Day One

October 1, 2008 at 4:03 pm 1 comment

I woke up early the morning of April 5th, 2006 in a gray, silent room.  Sluggishly I looked around, unable to take in my surroundings.  A thin white sheet covered my body.  I lifted my hand, placed it on my breast bone and slowly slid it down towards my navel.  Lightly pushing down, it was as if I was tapping another person’s mushy stomach.  Someone had wrapped white gauze tightly around my middle.  I felt heavy, hollow.  The baby was no longer there. 

Five hours earlier, I was standing naked in a warm shower, my hair tucked into a thin blue cap.  A nurse crouched down in front of my monstrous middle.   “Krasata”, she hummed in Russian, smiling while methodically shaving my lower half.  Her steady hushed words were like a lullaby for children.  It’s funny, when I met my husband I found his language harsh and cold.  I remember the time he hung up from a phone conversation with his mother in our first few months of marriage.  I was certain there had been some sort of falling out between them.  But no, everything was fine and she sent her love.

I could not see the nurse’s face over the bulge of my swollen stomach.  Her brown hair bobbed in and out of sight as she talked.  I imagined her gold tooth sparkling as her mouth moved.  Krasata (beauty) was far from my mind.

“Tebye nada pesat?” the nurse asked as she cleaned off the razor.  I nodded yes looking away, awkward, as I emptied my bladder. 

My Ukrainian doctor had decided an hour ago it was time for me to deliver my third child.  During the ultrasound I concentrated very hard on my husband’s face, trying not to worry while an instrument with a coiled cord smeared cold liquid around my midsection.  Several doctors and nurses huddled around the ultrasound screen, rattling away in their foreign tongue in hushed tones. 

I had been experiencing contractions since I woke up the day before.  I held my breath as my body began to tighten again, anticipating the ripping pain forthcoming while lying on the bed.  The ultrasound technician pushed gently on my stretched skin, right above where the baby’s heart was shown on the monitor.  My body felt like a balloon filled with water.  I imagined myself reeling through mid-air, approaching the ground, preparing to meet the dry cement, to be split open and poured out.  

The monitor showed the baby’s heart beat plummeting with the false contraction.  My head spun.  I closed my eyes and took a long breath in and then collapsed my cheeks and blew it out.  My husband stood beside me.  His hand was cold and wet in mine.  He did not look at me.

During the ultrasound I thought about yesterday when we were leaving for my weekly appointment.  It was routine.  All pregnant women have to be seen weekly at the end of their pregnancies.  Now as the ultrasound machine purred it seemed like another lifetime. 

I had hugged the girls goodbye, expecting to be home in two hours.  Elaina had a habit of patting my tummy hello and goodbye.  Zoya had stood up on her tip toes, aligning her lips with my belly button for a kiss.  Goodbyes were hurried with the goal to get mama and papa gone, their minds already set on making a fort underneath the dinning room table with Sveta, their nanny. 

Our stalinka, a historical apartment in Kiev, showed a few pathetic signs of a baby coming.  A pack of diapers and some second-hand clothes were piled in the corner of our bedroom.  A stroller stood in the hallway by the front door next to the line of shoes traded for slippers inside the apartment. 

We needed more supplies; diapers and ointment and baby shampoo and bottles.  The baby clothes needed laundering.  We didn’t even have a place for her to sleep.  While saying goodbye to my girls, I inhaled deeply in an attempt to flatten my protruding belly.  I need at least two buttons to fasten on my winter coat. Finally, I gave up and looped a scarf around my neck two times to help what my coat hindered.  I still had at least three weeks before the baby was due.  There was frost on the car when we left the apartment.  I could see my breath. 

These scenes played on a loop in my head while I lie in the quiet hospital room the morning after, paralyzed from the waist down.  Where was my husband Sergei?  And more importantly, where was my baby?

to be continued…


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Pretty All True, my accounts of having a baby with Down syndrome in the Former Soviet Union Day Two

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Terri  |  October 2, 2008 at 2:38 am

    Oooh Gillian, thank you for doing this. I feel like I’m reading a really good book. I can’t wait to turn the page.


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