Lauren was due this week. Instead of holding her and loving her, I am mourning her. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping.

My last pre-natal appointment was Thursday, September 22nd. Lucky was still alive then. The doctor told us that her heartbeat was strong and it was functioning well; his only concern was about the size. He didn’t think it was going to be a major problem, it was just a slight concern. He took several measurements of the heart and told us that he would have a cardio specialist look at it. We would be able to meet with him at our next appointment the following Friday. Lucky was active during the appointment – not as active as she had been in the past, but I still felt her moving, and we could see her on the screen. We left the hospital and went back to Mishima station, where we ate dinner at a little hole-in-the-wall place. I felt her move after I’d finished eating, and I was happy. I was so very happy to have her.

When I got into bed that night, I didn’t feel her kick or push against me. Usually, she did that, becoming active just when I was ready to sleep, but not always. I was tired and fell asleep quickly and didn’t think much of it.

The next day – Friday, the first day of autumn – is a hard day to think about, because I wonder if it was the last day that Lucky was alive. Could we have saved her if we’d gone back to the hospital that day? We usually went to the pre-natal appointments on Friday, but the hospital was closed (except for emergencies) because it was a national holiday. And I was still tired from the trip to the hospital and back on Thursday; all I wanted to do was rest. I told myself that was all I needed.

But Friday was a quiet day, and the worrying crept up on me. It had happened before, all during the pregnancy, ever since I first felt her moving in the 18th week. Whenever there was a quiet day, panic would settle over me, and I’d be certain we’d lost her. It usually came before an appointment, when we knew we’d see her, and I’d be terrified of what me might see. Then we’d go, and everything would be fine, and I’d relax again. It had never happened immediately after an appointment though. Only before.

“She was fine yesterday,” Geordie told me. “The doctor said she’d lowered; there’s just no room for her to move now.”

“I know,” I replied and kept worrying anyway. We laid on the bed, and he held me, and after a while, I felt Lucky hiccuping, and I was so relieved. It didn’t last long, but it was a sign of life, and I welcomed it. When we went to bed, Lucky was quiet again, but I remembered those hiccups and treasured them because I thought it meant she was okay. I think now that it was the last time I really felt her.

By morning, the hiccups had been forgotten. I slept late and could not focus on anything. Geordie emailed me – he always emailed me in the late morning or early afternoon – to check up on me, and I replied honestly that I wasn’t okay. I was worried and stressed and confused. I didn’t tell him what I had suddenly felt sure of – that something was very wrong with Lucky. I tried to make peanut butter cookies to distract myself, but after I’d made the batter, I didn’t feel like baking anything. I laid down on the bed and waited for Lucky to let me know she was okay. Nothing. I cried myself to sleep and only woke up when Geordie came home.

Sunday was worse. I was sure that I hadn’t felt anything from Lucky all weekend, and I was just as sure that it was too late to help her. When Geordie emailed from work, I responded that he should call the hospital Monday morning. I could not wait until Friday to know what was happening inside me; I had a deep, sinking fear that I already knew what was happening. He said he would, if that was what I wanted, and told me not to worry. He was worried too. I saw that plainly when he came home from work and laid down next to me in the bed. I had spent most of the day in bed, crying and sleeping and reading. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I wanted to be relaxed so I could feel Lucky if she moved. Geordie held me and whispered reassuring things to me that I wanted to believe but couldn’t. And I couldn’t tell him how bad I thought things were because I didn’t want to believe that either. Besides, I couldn’t say those things to him – I couldn’t stand to see him break the way I was breaking. He was trying to hold together for me, and I loved him for that. But I knew. I knew.

He woke a bit earlier than usual, and before he called the hospital, he woke me up to ask me if I had changed my mind. I hadn’t. He went into the living and closed the doors to the bedroom and made the phone call there. I did not go back to sleep; I knew we would be going in to the hospital that day no matter what the ob/gyn staff said. I couldn’t stay home any longer, I couldn’t ignore what my body was telling me any longer. As he finished the call, I got up and opened one of the sliding doors to the living area. Geordie was sitting on the floor, and he looked up and said, “I couldn’t speak to a doctor because it’s too early, but the nurse said that if you’re concerned, we can go in. Do you want to go now or wait and see?”

“Now,” I said. “I want to go now.”

He called his manager while I ate breakfast and got dressed. All the while as we were making the 90-minute trip to the hospital, on the three different trains and the bus, I thought, It will be alright. We’re doing something about this, and that means it’ll be alright. Lucky is fine. We don’t have to worry any more.

And then we were there at the hospital, and the ob/gyn staff did not make us wait. They weighed me and took my blood pressure and kept us in the examining area. A nurse pulled aside a curtain and had me lay down, and she drew the curtain back around me as she started up the doppler. Silence was all that she found, and in that moment, everything changed. Everything shattered.

Two days later, Lauren was born, though she never drew breath. Her story of delivery – and the two terrible days I spent trying to let go of her – will have to wait. That is something I’m still not quite ready to write down yet. I have thought often of those two days, but I have not yet turned them over and examined them and tried to understand them. They are blurs and images, tears and pain, still sharp in their freshness.

Two weeks later, I am still picking up the pieces and trying to put myself back together. Just one piece at a time.

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