This is the most personal thing I have ever shared. Even some of the people closest to me don’t know my truest feelings about what happened. It’s still an open wound. It’s also the story that pushed me to start this blog. If you choose to comment, I would appreciate you taking that into consideration…
Neither one of my pregnancies were planned.
You read that right. Plural. More than one. I only have one child earth side, and I suppose it was meant to be that way. My son is a rainbow baby. I’ve linked to an explanation of what that means because I hate to define him that way. It is a term that I scoff at whenever I see it on social media because there is something so cloying and saccharine about it that I physically reject it. Maybe it’s because there has never been any comfort in that description for me, although I can see where it would be comforting for some. I had a miscarriage before my son was born, and it was the most excruciating experience I have lived through. For whatever reason, giving birth to him has reopened that wound. It’s a wound that is mostly healed but still weeps from time to time.
Think of it like cooking with grease. You know that if it burns too hot and you stand too close that it can pop you. You won’t see it coming, but it will sink into your skin and burn red hot. That’s what it feels like.
I’ve avoided this topic because my feelings are complicated at best, and they’re not open for discussion. I want to just spew them out into the world in the hopes that it will detox my soul and make me feel better. Like a bad night on the town. And for whatever reason, when you miscarry, you spend a lot of time comforting others and convincing them you’re okay and that you’re loss isn’t going to rub off on them. I don’t need you to be sorry or sympathetic. Save it. I need you to hear me and know that at least a few of your friends have gone through the same thing. I am 1 in 5.
The first half of 2015 was hard. I lost my two remaining grandparents within 10 days of each other. They both lived long lives and had been unwell for quite some time. We knew that losing them was imminent, but that didn’t make losing them any easier. I had no remaining grandparents, and the finality of their deaths and that realization was something that aged and unnerved me. My husband and I left for our second anniversary trip days after my grandfather’s funeral. Our anniversary falls in the early spring, so it’s not uncommon for me to be plagued with seasonal allergies and the occasional vicious cold. When my husband informed me of my grandfather’s death, I had been sick in bed the day before with a cold and temperatures well over 100. Knowing I needed to be with my family, I called in a Z-pak just in case what I was battling wasn’t a cold. To top it off, I was on my period. It was a great week.
The celebration of my grandfather was lovely and our anniversary trip was a nice reprieve from the somber weeks. Not long after our return, I noticed I was still feeling off. I was exhausted to the point of nodding off at my desk, and I couldn’t be enticed to eat, even by my favorite meals. My first inclination was that I still had the seasonal crud, but there was a nagging feeling and a morbid curiosity–surely I couldn’t be pregnant. I was on birth control and had been for years. But I couldn’t wait. I had to know before my work day was even over.
I went and got my favorite lunch (which was disgusting) and a box of pregnancy tests from the Walgreens down the street. I came back. I peed on one and what showed up was the faintest line I have ever seen. It was borderline comical. Surely not. I peed on another. Same results. I was shocked, scared, and confused. I tried not to panic. I mentioned it casually to one of my best friends at dinner. She laughed and told me that I was probably pregnant. I brushed her off and slowly sipped my beer. In total denial. I had saved one last test…just in case. I would take it a few days later. You know, because if I was really pregnant the HcG would build up. Right? I felt that panic you only feel when you are desperately in trouble. The kind where your stomach drops and your body begins to heat up from the inside out. You feel it deep down and it eventually makes it to the tips of your ears and top of your head. I hate that feeling.
A few days later, I took the last test. The line was darker. Unmistakeable. So I did what any woman who wasn’t planning a pregnancy would do. On the way home that night I went and dropped extra money on digital tests just in case I was a dumbass who couldn’t read an analog test. I also stopped at Chick-fil-a. If Chick-fil-a tasted awful something was horribly wrong. And it did. It was terrible. I couldn’t even finish it. I took one test when I got home. I knew my husband would be working late and I would be alone. Pregnant. It said pregnant. I just sat on the couch with it for a long time. Like it was a stranger who had showed up at my front door and tried to witness to me. It was tense and awkward. I couldn’t even look at the dogs. I wanted to text my husband and tell him to come home immediately that something was horribly wrong. Part of me was mad. We weren’t trying to get pregnant. In fact, we are actively not trying. That same part of me was terrified. Another part of me knew I should just feel grateful. Some people wait their whole lives for this moment. I was not one of those people. I had strongly considered never procreating. My husband and our lives together was enough.
