Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

Why I left the lawn until later: A father reflects on miscarriage, loss and grief

For about two weeks, Andrew Waterman and his pregnant wife were full of joy, oblivious to a miserable fact: their child's heartbeat had stopped.
For about two weeks, Andrew Waterman and his pregnant wife were full of joy, oblivious to a miserable fact: their child's heartbeat had stopped. (John Gushue/CBC)

It was such a dull thought but I remember it clearly.

After five weeks working away from home, I was sizing up the uncut, overgrown grass in my backyard, seeing how the wind had twisted and reshaped the tall blades, wondering when would be the best time to mow it.

It would be better to do it in the morning. The sun tends to come down hard in the back of the house during the afternoon.

Then I heard my wife's panicked voice calling my name, tripping me out of the ordinary. It was happening again. This time there was blood. We had to call the doctor.

Three weeks before this moment, we had heard our child's heartbeat for the first time.

We soon would find out, however, that our child's heartbeat had stopped.

For about two weeks, we had been walking around joyful and oblivious to the misery we would soon encounter. And we were sharing our empty joy with family and friends.

It had never occurred to me that a child with no heartbeat still needs to be delivered.

Our daughter was ecstatic when we told her about the baby. She made sure it wasn't a joke before saying, "I've been waiting for this day my entire life." She's five.

Weeks ago, cold gel and electronics glided over my wife's stomach, making a fast whirring noise, giving us an audible glance at our future joy. And now the same thing was being done, but with one caveat — no noise.

Still, this didn't make what we feared absolutely certain and we tried not to jump to conclusions. We were sent for another ultrasound at the Health Sciences Centre.

While we waited for the results, every small detail of every moment was scrutinized and only seemed to point in one direction. Was it like this last time? If not, what does that mean? And then they called our name, and our worst fears were confirmed.

The thought of our child being gone was hard — but the thought of explaining it to my daughter broke me every time.

I asked how possible it was they could be wrong. There was no possibility. None.

And then I sat down on the floor.

Waterman's family went berry-picking about two weeks before they found out their unborn child had died. (Andrew Waterman)

It had never occurred to me that a child with no heartbeat still needs to be delivered. And because of that, it never occurred to me there could be complications with the delivery.

We were given a prescription and had it filled. I nodded with tears in my eyes at the pharmacy technician, an old co-worker and friend of mine, who looked up at me confused, after reading the drugs she was to grab off the shelf.

It had only been the day before I told them the good news. It certainly seemed easy enough — but as the doctor would put it a day later — if Murphy's Law is real, we were the Murphys.

After a certain level of misery, nothing shocks you. There appears to be a pain threshold for emotional suffering as well.

After filling the prescription, I came home and mowed the lawn. I was always capable of getting some good thinking in while mowing the lawn — not that it ever made me rush to do it.

I figured it'd be a good opportunity to figure out how we would explain this to our daughter. The grass was so thick the mower kept cutting out. I must have destroyed at least $30 worth of toys that the grass had grown over.

I'm not certain, but I think the mower was loud enough to drown out the swearing.

A couple of hours later I heard another panicked voice screaming my name.

No ambulance sirens needed

I tried to walk my wife through the steps of labour, telling her to breathe and asking her if she was capable of trying to push. Nothing worked. I wasn't even positive this was what I was supposed to be doing.

On the phone with 911, I distinctly remember the term "fetus" coming out of my mouth to describe what, mere hours ago, I had been calling our "baby." I had been using my hand to show our daughter how big the baby was at 14 weeks.

And now it was a "fetus." It felt odd. I suppose it was to distance ourselves, at least for the moment, from the pain of loss. There would be time to grieve but now wasn't it.

It didn't take long for the ambulance to arrive and there was no need for sirens.

The delivery could not be finished at home. It would take us well into the next morning with two more rounds of medication.

After a certain level of misery, nothing shocks you. There appears to be a pain threshold for emotional suffering as well. There were often short bursts of laughter between tears that night.

The few people who know have all said the same thing: "It's common." It appears everyone knows someone who has been through a miscarriage, if not several. My experience has not been one of dreading being asked about the baby by the friends and family who knew. I honestly wish there were more around.

I have, however, been finding it hard to concentrate on what other people are saying to me.

But my lack of focus is not because what they're saying is not interesting. I'm usually just looking them in the eyes, worried this person I hardly know will be the person all these thoughts and emotions finally come spilling out onto.

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About the Author

Andrew Waterman

Contributor

Andrew Waterman is a freelance journalist living in St. John’s.