There’s a red plastic water bottle sitting on my desk. The bottom two inches are filled with old, almost cloudy water. It’s the same water from 10 Thursdays ago, my last day at work, the day before I found out you were gone. That Thursday, like every other day since finding out I was pregnant with you, I forced myself to drink 64 oz of water during my work day—two full water bottles full. I guess I didn’t quite finish before leaving my office that Thursday. Why does that make me feel slightly guilty?
10 Thursdays ago started out like any old Thursday. My alarm went off, I hit snooze like four times, and finally dragged myself out of bed with about 15 minutes to get ready for work. I took a shower, brushed my teeth, threw on a stretchy skirt, my favorite maternity tank top, and a white cardigan, kissed my dogs goodbye, and ran out the door with my hair still soaking wet.
I drove to work, sat down at my desk, chugged a bunch of water. Checked some emails. Thought, “did I feel Stevie moving around at all this morning?” I wasn’t worried, just started to pay attention. Chugged some more water. Checked some more emails. Waited.
I sat in on a webinar called something like, “Finding the Stories That Will Raise Money for Your Nonprofit” (why I remember this, I have no idea). Stared at the screen. Rubbed my belly. Chugged some more water. Took some notes. Rubbed my belly some more. Said, “oh, she’s good,” when one of my coworkers asked, “How’s the baby?”
I went to Subway for lunch. Asked for extra jalepenos. Thought, “that’ll wake you up, baby.” Nothing. Chugged some more water. Nothing.
I sent an email to Dad: “Hey Bear, I can’t remember the last time I felt Stevie move. I’m kind of worried. Should I call the doctor? What are we doing for dinner tonight?” Went to the bathroom. Poked at my belly. Chugged some more water. Poked at my belly again. Sat on the toilet and whispered, “Come on, Baby, wake up for Mommy.”
I drove home. Tried to sing along to that happy Michael Buble song (“I Just Haven’t Met You Yet”) on the radio. Texted Dad, “Hey, where are you? Call me.”
I pulled in the garage. Let the dogs out. Drank half a carton of cold chocolate milk. Ate a few handfuls of baked cheddar and sour cream potato chips. Laid down in bed. Poked my belly. Waited. Flipped over onto my side. Waited. Flipped to the other side. Waited. Got out my Doppler. Moved it around and around on my belly. Pressed down harder. Turned the volume up, then down, and back up again. Pressed down even harder. Static. Opened my laptop and logged onto my online pregnancy support group. “I can’t remember the last time I felt my baby move, and I’m having a hard time finding her heartbeat with my Doppler,” I wrote. I heard “Oh I’m sure she’s just hiding under your pelvic bone,” and “just call your doctor for some peace of mind.”
I called my doctor’s office. Five minutes too late. Heard the standard, “if this is a medical emergency, please hang up and dial 9-1-1. To speak to the on-call nurse, press 1…” Decided to do neither. “I’ll just call in the morning,” I thought.
When Dad got home I told him I was getting really worried. “Well, should we go to the ER?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t really want to pay the $150 co-pay for an ER visit if I can just go and get everything checked out by my doctor tomorrow morning.” “It’s up to you,” he said. “I’ll just go in the morning,” I decided.
Maybe, deep down, I knew something wasn’t right. Maybe I was scared. Maybe I just wanted one more night with you.
So 10 Thursday nights ago, I put on my maternity yoga pants, rubbed cocoa butter lotion on my belly, watched Dad kiss my tummy, and said, “goodnight, Stevie, I love you”…all for the last time.
It's hard not to feel guilty when I think back on all that happened 10 Thursdays ago. What if I would have gone in earlier? What if Dad would have insisted on a trip to the ER that night? What if I would have finished those last 8 ounces of water like I was supposed to? I know it's silly. I know it's pointless. I know that once I noticed you weren't moving, you were probably already gone. But still, what if?
I miss you more than I can even explain, Stevie. 10 Thursdays ago I woke up happy, truly happy, for the last time. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever wake up happy again.