But there I was alone on my couch and too bewildered to even look my dogs in the face.
The thing about digital tests is the results disappear after awhile. So I could pretend like it didn’t happen. But I didn’t. I hid the test behind me when my husband got home knowing full well that he had a terrible day. Then when he was getting ready for bed I placed it where I was 100% sure he would find it. Under the remote on his pillow. When he finally figured out what it was, we both just laid there shocked. How did we get here?
I blame the Z-pak.
Then I blamed God, misfortune, my cold, the Z-pak, fate, that stupid awful year, timing, luck…you name it, I blamed it. The timing was terrible. I had just lost my grandparents, we were both slammed at work, I was working on my passion project, and we were looking for a new house. And I was happy with where we were in our relationship. I wasn’t ready to change things.
I was a tangled mess of emotions. I was tired, sick, exhausted, and on progesterone which exacerbates every single thing that is awful about the first trimester of pregnancy. I couldn’t keep my pregnancy a secret. Not really. And the fact that I was blindsided by it made things worse. Planning is sort of my strong suit. It’s what I do for a living. It’s mostly worked out for me in life. I’m also the product of an unplanned pregnancy, and I swore that I would not bring a child into the world that way. Something deep-seeded was triggered inside of me, and I was in a mental downward spiral. I just wasn’t ready, and I blamed myself for not being able to pull it together. My baby deserved better. I would sob in my office alone. I would sob during lunch. I would sob on my way home. I felt deeply afraid and alone. I was not ready. This was not what I wanted. This is not how I wanted to feel when I got pregnant.
Days turned into weeks, and I started becoming more accepting of the idea. I was going to be a parent. I was going to be a parent. I was going to be a parent. Then I tried talking myself into the idea of being a great parent. I’m not ready, but I am going to be an awesome parent. We announced my pregnancy to our families. Their excitement was infectious. I was still terrified and unsure, but I was in a better place. I took my vitamins. I took my progesterone pills. We went to our appointments. We got to hear the baby’s heartbeat. Things were progressing and progressing well. Until they weren’t.
One day I was feeling particularly not good at work and went to the bathroom and saw the thing every pregnant woman fears–blood. It was just a small spot and not particularly red. I called the nurse. We played phone tag for a bit and finally when I reached her I was greeted with the comforting advice: “If the blood isn’t bright red and you aren’t cramping, don’t worry about it.” I was offered a reassurance appointment, but turned it down because my questions had been answered. Don’t worry about it. So I didn’t. A couple of nights later I had what felt like excruciating heartburn. I wallowed in the pain. I thrashed. I vomited. What was happening to me? I’ll never forget it. We were watching the Paddington movie. I will forever hate Paddington bear because of that night.
We went to our 10-week appointment a few days after that. It was the first appointment where I didn’t have to be violated by the giant ultrasound dildo. I dressed extra special cute for the occasion because I was excited. They couldn’t hear a heartbeat. Not super uncommon. Sometimes babies are turned and they are so teeny tiny at that stage they can hide. So…here comes the giant ultrasound wand. Still no heartbeat. She apologized with the straightest face, and it was the most vacant sound I had ever heard. She called it a blighted ovum. The baby stopped growing at six weeks. I felt the same feelings I felt when I found out I was pregnant. Panic, fear, dread. I vibrated. My face felt hot. My hands were clammy. I couldn’t eek out a sound other than, “Okay.” She told me that Blair, the wonder midwife, would come discuss my options with me. This isn’t what I wanted to happen. We were almost out of the first trimester. I was excited now. All this time I had just wanted to feel ready.
