Five Stages of Grief
As if floating through a sea of unconsciousness, my mind fought to make sense of the snippets of information plaguing my memory. Dan stood by an old, decrepit cabin with a gun in his hand. Brandt calling for me in the distance. A gunshot. And then Dan’s head exploded in front of me. The way he fell down the ravine on top of me and how I freaked out, scurrying from underneath him, but it made me realize the threat was finally over.
People were working around me in a flurry. Beeping, yelling, and shouting assaulted my muffled hearing. I wanted to wake up, but I felt so weak. I wanted to see Brandt, as I didn’t feel him by me but I knew he had made me safe. When they placed me in a tube, they told me not to move. There was a pain, but when you felt safe, it didn’t hurt as much. The people working around me were there to help me. I was free from Dan and everything would be all right. Unable to keep consciousness, the lights went dim once again.
More beeping slowly materialized as I fought my slumber. I woke up in a haze, with a nurse standing over me. She smiled when she saw my eyes open. She asked me a question. Something about being in pain? I shook my head no, but when I went to move, I winced.
What happened? I couldn’t think clearly; my head remained in a fog. Where was I exactly? I drifted in and out, and the next time I opened my eyes, Brandt was there, staring down at me. Struggling to keep my eyes open, I tried to focus on him, but he was blurry, barely coming into focus despite my efforts.
Holding my hand, the warmth from his body traveled up my arm to wrap around my heart. I smiled and tried to squeeze his hand, but mine felt so weak.
“Angel.” I wanted to talk to him, but it was so hard to keep my eyes open.
“Hey, sweetie.” Looking around the room, I saw my parents first. Dad held mom in a tight embrace while they both looked down at me in concern. I tried to give them a reassuring smile. I wanted to tell them I was okay but then I noticed Brandt’s parents. They seemed just as worried.
Drawing my attention back to Brandt, I remembered how Dan turned the gun on him while standing over me in the gully. His shirt was bloody when he found me in the water with Dan’s body weighing me down. Looking at his left arm, I saw the bandage. “Brandt, you were shot.”
He shook his head. “Nothing, really. Look I am fine.” He moved his arm to show me. I said a silent prayer in relief. Astonishment rocked me as I could hardly contemplate that he found me. My Superman.
It took a while to talk. My mouth was so dry it felt as though I was swallowing sand. Clearing my throat, I found my voice, “Brandt, you found me.”
He nodded and leaned in to kiss my nose gently. “Of course, I did. Oh Chelsea, everything is going to be okay.” It would. We would be a family now. Looking at my parents, I thought they must know. My hand made its way down to my belly to caress our unborn child.
“I suppose they all know now. So much for flying out to tell them.” No more secrets. Good. It was more of a relief. No barrier between us anymore. Brandt was my Superman, and we would be a family.
Brandt turned from me, unable to meet my gaze. A hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach replaced my elation. Searching all their faces, not one of them could look me in the eye, causing red flags to fire in my mind. Brandt tried to say something, but he could only get my name out. “Chelsea...”
No! Tears welled up in my eyes as I started to shake my head back and forth. “No.” This couldn’t be happening. It wasn’t fair. Brandt found me. Everything was going to be all right. I would not allow Dan to win. I couldn’t miss out on being a mother. Not again. “No... No... No!”
Everything else drifted away in my mind as the pain hit me. Not physical pain but a pain deep inside. A loss so complete, I didn’t even feel human. There was a rumbling deep within me as a scream forced its way through my lips. “My baby!” My hand went protectively over my abdomen, but now it felt hollow and barren. Brandt may have found me but Dan got his revenge.
“My baby, oh God no, not my baby, oh please.” Shaking and crying, I couldn’t stop thinking the best thing in my life had slipped through my hands. I beat the odds. I stayed alive, and it was all for nothing. Curling into myself, I clenched my fists to feel my fingernails dig into my skin. I made it to the second trimester, and the chance to become a mother was taken from me yet again. Why? What did I do wrong?
