On the morning of March 14th, 2007, I was at my weekly obstetric check-up. I was due to give birth within a couple weeks, but something went wrong that day.
The nurse couldn’t detect Carl’s heartbeat. For several minutes she flustered and fiddled with different equipment, trying to find a machine that worked. My first inkling that something was wrong was when the doctor suddenly pulled me in for an ultrasound.
My doctor told me to go to the hospital immediately. Believing that Carl’s life was in imminent danger, and that I was about to be rushed into the delivery room, we quickly arranged a babysitter for my daughter and went straight to the ER.
But instead of rushing me into treatment, the ER staff stalled me for five grueling hours before forcing me to get a second ultrasound to confirm what they, and my doctor, already knew. My son was dead – caused by true knots in my umbilical cord.
Little did I know, that was just the beginning of my long nightmare.
First, my doctor strolled into the room hours after my 2nd ultrasound and casually broke the news. Worse, he blamed me, claiming “this only happens late-term when the mother does something wrong.”
I was still reeling from the shocking news, trying to process what was happening, and without knowing anything more, my doctor told me this was my fault.
Two weeks earlier I had urged my doctor to deliver Carl early because I could tell something wasn’t right. He wasn’t kicking as much as he had been, and something just felt wrong. He dismissed me and insisted I was fine, saying, “Pregnant women worry all the time.”
Now, I was in the hospital and my nightmare had come true.
That same doctor who wrote off my fears while my son was still alive now gave me two options: I could remain pregnant and continue carrying my son while his body decomposed in my womb, putting me at significant risk of death, or they could perform a C-Section and remove my deceased son immediately.
My choice was obvious. I asked for the C-Section, but my doctor inexplicably dismissed me again. Despite having just detailed what would be an extremely graphic death if they didn’t remove the fetus, he told me “No, you’re not thinking rationally. Let’s just wait.”
The conservative Catholic hospital, St. Joseph’s in Joliet, IL, then sent three nurses and a priest to talk to me. All of them pressured me to continue carrying my deceased son, urging that this was what “God had intended.”
In a fit of despair and disbelief, I began to question them. What if their tests were wrong? What if my son actually WAS still alive and they were putting his life at risk by denying me a C-Section?
Only then, when I suggested my son might still be alive, did they agree to take me into the operating room – not when it was clear that my life was in danger.
The nightmare continued after the procedure was done. The hospital priest told me that my son wouldn’t be allowed to go to heaven because he hadn’t been baptized.
They made me take a drug test to determine if illicit drug use was to blame for my son’s death – ignoring the natural and common phenomenon of true knots that were clearly to blame.
In the months that followed, I joined pregnancy loss support groups and learned that many, many other women had been subjected to the same cruel treatment. One woman I met was actually arrested for homicide because doctors believed her to be responsible for her miscarriage.
Imagine grieving the loss of your child, your body recovering from a traumatic failed pregnancy – and then being arrested and accused of murder.