I sat in a small room. I remember thinking that the lighting looked green. I felt like when you see someone in the movies and they seem to get smaller while everything around them gets bigger? I felt that. My sweet husband asked me if I was okay. I was numb. I can’t remember what all was said. I just remember what I felt. I remember Blair’s smile and how much I wanted to feel comforted by it, but I was furious. I felt robbed. I felt sick and offended and irritated that the lighting was green and the room was sterile and the pictures on the walls were crooked. I was crumbling and people kept talking to me about what was happening with my body and I wanted to scream.
I felt like my body failed me. Why didn’t it do its job?! Why. Why. Why. Why. Why did it hold on to this baby that wasn’t there? The progesterone that I need in the early stages of pregnancy to maintain my pregnancy had a lot to do with it. I was asked if I wanted surgery to remove what was still inside of me or if I wanted to try and pass what remained at home. I chose the at home option. They prescribed me Cytotec and a pain reliever so that I didn’t have to have a D&C. I called my mom. I drove home on a beautiful summer day. I climbed in bed with my dogs and I cried. I cried until I made myself ill. I let my bosses know I wouldn’t be working for a few days.
The next morning after my husband left for work I took a handful of pills and inserted them into my vagina and waited. When the cramps came I cried. This wasn’t right. This is the pill women use for abortions. I wanted my baby. I took a pain pill and laid in my room in the dark and the silence. I passed the amniotic sac later that afternoon. I vowed then to stop thinking about what was happening to me as losing my baby. I couldn’t bear to think of my baby’s remains in my septic tank in a house I wouldn’t be living in for much longer. I ran a bath to ease the cramps. I watched the water turn pink. The dogs came to check on me and I held their faces from the side of the tub and wept. I stayed there until the sweet husband returned home to rescue my exhausted, limp body from the lukewarm water. It was torture and I blamed myself.
I blamed myself for being afraid to be pregnant in the first place. I blamed myself for getting what I wished for and for ever wishing I wasn’t pregnant. I never wanted this to happen.
I had a follow-up appointment a few days later to make sure that I had passed everything. The ultrasound showed that my placenta was still getting blood flow and still trying to grow. I had to take the pills again. My anger grew. I was hopeless. I was at rock bottom. I was floundering.
I took the pills again…nothing happened. At least nothing like the first time. I followed up. Placenta still there. Still getting blood flow. Still mocking me. My therapist suggested I mentally let go. I couldn’t.
They finally scheduled a D&C. They didn’t want to risk me getting an infection. At that point I could have dropped dead and not cared. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I felt like I had every ounce of feeling wrung from my bones.
We moved into our new house. I wasn’t even particularly excited. I just wanted to be in and to feel the comfort of home. I had spent the spring and summer pregnant or trying to get rid of a failed pregnancy. My surgery came and went. I felt alone. Even in bed lying next to a husband that adored me and with friends and family checking in with me I felt utterly alone.
My emptiness led to one of the worst Italian meals and dates that my husband and I have had in the history of our relationship. I can count on one hand (and not fill it up) the instances that we have legitimately argued. I have never felt more isolated or further away from him than I did that evening. I was angry that he would never be able to feel as vacant as I was feeling in that moment and that his body would never experience what it felt like to house another life and lose it. I have never wanted to flee my life like I did when we were on our way home that night. I felt like if he couldn’t reach me that I was doomed to feel like this forever.
I felt embarrassed when I had to tell someone what happened and angry when I felt like I had to comfort them when they apologized for my loss. I wanted to smack every single person that for a second had pity in their eyes for me. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
I wanted to move on.
I tried to throw myself into making our new house a home. That failed when I couldn’t afford a rug that I wanted because I had to pay for a surgery that I never wanted and that I never saw coming. I crumpled in the floor and sobbed and felt selfish. I was heavy on the floor in the sun with my husband’s arms around me. I was inconsolable and it started because I wanted a rug.
