This is the raw truth, to set the stage. This story is why I am here, writing. This loss I’ve suffered has impacted me in ways I cannot even comprehend yet, it has changed who I am, but it is not who I am. This blog begins with the aftermath of loss. My hope is for it to chronicle my journey to peace. To find healing and happiness. To build a life I can be content with. I hang my hopes up to be twisted by fate as they may.
I’ve been afraid to compile these words, terrified that I might become lost in my own story, wandering tangled letters in circles, far from home and without a trail of breadcrumbs.
I’m feeling stronger everyday, but only a few short weeks ago, I was broken in a way that felt irreparable. Smashed, a piggy bank shattered with a hammer, the wealth inside stolen too early. The pieces jagged, unable to be glued back in place.
I was pregnant for the first time. 17 weeks and feeling unsteady, I never truly trusted myself, my body, to do what it needed to do to to create life. I worried constantly that something would go wrong. I feared telling people that I was expecting, but the news spilled out like air, slipping through my fingers, I could never hold it in.
Despite myself, I was excited. I was nervous, yes, and doubtful of my parenting skills, but had begun to imagine myself rocking my baby in my arms, singing softly, reading him or her classics and playing twangy folk songs, showing this little person all the wonders of the world.
Suddenly all the wonder seemed drained away as I heard those words: ‘This is where there should be a heartbeat.”
I had been to the ER the night before, spotting only slightly, just a whisper of worry, only a hint of something looming on the horizon. The on-call doctor was unable to locate the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler, though an exam showed no signs of turmoil. I was scheduled an ultrasound the next day.
My husband and I waited outside the US room watching as a young father fed his toddler candy from the vending machines and repeatedly shouted obscenities at his mother. I grumbled negatively to my husband about how this guy was already on his second child and ours was gone. He told me to stop being pessimistic. Despite my mood, I don’t think I believed anything catastrophic could be wrong.
The ultrasound tech is the mother of a friend of mine. I have known her since i was a child. In the midst of nervous small talk, she cut me off and blurted, ‘I don’t have good news for you, hon. I don’t see a heartbeat. The baby hasn’t developed since your last ultrasound.’ She showed me the image of a little lost child on the screen, a black void where a flicker of life should have been, where the tiny heart was beating at my last appointment. The tears began to roll down my cheeks as I nodded in disbelief, trying to keep my composure. She left to get my husband and those few moments alone felt like hours. The room suddenly seemed to expand, growing wide and expansive, filling with a cloud of dread and confusion, heavy with tears pouring from my eyes and tears to come for days and nights. I felt miles away from home. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t sit still. As he walked in, his face terrified, awash in fear, he saw me with tears in my eyes and they sprung to his own. His face fell, dropping like an elevator crashing down a shaft, pulling along hopes and dreams to a shattered pile of rubble. He put his arms around me as we listened, wide eyed and tormented, while the tech explained that our child seemed to have stopped growing at 11.5 weeks. My baby was locked away inside me, in what should be the safest place possible, but my body didn’t know that it no longer had life. My body didn’t know that it’s child was gone.
I felt betrayed by myself. I felt horrified. I felt utterly confused and knew that I was fighting to retain a grasp on a life that would forever be gone. I would never be the same. Who I am now, more than six weeks later, is not who I used to be. And I know that I can never go back.
I sobbed as my husband cradled my head. The tech left us there in that cruel room, forever tainted, as she arranged for me to see the ER doctor. I gasped for air, I wept, I hated myself at my very core for being so cavalier. I didn’t panic last night, I didn’t pray in desperation, and now I was being punished. My mouth opened and a waterfall of ‘I’m sorry’s’ burst forth. My mind attaching meaning to each: I’m sorry, honey, that our baby is gone, I’m sorry that I didn’t save our child, I’m sorry I didn’t know, I’m sorry I didn’t eat better, I’m sorry I didn’t pray, I’m sorry I drank that coffee, I’m sorry I didn’t take care of our baby. I’m sorry that this is all my fault.
