Two years ago, I stopped at a little emergency room in New Mexico. I had been having weird, consistent gassy sort of cramps, and I was only 26 weeks pregnant. I had never felt a contraction before, and I just wanted to make sure the baby was okay.
It was a tiny hospital. The nurses immediately "diagnosed" me with Braxton Hicks contractions ("Oh honey, when you're in real labor, you'll know"). My abdomen was palpated, fetal heart tones checked. The doctor was called and she repeated those two things, diagnosed me with Braxton Hicks contractions as a result of the long drive, and recommended drinking more water and frequent breaks to get up and walk around. I wasn't checked for dilation, I wasn't put on a toco monitor, I wasn't given a non-stress test. I had no idea what any of those things were. I couldn't possibly be in labor.
But I was. I was in labor. Hours later I gave birth to a baby girl. I came *this close* to having her in the toilet. I thought I needed to poop, but when I started throwing up I decided I needed to go back to the hospital. I thought I had appendicitis or something. I had no idea. No idea.
It could have been different. If that first hospital had provided standard of care, if they had checked me for cervical change, if they had administered tocolytics and corticosteroids, I might be throwing an actual birthday party sometime later this month. I would be looking at Christmas dresses, and buying baby dolls, and doing all of the fun things that come with raising a girl.
They didn't. So on my daughter's birthday, I'll be at the cemetery. I'll bring her a balloon and some flowers, and E and I will eat some cake. I'll try my best to remember what it was like to hold her in my arms, even though I didn't get to do so until she was dying. I'll pray for faith that there is an afterlife, because if I can't believe that I will get to hold her again, I won't be able to go on.
It didn't have to be this way.