Warning: This might be too much information, about stuff you don’t want to think about. It’s easy to feel sorry for someone who’s had a miscarriage, because we all know it’s sad—that person was hoping for a baby, probably making plans for it already, thinking they are adding to their family, and then those plans are ended without their consent. I’ve had multiple friends with miscarriages, and I cried for them, and hugged them, and prayed for them, but in truth, I had no way to understand what they were really going through.
I’m writing this because writing is how I process. If I didn’t, I think I would keep having trouble falling asleep each night as I struggle to think my way through this. I don’t want to think about this at 11:30 at night or 4 in the morning. And while I could keep it private, I also am hoping this can help you understand what other women who are close to you may go through in the future. After all, they believe 15 to 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriages. People don’t like to talk about it, but you probably know at least four women who have experienced one. Add me to that list.
Second Warning: This is also too long. I will not be offended if you do not finish reading this. It’s more for me than for you.
I look down at the toilet paper and my stomach flinches as I see it: spotting, as if this was the day before I’m getting my period. Only I’m 17 weeks and 2 days pregnant. I know spotting can be common even during a pregnancy, but considering this is the first time I’ve had any, any, during either of my pregnancies, I’m unsettled. I leave the bathroom, go back to the party, find Josh by the pool watching Rye and give a loud, “I think it’s time to go, I’m feeling exhausted.” As Josh gets Rye out of the pool and guides him toward the deck where our bags are, I whisper in his ear that I’ve had some spotting, not much, but I’m a little worried and just want to go home. My friend Jess catches the worried look on my face, so I walk over and tell her that one little sentence, she hugs me, and I shake off a cry that’s coming on, and we get ready and leave the party.
When we get home, I immediately change into dry clothes and lay down in bed, telling myself to keep calm. I make up excuses: I shouldn’t have been outside so long on a 90+ degree day; I was sitting in the water most of the party and maybe it loosened whatever was left in there from my last period in April; I even jumped in the bouncy house with Rye for a while, and maybe that was an issue because of the heat. I listen to Josh give Rye a bath in our master bathroom, and Rye screams the whole 12 minutes, “Mommy, Mommy,” because he’s going through a Mommy phase and knows that I’m lying on the bed just outside the bathroom. It breaks my heart, but I know I need to take care of myself.
The rest of the night, I go to the bathroom every 20 minutes because I can’t help myself. Nothing, nothing, a slight bit more. Then at 9 p.m., a bright burst of red. This is not old blood, but clearly new. I start shaking. I tell Josh, and then call my friend Kristan, a maternity nurse who is an incredible wealth of pregnancy information. She immediately uses her “mom voice” with me to calm me down, and is encouraging when I tell her I don’t have any cramping or lower back pain. She tells me to keep an eye on it, call my doctor now if I want, but until I’m saturating a pad or have cramps, they’re probably not going to want to see me. I hang up relieved, and when I get off the phone, Josh updates me on the online research he’s done during that 3-minute phone call and has stories from women who bled all through their pregnancies and had successful births. We go upstairs to read, I keep going to the bathroom every 20 minutes, not seeing anymore, and finally go to sleep, which is possible only from the true exhaustion I experienced from the pool party.
I wake up at our usual 6 a.m. and there’s still some spotting, but it hasn’t gotten better or worse. I’ve made up my mind that I want an emergency appointment at my OB/GYN office, and I call the doctor on call at 7 a.m. to see how I can get an appointment when the office doesn’t open until 9 a.m. Dr. Kates is sympathetic, though not overly concerned because I’m still not cramping. She tells me to call the office at 9:05, press 8 to get the secretary Kelly who handles emergency appointments, and warns me that if I can’t get one of these emergency appointments, to go to the labor and delivery triage at Sinai Hospital (where I’ll deliver) because they’ll give me a physical exam and know what they’re doing, as opposed to the ER department—and tell them I have her permission to be there. This is all reassuring—she’s not worried, but she’s taking it seriously.
I get a 10:20 appointment with Dr. Minkin, who I met once during my first pregnancy. Back in 2012, he seemed nice, but why see him when I specifically chose a practice with 4 female doctors and 1 male? Josh goes to work and I turn down Jess’s offer to meet me at the doctor’s office, because I’m thinking they’re going to tell me it’s from the heat Sunday, or a tear in my cervix (which Kristan said is really common) or that at worst, I’ve got a leaky cervix and will need to be on bedrest. My mom comes over to watch Rye, and I head to Owings Mills.
I lay on the exam table, pants-less and under a paper blanket. Dr. Minkin tries to get the heartbeat with the Doppler machine and is having a hard time. I’m not freaking out yet because at my 14-week appointment we had a hard time too, but Dr. Faber got it. This baby is just tricky. (It’s OK baby, I say internally, I don’t like doctors either.)
