pregnancy. She said she would call back with an appointment for that.

When I told my husband the news, he was not surprised but was worried about me.

The hospital called us later that day with a termination appointment for either the next day, or in another six days. I felt there was no choice. I couldn’t continue to carry the baby when we had made the decision to let go. It seemed so quick though. The following day I would have to say goodbye to my little one, my most treasured baby. How an earth was I going to get through it?

I don’t know how I got through that awful night before, or how I got dressed the following morning, or put my hair into a ponytail, or walked out of the house, or got in the cab to the hospital. I still don’t. My biggest recollection of the morning at the hospital was having to walk through the ultrasound area with all the pregnant women—knowing I was losing my baby. And putting my name to the consent form. That was very hard to do.

I kept it together and didn’t cry. I was on remote and disassociating from as much as I could, until I learned that the hospital expected my husband and I to be separated for the afternoon while the procedure was carried out. I burst into tears and told my husband we couldn’t go ahead without him. I couldn’t go through with it without him by my side. A nurse saw my distress and took my husband and I into a private part area where we could remain together until it came time for me to go into the operating room.

All of this happened in my 13th week of pregnancy, at the 13th hour, on the 13th day.

Putting the hospital apparel on was awful. I felt like it was really happening then, there was no going back.I couldn’t in all good conscience—no matter how destructive this was going to be to me—bring a child into a life overshadowed with disabilities, vulnerabilities and limitations. What sort of a mother would I be then? Not the sort I wanted and still want to be.

I sobbed walking into the operating room and actually had to be given more anaesthetic than I should of to sedate me. I was so distressed. I kept trying to say don’t hurt the baby but the anaesthetic kicked in.

I knew exactly where I was when I woke up, and I knew what it meant. The heartbreak was instant.

The hospital staff were very kind and supportive, and I am grateful to them. I thanked the nurse that looked after me post-operation for being kind to me and she said, “It costs me nothing to be kind to you. I can’t even imagine what you are going through.”

It has been nearly three months now. I miss my baby so much. And I feel that this has all been so unjust and so unfair. It is getting a little easier – although everyone will tell you – this does go up and down. Being around babies and pregnant women is very difficult. Having people ask you if you have children is very difficult. Having people be insensitive is very difficult.

But, as with everything in life, there is a silver lining in this very dark cloud. I fell in love with my husband all over again, without expecting to. I know now that I can trust him and rely on him. And I know now that he truly loves me. I know what a great family I have, and the friends I can count upon. I have a perspective I never had before. Little things do not bother me anymore. I know my strength and character in a way I never did before. I don’t take anything for granted, which I did do before. And the way the humanity of others has touched me—in amongst the grief—the knowledge, experience and acceptance I now have of the humanity of others is irreplaceable.

The other thing that has helped through this is that I never doubted my decision, and I never have since. I abhor the loss of my baby, I abhor what happened, but not what I did. I will have pain and I will suffer, but the baby won’t.

One of things I have found so very hard about this experience is the feeling that I am alone. I see friends and people on the street pregnant and having healthy babies and wonder why I did not. I have met someone since who lost a baby at 22 weeks, and our friendship has given me great comfort. So did the stories on this web site. I was particularly touched by the woman who wrote that the Hindu’s believe that a dead child is reincarnated and comes back in the next child. That gave me a lot of peace and hope. How I would love to meet and care for this child in my next child. How wonderful, and what an honor that would be.

photo credit: Pattis Flowering Baby carriage on our porch via photopin (license)