I knew Baby B was gone before I even made it to the doctor’s office. There was no reason to suspect I had lost a triplet — there was just one tiny dot of blood on my underwear that could’ve been anything — but I knew.
I don’t remember what the ultrasound tech said when she put the wand on my belly and only two heartbeats flashed into view. She scanned and measured and scanned some more, but none of it breathed life into the dead baby inside my belly. She probably told me she was sorry, but I didn’t hear her over the sound of my sobs.
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I didn’t want triplets. I already had one set of twins and a spare at home, and I knew how hard multiples are. I was scared of having twins again, but I knew I could handle it. Triplets was another thing entirely. But as soon as I saw three heartbeats on the six-week ultrasound, I loved them just as much as I loved their three older siblings. When we saw all three wiggling and waving again at nine weeks, I thought we were in the clear. Soon three tiny cloth diapers arrived in the mail, one for each tiny bottom. But then there were two.
My doctor told me that sometimes babies just stop growing. Baby B probably had some kind of genetic abnormality. The other two babies would probably be fine. But he sent me home on bed rest and started me on daily injections to try to prevent pregnancy loss “just in case.”
Baby B wasn’t the first baby I’d lost. She — and she has always been a “she” to me — was my third lost baby. I had an early miscarriage a few months before I got pregnant with her, and I did my best to relax my fears right up until the moment my dead baby flashed in front of me on that ultrasound screen. From that moment on, all bets were off. I ordered a portable fetal heart rate monitor, and every morning and every evening, I listened to my remaining babies’ heart rates and reassured myself they were still alive.
I knew using a Doppler carried minor risks to my babies, but I knew my sanity was important too. My body had betrayed me more than once, and I couldn’t rely on it to keep my babies safe anymore. I needed proof and peace of mind, and the Doppler gave me both.
When I lost Baby B, I worried about having another silent miscarriage. As time went on and my babies made it out of the first trimester and well into the second, I still listened to their heart beats daily, but I began to relax. The holidays were nearing, and I spent the night before Thanksgiving making pies and doing laundry to prepare for the next day. As I moved a load of damp clothes from the washer to the dryer, I thought I peed myself. I even laughed about it a little. But when I got into the bathroom, I saw that it was blood, not urine, that had soaked my pants.
The first thing I grabbed on my way out the door to the hospital was my Doppler. I held it to my stomach as my husband drove us to the hospital, listening to the gallop of my daughters’ hearts. When they admitted me for a placental abruption, the nurses replaced my Doppler with their own monitors, and not a day went by that I didn’t see or hear my tiny daughters.
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We ate Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital and opened our Christmas presents in the family visiting room. My daughters grew so large they took up permanent residence in their two separate sides of my belly, and I gave up on ever seeing my feet again. Finally, after six weeks in the hospital, my doctor decided I could go home.
The first thing I did as a free woman was send my husband into a restaurant for a sandwich. When I stood up to wash my hands and felt a familiar gush, I knew it wasn’t pee this time. As blood ran down my legs and I tried to stop the flow with hospital pads, I yelled to my husband to get out my Doppler.
I don’t regret using a Doppler to ease my fears. I had 32 ultrasounds that pregnancy and spent weeks in the hospital on continuous fetal heart rate monitoring. Whatever risks were posed by my home Doppler were swallowed by all the intervention necessary to keep my daughters alive.
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It took us an hour to get to the hospital. We sat in rush-hour traffic, blood seeping into my pants, the Doppler on my belly the entire time. A few hours later, after my doctor decided to send me in for a C-section, my daughters were born. They spent a few weeks in the NICU learning how to breathe and eat, but they came home tiny and perfect. Two instead of three.
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