Dr. Minkin goes out to get the handheld sonogram machine, which gets me excited because Dr. Jacobs showed me one of these at my 10-week appointment. That’s when I got to see my 10-week-old baby wave at me, and I have had peace about the pregnancy since then.
He gets the baby pretty quickly, but keeps having trouble with how focused in it is. He’s still not getting a heartbeat, and then the machine freezes up. He sets it down and decides to do the internal exam. A quick peek and he confirms he’s only seeing old blood, which is a good sign. He picks up the handheld ultrasound machine again and starts over.
He holds the screen so I can see it, and we get a good view of the whole baby, but there’s no white center that should be expanding and contracting—the white blip of the heart. And the baby’s not moving. Even when babies are sleeping in the womb, they’re usually jiggling around. I feel my heartbeat accelerate and I look back up at the ceiling and think “this is really happening.” He puts down the machine, takes my hand, and confirms, he can’t find a heartbeat or any movement. He tells me we’ll check it on the big ultrasound machine which can show so much more detail once it’s available, but it looks like we’ve lost this pregnancy.
Hot tears run down my cheeks, which I can feel are burning up. I make no sounds as the tears flow, trying to keep it together, and he tells me I can get redressed and stay in this exam room and he will come and get me when the ultrasound tech is ready. Always the rule follower, I ask him if I can call my husband now, since there’s a big “No cellular phones” sign on the door, and he says of course.
I call Josh’s cell, praying he’ll pick up since he doesn’t usually keep his ringer on at work, but on the fifth ring, he does. “Everything OK babe?” Without thinking, I blurt out “No, there’s no heartbeat.” And then Josh has a very audible breakdown, right there in his store.
I wince, thinking I should have prepared him. My heart aches for him in his agony, but also pities myself, the one in the doctor’s office alone and just heard the news from a near-stranger. Josh doesn’t hang up the phone, so for 3 minutes I listen to his breakdown, and coworkers rushing to his side to ask what’s happening and to console him and to offer to drive him to me because he is in no condition to be driving. I want to hang up because it’s so painful, but I don’t, and thankfully someone hangs up on the other end and I am relieved. I don’t know how he’ll get from Hampstead to Owings Mills, but he’s on his way.
There’s still the tiniest bit of hope since we haven’t gone to the big ultrasound yet, but I feel it in my heart that the baby is dead. I think of the phrase “What happens to a dream deferred?” which I know is from a poem, but that’s all I can remember for now. I look down at my toenails, painted half pink, half blue, in nod to the baby’s gender, which would have been revealed to us in an ultrasound appointment 10 days from now. I need to do something about that, I think, because it’s going to be a constant reminder of the baby until that paint is gone.
Time passes and I finally get to go into the big ultrasound room, and Josh still isn’t there. The ultrasound technician starts zip-zapping around, finding images of significant details that I can’t recognize at all, and they’re using medical terms I don’t understand, so that the only detail I can understand and remember is “and the pinky only has two bones.” In the moment I don’t know how many bones should be in a pinky, I’ve never thought about it. I’m trying to pay attention so I don’t even look at my hands to study the pinky, but save that detail for later. The technician prints a bunch of images for Dr. Minkin, who has been holding my hand, and then he tells me in plain English: the baby measured 13.5 weeks, and probably passed a few weeks ago. It had a large cyst on its neck that is usually the sign of a chromosomal abnormality, and these babies, whether it is chromosomal or not, almost never make it to full term.
And he tells me twice, with deep conviction, that none of this is my fault, and there is nothing I could have done to cause this, and there is nothing I could have done to prevent this or to save this child. And there is a bit of relief in that—that I won’t have to torture myself in wondering what I did wrong for the rest of my life.
They move me to a doctor’s office who has the day off to wait for Josh. In my pragmatic state, I start wondering, what comes next? Obviously my body is just starting to respond to this loss. Am I going to wake up in bed the next morning and reach down and come up with a bloody hand and start screaming? Because we’ve all seen at least one scene like that in a movie. I had been texting with Jess since the first exam room, texting Josh’s sister Liz, had texted the news to my pastor, and realize that now I really need to tell my mom, and it’s a phone call I’m dreading. I had told her I’d call her either way so not to be worried if I called. But now I realize I have terrible news, and that she shouldn’t be standing next to Rye when I tell her, because I don’t want him to see her cry, or worse, have a reaction like Josh did. So I text her to call me when she’s not with Rye, and in two minutes she does.
I’ve already forgotten the way I phrased it, but I’ve learned to do a little more build-up then just start with “there’s no heartbeat,” but I get to the point in two sentences and she starts crying while telling me how sorry she is. How she had prayed so much since Sunday night when I told her what was going on, and how she didn’t expect it to be this at all. Like me, at worst she thought they’d put me on bedrest. I tell her Josh is on his way, and she tells me my dad was already on his way to meet her at my house. We hang up quickly. I call Liz because I don’t want to just keep sitting there alone, and give her the update from the big ultrasound. How there is some peace in knowing this was not a healthy baby, and that it was not my womb or my hormones that turned on me and the baby. She’s crying too, tells me that she’s spoken to Josh and he should be there any minute.
