November 26, 2018 I was sitting in a cold doctor’s office trying not to shake. I could feel Ava moving every now and then still. I was thinking about the last time I felt her move and anxiously wondered if the doctor would find her heartbeat today. My name was called, and I followed the quiet nurse back to the exam room. She was the same nurse who had sat with me a week and a half earlier after the sonogram that showed something was wrong. Living in a relatively small town, I was fairly certain she remembered me and knew this prenatal appointment wasn’t a joyful one. After all, I had been hysterical and caused quite a stir in the office last time I had been there. She took my blood pressure and told me the doctor would be in soon.
The doctor came in and asked how I was doing. I felt myself detach as I shrugged my shoulders and muttered a short answer to the effect of “obviously not the best.” I laid back as she got out the heartbeat doppler and placed it on my belly. I thought about the purple flower boarder that was on the top of the hospital room wall the night we found out Ava would die. This doctor’s office didn’t have a border for me to focus on while I was disassociated from the tragedy I was currently living. Instead, they had pictures on large canvases of babies and happy families. I couldn’t look at that, so my eyes wandered until they landed on the tissue box on the counter. I fixated on the design, as if focusing hard enough on something else would make the heartbreak of silence bearable,the excruciating pain I was in ease. A tear rolled out of the corner of my eye as the whoosh sound filled the room. I was simultaneously relieved that my baby was still alive and stabbed with fresh guilt and anguish that she was still fighting for her life. It was noticeably slower than the last time. The doctor, seemingly forcing a smile, said, “144.”
Ava’s heart rate had been a steady 155 at each appointment before this day.
She was tired.
Her heart was slowing down under the burden.
But the doctor didn’t say any of this. We knew what was coming, no need to cover the obvious.
This was the last day I heard my baby’s heart beat.
The next day I felt her move for the last time as I was getting into bed for the night. I spent time telling her I loved her and that I knew she was tired, and I didn’t want her to hurt anymore. I told her it was okay for her to go. I told her over and over again how sorry I was. I told her how I love her so, so much. I told her how strong she was and how she was such a fighter. I told her she didn’t have to fight anymore. I told her her dad and I love her and always will.