Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The ER, the Miscarriage and the Baptism

Warning: This post may be a little bit gory, because yesterday was a little bit gory. I'm not going to go into specific details, but there will be some talk about what actually happened at the hospital and so, if the mention of blood makes you queasy, you may want to pass on this post. And my apologies for the length. Writing is definitely cathartic for me and this case is no different in that way.

The Feast of the Assumption is also Paul's birthday and I had big plans. Okay, maybe "big plans" is a bit of an overstatement. I'd been working obsessively all morning in an attempt to clear the dining room, so that we could have pizza and ice cream cake and celebrate before he went back to work studying. I'd basically finished the living room (the paintings and photos still need to be hung), but the majority of the unpacked boxes were in the dining room and I wondered whether I'd be able to unbury the space by the time he got home.

Sadie had been walking around talking about the new baby for most of the afternoon, which was a change since she hadn't been talking about her little brother or sister as often lately. Two days ago she'd asked me where the baby was. When I said, "You know where the baby is.." she said "with Jesus" with a little frown before asking "Where is Jesus?" When I said, "you know where Jesus is" she said "in heaven with the new baby." Yesterday she had sat on my lap and said "I want the new baby to come home" before running to the window, looking out at the street below an yelling "come home baby, come home!" It wasn't the easiest conversation. But I digress. Back to the story...
I had mentioned to Paul before he left for class that I was worried I might end up in the ER sometime during the day. The miscarriage seemed to be picking up and I was a little nervous about it. The timing was less than perfect. My parent's headed back to California after lunch. If this adventure was going to occur we'd be on our own.

By early afternoon, when Paul came home for lunch, I was losing a lot of blood. At around 5 o'clock Paul spoke with a relative who works in the medical field and he said we needed to go to the ER. I wasn't thrilled with the idea, but I was starting to get dizzy and knew that he was right. Paul installed the seats in the car (we'd been waiting for the seat belt locks to come from Amazon... since it's almost impossible to find them these days in stores and thankfully they arrived yesterday afternoon) and we headed to the ER. He dropped me off at the front door and took Sadie and Mae home to have pizza and wait for updates.

The triage nurse said that it was a very good thing that I'd come in and sent me back out to the waiting room. Unfortunately, what happened next appeared to offend a few people...

A woman came out and said "Kimmie." I had been sitting, listening carefully to every name they called for some time, but by the time they called that particular name the contractions were two minutes apart and I was pretty distracted. So the nurse said that name three times before I realized that she was talking to me, and then berated me all the way back to the triage room (where for some reason I was going a second time) and for about a minute once we were there about how I "didn't know my own name." She did seem to feel bad when I apologized for not hearing her right away, starting crying and said "I guess I just have a lot on my mind at the moment."

However the other nurse who'd been standing with her when she called me seemed to also be incredibly offended that I hadn't understood them right away... and she ended up being my nurse in the ER. When I explained that I'd been losing large amounts of blood, like clockwork, every fifteen minutes for the past two or three hours, she actually rolled her eyes before telling me they'd take care of me and walking out of the room. That was the last time I saw her (and I'm kind of thankful that was the case).

Blood work was taken. A sonogram was done. And I sat and read "Emma," until the contractions were a minute apart, thirty seconds long and intense enough that I had to sit forward and grip the side of the bed. I finally hit the call button and a nurse came in, and then another and then the PA. I'd been asking to use the bathroom for about an hour by then (first I was told I'd have a catheter, then a bedpan, and then finally a very nice nurse came in, was very unhappy to find no one had done anything and brought in an in room potty chair). What happened next involved copious amounts of blood, painkillers, nausea medicine, and an argument between the nice nurse and another nurse about whether I could walk across the ER to the exam room. After that argument the nice nurse disappeared and I was on my own again.

At the exam I was told that my cervix was still closed (I was really surprised by that because I'd thought I might have already passed the baby) and that the sonogram had showed that the baby was still in place.

I made it back to my room where the painkillers worked for another five minutes. And then the contractions picked back up again. The nurse had told me that she'd given me a very low dose to start out with, and that she'd give me more if things got bad. After three or so contractions I decided the pain could definitely be described as "bad."

I pressed the button. A nurse came in and told me she'd get someone. An RN came in about a minute later, but was told by someone on the other side of the curtain that she'd "take care of it" and left. Five minutes (that'd be about five contractions) passed and I was crying, curled up in a ball. It was definitely comparable to labor with both of my nine lb babies. I guess contractions are contractions, when the baby is very big or very small.

