Despite this quiet revelation of the nearness of death, I still remember the inconsequential details of that day. I heard a Coldplay song softly ringing out from a small speaker overhead, while the whirr of the stretcher’s wheels caressed the carpeted floor below. Two male EMT’s exchanged meaningless information until one said, “Nice. Who is that?” To which the other responded, “Oh, that’s Elizabeth. She’s with such-and-such…” The GPS was not functioning in the ambulance and the other ambulance that was sent to the scene was lost somewhere in Baldwin Park.
I remember crying. The pain was a hammer in my gut. It was dulled somehow until a random hand put pressure on the spot and I whimpered like a dog. The tears had nowhere to fall but instead created a lazy stream that glided to my hairline and got lost within the tangled black jungle.
I couldn’t stop shaking.
blood pressure pumps,
The surrealty from the time the EMS took me to the emergency room to the time I went in to surgery was inexplicable. As a man- I assume he was a doctor- explained what they were going to do, I thought of my husband. I told God I was not ready to die. I thought of the pain.
Oddly, I had the overwhelming urge to use the restroom. I informed the medics of the fact and the doctor who stood over me as I lay in the emergency room. Her response was, “If you do, we’ll clean it up.” I wanted to hold on to my dignity as they cut away all my clothes, but realized it was futile because I was no longer in control of the situation. I was no longer in control of the body I had been so naïve to think would remain unbroken until I was wrinkly and old.
I remember trying to answer questions, but being amazed at the whisper in my voice. One nurse asked me if I was 19 years old and I could barely move my lips to correct his error of 5 years.
Somewhere in between the fainting and the pain I remember a woman doing a sonogram on my volcanic abdomen. After every glance to the screen she looked at me with pity. I wondered what she saw. I wanted to ask, but couldn’t find my mouth.
I now know the baby’s heart was beating, even then after my fallopian tube had ruptured and blood was pouring into the places and spaces in my body it shouldn’t have been. He was still holding on, just as strong willed as I was… or more so. I thought of the irony that I had gone to the doctor’s office that morning to find out my due date through a sonogram and now the sonogram was telling me how close my baby and I were to death.
As they put the anesthesia mask over my face, the last sensation I felt was that I was suffocating. My lungs wouldn’t work. I tried to pull off my mask to tell them I couldn’t breath but they held my hands down. Even if I had taken the mask off it wouldn’t have done any good. I couldn’t talk. Then everything went black.
I woke up in a recovery room. I remember one of those high school clocks hanging on the wall. Every time I closed my eyes and opened them a second later, an hour had gone by. My husband met me later in the hospital room. I don’t know this because I saw him, but because I felt his touch and heard his voice. He had been waiting in anguish for hours to find out if I was going to live.
I remember his look of shock in the gynecologist’s office before I went to the hospital. It was the look he had when I told him I was pregnant…magnified by ten. Only on the day of the positive pregnancy test he was sitting on the toilet and part of his surprise was that I chose that moment to break the news to him.
We did not plan to be pregnant. After abnormal spotting during one period and the total lack of another, we figured it out and informed our parents right away. Even with the surprise of the pregnancy and the worry of being uninsured and away from family, we were excited for this new adventure. I had two weeks to prepare for a little life to come into my world before the loss of that little life left me changed forever.
The doctor visited me in the hospital a few days later to answer my questions. I asked her how old the baby was and she clarified that the baby was actually a fetus. I thought in my head, “He will always be my baby.” I asked what they did to the baby after he died. Using well-chosen words, she in essence informed me that they threw him in the trash.
He was 9 weeks and 6 days old, she said.
Like a child I slept with the stuffed bear last night, finding comfort in the soft fuzziness of its fur. Maybe I should be grateful the edges of my memories are that fuzzy. I can get lost in knowing that I am alive and let the rest fade over time, instead of it remaining unbearably clear.
Allison Graber is a Nashville writer and lover of Jesus. She is 13-years married to Lynn, a mix engineer with quiet ways and a loyal spirit. Her two little girls, Ellis and Adeleine, daily coax delight out of her heart. The paradigm through which she sees the world has been built brick-by-brick from her experiences with her Jesus, her love of people, through loss, curiosity, Holy words, and through the surprising joy of motherhood. She writes about these things at AllisonGraber.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.