There’s a knock on the door and I stand up and recognize the receptionist, who is awkwardly standing wide from the door, then I realize Josh is to the side of the doorframe, trying to pull it together before he comes in. He comes in, still full of hope that they were able to see the heartbeat on the big ultrasound, but I just shake my head and quietly cry while he falls on the ground and weeps loudly. We hug, I console him, he calms down and I tell him everything I can remember. I finally look at my own hand and notice, ahh, the pinky should have three bones. (Apparently this is a soft marker for chromosomal defects.)
Dr. Minkin comes in and reviews the technical stuff with Josh, and then we talk about what comes next. I’m so far along, my body is not going to be able to dissolve and pass the baby by itself. I’ll need a D&E, dilation and evacuation, where they put me under, give me drugs to dilate my cervix (just like when they’re inducing a pregnant woman to go into labor) and then they’ll have to remove the baby, placenta, some of the lining…stuff I don’t want to think about. I’m squeamish as can be when it comes to medical stuff. He mentions they’ll use a vacuum to suck the baby out, just like they do sometimes during a birth (instead of forceps), and that’s a little bit of a relief. There’s no use of the word “scalpel” which surely would have made me faint in my chair after all I had already endured. The procedure will be Wednesday or Thursday at Sinai. I’ll have to come in the day before so they can apply a seaweed-based treatment to my cervix that will let it start naturally dilating. Again, this is something they do to women who need to be induced into labor. I’m told to expect cramps and bleeding after the D&E and to take it easy for a few days. Nothing is given to me in writing, but I figure I’ll be back in the office one more time so I can ask more questions.
As we get out to the parking garage, it feels good to breathe fresh air again. I didn’t eat breakfast, and so despite all of the sorrow, I can’t help think about lunch, and wanting a salad from Panera. After all, I’m no longer pregnant; I need to start eating more health-consciously. The 7 pounds I’ve gained (and several waist-inches) in the past 12 weeks are going to need to go—and as soon as possible. Strangers are already giving up their seats for me in restaurant waiting areas and asking when I’m due. I realize I need to stop wearing maternity clothes, which hug your blossoming curves and let people know you’re not just fat, you’re pregnant; and need to go back to wearing baggy clothes that will cover up the fact that I now am just fat, not pregnant. Even if that means wearing the same two pairs of shorts and three shirts every day. I consider starting to use my weight loss app again to manage my next transformation.
And I’ll have to stop eating a mug full of ice cream before bed every night.
When we get home, both my parents are waiting for us, and thankfully Rye has just been put down for his nap, so we can really talk. I tell them all the specifics, and about how the procedure will be Wednesday or Thursday, I’ll find out later that day when the scheduler calls me. They offer to take Rye home, but I know I need to keep him here because he is my biggest consolation—the miracle child that did make it—and he gives such good hugs. My mom agrees that Josh and me keeping him is probably for the best.
When Rye wakes up, he’s very glad to see I am back home, because he knows I was going to a doctor, and like me, he hates going to the doctor. He freely gives his hugs, and even squeezes tighter when I tell him I need a bigger hug. We all eat a Panera lunch together, then Josh says he’ll take Rye to the grocery store by himself (a first!) and I can stay and take it easy, maybe nap, but I know that’s not going to happen. I’m mostly busy reading texts from my friends, though rarely responding. I am emotionally exhausted. I had given Jess the permission to spread the news through our large circle of church friends, and even though it’s so fresh, I want people to know, I want their prayers, and I don’t want to have to tell anyone else myself.
Josh and I keep passing back and forth who we’ve heard from, and it’s nice to know that so many people care, and are brave about telling us. I sheepishly think of how when I don’t know what to say, that sometimes leads to not saying anything. I vow in the future to just make the effort, because as the recipient, it doesn’t really matter what they say, merely that my pain is being acknowledged and prayed for.
And as for prayer, I’m still shell-shocked. I am not ready to communicate to God, and I do not feel his presence, only the presence of his people who make up our church. I’m not ready to deal with the larger implications, the questions of “why?” I just want to get through this and move on.
I wake up at 4 a.m. to pee, because my bladder does not know that I am no longer pregnant, and then again, there is still a baby in there, putting pressure on my bladder, and I get up to go and then get back into bed. And like most times when I rise at 4 a.m., and I can’t get back to sleep. All the horrors of yesterday are fresh again, and because of the aforementioned thoughts about why I’m still waking up at 4 a.m. to pee, I form the sentence in my mind: “there’s a dead baby inside me.”