I could barely feel Brandt beside me trying to comfort me. Selfishly, I concentrated on my loss. The loss of my baby. Another deep, dark scream from the depth of my body made its way out as the room started to drift away. Vaguely, I heard Brandt’s soothing voice in my ear, but my will to live disintegrated. “Chelsea, shhhh...”
Shaking and rocking, my screams of grief were unable to be distinguished, “No... No God, No!” Then thankfully, the darkness overtook me yet again.
Waking up in my dark hospital room, I noticed Brandt sleeping in the chair by my bed. I looked down at my body, feeling the emptiness of a cheated promise. I felt alone. Tired and weak, drained, and lifeless. Unable to cope with reality. My head hurt, and my side ached steadily.
When I moved my legs, pain shot straight to my right hip and took the breath out of me. Although unpleasant, at least I could still feel something. Brandt noticed I was awake and brought the chair up to the side of the bed. He looked so worried it brought me to a whole new level of despair. “Hey, Angel.” He absently brushed back my hair from my forehead with the palm of his hand.
My throat was dry. I swallowed and croaked, “What time is it?”
Brandt found my water on the bedside table and helped to guide the straw into my mouth. As I sipped on the water, he said, “It is 3 am. You should sleep some more.” I lost almost a whole day but I didn’t care. What were my days to be filled with now, anyway?
“How are you feeling?” I didn’t want him to worry about me. He must have had better things on his mind. “Fine.” Looking down at the bed and around the room, I felt a sense of dread here. The room was small and cold and felt like a morgue.
Raising my arm to comb my hair, I noticed it had an IV in it, and when I shifted my legs again, I felt a tube surrounding them. A catheter? It would explain why I didn’t have to pee after being out for almost 24 hours. “Can you get the nurse?”
“Sure, Angel. Hold on.” He leaned over the bed and pushed the call light. I tried to adjust myself in the bed, but my fragile state made it hard. Brandt was there, trying to help and as he pulled on my arm to get me to move forward, pain escalated into my side. He hesitated further, a look of concern spreading across his ashen face.
When the nurse came in, I quickly asked my question, “What do I need to do to get out of here?” She looked just as surprised as Brandt.
“Chelsea, you shouldn’t be thinking about that right now. Just rest.” I didn’t acknowledge him, knowing the nurse was my ticket out. The longer I stayed in here, the more I would just ruminate over my loss.
“What do I need to do?” The nurse shrugged her shoulders, glancing at Brandt for direction but I didn’t back down.
Sighing, she explained, “We need to remove the catheter, and you need to pee on your own. Your pain needs to be controlled with the medication and it would require you to keep food down, but the doctor will not let you go until he examines you and rounds don’t start for another couple hours.” Hours? I had to wait here for hours? Well, I could at least do all the things I needed to leave before then. That way they had to let me go. And if they didn’t, I would write myself out. I could do that. I was still of sound mind. At least for now.
Still trying in vain to sit up, the nurse rounded the bedside and pressed a button. The head of the bed slowly rose, and I barked out my next command. “I want the catheter out.”
The nurse looked apprehensive. “If I take the catheter out, you would need to get out of bed to use the bathroom.”
“I don’t care. I want it out.”
I could tell that Brandt didn’t like this idea either. “Chelsea, maybe this isn’t a good idea.”
Being blunter than I intended, I turned on him. “Brandt, it isn’t your choice to make. I don’t want to stay here any longer than I have to.” Realizing my anger was misdirected I softened my look. He must have realized why I couldn’t stay here with the knowledge of what this place meant to me right now. Claiming defeat, he turned to the nurse and nodded his head.
