The Shocking News
* * *
I'm not picking up a heartbeat, Pam. There doesn't
appear to be any fetal movement. I think the ba is
In disbelief my emotions began to run wild and
unchecked. Engulfed in a jumble of scrambled thoughts I
wanted desperately to hear the doctor say, "Wait a minute-I'm
wrong. I've made a mistake. Now I see the heartbeat."
Those words never came.
During the next half hour in that little examining room,
my life was a blur. Everything was out of focus. I hated my
humanness. "Why can't I change this and make things different?"
I thought. Somehow I wanted to say a few words
and magically raise our ba from the dead.
Nothing made sense. Angry questions darted back and
forth in my mind. "Why is this happening to me? To John?
It's not fair! Thousands have abortions, but we want this
child . why are we the ones to get ripped off? I hate this!"
The tears poured out. I sobbed long and hard, trying my
best to listen to the doctor. He painted a picture of what
might have happened: "Based on the measurements on the
ultrasound screen, I can see that the ba is fully formed
according to schedule, and most likely died just a few days
ago. It's possible that the umbilical cord wrapped itself
around the ba's neck. Or perhaps part of the placenta
detached itself from the uterine wall. More information will
be gleaned from pathology tests."
The doctor's words were overshadowed my own
thoughts: "I can't believe this is happening!"
Our day had begun in such a normal fashion. The alarm
awakened us at 6:00 A.M. The leaders who help us pastor
junior and senior high youth arrived forty-five minutes later
for doughnuts and prayer. Our time together was one of
closeness and warmth. As special prayer was offered for our
ba just beginning its fifth month, I felt my love deepen for
the child I carried.
By 8:00 A.M. the youth workers were gone and John left
for the church office. Rather than going to work at the counseling
center, I headed for my monthly visit with the doctor.
I was excited about hearing the ba's heartbeat again. The
fascination of hearing our child on the Doppler (a small
amplification device used to listen to sounds in the womb)
just four weeks earlier was still vivid in my mind.
The wait in the doctor's office was entertaining. A room
full of pregnant women has always amused me. My imagination
raced. "Will I really get that big in four more months?
I wonder where she found such a beautiful maternity
Finally it was my turn for an exam. The usual blood
pressure check and weigh-in were done first. "Hey, all right!
Only one pound up from last month!" That was good news
along with the nurse's words, "You're right on schedule."
The doctor was soon with me. Next came the moment
I'd been waiting for. He said, "Let's listen to the heartbeat."
It was like the first time all over again. I was so excited I
embarrassed myself. After all, this was a common occurrence
for the doctor. But for me, it was a thrill of a lifetime.
He placed the Doppler on my rounded tummy and
gently searched for the ba. About a minute went and
my anticipation was at a peak. "Come on, Doc, let's get that
thing in the right place I want to hear what this kid is
doing in there!" I thought. The doctor explained that often
the ba positions itself toward the back and this makes it
difficult for the amplifier to pick up any significant sound.
A few minutes passed. Nothing was picked up the
Doppler. I watched intently for some cue as to what was
going on. The doctor's face was blank. The nurse was stoic.
I began to feel scared. What was happening? Confusion
began to replace my excitement. The doctor very professionally
explained that it would be best to take an ultrasound
test for everybody's peace of mind before leaving the
office. This would be a more reliable way of finding the
heartbeat and checking on the ba's progress. I agreed and
was moved to the next room where the test could be run.
Apprehension lurked in the back of my mind as I entered a
room filled with foreign instruments and equipment. My
arms and legs felt like 200 pounds as I climbed up on the
examining table. There I sat . shaken and chilled.
The nurse began to probe with the sound device to
secure a clear picture of the uterus, placenta, and fetus. For
what seemed to be hours it was unbearably quiet in that little
dark room. I painstakingly blurted out, "Do you see a
heartbeat? What are you finding? Can I see the screen?"
only to be quieted with the remark, "I don't have a clear picture
yet, Pam." More long drawn out minutes passed. Once
again I bombarded the silence with, "Can't you tell me anything?
Are you seeing a heartbeat?"
And then the ripping truth came. There was no heartbeat.
The ba wasn't moving. Our ba was dead. What
had gone wrong? The doctor didn't give a pat answer, but
encouraged me that more information would be gleaned
from pathology tests after delivery.
After delivery. Those words jolted me into reality. It
would be necessary for me to go through the normal delivery
process-but I would deliver a dead ba and go home
empty-handed. It was all too incredible to grasp.
I had entered the doctor's office cheerful, bright, and
anticipating the sound of life within me. I was leaving shattered,
broken, and fearful of tomorrow. What would I have
to walk through in the hours and days ahead?