In our new Realtalk series, we're sharing personal stories about fertility and family planning. We hope they offer support and inspire honest conversation about an incredibly tough topic.
After I passed the age of 35 without a committed partner, I accepted that I would be childless. But then, five years ago, a wonderful man came into my life. We decided to have a baby together, and at age 38 I became pregnant on the first try.
I was as big as a house. People always asked, “Are you having twins?” (I wasn’t.) But despite my size, exhaustion, and age, my pregnancy was wonderful and happy. I loved knowing my daughter was coming.
At a little past 38 weeks gestation I visited my OB, who said that my daughter’s arrival would likely be about a week early. So I wrapped things up a little early at work and started preparing for labor.
Only days away, I thought excitedly. My parents crossed the country for their youngest child’s first birth. We got busy rearranging, washing, folding, and doing our best to get ready.
But on Wednesday, I noticed that my daughter wasn’t moving normally. She’d act hyper with much kicking and squirming, and then, nothing for long periods of time. I told this to the nurse-midwife I saw on Thursday, who suggested reporting this decreased fetal movement to Labor and Delivery.
I went to the hospital, but after being monitored for fetal heart rate, I was told all was fine and was sent home Thursday evening.
On Friday morning, I woke feeling surprisingly refreshed. I'd been exhausted for the last months of my pregnancy, so I was happy to feel so rested, especially so soon before birth.
But that afternoon, I noticed my daughter didn’t move after lunch. It was odd.
I headed to my scheduled appointment that day, which started with fetal heart monitoring. At first, the nurse seemingly couldn’t get the Doppler, which picks up the baby's heartbeat, to work. So she chose another. That one only picked up my heartbeat. So she went to “get another” and said she’d be right back.
At that point, it began to dawn on me that something was very wrong. I was fighting back the panic.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was taken to the doctor in the ultrasound room. There, she said those dreadful words: “There’s no heartbeat.”