She returned shortly and asked Brandt to leave the room. He didn’t like being dismissed but left to give us privacy. She removed the sheets from my body and hiked up my hospital gown, exposing the clear tube coming from my bladder. It was the first time I had a good look at my wounds. Small strips of tape covered three sites around the right side of my abdomen and flank from a surgery I wasn’t even aware of. Looking up at the nurse, she explained that my liver had a cut, and they repaired it with a scope. Dan must have broken my ribs when he kicked me and it punctured my liver which resulted in a loss of blood. An angry-looking bruise encompassed all around the area as a legacy to my internment.
Looking further down, I saw another discolored mark to my right hip. I had fallen on it. Twice I thought, but the memory faded in and out. The tube leading out of my bladder had a blue liquid in it. Again, the nurse explained it was used for the D&C procedure.
A D&C? I was familiar with the term, but it hit me like a blow to the gut. They didn’t offer it to me with my first miscarriage, but I wished they would have. Taking a syringe, she removed some fluid out of the tube, describing how it was from a balloon inside my bladder. When the tube slid out a little urine seeped out with it, making me blush in embarrassment. It didn’t seem to faze the professionalism of the nurse.
After disposing of the catheter and tucking me back in bed, she regarded me thoughtfully. “The police need pictures of your bruises for their records. Do you want your boyfriend present?” I shook my head. No, I didn’t want him to see the marks on me any more than he already had. He worried enough about me. “Okay, I will bring our SANE nurse in when you next need to go to the bathroom.” She went on to discuss that the SANE nurse was trained to collect evidence, even if there was no sexual assault but it still made me feel like I was violated by what our judicial system deemed necessary.
When Brandt returned, I concentrated all my efforts on what I needed to do to get out of here. The whole hospital was closing in on me, threatening to suffocate me and I couldn’t escape fast enough. Bringing the head of the bed back up, the room started to spin. I stopped and waited for the sensation to pass but it didn’t go unnoticed by Brandt. He went to put the bed back down, but I stopped him. I wouldn’t be able to leave if I didn’t push myself.
We talked briefly, skirting what brought me to the hospital. My mother commissioned clothes from a local store for me to leave in as well as shoes not smeared by blood. Phillip visited while I slept and would make his way to our house when things settled down for us. Settled down? I scoffed at that. Never. Our normal would forever have a new meaning. I did want to see him though. Without him, I wouldn’t be alive. I needed to thank him. It was a shame that he and Ami could not make it work, but he had been a godsend to Brandt and myself.
Brandt squirmed about an issue and I called him on it. Reluctantly he told me what Tony, the police officer who shot Dan, had said. They needed my statement for their report. Besides having my body photographed, I needed to explain in detail what went on and relive it. Great. Shaking my head, I agreed. “Fine. I want it over with.” The police would be the last people I told it to. Once it was over, I never wanted to think of it again.
Slowly, I started to check things off my list to leave. The IV fluids were stopped, and I managed to drink down some broth although it caused a bout of nausea. Of course, I didn’t mention it to Brandt or the nurse knowing my liberation from here depended on it.
When the nurse returned later and offered pain medication, I refused. Not only did I have a queasy stomach already, I appreciated the pain. I felt it. It was real, and it seemed to be the only feeling in my body that I had. Otherwise, I was numb. Just a shell of myself. At least the pain let me know I was still alive.
Just before eight in the morning, I called the nurse in to urinate. It felt strange asking permission for something so intimate but when she brought in another nurse, I accepted what needed to be done. Brandt was sequestered to the hallway to wait, while she prepared for my latest photoshoot. I was a model so this should have been a walk in the park.
They tried to be polite about it, but how exactly did you do that? They at least let me put on the underwear my mom bought me and let me shield my breasts as the nurse took her pictures. How humiliating. I was the victim, and I had to be put through this? Finally, the nurse said I met all my requirements and I waited patiently for the physician.
Dr. Brinon, my surgeon, came soon after. He stated that my liver laceration wasn’t deep and had almost clotted overnight, otherwise I could have died. It only started to bleed again when I fell on that same side in the gully. He gave me instructions on what to do and what not to do over the next couple of weeks and then shook my hand like we just did a business deal.