And I wake Josh up because these are the times of “for better or worse,” and I cry into him, and he holds me, and I finally let my thoughts go to the dead baby, the one we were ready to learn if it was a boy or a girl, which is when we were going to sit down with Rye and finally explain to him, “you’re going to be a big brother!” When I would finally be able to pick out a paint color for the current guest room/future baby’s room. When we could do a photo shoot with a friend and post the announcement on Facebook. When I could finally start going to these summer clearance sales and buy fresh onesies if it was a boy or super cute dresses if it was a girl. I think about how much planning and configurations I had already done in anticipation of this new baby—even turning down two job offers in the past two months because, “I’m expecting a new baby in January and I’m really going to have my hands full with two of them.” And how much we wanted a sibling for Rye, because he has such a gentle and caring spirit, and would make the best older brother. And if we can have a kid as great as he is, why wouldn’t we want two? Or three? Or a full-size SUV of them? (We WILL NOT be a minivan family.)
I realize there was no hope of me falling back asleep, so I tell Josh to get some rest and then went downstairs to read the Bible. I look in the back for verses on comfort, and read Psalm 119. It’s a really long one, and very repetitive, and “comfort” comes up a few times but not really in the consoling way. Instead I’m struck by these verses: “My soul clings to the dust, give me life according to your word!” and “My soul melts away for sorrow, strengthen me according to your word!” About every fourth verse of this 176-lined psalm is about “how I love your statutes,” and I confess I can’t really say that. I text a friend who is also going through a tough time and has trouble sleeping: “I know God is still good, but right now that’s all head knowledge, not heart knowledge.” She doesn’t text back until 7 (and I pray it’s because she was actually asleep): “Understandable. Me too, thanking God for your faith — the certainty of what is unseen.” If you’re unfamiliar with that, it’s from Hebrews 11:1, and it goes “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the convictions of things not seen.” It’s a verse that I clung to during infertility, and the first trimester of my pregnancy with Rye.
I’ve been agonizing over letting the rest of our friends know about the pregnancy loss, and decide I want to put it on Facebook and get it over with. It might seem too soon, but I don’t want these consolations and people discovering our loss to keep going on for the next few weeks. Let’s get it all out on the table now and move on. I wait until 6 a.m. to post, then sign off, and even delete my Facebook app because I don’t want to keep seeing other people’s happy lives right now just in order to check on how people are feeling sorry for me. I posted my email address and warned people I’d be off Facebook, so if they really want to get in touch with me, they can do it that way.
The plan for today is to get out of the house—the atmosphere is too heavy, and time passes too slowly. Last night I proposed we go to Cunningham Falls in Thurmont, so Rye can see the waterfall and we can walk around at the bottom in our water shoes. It’s a beautiful 40-minute drive out there, and if we get there early, it shouldn’t be too crowded. By the time we get there, Rye is already too tired, though he rallies when we make it to the waterfall, but is only interested in walking on the rocks at the bottom and in the stream, which is moving at a nice gentle pace. Somehow I’ve forgotten my water shoes, so I just take off my flip-flops and dip my feet in the chilly water, looking down at those damn pink and blue toenails, and take slow, deep breaths of cool mountain air, and try to avoid thinking about why we’re here and why Josh is off on a Tuesday. I focus on watching Josh support Rye as he goes up and down rocks back and forth in the stream.
In the afternoon, a friend who I’ve only met in the past year and is nearly 10 years my junior, comes over at my invitation because I know she had a miscarriage this February. We sit on my porch swing in privacy, not having to look at each other’s teary faces, and talk. And while every woman experiences her own journey and loss differently, it’s so comforting to talk to her. She too kind of went into auto-pilot when it first happened. She too had no idea what a miscarriage is actually like, both the physical side and the emotional side. She agrees that it’s easy to just try to get through things at first, but warns me that the emotional side will catch up. Not that she’s telling me to deal with it now, because there will be plenty of time. But just to be on guard, because it will sneak up on you. One of the most memorable things she tells me is that you can’t help it, your life is now changed. Now when she sees women walking in a daze, looking sad, maybe mumbling, she can’t help but think, “did that woman just have a miscarriage?” We cry together and hug, and then I have to leave to get one last round of bloodwork done to ensure I can have the procedure on Thursday.
After we put Rye to bed, I get a shower and Josh goes for a run. And like the night before, I break down crying in the shower. I make light of it, declaring my Native American name would be “Cries in Shower.” But I bet there are a lot of us like that out there. Maybe that’s just my tribe, not my individual name.
