Trigger warning, this post is about miscarriage. Skip if you need to. You can read part one here and part two here.
Once upon a time the word miscarriage seemed like a minor blip in the world. A semi sad, longer than normal period. I think it’s portrayed that way because it’s too awful to understand the magnitude of what it is and how deeply it hurts. It has always left me in awe to think of all the things that have to go right in order for a new life to be conceived. Even all that awe doesn’t make it easier when somewhere along the way something doesn’t go right and the body decides to hit the erase button.
There are loads of birth stories to read about on line and people are very often happy to share in person as well but it is rare to hear a miscarriage story unless you have crossed over into the abyss of “being in the club”. It’s more common than I had ever imagined. It’s not just a blip in life, a longer than average period.
I don’t know exactly when the madness started but that’s what it felt like. My period didn’t return until 21 months post partum (thanks full term breastfeeding) Maybe it was a hormonal surge, biology; the urgency in my body to be pregnant almost felt manic. I was charting my cycle as a science experiment and even though it only took 3 months to conceive each day seemed much too long until the double line on the pregnancy test appeared. I was over the moon excited. It seemed everyone I knew was pregnant and I felt like a girl in puberty waiting for her period to begin when all her friends had already started.
We had told family and close friends about Lia’s pregnancy early out of necessity to plan our wedding in Guatemala and this time I saw no reason to wait either. I couldn’t wait to share this experience with Lia, as a family. Everything started out fine, the nausea and fatigue. I got a bad virus early on and my midwife assured me that baby was well protected and to just take care of myself. I couldn’t eat enough meat. I quested for the perfect chicken fingers and unsweetened iced tea with lemon tasted absolutely divine. I had the urge to spit especially in the shower and at night. I held my breath for an instant at our first prenatal appointment until I heard the sound of the heartbeat and felt instantly it was a boy. I’d never been so certain of something even though we weren’t planning on finding out. Everything seemed as normal as could be and I was sure we’d be meeting our son on thanksgiving. My belly started to swell. I was past the “danger zone” and settling into pregnancy.
I walked out the garage one morning to find a robin’s nest that had fallen out of the bush next to our house. I searched the eggs to see if any had made it to put back into the nest but they had all cracked. I felt a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach but pushed it to the back of my mind, surely it meant nothing. I had quick a bit of anxiety this pregnancy and a feeling I couldn’t shake that this baby would not be born at home despite not being able to explain why.
My next appointment with the midwife said I was measuring 2 days ahead. There was a little trouble finding the heartbeat with the doppler but it was explained away with tight pants. An ultrasound was done to put my mind at ease and there was baby swimming laps, wiggling so much it took several seconds to get a view of the heart beating. All looked just fine.
A few days later while eating pizza at my sister’s I felt the baby kick. I didn’t know he was saying goodbye. When we got home that night I went to the bathroom before bed and my underwear was lined with a streak of brown blood. Something didn’t feel quite right about the sight even though nothing else had changed. I called the midwife and she reassured me that it was probably nothing, take it easy and rest and call if anything changed. I spent the next day resting and not much changed. We decided to take a short walk to the park in the evening and when we got home to get ready for our bedtime routine I noticed the blood was more and brighter. I called again and the midwife was still reassuring that it was probably nothing. She offered an appointment the next day to check the heartbeat so I could relax. I scheduled an appointment and even then knew I wouldn’t make it.
I laid in bed that night trying to figure out if I felt cramping or if my mind was making it up. I fell asleep counting 20 second contractions that were mild and ignorable. Forty minutes later another woke me up and I got out of bed and called the midwife again who suggested some Epsom salts and to go back to bed. The chances of a miscarriage at 15 weeks were rare and the fact that we had seen the baby moving was an even better “good sign”. I tried to relax but my body had other plans. I pleaded with the baby in my head, “just kick baby, give me a sign you are ok.” It was complete silence and stillness.
I soon found myself unable to get comfortable and the mild cramps became stronger and all of a sudden I found myself breathing deeply on all fours about every other minute. It dawned on me that I had done this before- when I was in labor with my daughter. I went upstairs terrified and told my husband we had to go to the hospital something was not right. My daughter was up looking for a 2am snuggle and we loaded into the car. Thankfully my friend and doula (and more than part angel) heard my text and offered to meet us at the hospital to look after my daughter.