Dr. Whynt, the OB/GYN that removed my baby, came in next. Although she was genuinely concerned, I couldn’t help but be a little agitated at her. She took my baby. It wasn’t her fault it died, but I still didn’t want to talk with her, redirecting my grief in her direction.
Brandt seemed to like her though. I tried to imagine the pain he endured when she told him the baby didn’t survive. Our baby. His baby. The one he wanted so badly.
Sitting down with me, she had a sad look on her face. It was a look I would need to get used to. All the staff had it, and over the next couple of weeks, everyone in my presence would look at me like that, Brandt included.
“How are you feeling?” I had no feelings.
“I would like to leave. They took out the catheter, and I am peeing and eating.” She seemed to understand my urgency.
“Are you still bleeding?” She meant any blood on my sanitary pad.
“No. I had very little on the pad earlier.”
Even though I obviously didn’t want to give her a chance, she still seemed to try. Taking my hand, she gave me a tender smile, “You may bleed for a little while even after the D&C. It is normal but I still want you to see your OB/GYN in a week when you get back home, sooner for any odor or increase in pain, nausea, or discomfort.” I nodded to appease her. Just get me out of here.
She readjusted herself in her chair and leaned in closer to me, holding both my hands, forcing me to confront her unwillingly. “I need to ask you some more questions. We need to discuss what you want to do with your baby.” Tears stung at the back of my eyes. I didn’t want to discuss this and I sure as hell didn’t want her sympathy but I felt drawn to her and her kindness. She took my baby from me but what I saw in her eyes was an understanding that I couldn’t deny. Was it from working with patients like me or did her empathy come from a more personal level?
Swallowing hard, I looked down at our joined hands, unable to meet her gaze. What to do with the baby? I didn’t want to think about that, but maybe she could help. “What... what do they normally do?”
I met her eyes, now pleading for an answer. What would be the right thing to do for my baby? “Here at the hospital, we cremate any stillborn fetuses and place them in a memorial outside by our old oak tree as a remembrance to those children that were loved but didn’t have a chance to make it.”
I didn’t have time to contemplate the answer. Brandt spoke up. “No. We will take the cremated remains home with us.” I felt relieved when he made the decision.
Looking at Brandt, I saw grief twist his handsome face into something sinister. He had been through hell these last couple of days and it showed. Dr. Whynt spoke again, “The remains may not be ready today to take with you so we will make arrangements to have it picked up.”
Turning to both of us she said, “Do either of you have any more questions for me?” We both shook our heads slowly, but there was one more question in the back of my mind gnawing at me though.
Dr. Whynt looked at me thoughtfully once again and squeezed my hand, “I am sorry for your loss.” She got up and went to the other side of the bed where she squeezed Brandt’s hand in a comforting gesture.
Brandt stood up and walked to the end of the bed, and I realized what was gnawing at me. I knew Brandt wouldn’t ask the question so I did. Before Dr. Whynt had a chance to leave, I stopped her. “Dr. Whynt? Could you tell the sex of the baby?”
Brandt froze by the bedside. Dr. Whynt smiled and looked back at both of us, dismissing his unease and answering my query. “She was a little girl.” I watched a tear roll down Brandt’s cheek as he fumbled backward and sat down hard in the chair by the bedside.
His little girl. Somehow he knew. It hurt all the worse. I grabbed his hand to offer what little comfort I could. His little girl was gone. Stopping Dr. Whynt one last time, I told her the baby’s name. “Her name was Holly.” She deserved that, didn’t she? Instead of being known as baby Stennet, she should have her own name.
Dr. Whynt nodded her head, “What a lovely name.” I could tell there were tears in those eyes, but she left before we could tell her anymore. Yes, I thought her loss was more than professional. Once a mother always a mother. Maybe even if you had never seen your baby.