When I get out of the shower I decide I need to journal. I usually journal on paper, but I realize this one’s going to be a doozy, so I give my wrist a break and go for the computer, and I let it flow. I say the tough things, the stuff you don’t tell people when you’re trying to keep your chin up. I decide to email it to my friend Rachel who I’ve asked to have dinner with me the next day, because on Wednesday Josh will be gone from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and I’ve decided it is not good for me to be alone, especially since I am getting REALLY nervous about the D&E. Maybe I should have asked more questions, but I don’t think any answers would have made me feel better. The slight risk of “puncturing the uterus” had been mentioned, which can lead to infection, and as I know from watching “Call the Midwife” (a show about midwives in 1940s/50s poor London), women can die within days from an infection related to delivery. Josh had pushed Dr. Minkin for a percentage of risk for puncturing the uterus (which even if it doesn’t lead to death, seeing how we have antibiotics and all, can lead to scarring and risks for future pregnancies), and Dr. Minkin said 1 percent or less. Still, I had lost a baby in the second trimester, which is a risk of just 3 percent, so I wasn’t feeling so good about percentages.
I sent the journal entry to Rachel and told her she didn’t need to reply, but it was a starting point for conversation on Wednesday. She texted back a half hour later, thanking me for my honesty and willingness to share. Thinking about it, she might have been shocked. Even among friends, I’m kind of a private person. Not cold, I hope, but definitely not a share-bear. And here I was laying it all out.
When Josh got back from his run and had had his shower, I asked him to read it too. This was even a little nerve-wracking, because Josh and I are the kind of couple that compliments each other in a way that I don’t think any e-Harmony compatibility test would match us up. We are very different people, but that’s great for balancing each other out. While Josh had been mourning this miscarriage greatly and had been a great support to me, I could tell he was already thinking about the future, as in, future pregnancies and babies. And I was thinking of the future as “let’s never talk about this again and it will all be a bad dream that I will hopefully one day forget.” He reads it, compliments my writing, and then we sit on the couch and discuss it. We cuddle and cry, and there were some tense moments in discussing our future and where to go from here. I confess my concerns that I might die from Thursday’s operation and he tries to get me to calm down without flat-out calling me irrational.
We concede we aren’t 100 percent in the same place with our grieving and thinking forward, but we can understand and respect each other’s positions and give each other permission to feel how you feel. And that’s what I need most. If this had happened 10 years prior in our marriage, I think one of us would have been sleeping on the couch, convinced marrying the other one had been a mistake. Thank God for the wisdom we’ve gained over time and all the little setbacks we had endured before this point. I still go to bed somewhat hysterical, thinking of how I would spend Wednesday if I thought it was my last day on earth. Or fourth to last day on earth, or however long it would take my infection to kill me. I regret that I will barely see Josh all day Wednesday, and try to think of something meaningful I can do with Rye. Nothing extraordinary, but just something to try to cement the image of me as Mom that I wanted him to remember.
Somehow I manage to sleep through the whole night, until Josh had to get up at 6:15 and get ready to leave. Even Rye sleeps in, until 6:30, when he hears Josh leaving. I let Rye get up, even though I usually try to make him wait a half hour or until 6:45, whatever comes first, and we go downstairs. We read books. I ask him what he would like for his morning snack, and he says Cheez-Its, and while I usually make him stick to cereal in the morning, I tell him this is a special day and he could have Cheez-Its for breakfast this one time. When the library opens at 9, we’re there, and while there’s lots of kids his age, for once he just wants to spend time with me, reading books. I happily oblige. I want to be remembered as a mom who read him books and hopefully wasn’t selfish with my time.
The plan for the day is to fill my day with people. After last night’s break-down, I realize I can’t let my mind wander into the darkness. The first visitor of the day is Karen, whom I don’t see very often, but we had gotten close while I was going through my infertility and she’s a great prayer. She’s also experienced her own tangible miracle—a case of where she was struck with a condition that could never be diagnosed, but she couldn’t walk for a year, and she went to a prayer night at her church and they prayed over her and she was instantly healed. That’s the short version of the story, but I feel incredibly blessed by her story, to know that God still performs miracles today. So when she had heard what I was going through and offered to pray with me, I gladly accepted her offer. And after we pray, I finally feel at peace. I stop worrying I am going to die Thursday and about the specifics of the surgery, and feel at rest.
Next, my friend Alicia comes for lunch. I haven’t seen her in a few months either, and after all the talking with Karen, I don’t really feel like going through the whole miscarriage story so we don’t talk about it. And before I know it, my parents are there, and Alicia and I say goodbye.
My dad had come to watch Rye, and my mom was taking me back to the doctor’s office for the seaweed treatment. I wasn’t scared of this appointment, but I figured they might give me more details/directions about Thursday’s procedure, and I want her there to help me to remember everything.
Talking about gynecological appointments is never fun, so I’ll spare you the specifics, but I felt totally misled about how serious this day’s doings were. “Seaweed treatment” made this sound like a natural, earthy thing. This experience was anything but. I didn’t look down at the tools that the doctor was using, but I imagine there were tiny clamps like you use to hotshot a car battery, attached to my cervix—a part of your body that you don’t realize exists until you’re actually delivering a baby or receiving a “seaweed treatment.”