I tried to wait. But there was no sound of anyone coming.

I finally got up, staggered across the room (the beginning of the crime scene look in the room began) closed the curtain and went back to the little in room potty. There was a huge amount of blood and tissue and then the amniotic sac and baby passed. The physical pain stopped almost instantly. I leaned over, pressed the button again and a nurse reappeared. I told her I was losing a lot of blood and she went to get help. Finally someone appeared.

I asked if that was the baby. She tried to say something comforting about it being a blob of tissue. I explained, between sobs, that we were Catholic and that I was going to do a conditional baptism, and I needed to know if that was the baby.

Logically, I knew that they couldn't find the heartbeat almost a week ago, so we were likely well past baptism, but I also felt the need to do all that I could do. She said that it was the baby and gave me gloves, a tub and a cup full of water and I punctured the amniotic sac, poured the water and said: "If there is anything here that can be baptized then I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." My job was half done.

We put the baby in a cup (the baby and sac were about the size of the palm of my hand) and I began the battle to make sure the baby wasn't disposed of as "medical waste." The nurse, who was Catholic, was a big help. I repeated over and over again to different people, that they could send the baby to pathology, but that I needed to be able to claim the baby to have it cremated, once they'd checked to make sure everything was there. I used the word "Catholic" over and over again. The charge nurse finally came in and told me that they were going to make sure pathology knew that we'd be claiming the remains.

I was a bit surprised by my resolve in the moment. For the past two weeks I'd been very nervous about these two aspects: baptism and cremation. I'd been a little embarrassed when I even thought about asking to be allowed these two things in an ER, for a fourteen week old baby. And I'd been stressed about whether I'd even be in a state where I could fight for these them if need be. But the mama bear instinct I've felt with both my girls definitely extended to that little baby, and I was not going to back down. I would do what needed to be done.

The sweet nurse hand delivered the baby to pathology with a note and gave me detailed instructions on claiming the baby today, and calling first thing this morning (Paul's already called three times and it looks like we'll be picking the baby up and taking it to the funeral house after his classes today).

At one point in our conversation, the nurse seemed quite shocked. We were talking and I told her that I was thankful that we had the sonogram, because we could see the baby's profile. She actually held onto a chair and sat down. She kept repeating that she'd thought it was only a blob of tissue, and looked at the cup as she told everyone who came into the room that we'd already been able to see the profile. I think it may have changed the way she thought about babies in the womb a bit.

After I got dressed and went to sit in the waiting room. Amazingly Paul had gotten Mae to go to sleep (the first time she'd gone to sleep without me). He loaded both girls in the car and they picked me up. And I fell asleep between my two girls, which was a great comfort.

And that is the physical story of what happened. It was definitely a night where I realized several things spiritually however (suffering and pain can definitely be catalysts in that way!), and I'll hopefully be able to put that into words at some point soon.

Thank you again to everyone for all of the prayers and kind words. You've all be such a great comfort to me. Some of the things you have shared have brought tears to my eyes. I've just been so amazed by the kindness that we've been shown. Thank you so very much.


  1. My heart goes out to you and your family. I too had a miscarriage and my thoughts and prayers are with you. ((hugs))

  2. Your story brought tears to my eyes. How lucky your angel baby is to have such a loving mother.

  3. Wow. I'm a bit ... speechless. But I'm glad you were able to try to baptize your little one and claim his/her remains. But, wow, what a day. Praying for you.

  4. {Hug} No doubt you are surrounded by angels, Cam. And through your faith and dignified expression of that faith, I'd be willing to bet good money that you converted some hearts in that ER. Your baby, through tears, anguish and insufferable pain, will forever be the first "baby" to them, and you, the first mother. Not just a patient on a table waiting for a blob of tissue to pass.

    May the seed of that blessing grow in the hole now left behind, and may a garden spring forth from the graces God blessed you with and will continue to bless you with for all of time.

    You, and your beautiful family, are in my prayers. Happy birthday to your husband, even if I'm a day late. ;)

  5. Praying for you and your family and hoping that my niece (who just miscarried) does not have to go through the same thing.

  6. I'm so sorry for the cruel treatment your received at the hands of some of the nurses in the ER, but I'm so glad you were able to conditionally baptize the baby and have his/her remains released to you. We requested the return of our baby's remains after my first miscarriage and it was a great comfort to have a grave to visit (our priest also did a graveside service and a memorial Mass).

