Sheree Stewart Combs
I lost our baby on February 6, 1986, six weeks into a long awaited pregnancy after years of infertility treatment.
I felt pregnant. There was a difference in my face in the mirror, a new knowing in my eyes. My nipples were larger and much darker sensing the need to prepare to nurture. Having charted my basal body temperature every morning for three and one-half years and having gone through three surgeries, and fourteen months of painful inseminations, I knew my body.
My husband and I had just allowed ourselves to feel a little excitement when the pain set in. A strange, dull pain, down low, an odd pressure. An unfamiliar fullness that made me feel I should burp. But burping did not help.
I called the doctor.
Before sunrise we were winding our way through Bluegrass farmland on our way to the hospital with my head pressed against the dashboard as I vomited bile into the floorboard. The pain and pressure had gotten much worse.
My husband let me out at the emergency entrance and helped me inside to a chair, bent double in pain by now. A kind lady came to sit with me while he went to park the truck. She could tell that something was very wrong. I will never forget the sad concern that filled her eyes.
Emergency staff came to get me. Dr. James showed up and ordered an ultrasound. The intern inserted a catheter to fill my bladder with liquid. Then we made the trip down the hall to the ultrasound room. The doctor’s statement “See, there in her abdomen” told us everything we did not want to know.
The baby had attached inside my Fallopian tube and as it grew the tube had ruptured, filling my pelvis with blood. Our baby was forever lost.
Then came the sudden shift as the emergency became life-threatening.
As they prepared me for surgery I looked down to see the catheter still inserted in my full bladder and turned to the weary intern “You’ll take care of that won’t you?” Then phone calls were made to my mother and my best friend. “Please pray for me” I cried. Seeing my husband in tears, I thought “Donnie never cries”. He looked like a small lost boy. Tears made salty tracks down my face, across my lips and onto my hospital gown as the operating room door closed, cutting us off from each other.
Leaving him all alone.
Everything seemed to be happening in weird slow motion but yet too fast. I wanted to hold onto my baby a little longer even if on one level I knew his or her life was already gone.
I came to in a hospital bed, IV’s in my arms, my husband in a chair by me, family coming in and out of the room unsure of what to say. I was too groggy to talk.
I did not want to talk.
There were no words.
I awoke throughout the night to look at my husband watching over me from a chair by my bed. I saw the scared in him. He was afraid he would lose me along with our baby. “She lost a lot of blood” a distant, disembodied voice said. Nurses came to give me pain shots and change the IV’s.
My husband stayed resolutely by my bed. Sometimes I seemed to be floating but then I would look down to see him and become anchored once more to the bed and to him.
By morning I was not as groggy but in pain, mostly in the heart, although I had been cut all the way across the abdomen. The incision followed the same thin scar left from surgery I had elected to have three years earlier to give me a chance to conceive. A scar that carried so much hope now turned into an emblem of sorrow.
My mother called while my husband had stepped out of the room and I sobbed out the words “I’m never going to have a baby” for the very first time. I threw them out into the universe and the magnitude of them stilled my heart.
I lay there in awe of those words. I tried to take them back but they quickly moved out of reach and floated out of the hospital room window to spread across the gray sky like a covey of doves, their dark wings flashing.
I could not take them back and I knew somewhere deep in my heart that the words were true. They would become my new truth.
As I watched them fly beyond the horizon something irreparable tore loose in my heart.
And I knew at age thirty that the grief of losing this baby, and the others I had seen in my husband’s eyes before we wed, would be a sorrow we would not be able to outrun in this lifetime.
Not even in two lifetimes.
This grief would ebb and flow with a life all its own like the blood that filled my pelvis as our baby’s life drained out into me.
This grief would become our life-long companion, sometimes in the distance, sometimes as close as a lover. Closer than our own skin.
Sheree Stewart Combs grew up in the Appalachian Mountains in Letcher County, Kentucky. She and her husband live in central Kentucky on a small farm, although Letcher County is still ‘home’ to her. In 2015 Sheree retired from a long career in state government in the provision of social services to focus on writing. She holds a Masters Degree in Human Environmental Science (Family Studies) from the University of Kentucky.
Sheree is proud of her Appalachian roots and the hardworking people who came before her. She often draws on her childhood experiences and the life of her grandparents, Obie and Hettie Stewart, for inspiration. Sheree has more recently written of her struggles as a younger woman with infertility and the loss of a baby. She has honed her writing skills in classes at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning and in a writing group that nurtures and supports her craft.
When not writing, Sheree enjoys gardening, photography and the Argentine Tango, a dance community she and her husband have been a part of for the past twelve years. Daily walks on a country road inspire her as a writer as she communes with nature and the cows, horses and dogs along her route.
And, she travels to the mountains as often as she can.
Sheree Stewart Combs grew up in the Appalachian Mountains in Letcher County, Kentucky. She and her husband live in central Kentucky on a small farm, but Letcher County is still 'home' to her. In 2015 Sheree retired from a long career in state government, in social services, to focus on writing.
Sheree is proud of her Appalachian roots and the hardworking people who came before her. She often draws on her childhood experiences and the life of her grandparents, Obie and Hettie Stewart, for inspiration. Sheree has more recently written of her struggles as a young woman with infertility and the loss of a baby.