It was almost 9:00 at night when I was admitted to the hospital. An hour later and I had been visited by doctors from at least four different departments.
There was the doctor from Maternal-Fetal Medicine who was there to give me the Cliff-Notes on preeclampsia and explain how shitty I was going to feel on the magnesium drip. There was the anesthesiologist who had me sign cryptic papers as he explained what it would be like to have an epidural. The most terrifying was the pediatrician from the NICU who stopped by with her vague assurances and confusing statistics about giving birth to a baby before 30 weeks.
At the time, each of these doctors seemed like the world’s worst game show hosts standing next to Mystery Doors that held undesirable outcomes. But, just like on most game shows there was a twist. There was a secret door that no one was mentioning. I imagine it being in the shadows, not yet illuminated by the spotlight. Opening that door meant going home with no baby at all.
Behind that secret door was stillbirth.
Looking back on that time, I almost feel embarrassed that I didn’t know it was a possibility for Dorothy to die. I was terrified of having a preemie. I was stressed about having to take so much time off of work. I was frightened to consider the strain that having a baby in the NICU would put on the sanity of Mike and myself. The thought of such scenarios had me in tears. These possibilities invoked thoughts of “Why me?” and “Why is this so hard?” Now, I would give anything for a chance to face those challenges.
I always wonder what it would have been like to know that stillbirth was a possibility.
While I understand that there was nothing I did wrong, I will always fantasize that we could have done better. I don’t spend a lot of time in the what-ifs anymore, but sometimes I go there. Sometimes I think “What if I had known she could die. Would I have done more?” There are a lot of questions behind the door where stillbirth lies.
I know the reason that door stays in the dark–because that door is scary. Stillbirth is terrifying. The fact that babies die is devastating. We draw a curtain over that door because we want to protect, but the outcome has the opposite effect.
Keeping the possibility of stillbirth all locked up doesn’t stop it from happening.
It just means that when it happens, it’s incredibly isolating for the families that have to experience it. They feel locked away from a world that doesn’t want to hear their sad story.
Enough with the silence.
Enough with the closed doors.
Enough with the secrecy.
We need to talk about stillbirth.
Maybe then, we can start to do something about lowering the number of families who have to cross that threshold. We can’t help an issue that we won’t even look at.
Let’s not close the door marked stillbirth because we’re scared to see what might happen. Let’s open that door wide because we’re hopeful in changing outcomes.