It’s the night shift. I’m the on call doctor, we all take turns. It’s just coincidence that this was my night, I tell myself later, just a horrible coincidence. On my way into the hospital, I’m grumbling to myself that it’s probably nothing big. The nurses probably panicked over nothing, or something small. I tell them all the time that they need more confidence in themselves, and I’m telling them in my head again as I pass Quinten. He’s just closed the back of the ambulance up, and I wave. I begin our little bit about the nurses using the doctors like a call button, but he doesn’t smile.
His face is tight, strained, and he sobers me. The urgency to flea begs to take over, my hairs stand on end, as a sickening chill shivers down my spine. I don’t want to know what has happened, I don’t want to feel sadness, or see pain. I’d give anything to be back in the arms of my fiance, as I was before the phone call.
I step inside, despite the screaming in my head that tells me to run. A hot wave of dry heat blasts at my face, causing me to gasp. I push forward, not bothering to wipe my feet on the rubber mats, as I make my way toward the elevator. I hear a janitor discussing what had happened, I over hear, “it’s a sad day.” as he clicks his tongue and shakes his head slowly. Over the intercom, my mother’s is paged to the OR. I feel more panicked in hearing this, she doesn’t do night shifts unless it’s a real emergency.
Caroline shakily gives me the chart as soon as I step off the elevator, and can’t speak without sobbing. I’d rather look anywhere in the world, than down at the chart in my hand. I’d rather ignore that Dr. Dwyer’s coattails just disappeared after my mother’s into the operating room. But I look, cause it’s my job, and in Caroline’s scrawl is the name, Leah Millett. My friend, only because of Hazel. She had introduced me to her a few years back, here was her name, and behind the stark white doors was her on the table.
“Is it bad?” I manage to choke out, fearing that I may succumb to tears just from Caroline’s own red, watery eyes.
“The baby…” she hiccuped and choked on a sob at the same time, “the cord is… emergency c-section.” She managed to push the last words out.
I feel guilty later, that I actually feel relief with this news. Cesarean deliveries are not that uncommon, and if anything, Leah should be ok. I hoped that the little one would be too, it was uncommon to have this situation end poorly. Especially with my mother in there, and Dr. Dwyer, and soon, myself.
I walked into the cool operating room, sterile tools laid out nicely, the air conditioning vent humming in the background. A nurse had laid hot blankets on Leah’s legs, and the anesthesiologist had put Leah under for the procedure. The monitor attached to Leah’s belly echoed only a small beep from Leah’s own heart, and nothing from her womb. Urgently I looked to my mother to see her face, poised and ready to save the day, as it had always been my entire life. And it was replaced with a face of duty, but also sadness and even fear.
My mother leaned forward, and made the beginning incision.
Almost 90 minutes later, I step out of the operating room, charged to find her husband. It’s not hard, the hospital is not large, and it’s late, almost morning really. But the morning shift hasn’t arrived yet, and the offices aren’t open, so he’s alone. I imagine he had bothered everyone who might know anything for the first hour, but now he’s resigned. Maybe praying in his seat, as he grabs at his head. Despite everything, I know he has hope in this moment. I don’t have hope, because I know how this story ends, and it’s my job to tear apart his hope.
I don’t know Grant very well, despite being friends with Leah, we never hung out at her home. Mostly, it had to due with her in-laws. Living with her three kids, a husband, and the in-laws made for tight corridors, so we always went out. I’ve only met him a few times, I wish I didn’t know him at all.
He gets up quickly, almost rushes to me, his eyes have light, and I see that hope I knew I would. But he quickly stops short of me, reads my expression as much as I’m reading his, and he knows. He doesn’t know what it is, he just knows nothing will ever be the same. How bad is it, he asks. He doesn’t want to know.
I was trained how to handle this situation, on what to say to perfect strangers when things went horribly wrong. “I’m sorry…”
He stops me, holding his hand up.
He stands there a moment, hysteria just a breath away as he tries to prepare himself for the worse. Then he lowers his hand, as if a few breaths can prepare him for any loss, and I continue.
He’s relieved when I tell him that Leah is in recovery, she had hemorrhaged and we couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. She’d had a transfusion, but was expected to make a full recovery. And then I told him that his son didn’t make it. And his face flashed from agony over his son, to happiness for his wife. The two flickered over his face, fighting a war of inner turmoil.
“My son…” He whispers to himself. I imagine that dreams fill his head, and one by one are crushed by what could have been. Fishing, camping, first laughs, and I can see them disappear with each passing second.
“I want to see my wife.” I tell him the room number, and without another word he’s gone. He takes one step slowly, then suddenly, he’s running down the halls. He knows the grief he feels is just a fraction of hers, I imagine he tells himself, as he closes the space between him and her.
There’s nothing to do now, the door closes behind him as he disappears inside. I know it’s quiet, I imagine they stare at one another lost in the depth of their loss and emotion.
When I check on her later, he wants to know that everything is being done for his wife. He doesn’t want her to hurt right now physically, on top of her emotional pain.
With daylight, comes friends and family. Solemnly they move in and out of the room, some eyes dry for a moment, but all eyes red showing the weathered signs of unspeakable sadness. They gather around Grant and Leah, there are tears, hugs, and love shared as they mourn together.
And though this grief is their own, it is not theirs alone to hold.
Notes:Sometimes things just go the complete opposite of what you had planned, and this was one of those times. It’s not often that I have late term miscarriages in the game, and when it came time to write it up, I was emotional over it. Having several friends who’ve experienced late term losses and a stillbirth, made this a difficult entry. I’m relieved now that I’ve gotten this written up.