The Box In The Back of The Closet
Lynita Hamilton

 

            The day began much like many others. It was warm, sunny, and full of excitement. Today, however, was a special day. It was the day that our first child was to be delivered. The bags were packed and in the car. I had gone with my mother and sister the day before to pick out the outfit that he or she was to wear home from the hospital.

            In the early eighties ultrasounds were not routinely done for normal pregnancies. Therefore, I did not know whether we were having a boy or a girl. I picked out an outfit for each, just in case. It made no difference whether the child was a boy or girl; the only thing that mattered was that it would be our child, our first child.

            The nursery was ready, colorful with its muted greens, pinks, blues and yellows. One wall showed the cow jumping over the moon while the other wall featured Humpty Dumpty. The crib beckoned for a child. The car seat was in the car. This was indeed to be the big day.

            I took my husband to work that sunny Monday morning. At the time we only had one car, so if we both needed to go somewhere, one of us took the other or waited to use the car. My instructions were to have his vacation leave forms filled out when I returned so that he could take the week off to be with me and the new baby. He went to work and excitedly proclaimed that our baby would be born that day.

 

            I had just gone for a check-up on the Friday prior to this visit. My obstetrician said ,“If everything goes well over the weekend, we’ll deliver the baby on Monday.” To my knowledge, everything had gone well. Bags packed, I anxiously awaited the words, “It’s time to head on over to the hospital.”  However, Dr. Youles had a puzzled look on his face. He said, “I’ll be right back.” He returned a few minutes later with his nurse practitioner Joanne. He said, “We’re going to listen for a heartbeat one more time. I had a little difficulty finding it.” They both listened. They moved the Doppler around several areas over my abdomen. Anxiously, I listened. I just wanted to hear the heartbeat of my precious baby. All I heard was silence. No matter how much the Doppler moved, there was no heartbeat.

 

            I am a very strong person. However, the fact that no heartbeat was found made me feel very weak. I didn’t understand how this could be. I had a picture-perfect pregnancy. There had been no complications whatsoever. Now, on the day that I had come to have my baby delivered, there was no heartbeat. Maybe he was just turned in an awkward position. His heartbeat was eluding the doctor.

 

            I returned home, praying that a heartbeat would miraculously appear that night, all the while preparing for the reality that my child would be stillborn. Dr. Youles had to be wrong. I convinced myself that he just didn’t know where to look for the heartbeat. Babies move a lot. He was in an awkward position, hiding his thunderous little heartbeat. That’s why the doctor couldn’t hear my baby’s heart. After forty-two weeks, how could this be possible? Nothing could go wrong now, not after I had been so careful for nine months.

 

            I went to pick my husband up from work as planned. He came out excited, thinking that we were on our way to have the baby. He asked, “Are we going to the hospital?”

 

             “Yes,” I replied. “We’re not going today though; we will be going tomorrow.” I let him get into the car before I said anything else. I told him, “Dr. Youles thinks that our baby may possibly be dead.”

 

             “What’s going on?” he questioned.

 

            “They were unable to hear a heartbeat,” I replied. He began to tear up. He did not want me to see that he was hurting as bad as I was. Rather than placing my baby at home in a crib, there was a possibility that we would be placing him or her in a casket. This was an overwhelming thought.

 

            All night I felt phantom pain. It felt as though the baby were kicking and moving all night. I could feel my abdomen knot up and move. Not knowing what to expect, I thought that I was actually going into labor. I made myself believe that everything was okay.

 

            We returned to the doctor’s office at 9 A.M. on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, there was still no heartbeat. We were sent over to the hospital. My eyes began to well up with tears. “My baby is not dead,” I thought. If I cried, I was accepting that he was. We were told that our baby would most likely be delivered sometime that day. The doctor, nurses, and hospital staff did their best to prepare us for the upcoming birth.

 

            We were asked uncaringly if we wanted to have a service or if we would like for them to dispose of the body. I know that someone had to ask the question, but how could they at that time? “When your baby is born, would you like to see it or not?”

           

            We told the nurse, “We would like to see our son.”

 

            She then asked, “Would you like for us to dress him or just bring him out in a blanket?” How could they be so uncaring? They all seemed so cold.

 

            “This is my son,” I thought. He is a person. “Yes,” I replied, “please dress him.” Did anyone even care that I had just lost my precious son?

 

            Labor was induced at 11:00 A.M. We waited. We were never left alone during the labor process. Nurses took turns with us in the labor room, taking notes. I did not want to have an audience. I needed this time with my husband alone to talk, to hurt, to grieve. I felt that our privacy was being invaded. They wrote pages of notes. What could they possibly be writing about? This is my life, my child’s death, and I did not want it to be treated as though it were just an everyday occurrence. This was personal, and I wanted it kept that way.

 

            After thirty-six hours in labor, I delivered a beautiful six-pound little boy. He did not breathe. He did not cry. He was my son no less. He was dressed in the outfit that I picked out to bring him home in. It would be the only outfit that he would ever wear. He would wear it for eternity in his small blue and white casket. I was unable to leave the hospital, so a small funeral service was held in the chapel of South Georgia Medical Center. I was left behind at the hospital while the rest of my family went to the cemetery for his burial. I did not have a problem with it. That’s the way that it had to be.

 

            I was released from the hospital on Saturday afternoon. My husband drove me to the cemetery to see the flowers and our son William Christopher’s grave. I was heartbroken.

 

            When we returned home, I had no nursery. No crib, no Humpty Dumpty, no muted pastel colors on the walls. I simply had a bedroom. Any sign of my son was packed up in a box, hidden away in a closet.