‘Honey, it’s not your fault,’ he soothed. Sincerity dripped from his voice. He stroked my hair, silently letting his own heart dissolve amidst the acidic grief inside the room.
We waited in a private room for the ER doctor, who walked in looking like she had drawn the short straw. She explained that our baby had stopped developing weeks ago, this is surprisingly common, it should give no indication that we couldn’t have another child. She said all the things she needed to say, she was apologetic, offering condolences, but they felt cold and insincere, offering me no semblance of comfort.
She told me that she would send me home to miscarry naturally, and if, in a few weeks, it didn’t occur, she could give me medication, and possibly a procedure to remove the ‘products of conception’. Products of conception. Is that all I was worried about? I was sobbing, wracked with heartache over ‘products of conception?’.
I was appalled at the idea of waiting at home for weeks for my body to figure out what to do after it had already failed me so horribly. And then what would happen? I’d be attacked with a sudden miscarriage and have to face this tragedy once more?
The doctor agreed to give me the medication. I choked down the chalky pills, trying my best to dissolve them under my dry tongue. The grains stuck in my throat. I was told to expect cramps and bleeding comparable to a heavy period. I was told I would pass tissue and blood clots.
By the time we arrived home, I was drenched in sweat and writhing with one of the most intense pains I’ve ever felt. My body was wracked with contractions, I could barely stand. We spent hours in bed, crying, holding each other, watching TV, sending out mass texts. Making those few important phone calls. I tried to sleep in between bouts of pain.
Within several hours, I felt a horrifying pop and rushed to the bathroom. Fluid drained from my body. My water had broken. I wasn’t prepared for that. I glanced in the toilet bowl, knowing I had to pass clots to ensure this incomprehensible ordeal was over. I looked down, and in the pink tinged water, there were no clots, there was no ’tissue’. There was a tiny figure, just bigger than my thumb, obscure by the faint streaks of blood in the water. My mind reeled. This is not a blood clot, I thought. This is not tissue! This tiny, blurry figure with a discernible head and arms and legs was my baby. This was my CHILD. My heart shuddered. I felt electrified. Dangerous. Unfamiliar. My mind screamed, no no no no no no no!
I called out to my husband, whimpering, telling him what I was seeing. He couldn’t bring himself to look., was unwilling to attach his mind to such a haunting image. I stared down at the lifeless little form. How could this little figure mean so much? This tiny cluster, waterlogged in a toilet bowl, tinged with my blood and consequently, my tears. This was what was at the center of all that was tearing my heart out piece by painful piece.
This is not a goldfish! My head raged. This is your baby! Pick it up! Hold it, you will NEVER get another chance! Another voice rang in, steady and calm. Don’t touch the baby, it said. The baby is gone, has been gone a long time. If you pick it up, what will you do with it? Will you ever be able to let it go? Will you be scarred, more deeply than you already are?
Ultimately, with my husband by my side I collapsed to my knees and flushed, wailing, “I’m sorry!’.
I will never forget that moment. I will be haunted forever, by the memory I didn’t have of holding my little unformed child in my hands. In that moment, I felt like a mother. A mother damaged forever, lost with no child. A mother who has had to give up on every hope and dream and possibility that was lying in wait. I knew I would never be the same.
I would go on to spend days soaked in tears, writhing in physical and emotional pain.
I would wake with severe bleeding and a panic deep in my chest a few days later. I had to undergo a D and C, feeling, while I lay in my hospital bed with my bracelet, IV and the sickly smell of betadine, that maybe it was better to be here, where my loose hospital gown shows the world that I am hurting, I am sick, I need someone to take care of me now, because this is something I cannot do on my own.
My life has changed. My values have changed. my emotional strength and stability are changing every day. From one moment to the next, I am unsure and unclear of what is coming. I stand on shaky legs and search the skies for answers. Who am I, now?