Likely this won’t be what you’d expect from a first blog entry from a newcomer to the blogosphere. But I’ve never wanted to be what anyone expected. I’ve always wanted to talk about things that other people didn’t know how to share or feel or put words to. I’ve always wanted to put all my friends in a room and ask them their thoughts on the real questions about life, love, God and everything in between. Since I don’t currently have a tribe that I can invite over into my living room (they happen to be spread all over the world), I will begin this blog with a story of my own and begin to engage you as my tribe whether you’re an old friend or a new wanderer into this space.
I had a miscarriage this weekend. There, I said it. I haven’t actually been able to say it aloud to anyone except Yvette, my friend I asked to watch my almost 3 year old son, Jasper, while we went to my follow up doctor’s appointment and even then keeping it together enough to ask was one of the greatest challenges in my life. This is how it all started.
My husband, Kent, and I have always known we wanted more than one child. We adore Jasper and soon realized we wanted another, but as the saying goes, the timing was never right, and that is another story, make that stories, for many other days. By December of last year, we knew we’d better get crackin’ because neither of us is getting any younger and if we didn’t do it soon, we’d find ourselves out of energy and enthusiasm for young children. We tried and tried; I tracked everything. You know the drill.
And finally this May, I had a feeling this was going to be it. We found out I was pregnant 4 days before we were supposed to take a long-planned vacation to Hawaii. Awesome! and a.w.e.s.o.m.e. No ahi poke and piña coladas or mai tais for me. We knew immediately we weren’t going to have much choice than to tell the folks we were going with…luckily for us, we were with both of our Moms and very close family friends. I especially thought, there is no way I’m going to be able to hide being sick, not drinking coffee and everything else from these folks when we will basically be spending every waking moment with them. Not to mention hormones that could make me OCD or ball my eyes out at the drop of a hat. So we told them. And we made them promise not to tell anyone else until we were ready, knowing the risks of early pregnancy and that I wouldn’t be able to see a midwife for a few weeks anyway.
Then there was the morning sickness that lasted all day for weeks, so much so that I thought I might have to tell the people I worked with early because I was unable to get out of bed a few days. Luckily, I was saved from that because I work from home and was able to avoid webcams “due to connectivity issues.”
And of course, I had to tell my close tribe — they would have known if I lived in the same town, so I thought at least I could share my joy (and complaints of being so sick) with them. I took belly pictures, I put away all my regular clothes, I started to dream about having a little girl (since I already have a boy). My friends teased me that my belly was already so big at 11 weeks, it must be twins.
I don’t think this story is unique so far in any way, so if you decide to stop reading here I understand. I will not say this is where it gets good, but I will say this is where it gets real, and terribly sad.
At my 11th week, I was finally able to get an appointment with the midwife. I’d never met this woman before, but she came highly recommended, and I immediately liked her, and even better, Kent really liked her. I could see her helping me deliver this baby and making it an experience very different from my first (another story for another day). She got out the ultrasound so we could take a look at that little baby sweet pea on the screen. At first, she had some trouble finding anything at all to look at. She decided that we needed a different machine (read: internal) and sent us over to the tech who worked us in very late in the day.
The tech found what she was looking for…we saw an image of a tiny little being, and our hearts swelled. I told the technician she was a magician for being able to identify everything on the screen when most of it just looked like gobblety-gook to me. I never even noticed that we didn’t hear a heartbeat. As I was getting dressed, I asked whether the baby was measuring right at 11 weeks. Through the curtain, I heard her say she’d have the midwife go over everything with us. Again, I didn’t think anything of it.
When the midwife finally returned to the exam room, she gave us the news. There was no heartbeat, and the baby had stopped growing at 7 weeks 6 days. That didn’t compute. Hadn’t I dry heaved on my own saliva just the morning before? Wasn’t I still struggling with smells and tastes that weren’t quite right? That would have meant the baby stopped growing almost 4 weeks ago. How did my body think I was still pregnant? Apparently, though this isn’t that uncommon, and as a matter of fact, my uterus hadn’t gotten the message because it had continued to grow. I immediately went into shock mode. You know the feeling, where the news doesn’t seem real but you know there are questions you should be asking about next steps and options, but really what you want to do is run screaming from the room and hope you’ll wake up in a minute from a terrible dream. No such luck. Options were to let it happen naturally, take drugs to make it happen or schedule what is most terribly called a D&C.
