Oftentimes tragedy is only the beginning of something beautiful, but Charm finds that hard to believe. After tragedy strikes, her fiancé turns a cold shoulder toward her, and she feels as though nothing is going right in her life. Yet, all she wants is to feel peace.
Shiloh has his own trauma, and his past is painful to talk about. Still, he has hope that one day he will have a family of his own to love and protect.
When the two meet, they find themselves fitting together like a puzzle…everything fits as it should. The problem is that the past doesn’t want to let them go.
Will tragedy continue to consume them? Or will they finally obtain their heart’s desires?
"So, Ms. Oneal, I’m not supposed to see you for another two weeks. What brings you in to see me today?” Dr. Alexander asked as she flipped through my medical chart.
I couldn’t help but look over at my fiance` Daxon. I was happy he took off today to come with me because there was no way I could do this alone. I’d been so anxious, but I suddenly felt calm in the delicate sensation that felt like pricking rose petals, only it was Daxon’s fingertips tapping my palm. It settled me, but it didn’t stop the uneasiness overflowing in the pit of my stomach. I could feel my arms become paralyzed, stiffening, and the feel of brambly claws grazing me all over. Tight knots swarmed my stomach, which was a sign that my anxiety was flaring.
I counted backward, starting at ten, and took several breaths as my thoughts came back to me. “Well, I haven’t been feeling like myself lately. It’s hard to describe precisely what is wrong or why I feel uneasy, but I do. First, the baby has been lazy and not as active as she usually is. Then I haven’t had much of an appetite, and being seven months pregnant, I should always be hungry. And—” I closed my eyes tightly, fingering the necklace hanging from my neck. I desperately tried to keep it together because I could be overreacting, but the feeling that something was wrong wouldn’t disappear. “I just want to make sure the baby is still h-healthy.” I faltered.
Glancing over at Daxon with knitted brows, I knew he was worried too. This baby was just as important to him as it was to me. He’s been really supportive the last few days as my anxiety level has risen. I felt a sense of relief with him sitting beside me. And right now, I wanted to cry, but I held it in and leaned my head on his shoulder as I explained my concerns to Dr. Alexander.
“Understandable, Charm.” Dr. Alexander nodded, making notes in my chart. Then, there was complete stillness as her right hand made swift movements. Her ink pen swishing on the paper bounced off the walls. “First thing I want is to get some labs on you, and once my nurse gets that done, I want to do another sonogram as a precautionary measure. All of this is just to put your mind at ease.” Her chest rose, and lips parted as her uneven bangs moved from her forehead. She flipped through my chart, continuing to add little notes. “Seeing everything from your last visit, nothing seems to worry me. Your blood work and everything else was normal,” she explained, looking away from my chart and narrowing her eyes at me. “But I can see the worry in your eyes, and you don’t look well-rested, Ms. Oneal. I know it’s hard, but staying stress-free is best for you and your baby.” She added, then stood to her feet. “I’m going to order your lab work and put a rush on the results before you get your sonogram. So, I’ll be back shortly to get a more thorough look at the baby. We should know why you feel a little off between your blood work and sonogram.” She smiled reassuringly. “Dad, let’s keep her calm. No stressing.” She nodded and patted Daxon’s shoulder on her way out of the exam room.
Eyeing my watch, I noticed only twenty minutes had passed before Dr. Alexander had returned. But the wait felt like hours, in any case. When she walked in, her eyes skimmed the room. I was quick to notice the uneasiness on her face. She smiled, but it didn’t seem genuine; it looked like deflection. I laid back on the table as she set up the ultrasound machine. After putting on gloves and picking up the lubricant, she reminded me it would be cold; then, she put the cold jelly and transducer on my stomach. After about five minutes, I became alarmed as she moved the transducer more rapidly as we looked at the sonogram screen together. I could make out the image of my baby, but we still hadn’t seen movement or heard her heartbeat. I was too afraid to ask if everything was all right, but Daxon took the lead, asking if something was wrong. Without saying a word, Dr. Alexander removed the transducer, pulled her gloves off, threw them in the trash, and delicately wiped the clear jelly off my stomach, discarding the tissue.
“Mr. Carson, can you help Ms. Oneal sit up?” she asked Daxon, walking to the desk, picking up my chart, and reading through it.
“Dr. Alexander, please tell me what is wrong with my baby.” I shuddered as tears pooled in my eyes, sitting just waiting to fall.
“Yes, please tell us what’s happening here,” Daxon’s deep baritone added, and the muscle in his jawline flinched. He held me a little tighter, and that’s just what I needed.
“Well,” she whispered, closing my chart. “It’s not good, Charm. Your blood work revealed that there was an abnormality in the umbilical cord. Unfortunately, and sadly, the sonogram confirmed what the blood work revealed.” she vaguely explained.
“Ok.” I blew a shallow breath, and my chest cavity ricocheted with pain causing me to pant like an animal. “W-what about my baby? Is she—”
“Charm, the umbilical cord is where the fetus gets all of its nutrients, and because of the abnormality, we discovered a decrease in the blood flow the baby needed. I’m sorry, but your baby did not survive.” The finality of her words was daunting. My throat constricted, mimicking suffocation. She couldn’t have said my baby was dead. I’ve had to hear her wrong.
“W-what do you mean did not survive? She’s right here inside of me.” I wailed, stroking my stomach to persuade myself that Dr. Alexander was mistaken. I ingested a thick slob and inhaled again, attempting to understand what she was saying to us. But the wavy sensation in my stomach wouldn’t let up. I thought I was going to vomit.
