At the hospital, she put the machine around my belly –the one that projects the foetal heartbeat. She told us (my husband had joined me) that the baby’s heartbeat was faint, before sending us for an ultrasound.

During the ultrasound, I remember the sonographer placing the machine that would enable us listen to the foetal heartbeat. As usual, I expected to hear the loud beats of my baby’s heart. But instead, an eerie silence filled the room. A silence so loud, it was deafening.

There was nothing. No sound. Nothing at all.

I asked him why we couldn’t hear anything. He said it was because the volume was low. I asked him to then raise the volume if that was the issue. But I suspected he was telling a fib because it was my third pregnancy and I’d done many other ultrasounds before, and I knew volume was never an issue.

Movements on the Screen?

I also asked him to turn the screen to face me so that I could see what was happening. I wanted to see my baby.

When he turned the screen, I looked … and looked… and Iooked harder. Then I looked some more. My heart began trembling, beating so loud and so fast.

There was no movement. Nothing at all. It was still as still could be.

Confused, I asked the sonographer what was going on. He asked us to give him a minute. Then he then stepped out to call my doctor, who came in seconds later.

When I looked at her, I felt chills run down my spine. My doctor’s eyes were teary. I feared she was going to say the worst.

“June I’m sorry, but he’s gone”.

Indeed, she had said the worst, her words landing heavy on me like a ton of bricks that crushed me to pulp.

My husband was the first to speak.

“What do you mean he’s gone? We were here just a few days ago and baby was fine –we saw his movements and heard his heartbeat. What do you mean he’s gone????”

I wanted to run out of the room screaming and pulling my hair out… then I looked at my husband –who was already turning pale with shock, and I knew that wasn’t an option. I remained numb.

The doctor told us that I had most likely experienced a sugar spike that had led to complications for baby Ethan –our son. That’s the name we had selected for our son.

A pendant, given to Mbithe by a dear friend, in memory of baby Ethan.

Saying Sorry

The doctor and sonographer then left the room, giving us a few moments. For about 15 minutes, my husband and I held each other crying. I was also apologizing… apologizing because I was diabetic –and it was my condition –my blood sugar levels -that had caused Ethan’s death. I cried as I kept saying over and over again how sorry I was –apologizing to my husband, apologizing to Ethan, and apologizing to my other children Victor and Makena –sorry that I wouldn’t be bringing home the baby they’d been looking forward to meeting.

When the doctor returned, she said I needed to deliver baby Ethan.

“June I don’t think he died today. He’s been dead for at least two days. It’s not safe for you to have him there.”

Her words were so hard to take in.

She asked us to go home and return the following morning, ready to deliver Ethan.

Maryanne, I don’t believe I have the words enough to describe the traumatizing ordeal of what the experience was like –living, breathing, existing… with my deceased baby in my womb.

As my husband drove home, I kept holding my tummy, praying, hoping that I will feel some movement, that Ethan would kick, that it was all a bad dream. Plus also machines are never 100% accurate you know…

But as I rubbed my tummy, I didn’t feel anything. Ethan didn’t move.

Informing our Other Children

Along the way, I called my family back home in Kenya to inform them of the news. My younger sister Celeste dropped all she was doing and made immediate plans to come to Tanzania to be with us.

Mbithe with her sister Celeste

When my husband and I arrived home, we had to face yet another dreadful moment –breaking the news to Victor and Makena.

We weren’t sure how to go about it, as it was not an outcome we had envisioned. We stayed at the parking for minutes, staring into space, hugging each other, crying and wondering how best we’d inform the kids.

Eventually, they found us at the parking. Victor asked why we were taking so long in the car yet he’d heard us arrive a while back.

Makena also spoke.

“Mommy, why are your eyes red? Have you been crying, mommy?” she asked.

We then got out of the car and ushered them back into the house.

“You remember we’d told you that we’ll be having a baby soon? Well, the baby won’t be coming anymore,” I told them.

While Makena didn’t quite comprehend the meaning of that, Victor did. He remained solemn, and after I’d gone up to my room, he came over and handed me a note. The note read:

“Ethan has gone to heaven. We’ll be strong for you. Makena and me love you and we love Ethan.”

His gesture made me involuntarily burst into torrents of tears.

Hoping for a Miracle

By the way, I’d also broken the news to my house girl. She too was equally devastated, as she had also invested in Ethan and his arrival. She’s the one who had arranged the clothes that I’d been shopping for him, labelled his items, cleaned and stored the breast pump and feeding bottles… she too was prepared and delighted to receive Ethan. She deeply felt the loss.

That evening, and the entire night, I kept rubbing my belly, in an attempt to get Ethan to move, to kick. Maybe he was just in a deep slumber. But he remained still. I fervently prayed for a miracle, asking God to not let it be true that my baby was gone –that maybe the doctors had released me for the night because there was a slight chance that baby could stir during the night… but nothing. Baby Ethan was gone, yet he was right there with me, in me.

The following morning, my husband and I were at the hospital. I was induced in the morning, and had to wait for the contractions to begin. You can imagine how that was for us. With no activity happening all morning and early afternoon, the doctor decided to break my waters at 3pm. I had dilated 8cm. Then the contractions started.

Keeping Ethan close…

A New Problem Arises

I was taken to the delivery room where I began pushing. But there soon arose a serious challenge.

While Ethan’s head had come out, his shoulders got stuck. Hard as the doctor and her team tried to get Ethan out, they just couldn’t. He appeared big. No one had taken a scan of the baby to check his size. He couldn’t come out.

With every minute of being asked to push, I was getting so exhausted. But nothing was working. Ethan just wasn’t coming out. He remained half in, half out. I began seeing the panic in the doctor’s face. That made me begin panicking too.

Minutes later, I was given a consent form to sign. I was being wheeled to the theatre for an emergency caesarean section.

I remember being so worn-out! My legs were being held up in the air, because Ethan was half out. He was soft, limp, lifeless, and they had to hold him to prevent his head from disconnecting from his neck. It was so traumatizing.

On my way to theatre, I noticed one nurse walk out and return with another doctor. My original doctor, in all the confusion, and possibly panic, had vanished into thin air.

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