Let’s also make this more fun, shall we? My husband and I were leaving the next morning for a Florida beach vacation where we were supposed to tell all of the members of my family. Oh and the very day before, we’d called his sister and brother and made the announcement as well.
So essentially, I was scheduled for a D&C consult the day after I was to return from our vacation. The midwife, as kindly as possible, said I’d either miscarry while I was away or I’d need to schedule a D&C when I got back. Neither option, God, neither option was something I could even process.
Then came the telling…the telling to all the people we’d already told that we weren’t going to have a baby after all. That I was still carrying an angel that went to heaven earlier than she should. That I still felt pregnant.
Despite all of this, there were some wonderful moments we shared as a family on this vacation. My son who is almost 3 got to experience being on a boat for the first time. He also got to watch a Blue Angels air show, not once but twice, and he loved every minute of it. Watching him sit on that boat with his shooting earmuffs on to keep him from freaking out about how loud the engines were overhead. Some of the best days of my life.
And then I started to bleed…just a little bit at first, and then by Saturday, I started to cramp. I walked around most of the day until that evening I finally was crippled by the pain. I was basically in labor, having contractions that I couldn’t continue to move through. I lay down and started to breath through the contractions using all my Bradley Method training and the hydrocodone the good midwife had prescribed for me, knowing this might happen. Then my water broke and the reality set in that my body was doing what it needed to do for me. I’ve never seen so much blood. All of this while my family had a big shrimp dinner on the dock at the marina celebrating summer.
The contractions lasted late into the night, but I was finally able to get some sleep. The next day, I was still cramping but at least able to put a brave face on to see my Dad, sister and brother before we had to leave. Monday morning I was still cramping and worried that it was going to be a very long drive back to Texas, but after breakfast, I passed a large piece of tissue, and my cramping seemed to stop. I will tell you here: there is something terribly wrong with watching a piece of your body that you know used to be a living being and part of you be flushed down the toilet like a piece of trash. And yet, what are you supposed to do with it? Take it out, put it in a box, and bury it? That didn’t seem right either. In the end, you hope that God knows you had to do it and that it was his will that it be done this way. It’s all you have.
I cried almost all the way home to Texas. I have not actually spoken words out loud about my miscarriage to more than 4 people. I realize I am not the only one who has ever had to go through this. According to the amazing doctor I met on Tuesday, 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. That’s a big number. And what seems even more amazing to me is that nobody talks about it. Unless you have someone close to you willing to share their experience, their perspective, the way they were able to heal, you suffer in silence. I am lucky to have some of those women in my life, in my tribe. They have given me comfort and answered questions that I’m sure were painful to answer, but they did it knowing it would help me to grieve, to cope, dare I say to move on?
Right now, I will tell you I’m not ready to move on. In my mind, I’ve just lost a child. It doesn’t matter to me that my little angel was only 7 weeks 6 days old in my womb. I think of the many women who lose babies further along or so early in their lives or later in their lives for that matter. The loss of a child, of any child, stays with you forever. But this is the forbidden one to talk about. This is the one whose life we don’t celebrate. This is the one who, as mothers, most of us carry silently and then grieve silently. I, for some reason, cannot do this, so I must write. Because if I don’t get this out of me, I feel like I will lose my voice. I can’t find the words yet to speak about it out loud to anyone, so it is tempting to dive into the depths of despair and stay there for a while. There are three things keeping me from doing that: my son, my husband, and the answer I heard from God when I asked a friend of mine how you move past something like this. As clear as day, I heard a voice say, “You try again.” So that, my friends, is what I’ll do.