“Charm, when did you last feel your baby move?”
“I-I,” I repeatedly stammered, twisting my head back and forth and staring out into the room. Instead of responding, I sobbed, raising my tottering hands to my mouth.
“It’s been maybe three or four days,” Daxon confirmed after I didn’t respond.
“Unfortunately, the baby passed between those three or four days. Please understand that this wasn’t your fault. So I don’t want you to blame yourself because sometimes these things happen. All of your tests from your last visit were normal. All blood work, your vitals, and the baby had a strong heartbeat. I can’t give you a definitive answer as to why we didn’t see this abnormality in the umbilical cord before now. Charm… Daxon, I am so very sorry about this.” Dr. Alexander looked at us both with sorrow in her eyes. She inhaled deeply and slowly exhaled. “Now, this is the not-so-easy part.” she continued with a bated breath. “You have no other choice but to deliver your baby. At this point, I would not recommend a C-section. You are about 30 weeks into your pregnancy, and I believe you should carry the baby to term. Moreover, in stillborn cases, labor will usually start on its own in a couple of weeks, and if not, we will give you medicine to speed up but soften the labor.”
“A-are you saying I have to keep—?” I fretfully swallowed, gasping. My head involuntarily dropped as tears poured down my cheeks. I felt defeated. I was in agony and unable to clearly comprehend what she was saying.
“Charm, I know this is probably one of the hardest things you have endured, but women have survived. I survived this,” Dr. Alexander admitted. “Marriages and relationships can survive this loss.” She glanced up at Daxon, as did I. His face was expressionless, and I suddenly felt detached from him. “So, yes, in my opinion, it would be best to allow labor to happen, and we will prep you for labor if it doesn’t happen naturally. I know this is a lot to take in, but you have a great support system in Mr. Carson. I can assure you that you both will get through this. Right now, though, I want you to go home and rest. Talk to each other and support one another. You will need emotional support, both of you. I will make all the arrangements so that when you leave, there is no need to stop by the front desk for an appointment. I’ll have my nurse call you with all the details. Please take these pamphlets and look over them. There are some great resources in them that I think would be beneficial to you. Please call me day or night if you need anything. If labor starts, call me immediately.” Dr. Alexander squeezed my hands after handing me a handful of pamphlets before she sauntered away.
After Dr. Alexander left, Daxon and I remained silent for another ten minutes, going over everything she said, not verbally but emotionally, in separate corners of the exam room. This news is not only devasting but unreal. Something that I never imagined would happen when I first learned Daxon and I were expecting a child. I planned so much. We’d planned so much, and I was ready to be a mom. Finally, I was having my own mini-me. My baby had a whole wardrobe, and we’d picked out six different names since we knew it was a girl. The nursery… my thoughts went vacant. I wanted to unsee that room. It’s been finished for months, and I can give every detail to the hearts and butterflies I hand-painted on the walls. My heart ached. I felt a heavy mass cradling my chest as if a tumor weighted it down.
How can I enter the nursery knowing my baby will never see her room? The thoughts alone made breathing difficult. Gasping replaced normal exhaling as my lungs expanded, fighting for life. My anxiety was worsening, and I knew I needed to do exercises to control it, but I didn’t know if I would survive. Looking down at the pamphlets in my hand, I wanted to vomit after reading the words on the cover: Healing After Stillbirth. I couldn’t unsee those words, so I pushed the pamphlets inside my purse and covered my face with my hands. I inhaled through my nose, then released slow puffs repeating this step several times until I blew more relaxing breaths and until the wavy sensation stopped churning in my stomach. I could feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. I had no control. As my breathing became less tattered, I opened my eyes to find Daxon leaving the room. Pulling myself up from the chair, I took small steps once I stood until I made it out of the exam room and outside the clinic.
Daxon was sitting at the entrance in the driver’s seat of his gray 2022 Audi A 4 Quattro, staring straight ahead, not responding when I asked why he didn’t wait on me. He remained unresponsive throughout the drive home. I wanted us to talk. I wanted to hear what he had to say. I just wanted him to say something, but he never spoke again since we had learned the devastating news. I know he was shocked and hurt, and maybe he needed a moment to process our baby’s death. Although I heard everything Dr. Alexander told us, I have yet to process the reality of this pain. It’s just that I needed him. I felt unstable. I was quivering and afraid. My head was all over the place. I was feeling every emotion there was all at once. I couldn’t think, let alone breathe normally. Despite Dr. Alexander explaining that this loss was something I had no control over, I couldn’t help but wonder what I did to cause a stillbirth. The strongest of women stumble but get back up. So, how will I, Charm Oneal, overcome this loss when I feel helpless? I didn’t feel like me.
I felt futile because of this loss
My soul was deaden.
Everything felt unrepairable.
Leaning my head on the passenger side window and my body on the door, I closed my arms around my body and gazed out the window as an explosion of marble-sized raindrops sprayed the city of Houston. My lips trembled as I tried to muffle my sobs. How could this be my reality? Why did this happen to my baby? “She’s dead,” I whispered, almost afraid to express myself in front of Daxon. “My baby is dead.” I cried, shutting my eyes tightly as tears flowed down my face. There was nothing I could do to save her. And nothing that will help me overcome the misery I feel. My baby will never open her eyes, take a breath, or call me momma. It felt cruel to keep her little body nestled inside only for me to lay her to rest days later. How do I stay pregnant another day, let alone two weeks or another two months, knowing I will only deliver a dead baby?