CL, Contributor to Moving, for You: A Tribute to Empathy

When I was growing up, I always felt that I was the black sheep and unwanted. I was the second child in a family in which I had a very emotional and loving but somewhat “macho”-type Italian father and a cold and aloof mother. I was physically and emotionally abused by my mother as a child.

I had a close relationship with my grandmothers, particular my mother’s mother. My mother’s mother was the only one who would speak up to my mother about this, although nothing was ever really done. I remember having dreams of monsters coming to our house and that they’d only come for me. My sister would be there in the living room with me and they would chase me and threaten to tear me limb from limb. My parents would be in the upstairs bedroom and when I’d call for help, they’d call down to “give my sister a turn” and the monster would chase her once around the coffee table, and then she’d return to reading in a lounge chair while he’d return to chasing me.

I’d also have dreams of my insides being filled with bugs because I was so “bad” and “rotten”. As an adult, I went to therapy to deal with how my feelings were effecting my relationships and I was able to recall conversations with my mother in which she told me that she’d never wanted to have children and that when she finally decided to have children after she was married, she wanted a boy, not a girl and certainly not a second girl (I was the second girl). She also told me that she had a miscarriage between my sister and myself and that she thought it was a boy and that if he had lived, I would never have been born. Whether it was implied or my interpretation, I always believed that she felt she would have been much happier if that had been the case. I went through most of my early life into adulthood believing I was a mistake.

I decided that I would wait to have a child until I could make sure that I wouldn’t do to my child what my mother had done to me. I went into Psychiatric Nursing as a career and obviously my childhood experiences had a direct influence on this choice. When I finally decided it was safe to have a child, I became pregnant (in my second marriage). I was thrilled and very much looking forward to the birth of my child.

But I had problems with what I thought were “allergies” and although it wasn’t a difficult pregnancy, I never felt that the baby was growing sufficiently. I never really felt movement more than what could have been gas. I remember in my seventh month, it seemed as if I was losing weight or at least not gaining. I still didn’t feel a lot of movement. I went to my OB MD and he couldn’t get a fetal heartbeat. He didn’t say anything but sent me for a sonogram.

The doctor interpreting the sonogram is the one that told me that the fetus had died and that it had been dead for at least a little while as the spinal cord had started to collapse. My OB told me over the phone that I could just wait until I went into labor naturally or he could induce me. I opted for induction as it was difficult enough continuing the pregnancy knowing that my baby was already dead. He admitted me to the maternity ward and induced labor. He told me the baby was a boy, and they would do blood work on me and tests on the baby to determine what went wrong. They admitted me to a four-bed post partum unit and kept my curtains closed.

One of the other mothers called to me to say that my baby was very quiet. I, obviously, had a very difficult time in the company of 3 other women with live babies.

Afterwards, I had to continuously call the doctor and lab for the results to find out what went wrong. They seemed to be unable to tell me what the problem had been. It took over six months for them to tell me that they lost the results, couldn’t tell me what was wrong and why the baby died and they had lost his body, so I was never able to have a burial.

When I finally became pregnant again (which went incredibly smoothly and my daughter is fine and now has a daughter of her own) I remember being in labor and constantly watching the fetal monitor the whole time I was in labor (even through very painful contractions) because I was terrified that something would go wrong before she was born. Luckily that didn’t happen.



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