When it was over, my mom almost fainted from watching me be in so much pain, and I couldn’t get up for 10 minutes. I was so glad my mom was there to drive me home. We also had asked the doctor a little about the D&E. My biggest question was “will I be conscious?” to which Dr. Kates answered “it depends.” Which scared the crap out of me, especially since the scheduler had told me to prepare for this to take from 3 to 6 hours. My iPod battery doesn’t even last that long. She assured me I “wouldn’t feel anything,” but I knew that if I was conscious and could hear what they were talking about, I’d be shaking and probably vomiting. But it turns out she misspoke—no, I would be completely sedated and wouldn’t remember anything. There were things that could go wrong, so there was the possibility that I could need to be intubated (have an air tube stuck down my throat) and there could be the need for laparoscopic surgery instead of just going through the cervix, but that was not the norm. The peace I had felt earlier in the day was disappearing.
When I get home, I call Josh and give him the update, and he says he’s sorry he couldn’t be the one there holding my hand during the very painful doctor’s visit. My parents take Rye home with them since I need to be at the hospital at 6:30 Thursday, and plan to bring him back Friday so I can get a full day of rest after the surgery. Rye is excited about a sleepover at Pop-Pop’s, until he realizes I’m not coming with him, and he cries. I almost cry too but keep a positive face for him and remind him about Pop-Pop’s awesome toys, and he changes his mind and is ready to go. I put him in the car seat, and it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be the last time. I hug and kiss him one more time then go inside.
My friend Rachel comes for dinner, bringing it with her, and we talk about the big stuff first. I really look up to Rachel, and even though she can come across as having a cheerleader-like personality, she completely validates the feelings I had expressed and emailed her the night before. She would be mad at God too. She wouldn’t know how to think about her future or trusting God with future pregnancies either. And then we spend the rest of the night catching up the rest of each other’s lives, and the stuff you don’t always bring up when you’re in a group, which is usually how we see each other. It was a good evening, and I was so thankful for her to take time away from her family and spend it with me so I wouldn’t be freaking out my pre-surgery night.
Next, I called Josh’s cousin Eve, who had also had a miscarriage at 17 weeks. She’s had two miscarriages actually, and thankfully, she doesn’t make me ask any questions, because even I don’t know quite what I want to ask, but just goes into her story—and it’s horrible. And part of her takeaway for me is “it could always be worse.” The other part is to always be hopeful. I’ll just have to remember that for now.
And lastly, I call Liz, who had texted me a while ago, and I let her know how I’m feeling and all the encouragement I got today. And I end the conversation with something that’s really important to me—that she should not feel weird about her being pregnant and me losing my pregnancy. I cannot wait to hold her baby in just a matter of weeks. There is no need to shelter me or be sensitive—I want to hold a living baby now more than ever. While I was struggling with infertility, it was really hard to be around other pregnant people because I so wanted what they had. Three days into this week, and I’ve heard so many miscarriage stories that it really accentuates the fact that all babies are miracles. Instead of feeling jealousy over other people’s pregnancies, I want to say, “Go Team Humans, our species will survive!” It feels good to get that off my chest with Liz.
Josh gets stuck at work after closing, mostly because he wants this to be his last day in the store this week, and technically it’s his last day as manager. But I start getting a vein twitch in my right leg, and in my paranoia, consider it might be a blood clot. I text him that I’d rather him come home now and have to go in Friday than keep me waiting by myself. Then I actually google “symptoms of a leg blood clot” because I’m pretty sure those can lead to stroke, but vein twitching is not one of the 10 symptoms in this list. It still freaks me out, but I kind of forget about it once Josh gets home. Or maybe it just went away. He catches me up on the day and we go to bed knowing it will be an early morning.
I wake up a few times through the night, even though we didn’t go to bed until 11:15 or something, and my final waking is one minute before the alarm is set to go off. I peek out the dark window in my bathroom and see it’s raining. I think of the Counting Crows song “It’s Raining in Baltimore,” which I don’t remember the full lyrics to, but it seems fitting. I feel peaceful, and ready to face this day. I attribute this to the prayers of all our family and friends.
We get to the hospital and take the normal, seemingly unnecessarily long time to get through admissions, but I don’t really care because they told us to get there 2 hours before the surgery is set to start. Our friend and church’s youth pastor Ryan gets there right as we finish and are waiting for the elevator to the fourth floor. We sit in the lobby together and talk for maybe 5 minutes before they’re already calling me back for the pre-op room. My heart starts racing and my stomach is nervous. This is getting real. They tell Josh to wait in the lobby with Ryan while they get me prepped in the pre-op room, then they can join me. I change into the ridiculously oversized hospital gown and wait 20 minutes alone, without phone or book, until they are lead back to see me. Josh and Ryan pray for me, and I only drop a few nervous tears. The nurse comes back, we say bye to Ryan, then Josh stays with me as the train of medical professionals come in to introduce themselves and have me sign a bunch of consent forms. As if I have a choice about this surgery.