    Continued prayers for you.

  7. You are such a strong lady. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Blessings to you, dear Cam.

  8. Unkind behavior seems so much worse when it is from someone whose life's work is caring for people, such as a nurse. I'm sorry that you had to endure that on top of dealing with the loss of your child.

    God bless you for being a witness to life to those people in the hospital. You are an inspiration, Cam.

  9. Often good comes out of sadness, and your beautiful witness to those nurses will bear fruit, I am sure.

    God bless you and your precious family.


  10. Well said Carol. As a nurse practitioner and former ER nurse I was cringing as I read Cam's description of her treatment in the ER at what was probably one of the most difficult moments of her life. I am so sorry for what you went through Cam! Your strength and beautiful expression of faith is an inspiration. I wish you had been able to come to the very Catholic ER where I worked. You and your baby would have been treated with much more kindness and a priest would have been there to perform the baptism and offer support. I was shocked that the staff at the hospital did not offer to call a priest immediately the first time you mentioned that you are Catholic. Even when I worked in a secular hospital, meeting the spiritual needs of patients was a priority. A formal complaint is certainly warranted if you are feeling up to it in the future. It may prevent someone else from going through a similar experience. God Bless you and your family, you are in our prayers.

  11. I just wanted to say that you're incredibly brave. And I am sure that your witness really touched those nurses.

  12. Some years ago, I, too, conditionally baptized my little miscarried child. I brought my little baby's remains home in a white plastic bucket: it was the only suitable container the lab had available, I was told. I was also told that no one had ever asked for the "tissue" before, and this was at a Catholic hospital. As I was walking out of the hospital with the container, my two young children at my side, I saw a new mother holding her baby and being wheeled to a waiting car. In that instant, I began to feel the pain of loss.

    You are a fine example of Catholic motherhood, and you did the very best thing for your child. May your arms be filled with your precious little girls, and may Almighty God bless you and your dear ones. May Our Lady of Compassion console you. You are all in my prayers.

    With much love,
    Kindred Spirit

  13. Wow, that must have been so difficult, especially alone. Thank you for sharing your story.

  14. i haven't kept up so i didn't know- i am so sorry. please feel my arms hugging you. i am so glad you stood up for your beliefs and gave the baby what he/she deserved. you were so right. i pray for healing and peace.

  15. Cam,

    Thinking of you. Thank you for posting your story so that more people will have the courage to provide for their baby's remains in this way. The Catholic Hospitals and Cemeteries where I live have a special ministry for just this situation. God bless you and your family.

  16. Cam, I'm so sorry you received such awful treatment at the hospital. I'm glad you were able to prevail. I agree with one of the other ladies, you should definitely write a formal complaint. The staff need to know their behaviour was unacceptable.

    Sending prayers and love for you and the family.

  17. Dear Cam (hugs),

    (This is that Lutheran woman from PA again. I posted on one of your other recent posts about your lost baby.)

    It's extremely hard for me to find the right words, so I'll first just say hugs and prayers. :(

    The thought that's spinning through my mind is such shock over how you were treated. For one thing, my mother (who is recovering wonderfully) was just in the hospital for a heart attack, and "so help me" if one of the nurses had turned nasty or dismissive. It would have been a race between my husband and I to see who would have blown up first.

    Also, and even moreso, it shocks me how difficult they seemed to be regarding your view of your *own* child. As pro-life myself, it never ceases to shock me how casually some people can dismiss the very same pre-term baby that is clearly so loved. I've never been pregnant (as you know, we adopted from China), but it's the same shock I feel at how casually some people will "dispose of" the same pre-term baby that my husband and I jumped through hoop after hoop after hoop, in order to adopt. (Hope that is coming out alright. Hugs again.)

  18. Be assured of the prayers of this seminarian

  19. Cam, thank you so much for being so straightforward about your experience. You let us see your suffering, and you have also witnessed so much: to the nurse in the ER, to people who are reading this blog who may be moved to reconsider where life begins, and to families who may go through this themselves. What I love about Catholicism is that we don't shy away from the truth of the body - the joyful and the heartbreaking. You have written a very Catholic post, and I think it's a very important one.

  20. Thank you for sharing this Cam. I cried while reading it, as you battled through contractions for a baby that was with God. I am so glad you were able to take your baby with you, and the hospital did not fight you too much. I am so sorry again for your loss.

  21. I am so sorry for your loss. I recently went through this and a friend reccomended your blog.


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