Preparation in pregnancy after loss brings with it really conflicted emotions. A few weeks ago during our birth class, we were confronting emotions related to our past experiences with the end of pregnancies as we also looked forward, preparing for the birth of our third baby.
This mix of emotions was incredibly present at our hospital tour this week. I really wanted to do the tour of the hospital so that I felt more prepared for this delivery. Our past pregnancies did not end in ways anyone ever is prepared for. I have delivered a baby before, but I hadn’t done any preparation to do so.
Twice in my life I have been to this hospital’s labor and delivery department, arriving pregnant and leaving not pregnant. Both times we left without a baby.
For both of our hospital stays I remember feeling physically lost. I was taken from place to place and didn’t have any idea of where I was in the hospital. This time, I want it to be different. I want it to be different for the obvious reasons, but I also want to feel more prepared so that the hospital stay doesn’t feel like the urgent medical situations it was the first two times.
We need to prepare as if we feel confident that El will arrive and come home with us safely. That is what this baby deserves from us.
For these reasons, we took a tour of Labor and Delivery. The tour included information that I knew, such as where to park and how to pay for parking. Some of the information provided were reminders that this isn’t our first rodeo.
We were also told really useful information that we didn’t know. I hadn’t known that the hospital has four birthing balls and one room with a tub for laboring. I did not know that once we are brought to the postpartum floor the baby will go to the nursery for an hour and a half and Eric can choose to go with them or stay with me. This information helps me feel prepared rather than having to just follow what we are told to do like has occurred with our previous hospital stays.
Although it seems so obvious now, what I hadn’t realized about signing up for the tour is how emotionally draining it would be for Eric and I.
On the tour, we walked past the security desk where we had been congratulated by a well-intended security officer as my parents and Eric got ID tags when we were checking in for me to deliver Danny at 21 weeks.
As we approached the “Labor and Delivery” sign on the wall, my heart rate increased. Before my D&E with Lentil, I was parked in a hospital bed right in front of this sign for what seemed like far too long. At the time, this was a reminder of the fact that I was coming into a space where people were giving birth to healthy babies, while I was going to have my dead baby removed from my body. As we walked towards this sign, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that we were here for a good reason.
Exposure to these places that have traumatic memories associated with them was an incredibly important part of going on this tour and preparing for this birth.
When we walked into the department, we saw the door to the exam room where Eric and I distracted ourselves watching Downton Abbey as we waited for the doctors to get me for my D&E with Lentil. We walked down the hallway where we said goodbye before the procedure, when Eric went to the waiting room and I walked into an operating room, 21 weeks pregnant with our first baby.
While we waited for a nurse to check if the room they were planning to show us was clean, we stood at the nurses’ desk where we had checked in to deliver Danny. When she came back and confirmed that it had been cleaned, we followed the nurse down the hall along with the other five couples on the tour. It was at that moment that Eric and I both realized how much exposure to our previous traumatic experiences we would be getting on this tour.
The delivery room that happened to be available to show on the tour was the room in which I had delivered Danny.
This room is the only place that we have ever held any of our 3 babies. The moment I realized this was the room they were showing I began to cry. Eric and I stood in the hallway, hugging while I cried, rather than following everyone else into the room. I felt devastated at the idea of walking into this room as if it had no meaning to us. Seeing the room, even from the outside, brought the traumatic experiences right back.
The memories are never far away, but they are never more present than in a moment like this.
In those moments, I think Eric and I also realized how special that room was to us. It was the only place that the three of us had really gotten to spend time together, outside of pregnancy. It was the place where we had held our baby, had felt like a family, and had said goodbye to our baby.
I did not want to share this room with anyone else. I did not want anyone else’s presence to taint this space for us.
We waited until everyone else left and took a few seconds to step into the room by ourselves. I am not sure what anyone else thought about the fact that we stayed in the hallway until the last minute, but it really didn’t matter to us. Stepping into that room brought us right back to those moments from October 2017.
Walking into the room made me miss Danny so much. Simultaneously, I felt incredibly close to him again. This is probably the closest I have felt to him since we said goodbye to him and watched him be rolled away from us in the hospital.
I wish we had had more time in that room so that Eric and I could spend more time with our memories of the only moments we had together as a family of three.
Eric and I felt drained for a few days after our tour. It was far more emotional than we had expected. I am still trying to make sense of whether or not I am glad this happened. It was really hard. It hurt so much to see that room again.
It also was likely good for us to see the room before we go back to Labor and Delivery with the hopes of delivering a healthy baby. If it is not possible to avoid Danny’s room come delivery day, at least we have been back there already. Even if we avoid it we may end up close by with someone else occupying it. It would have been harder for me to see someone else using Danny’s room without having prepared for it. Now that we have been back there, I hope I will feel less surprised by some of the emotions that may come up. As with all steps of pregnancy after loss, the emotional preparation for birth involves holding the pain while making space for the joy. This emotional preparation feels far more important than any physical or logistical preparation that we can do, but the pain is inevitable because preparing for the joy also means reliving the trauma.