To start at the beginning, click here…
I woke, and willed my mind to go as blank as the wall I would face when I finally forced my eyes open.
The dread and fear and ache that had settled onto my chest the night before, as the thunderstorm raged outside our room, remained firmly in place, even though a new day had come, washed clean and bright with the rain.
I rose, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed. Was I just groggy, or was each limb inexplicably heavier this morning? I sat for a moment, head bowed low over my swollen belly, and I whispered, “Good morning, little one. You need to wake up.”
A thousand heartbeats passed, and yet, he remained still.
I knew what I was supposed to do: consume sugar, and then rest on my left side. So, I went through the motions. I chose four chocolate chip cookies from the glass jar in the kitchen and retrieved a Pepsi from the fridge in the garage, and laid back down.
If my life depended on it, I couldn’t tell you how long I lay in bed. It could have been twenty minutes; it could have been two. All I can tell you is that however long it was, it was too long to just be still and feel nothing.
I showered, begging my son to stir as I ran the soapy loofah over his form. As I toweled off, I rubbed cocoa butter into my skin, as I’d done every day since I learned of his existence. I bargained with him: just one kick, one flip; one more cookie for each movement he made.
A thousand promises made, and yet, he remained still.
I applied makeup, and styled my hair to a perfect shine. I dressed with care: my favorite jeans, a comfy brown tee that showcased my growth, a sweater, amber jewelry, leather sandals. I opened the bathroom door, and stepped into a familiar hallway placed into a world I no longer recognized.
Jim came to my side with a concerned look on his face. I smiled up at the father of my children, and felt my protective armor – not for me, but for him – slide into place.
“So, here’s what I’m going to do,” I told him. “I’m going to call Kristen and see if she’ll have Joel bring a doppler to church tomorrow. He can bring one home from his office, check me out before service, and save me a trip from going to see Dr. Gibbs on Monday.” He merely nodded, and I sent him back outside.
I wandered into my father-in-law’s office and punched in speed dial 16 – Joel and Kristin’s anniversary. She answered on the third ring, and in hindsight, I’m surprised she understood my request, since it spilled from my lips in such a rush:
“Hey, lady! So, we’re in town for the week, and I wondered if you could have Joel go into the office and pick up a doppler and bring it to church tomorrow so that he could check on the baby and make sure that all is okay because I’m not sure I can remember feeling him move much for the last 24 hours and I really don’t want to have to wait until Monday to pop into Dr. Gibbs’ office because I’m supposed to be in Bellevue for lunch with my grandparents and I really don’t want to have to cancel because I’m sure it’s nothing, and I really don’t want to have to go to Babies ‘R Us to buy an at-home doppler for nothing, so I figured I could just have Joel do it. What do you think?”
She assured me that she’d check with Joel, but that a better option might be to just go into his office, since he was already seeing patients that day. This option made the most sense, but I didn’t want to do that. Leaving Seth with my mother-in-law while I went to the doctor would raise questions with my family that I didn’t want to answer. I had no intention of sharing my fear with them – I hadn’t even wanted to tell Jim. But in the end, I saw no way around it. I told Kristen to tell Joel I’d see him at 12:30, and I went to inform Jim of the change of plans.
He was already set to mow yards with his dad, but I could tell he was torn between helping John or coming with me.
“Just go,” I told him. “You’re going to waste time coming with me, since it’s probably nothing.” He opened his mouth to argue, and I rushed on. '”And if it’s something…..I’ll call you, okay?” He still didn’t look convinced, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell him what I already knew, even as I asked, “Honey? Worst case scenario – if Joel can’t find the heartbeat, what should I do? Should I go to the hospital?” He simply nodded, and my heart broke.
I went to him, put my arms around his back, and leaned into his strong frame. “It will be fine,” I whispered. “I feel silly even making Joel stay at work late. It’s nothing. I’m sure he’ll get the heartbeat as soon as he sets down the doppler. It’ll be fine,” I lied.
A thousand reassurances whispered to his daddy, and yet, he remained still.
Saturday, May 16th …. To be continued …