The 15 minute ride was excruciating. I walked into the ER in the middle of a contraction and leaned against the front desk, “I’m 15 weeks pregnant and am having contractions.” They got me a wheel chair but I had to wait for a room. The nurse came out to take my vitals as I felt a gush. All hope escaped out of me as my water broke and I said, “oh no. Something just came out.” My friend demanded a room for me as I cried and asked for my mom. (it was in that moment that I realized I would never stop needing my mom)
Shortly after that we were wheeled into a room. A nurse ask what my health history was which seemed like the dumbest question on earth and I replied, “uh, boring. What do you want to know.” The doctor came in and gave us a game plan that never came to fruition as the doppler remained silent on my abdomen. Instead he did a pelvic exam while the ultrasound tech banged on the door, him yelling not now as he extracted my baby and placenta with forceps. I have no idea how long it took but it felt excruciating and like it would never end. His eyes were genuinely sad and compassionate as he said he was sorry and that we had lost the baby. They left us alone to cry as we waited for lab tests results and the ok to go home which was the only place I desperately wanted to be.
A short while later the nurse came back to let us know we had the legal right to take the baby with us but if we choose not to the hospital would take care of things most likely by way of cremation. It was such a shock, it was all just such a shock. I didn’t even know what we would do with this tiny soul that we would never get to meet. Part of me wanted to ask if they knew the gender, part of me wanted to see the baby and part of me didn’t. Christian said he didn’t want the image in his head and we decided it was best to leave things the way they were. The nurse dropped off brochures for grief and loss and we waited awhile longer to make sure I was stable before I was discharged. They gave me a pair of paper scrub pants to go home in since the pants I came in were completely ruined. We walked to the waiting room to get Lia and my mom and her husband.
It was the oddest, most unnatural feeling to be leaving the hospital without my second child. I couldn’t help but wonder where he was. I felt like I was abandoning him. I felt so completely empty. I texted my sister as we drove home, “I lost the baby.” My mom cooked us breakfast and I took a shower and was so surprised to see my belly so flat, that might have been most shocking of all. I went to sleep as the sun was coming up.
It was a quiet day at home. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and my mom let my family know. I texted my close friends just so that they knew and took down my pregnancy announcement on facebook. A dear friend who had her own share of loss had a basket of goodies delivered which was so kind. Another friend had a book mailed to me about loss with a kind note. Another went to the farmers market and dropped all the goodies I needed to make a post partum recovery soup. My sister and brother in law came to cry with us. My brother brought us dinner. A friend dropped off extra plants for our garden since I hadn’t had a chance to get anything started. We stood in the driveway her car running. She gave me a hug as I cried and said to me, “This is just something to feel right now, don’t get lost here. We all have our shit to deal with. Just feel this right now.” Wiser words have never been spoken. The ER doctor even called the next day to offer his condolences again and make sure I was doing ok. There was so much kindness and compassion. I don’t know what I would have done without all the gentleness surrounding us.
I felt at such a loss because for whatever reason it had never occurred to me how painful a miscarriage could be. How very nieve indeed. It felt like a violent violation. It felt like my body was pushing completely against what I thought it was supposed to be doing, as in growing my healthy baby. It was like being completely hollowed out physically and emotionally. All of a sudden the entire summer and fall we thought we had planning in preparing to grow our family was wiped clean as if it had never even happened.
Then later I couldn’t believe how many people remembered I had been pregnant. It seemed I got notes or ran into people who would casually ask how I was feeling and then there was the awkward part of the conversation. “Actually, we lost the baby.” I hated that part most because I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. Slowly it got better. What struck me most was how many people shared they had had a miscarriage as well. It made me sad. All this silence except when to welcome someone to the club. It was still raw for many women who would share their memories and it didn’t matter how much time had passed whether it had been a few months, or years or decades, whether they had had other children or not. I listened in hopes that by sharing their story would be a healing salve for both of us.
A few days later I had a dream I was above a forest where a wooden eagle was at the top of a totum pole. The eagle slowly floated me to the ground where my father and my son were standing. My dad was so sad and was crying. He kept saying over and over I’m so sorry. The baby just kept getting sick. He would get better and then get sick again. He just couldn’t get better and he had to leave. It was comforting at least to know my dad was taking care of the son I was unable to care for.