Finding out I was pregnant with my son Max when my daughter Olivia was only 10 weeks old provided plenty of laughs for everyone but me. I was completely overwhelmed, overweight, and overly emotional. I also wondered how I would ever love another baby as much as I loved Olivia — although that part changed when I went to Dr. Huggins’ office and Paula, my beautiful ultrasound tech with whom I’d grown very close to during my first pregnancy, turned the computer screen towards me and then turned up the volume. There he was, my gummy bear, moving his arms and legs to the soothing sound of his beating heart. And just like that, I was in love.
Fast-forward to when Max was nine months old: I flew to Los Angeles for a client’s photo shoot, suffering through a brutal period. The morning of the shoot I noticed something unusual, that I continued to bleed while in the shower. Something inside told me this was not normal but I wasn’t overly concerned. I called Dr. Huggins, who immediately began firing questions at me: How long had I been bleeding? Was I in any pain? When was my last period? (Ten days, none, last month — I think?). He told me to come home and come in, so I worked through the photo shoot and caught a flight home.
I walked into his office in great spirits, feeling so at peace as Paula and I got started. Little did I know that my safe little world was about to flip upside down.
We both watched the screen as she scanned my ovaries, my uterus. All was good, and then we saw it, both of us at the same time. “What is that?” I asked. “It looks like a gummy bear, doesn’t it?” Paula’s smile faded as she focused in on the image. “I’m going to need you to stay still, Jaime,” she said. There was something about her voice: I knew. Then I heard it — the familiar, soothing sound of my baby’s heartbeat. Her eyes met mine. I desperately tried to search her face for a glimmer of hope, something to let me know that in the end, my baby would be okay, but there was nothing. I had an 8-week-old baby growing in my fallopian tube, and there was nothing we could do to change that.
She left the room to get Dr. Huggins and I went into mommy mode. I would leave, I thought. They couldn’t force me to do anything. My baby was alive and as long as it was going to try, I would try too. When Dr. Huggins entered the room, I sat up. “I’m leaving,” I said. But he put his hand on my shoulder, telling me, “You can’t. It’s too dangerous.” I begged him to move the baby, to put it safely in my uterus. He just shook his head. I felt like I was going to throw up. I couldn’t focus. I needed Michael. I scrambled for my cell phone, my hands shaking as I dialed his number. I explained to him that I was pregnant but the baby was growing in the wrong place. I needed him to come to the hospital immediately so that he could explain to them that we were keeping our baby. Dr. Huggins gently took my phone and stepped into the hallway.
I could hear snippets: “fallopian tubes,” “ectopic pregnancy,” “about eight weeks along,” “rupture.” I stared at the ceiling for what felt like eternity and then Michael walked in. His eyes were red and swollen and I knew immediately what was happening. He held me in his arm as I sobbed — for the guilt I felt when I found out I was pregnant with Max, and for this new baby that I so instantaneously wanted, loved, and needed. I sobbed because I knew that my life would forever be “before loss” and “after.”
Primak’s three children.
I had surgery to remove the baby and repair my tube. After it was over, I found myself alone in my hospital room, staring out the window into the darkness and wondering how the sun would ever shine again. I felt so empty. It was a sadness that reached every fiber of my being. A nurse came in and offered me food. When I refused, she smiled and said, “Think of the two healthy babies you have at home” before she closed the door behind her. Tears welled in my eyes. My throat burned. I felt outraged, out of control. I wanted to scream at her that the loss of one child is not redeemed by others at home — that the way a mother’s heart works is like having individual hearts for each child, and when one is broken, it cannot be made whole by another. It must heal on its own. But I said nothing. I just cried.
The pain of losing a baby is a pain so heavy and unique, it’s hard for others to understand if they themselves have not experienced it — much like the love for a baby that can’t fully be understood until someone experiences that, too.
Eight months later I found out I was pregnant with Charlie. Often, well-intentioned people would say, “See? You’re getting that third baby.” But Charlie was not my third child — she was my fourth. I will always mourn that baby. I will always remember the sound of her soothing heart beating, and my heart will forever ache knowing she tried so hard to make it work, even when I couldn’t.
(Top photo courtesy of Jaime Primak Sullivan)
Yahoo Parenting has chosen this story, originally published on January 22, as an example of one of our best of 2015.