A Father's Story: Mourning the Baby We Never Had
I told her not to look down (she had). Still connected to her, facing west and not moving, was the physical embodiment of what we had only ever seen onscreen. Autopilot clicked on. I looked for a container, knowing I had to save everything. A colored pint glass was by the sink, and I washed it out. My wife moved to the rim of the bathtub. I collected what had fallen and ran to call 911 .
I told the dispatcher that my wife had miscarried. He asked me to describe what happened and told me that she would probably be going into shock and I needed to cover her with blankets. I didn't want to go where I couldn't see her, and the blankets were more than 30 feet away, down the hall. I was stuck. The dispatcher told me to give the phone to my wife and go get the blankets. When I returned, he was making my wife laugh. The pain, which she hadn't known was labor, was subsiding.
In less than five minutes the doorbell rang, and I ran downstairs. Four paramedics rushed in, asking questions that somehow I was able to answer: "Where's your wife?"; "Where is the fetus?"; "Is it intact?"; "How far along?" One of them scooped up our panicked dog and plopped her in another bathroom. These kind, brilliant men then flirted with my wife while simultaneously telling her that she was going into shock (explaining her jitterbug legs). They placed her on a chair and carried her down three flights of stairs. Leave it to my wife to—at this moment—joke about, and apologize for, her weight. Her beautiful, stunning, sexy, pregnancy weight.
Fire trucks and ambulances do little for discretion. The whole neighborhood was outside and knew what had happened. I reached the doctor on call and asked which hospital to go to. She seemed surprised and asked, "You called the paramedics?" I remember thinking, but not saying, "Yes, considering that my bloody wife is convulsing and our child's in a pint glass." The kind man in the ambulance told us we were right to call for help, that 911 is there for situations that people can't handle on their own.
Our regular, more empathetic doctor drove from her home to meet us at the hospital and perform the surgery. Another D & C, necessary to make sure that what we knew was gone was completely so. Two hours later, my wife and I took a cab home.
In the morning, I retrieved the two-week-old celebratory e-mail, cut and pasted the names of the recipients, and informed everyone that the pregnancy had ended and we needed some private time. And then we witnessed different forms of the art of consolation.
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