Our favorite is Dr. Mon, the anesthesiologist. He seems like a party guy. Josh asks specific questions about what they’re going to use, I point out that Josh is a pharmacist, and then they have a good time one-upping each other in name dropping of drugs. I recognize ketamine, or “Special K” as they called it in college, and fentanyl, which I think is the date rape drug (but later Josh clarifies that it isn’t). Dr. Mon promises I will be out, and jokes that any idiot with a syringe can put you out, the hard part is in being able to bring you back, then makes some Michael Jackson joke. He promises to make me the perfect mix of drugs that will put me out for just as deep and long as necessary. Despite his joking, he seems like he not only knows what he’s doing but loves it, and I trust him.
In fact, when I wake up, I don’t realize the surgery has already happened. My nose is running from allergies and I’m about to ask for tissues, when I look down in my hands and see that I’m holding a box, and have already blown my nose twice. The nurse tells me that it’s over and they’re bringing in my husband. Would I like some water or juice or ginger ale? I choose the ginger ale. I have no idea what time of day it is. And my next thought is, I wish Dr. Mon was here so I could thank him. He did it—he concocted the perfect cocktail, for I felt nothing and remember nothing. I still don’t know how the surgery went.
Josh comes in looking really relieved. He spoke to Dr. Kates maybe 20 minutes ago, and she told him the surgery went perfectly. All the terrible what-ifs and consent form things we discussed earlier were completely unnecessary. And this is when I finally thank God. I’m alive, my body is well, I feel nothing, and when I look down at my stomach, I’m no longer looking at an entombed baby. It’s just me.
In less than an hour, we’re heading home. I feel completely myself in the car, a huge weight has been lifted. Josh and I have real conversations. I text friends myself to let them know I’m OK and to praise God, everything went great. I call my parents’ house and talk to my dad. He can’t believe I’m out of surgery and already calling. My mom texts me minutes later that she just got home with Rye, so I call her back too. “Relief” is the emotion of the day.
It’s still dark and rains occasionally throughout the day. I’m not in pain, so I stick with ibuprofen versus the prescription meds they give me. Josh and I watch a 4-hour long BBC miniseries of Anthony Trollop’s “He Knew He Was Right.” It’s a little depressing, but it’s the kind of story you can learn from. I only nap an hour. I take a Benadryl to help me sleep at night, but my bedtime prayers of thanking God for all the mercies of the day still lead to questions of “But why, God, why was this even necessary…” and I don’t get to sleep until after 11:30.
I wake up at 6, and I can’t blame Rye or the cats. And I can’t fall back asleep. But I decide it’s time to get up and start writing. I spend the next 3 hours writing about everything that’s happened since Sunday, but realize it’s so detailed that it’s like a police report of the incident. No one’s going to care about these details. I resolve to start over and simplify. Maybe tomorrow.
I realize at 9 a.m. that I haven’t taken any ibuprofen, and I’m not in any pain. Josh gets up and asks about my pain, and I share the good news. Nothing terrible happened in the night. I still feel well. He recommends I take the ibuprofen anyway to reduce internal swelling. I do, and when that dose starts wearing off at 3 p.m., I realize there is some swelling and I probably should keep taking it for the next couple days.
My mom brings Rye home, and we smother him. He doesn’t seem to find this unusual. Are we overbearingly affectionate parents? And if so, is that a bad thing? I’m glad to see he’s already accepted this.
I text with my friend Gina. She asks how I’m doing physically and I share the good news. She asks how I’m doing emotionally, and I confess that I’m totally avoiding thinking about it because it starts a downward spiral. But I’m working on a blog, I tell her, which I think will be therapeutic for me and helpful for others to read. She’s glad to hear I’m willing to be open, and says what an encouragement it will likely be to others. Too many people feel like they can’t talk about miscarriage. Josh says he wants to make this his next crusade: “Save the babies.”
After we put Rye to bed, I drink my first glass of wine in four months. I choose a cheap white, thoroughly chilled in the freezer, instead of one of my favorites so it won’t be forever ruined as The First Wine I Had After Losing the Baby. It doesn’t taste good. There’s no celebrating here. But it makes me sleepy and I’m out by 10:15, having skipped my nightly prayers in pursuit of sweet sleep.
I’m still up by 4 a.m. and can’t fall back asleep. The song that goes “hot razors in my heart” is stuck in my head, and that’s the only line I know. Lovely. I get up and go downstairs to write, hoping maybe I can go back to bed around 6 or 7.
One of the first things Rye says to me this morning is “painted toenails.” He’s quite the observer, and indeed, last night I did repaint my previously pink and blue toenails. I ask him what color they are now, and he answers “black,” but I tell him they’re just gray. The color is actually a taupey gray called “Stormy” that I already had. I’m a sucker for a good color name, and wish I could be a professional Color Namer.
