Adventures of a Modern Day, Middle-Aged Hero, on the Glory Road(to family security)


The worst day of my life.

The worst day of my life happened 10 years ago today.

My wife and I had been married for about 4.5 months, and she was 20 weeks pregnant(yes, the timing is close).  We had recently found out that it looked like the baby was going to be a girl, and had already 100% agreed on a name...Virginia(for the state we were married in) and May, because that is when we found out she was preggers.  Life was good.

The worst day actually started the evening before.  At the time, I was still in the Navy, and was working what they called 'J' Shift...I worked Friday-Monday, Midnight-noon.  I was just getting ready to lay down for a nap prior to going into work, when my wife told me that something 'just didn't feel right' and she thought we should go to the doctors. 

Back then, she wasn't SWMBO, and being younger and much less wise than I now am, instead of just obeying, I pouted about the idea of missing my nap, and asked if she was serious. After several minutes of back and forth, I huffed out a fine, and got in the car and headed to the Naval Hospital in Bremerton.

The nice thing about her being pregnant is we didn't need to mess with the ER, or urgent care...we were sent right off to the OB department, and checked in.  It was less than ten minutes from when we showed up to when they had her wired up with a heart rate monitor, and the nurse began doing an internal check up.

When the nurse says quickly looks up and says, 'Excuse me, I'll be right back'...it's not a good sign.  He was back very quickly with the on duty OB doctor, who settled in for his own look-see. 

The 'just not right feeling' that my wife was having down below was the baby coming out.  The technical term the doctor used was an 'incompetent cervix.'  Essentially, as the baby develops inside, the pressures become too great, and the cervix begins to dilate.  In our case, the baby's feet had already started to work their way out of the cervix.

My wife was quickly placed in the Trendelenburg position(on your back with the bed angled so that your head is at a 30% down angle) and then the doctors pumped her bladder full of saline, and clamped it off, with the hope being that between gravity and full bladder, the baby would be force back in enough so that they could perform a rescue cerclage (essentially, stitching the cervix shut to keep the baby in).  The doctor was straight-forward...best case was that a rescue cerclage would buy us another month or two...worst case...well, if this was going to be the worst day of my life, I'm sure you can figure it out.

During the bladder filling, I left the room to make a few phone calls.  First was to my Chief, to let him know I wasn't going to be making it into work tonight, and possibly the next few days.  2nd, was to my mom, and all I remember from that phone call was letting her know that she was probably going to lose her first grandchild.  She offered to hop in the car and start the 4 hour drive, but I told her I would let her know how stuff went in the morning...and then had the exact same phone call with my dad.

Then the waiting started.  It was almost midnight.  My wife was fairly miserable...head pointing at the ground, bladder filled to capacity, so she felt like she had to pee, but she was clamped shut so she couldn't.  She was given a few things to numb her up, and help her sleep, and they did let her doze in and out...but no one offered anything like that to the husband.  Instead, I sat in that hospital chair, with an Alistair MacLean book I had read about 70 times...and waited.

It was the worst 7 hours of the worst day of my life.  Waiting, waiting and waiting.  Nurse would come in to check every few hours, and the news was not good.  All I could think about was how I had tried to talk her out of going to the doctors.  What if that 5 or 10 minutes was the reason things had gone so far wrong?  Wisdom earned has a price.

Morning rounds finally arrived, and the doctor came in.  There had been very little progress overnight.  The doctor then did an amniocentesis...not for any data, but just pulling 100cc's of fluid out to reduce internal pressure, but a few hours later, it was clear that wasn't gaining us anything either.  The pressure was finally relieved on my wife's bladder, and the doctor said that they could attempt the cerclage anyway, manually positioning the baby back inside.  This wasn't the preferred method, as any handling of the amniotic sac could cause it to start leaking.

I didn't stay with my wife during that procedure.  They doped her back up again, and I went to make round two of phone calls.  My mom had called my mother-in-law the night before, but now it was my turn.  I also called my parents back, and they both started their drive.  The doctor had not had high hopes that the cerclage procedure would work, and much sooner than I expected, the doctor was out.  The news was not good...basically, the cervix was too thin already...he could not place any stitches for few of the cervix essentially tearing, which would effect future pregnancies in a quite negative manner.

My wife and I talked things over, but essentially the decision was mine...she was so doped up, that any real decision had to be mine...risk any chance of a good future pregnancy for a slim percentage chance of making it another 4 weeks?  While we were discussing things, the decision was made for us.  One of the nurses came out and whispered in the doctors ear...whether it was from the handling, or the amniocentesis, or both, my wife's water had broken.  The baby was coming, and there was nothing we could do.

There was also nothing the hospital would  do for her.  Based on several ultrasounds that had been done over the course of the night, the gestational age was confirmed at just over 20 weeks...the hospital said that the baby was not viable, and no actions would be taken to save the baby when it was born.  All they could do was make my wife comfortable, and help things move quickly, which they did with more drugs.

Things went quickly from there...the waiting was over, and there was just the sadness and rage against all of creation to deal with.  There was no surgery left...my wife had to push, knowing with each push that she was ending things.  Virginia was born alive...and then was gone.  The nurses offered to help find some little clothes so we could get her dressed and get pictures if we wanted.  I shared a horrified look with my mom, and we quickly said no without even asking my wife.  During our recovery process, we met a couple who had the same thing happen to them...they HAD taken pictures...I made the right decision.

The only time in the whole experience I came close to losing it is when we had to check out of the hospital...Tri-care being Tri-Care, I had to go settle the co-pay.  The paperwork said child birth, and before I could really say anything, the old lady working the desk said it would take a minute to change the paperwork, because the nurse had forgotten to charge me for my daughters overnight stay in the hospital.  'Oh, and would you like to add her to your account now?'

I didn't destroy her...but I did drip tears on her desk when I explained to her that my daughter didn't make it overnight.  Her face shutdown, and she threw the paperwork away.  Add it to the list of regrets for that night and day that I didn't track her down later and apologize.  Other than that, I was as strong as I could be for my wife...both during, and after.

We talked to some friends, and through the internet found other people who had been through this.  We weren't alone...1-2% of pregnancies have this happen, and it is the leading cause of 2nd trimester loss.  A week or so later, we got a small bag of ashes from the funeral home, and spread them at a park on the shore of Hood Canal. I was glad to see our love for each other helped us through, and we had good support from friends and family and co-workers. My boss let me have two weeks off work(which is one reason I work for him now...NOTHING inside the gate is more important than ANYTHING outside the gate.)  and we moved on.

For a while we talked about waiting, but in the end decided jumping back on the horse was the right course of action.  Bella was born the following June, and was not without her own excitement....but this time the cerclage was done early(a preventative cerclage) and my wife made the sacrifice of several months of modified bed rest.  It sucked.  It still sucks...if you don't think there are tears on my shirt right now, think again...but I have two amazing daughters, and I would not trade either of them to remove the pain and see what might have been.   

Sometimes, you don't question the happy endings. 


  1. Go hug them all, and tell them you love them...RIGHT NOW!

  2. Due to a series of crises and losses, I still call 2001 my "Job Year," yet I'm pretty sure I have no concept of how much you were hurting. I'm glad you and your family now have so much joy in your lives.

    I second Guffaw's motion.

  3. I can dimly imagine. I had an early loss and it's not something you ever really get over. I know it's got to be an order of magnitude worse to get halfway there. A woman never really trusts her body after that. I didn't relax my whole next pregnancy until I was holding Marie. I am sure Bella never fails to be amazing.