April 29, 2014 by genelup
After my wife had her miscarriage almost 30 years ago and we said our “goodbyes” to that tiny baby, we tried to erase the devastating days from our memory. That was until we read the book and saw the movie “Heaven Is For Real.” A small boy went to heaven and reported to his parents things of divine enlightenment. He saw his sister in heaven, a child that was a miscarriage on Earth but alive and well and about 7 or 8 years old in heaven.
My wife and I wonder if we would see our child in heaven – that tiny son or daughter we saw in that hospital room so many years ago.
This is our story. I wrote this in 1987:
Our baby probably would have been a few days old by now. Last winter, the doctor said our baby would be born sometime in the middle of July. A miscarriage months ago ended all that. For the past nine months my wife and I have gone through a multitude of emotions for a baby we didn’t plan to have, didn’t necessarily want but came to accept and were eagerly waiting for its birth.
I never thought a miscarriage was a very big deal. After all, I reasoned, how can you really grieve over something you never had? I was wrong. My unborn child and the circumstances surrounding his death have had a profound bearing on me. In death, the baby has given me an insight about life I never had before.
I remember that day last winter when my wife stopped the car where I worked and I climbed in. She smiled and I hurriedly asked, “Are You?”
We drove to a restaurant and talked about how our lives would change with a new baby around. We had sold all the baby furniture including the car seat and infant table years ago in a yard sale. Now we would look at other people’s castoffs.
The pregnancy was a surprise. Although we were excited, we were not sure if we had it in us to cope with another child. We are middle-aged, and because of our convictions, abortion was not an option for us. For several weeks, I moved through my daily routines numbed with mixed emotions. On one trying day, when my two children were too lively for me, I screamed that I didn’t want a new baby around.
After the initial shock, the idea of a baby became more acceptable. A week or so before the baby’s heartbeat was heard; I looked forward to the addition.
My wife went through the same transition and we eagerly began to plan ahead. We called a remodeling company and the man came to our home on a Saturday. We told him we wanted to partition part of the family room off for another bedroom and enclose the carport for storage and a recreation room. I applied for a home equity loan.
I remember a few days later in January. Our morning was joyous. Derek, 10, and Rachel, 8, were pulled from school. We were going as a family to Maryvale Samaritan Hospital to see the 14-week-old baby in my wife’s womb.
The ultrasound technician wouldn’t mind that kids and father-to-be crowded inside the room to watch on the monitor screen, we were told. We would even be given a picture of the tiny baby. (Two weeks earlier, my wife, Dawn, and the gynecologist heard the baby’s strong heartbeat. He routinely ordered an ultrasound test.)
I kidded the technician when she ushered us inside the small room that this occasion was a family affair. She placed the small suction-cup on Dawn’s stomach and switched on the ultrasound machine. A blurred image appeared on the black-and-white screen. She panned the image across the screen a few times and then turned to me and said that my children and I would have to leave the room.
I led my children out of the room and sat down in the waiting room.
“Something must be wrong,” I told them. Later, the technician told us there was a problem and that our doctor would call us. She wouldn’t elaborate.
My wife cried on the way home. My thoughts consumed me. The baby must be handicapped in some way and we hoped the defect could be corrected either through medication or by surgery after the birth.
Later that day, while my wife and I sat in the gynecologist office, we learned that the baby had died.
Dr. Laurence Novik assured us we did nothing wrong to end the pregnancy. Reasons for most miscarriages are still unknown.
Unlike many miscarriages that women have at home, ours was different. It is unusual for a miscarriage to happen after a baby’s strong heartbeat was heard. Most miscarriages occur before that happens.
Dr. Novik said we had three options: wait until the fetus comes out naturally, have a D & C (dilation and curettage procedure) or give my wife induced labor. We chose the latter, which was the safest method.
That evening, I was standing in the family room. The reality that we would not have a baby hit me full force. My eyes began misting, and for the first time I felt my grief consuming my thoughts. Uncontrollably, I sobbed. My 10-year-old son who was watching television nearby came to me and without saying a word he hugged me. I cried on my son’s shoulder.
The next morning, I was home alone. The children were in school and my wife had left to join my daughter’s class on a field trip.
A Red Skelton press conference was in two hours and I didn’t feel like going and write a story for my newspaper. I thought about calling in sick but I knew I didn’t want to spend the day moping at home. I sat on the edge of the bed and the same feelings I had the night before engulfed me. The baby had died. I sobbed again. This time, my only comfort was crying into a bath towel.
Red Skelton was full of jokes, but he got serious at times and talked briefly about his young son who died of leukemia.
“A lot of people asked, ‘How were you able to go back on after that?’” Skelton said. “We are here to serve a purpose and if it is only for a second, that purpose has (been) served.”
Skelton helped me get through the day.
The next morning, my wife and I arrived at John C. Lincoln Hospital for the induced labor. We were taken to the labor ward and a tinge of pain hit me when we walked by the newborn nursery with tiny babies in cribs.
Our labor room was our prison for 15 hours, until the dead baby finally was delivered. Throughout the day, two or three pregnant women were wheeled to a nearby room and they delivered their babies. Pain hit again when I stepped from our room and saw the happy fathers in the hallway and heard the babies cry. I retreated back into our depressing room.
The nurses gave us strength during the ordeal. They talked to us at length, preparing us not only what was going to happen but also the emotions we would be facing in the weeks and months ahead.
We were told when the baby was delivered my wife and I would have time to be alone with it. We could hold it. I had thought that when the baby would be delivered it would immediately be taken away. I left my wife’s side, drove home and got my camera.
When I returned, a nurse asked me what I wanted to do with the baby. I didn’t know I had any options. I could get a funeral home to cremate it and we would be given the vial of the baby’s ashes or we could allow the hospital’s pathologist to make disposition at his discretion.
I called a mortuary and was told for $150 the fetus would be cremated and we would get its ashes. I yearned for a memory of the baby and for an hour I couldn’t decide. I thought: Why couldn’t I just grieve for the dead baby instead of having to make all these other decisions? My wife also was in a dilemma. We realized we would have pictures of the baby, so I signed the release to the pathologist.
The hours dragged by and we watched television or read. My wife was uncomfortable much of the time, especially the last three or four hours.
At about 11 p.m., the dead baby slipped out. The baby was only several inches long. The perfectly-formed mouth and tiny fingers and even tinier fingernails amazed me. The neck and most of the torso had not developed fully. The doctor, who said the sex of the baby couldn’t be determined, placed the baby on a white towel and I took several pictures of it.
Afterward, my wife was wheeled to the operating room where she was anesthetized and given a D&C. I held her hand in the recovery room for nearly an hour before she was taken to a different room on the maternity floor.
The next day, unlike other women who were on the floor, we went home empty-handed.
Grief strikes at odd times. Walking past baby items in a super market aisle may trigger tears. Two weeks after the miscarriage, my wife and I were watching a play. In front of us a baby was sitting on its mother’s lap. When the baby cried, my wife did too but for different reasons.
The months have passed and I sometimes pull the pictures of my unborn baby from a dresser drawer and look at them for while. I get sad, because I never had a chance to say “hello” to our son or daughter. Only “goodbye.”
But that may change in heaven.