The ineffable sadness of waiting.

On December the 16th, I took the day off work, and Tan and I drove to Monash Medical Centre for our 18 week ultrasound. There was an infinitesimal chance that the 12 week ultrasound was wrong; maybe there had been a miracle.

We waited in a small alcove surrounded by happily pregnant women. No-one tried to start a conversation with us, which was a relief; we’ve got a few friends who are also pregnant right now. I feel awkward a lot of the time, because I don’t want our situation to take away from their joy. We’re joyful for them even if our journey ends differently.

One by one the women filed out for their ultrasounds, leaving the two of us waiting… and waiting… and waiting. Eventually, I went looking for a bathroom; of course, that’s when they called us. We followed the ultrasound technician into a re-purposed hospital room, awkwardly filled with ultrasound equipment and posters for Disney movies proudly displaying that they were “NOW AVAILABLE ON VHS!”.

She was friendly and efficient, explaining to us what we were seeing. She took some 3D ultrasounds as well; one particular image will be burned into my brain as long as I live. Once she was satisfied that she’d obtained all the images she required to verify the diagnosis, she excused herself and departed to find the obstetrician.

So we sat there together in a darkened room, with Ariel the Mermaid staring down at us, waiting…

Eventually two obstetricians showed up. They had reviewed the images, and told us that everything was as we had been told to expect. The 12 week scan was correct. There was no miracle. What was left of our daughter’s brain at the twelve week scan was now gone. Her brain stem remains intact, but there is no chance of her surviving. They took us through all the options available to us, we explained to them the path we’d decided to take, given this particular outcome.

On the 17th of December, our waiting began anew. Phone calls were made, obstetricians called other obstetricians, who called hospitals. We waited for a call from the hospital that never came. More calls were made, and eventually our obstetrician called us back to tell us that we were booked in for induction on the 17th of January, 2011.

We spent Christmas in Sydney with Tan’s family and our friends, and saw in the New Year in Canberra with my family. While the date grinds inexorably closer, we chose to make some memories for our family, in the hope that our children will remember this time in our lives with joy, tinged with sadness though it may be. It was a blessed time; like being in the eye of the storm.

We both went back to work on the 4th of January. I got the easy part of that bargain; Tan runs the creche at a local gym, looking after toddlers… and babies. It’s been a difficult time for her.

It’s constantly there in the back of my head. I try not to think about it, but I can’t shake this terrible sadness; waiting for the inevitable. Over the past week at work I’ve become increasingly unfocussed; my employers have been great about it. It’s like the old canard “the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train”; except in this case, it’s not just cynicism.

And right when my wife needs me to be there for her, I’ve been struggling (and failing) not to withdraw into myself.

This week has been particularly hard. Watching the flooding in Queensland, seeing the grief of people who’ve lost their homes – or loved ones with whom they’ve spent their lives. A boy the age of my eldest son giving up his life to save his younger brother – the age of my youngest son. Stilgherrian’s suddenly having to say goodbye to his beautiful cat, Artemis. So much tragedy this week. I don’t know how to balance the sadness of and for others with my own grief.

It’s now Saturday the 15th of January. Our time with our daughter is nearly over. On Monday, we’ll meet our daughter – and say goodbye. The funeral has been tentatively booked; the funeral director is waiting for my call. We took the kids to visit the cemetery this morning; this time next week, we will have laid our daughter to rest in the “Avenue of Rainbows” beside other children whose families had to say goodbye too soon.

Our waiting is nearly over. I just don’t feel ready to face it.

  • Chris Dawes

    Whatever you guys need… I’m available… working from home next three weeks and no work to do this week… Ros and I are here if you need us.

  • I’m so sorry. I also had a loved one pass away recently, so I sympathize deeply.
    I’m praying for you all.

  • How do you find balance? I like the way you and your wife focused on making memories with your other children. That made me happy in the midst of all the sadness…..Thanks for sharing your heart.

  • Steven De Costa

    Thank you for sharing this story. I have been blessed, and wont be able to forget that.