The day just kind of floats by. I go to the liquor store by myself and buy a bottle of sweet red wine, since that’s really what I want. I’m in the middle of paying, and a secondary check-out person, the one who isn’t helping me, says, “Smile,” as a command. And I realize he’s talking to me. I reflexively smile, then wonder what my face could have looked like that made a stranger want me to stop making it. “You just looked so intense,” he says. “She’s probably just thinking about what she’s making for dinner,” says the woman who is helping me, and I continue my fake smile.
And I’m not mad, I’m thankful for this incident, for a reminder to try to make at least pleasant neutral faces when I’m zoning out. I don’t want Rye seeing me make horrible, pained faces when I’m not thinking about what my face looks like. It’s a very small encounter, but it sticks with me.
My brother and his wife come for dinner, which is great because I haven’t seen them in about two months, but conversation is strained. It feels like we’re all tired, and all trying not to talk about the elephant in the room beyond the initial hugs and I’m-so-sorry’s that we receive when they get here. I’m talked out, but my brother can always cheer me up. As my mom has pointed out, he gets me to do a deep belly laugh like no one else. We end the night rather early, but I’m still really glad they came.
Tomorrow is Sunday, church, and I’m already getting nervous. We love our church family, and know there will be a ton of hugs and condolences. Josh has even asked to speak in front of the church to thank everyone for all the cards and meals and gifts that have been overwhelmingly supportive. I’m mostly looking forward to getting it over with. Making it public hopefully one last time, and then moving on next week.
We agree we want to get to church on time, but not too early, to avoid being overwhelmed by condolences and more personal stories of other people’s miscarriages before church even starts. But suddenly we’re ¼ mile from the church and it’s 25 minutes early—earlier than we could possibly be if we wanted to get there early. I suggest a quick detour to Panera to get me an iced chai tea latte, and Josh complies. But the line there is all the way out there door, and after waiting 10 minutes in queue, I’m still 8 people back from the cashier, so I say forget about it and go back to the car empty handed. I’m not mad, or even disappointed. We’re now on schedule to get to church right on time.
Except driving goes faster than I expect, so we still get there 5 minutes early. But it seems like everyone else is running late today. I get some quick hugs from friends I’ve already been seeing throughout the week, and they bolster me. I scout out our seats and focus on Rye, accepting hugs and condolences here and there without getting into any conversations. I hold back tears, and my head feels pain from all that extra water pressure.
Josh gets up at the proper time during the service and says his thank-yous. I keep my eyes focused on him and try to look appreciative, and not like a basket case, and I avoid all audience eye contact. At the end of church, even more people come up to hug and tell their miscarriage stories, and I’m getting to my breaking point. I just want to go home. And unlike Rye, I can’t just whine it out loud and expect to get my way. I try to hear everyone out and tell them I appreciate their sharing. They probably don’t want me to feel like I’m alone, but I don’t. If anything, I kind of wish I was alone right now.
I go home in a funk, and wish that like Rye, I could also get a nap. I work again on editing my writings from this week, and I hit a wall, so like any good writer, I go on Facebook.
Which I hadn’t done in a week. There were like 40-some comments on my post breaking the news about losing the baby, all very kind and appropriate (you never know what to expect with Facebook). I start looking at the first dozen posts in my newsfeed, and get a little laugh from a selfie of a friend in goofy glasses, but then decide I’ve had enough. I’m not ready yet. Not that I want to keep shutting friends out, but is there a way I can only see exactly what I want to see? Can I ask my friends to just keep emailing or texting me funny anecdotes? I feel like I’m going to start needing humor again, but that’s the only part of Facebook I want.
I feel like I still have so many people I need to get in touch with. Friends who aren’t on Facebook. People who texted or emailed in the first day that I ran out of steam and didn’t get back to. Even a sister-in-law I said I’d email in-depth on Friday and then didn’t.
I was hoping that with this being the end of the week, there would be some closure. Not like “and that’s how the story ended” closure, but something. But one thing I’ve learned from all the miscarriage stories I’ve heard this week is that there isn’t closure. You’ll always remember that baby you never met, the one you loved without even knowing him or her. And you’ll try to comfort others who go through the same loss by telling them about your loss. Does it really help? Or should I say, does it help the one currently suffering, or does it help the teller, who can now tell the story without crying (sometimes), who can remind themselves “see, I’ve survived this, and you can too?”
I know I can survive, I just don’t know what the future will look like, for my mental state, for my emotions, for our family. But I can still say, God is good.
Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make straight your paths.”
Thank you so much to everyone who contacted me this week—especially old friends who I haven’t talked to in years and made me smile just by seeing their names in my inbox. Never before have I felt so loved. If I haven’t gotten back to you, I’m sorry. We’ll catch up soon!
“What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”
Courtesy of the Poetry Foundation
Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”