And then the Facebook pregnancy announcements started to come. The amount of people announcing their pregnancies right around the same time I would have been were astonishing, and I grew more bitter with every single one of them. I unfollowed people that I had been friends with since childhood. And then one of my favorite friends in the world got pregnant. She told me at my house in the kindest, most delicate way. She knew. She knew how I would feel. She was the one who had listened to me cry, gone with me to dinner, helped me eat the biggest cheese tray known to man, and taken me to see Pitch Perfect 2 (because you have to be happy watching Pitch Perfect 2). Here she was, in my house, sharing her most exciting news. I wanted to tackle her to the ground in my living room. I wanted to tell her to get out of my house. I wanted to cry right in front of her face and all I could say was, “Congratulations.” I tried to speak as little as possible for the rest of the time that she was over because I knew my voice would crack. When she left I cried. I felt personally betrayed and unfollowed her on Facebook too. And then I felt like a selfish asshole for not being happy for one of my favorite friends.
The next day while I was home alone, I did YWA “Yoga for a Broken Heart” and openly sobbed on my living room floor until I was sick and gave myself petechiae under my eyes. I screamed at God and the Powers that Be for putting me through this pain. I threw things. I pitched a fit. I felt like what was left of my heart was being poured out on the floor. I let my mind wander to places I hadn’t seen in a long time. I was terrified that this might happen to me again. I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to have babies. I was mad and felt utterly stupid that it took me losing my baby to realized that was what I wanted in the first place.
I isolated myself for weeks. Friends tried to comfort me with stories of other friends or family members who had miscarried. All I could think was, “Why does nobody talk about this?” I was a statistic. 1 in 5. 20%. And no one talks about it. No one talks about it until it’s already happened. No one talks about it until you’ve dipped your toes in the “I was almost a parent” pond. Some already see themselves as a parent. I didn’t. I saw myself as alone and a failure. Because no one talks about it. Why? Is it the hushed whispers leftover from 1950s housewives? Is it because I live in the South and it’s not something that is polite to discuss at the dinner table? Has the statistic always been 20%? Is it more or less because no one wants to raise their hand and say, “Hey, this happened to me and it sucks and I’m torn up about it”? The thoughts and questions sent me reeling. That’s a lot of people. A lot of women keeping something painful inside. I didn’t choose for this to happen to me so why am I acting like l ashamed?
Fate would have it that I got pregnant again really quickly. And I was terrified all over again, but for completely different reasons. I will never forget telling my husband and him replying, “In theory you’re pregnant.” All I could think was, “No…in all reality I am 100% pregnant, and we could lose another baby.” I was petrified throughout my first trimester. I had to take progesterone again. My psyche couldn’t handle me losing another. I was perpetually exhausted from my fear. I missed the naivety I felt when I found out I was pregnant the first time. I had just assumed that nine months later I would be cradling a teeny tiny baby of my very own. This time I braced myself for my body and biology to fail me again.I didn’t accept that I might have happiness until my baby boy was in my arms. Even now there are days that I hover over him and just watch his chest go up and down and hope and pray that he makes it until tomorrow. To say my loss has had an effect on my parenting style would be an understatement.
Even after getting pregnant and well into my pregnancy I still couldn’t follow my friends’ parental journeys on social media. I still clung tight to a little bitterness. Why was it so easy for them? Why had I been put through this torture? And even now that I have an amazing little boy, I still envy what seems to be the ease and general lightness they seem to have as parents. That’s not to say I’m a gray cloud of a hover parent. I’m not. But since this wound has reopened a little, I have a bit of heaviness in my heart. I’ll never know why it happened. Maybe it was because I wasn’t ready. Maybe it’s because there’s someone out there that needed me to share my story so they don’t feel as alone as I did when it happened to me. I’ll never know.
If you are part of the 20%, if you lost a pregnancy, if you lost a child, if you lost a baby full term, if you want to talk about it–talk about it. Get it out there. If you want to talk to me, I’ll listen. If you want to scream because someone looked at you with pity in their eyes–scream. I’ll never understand why women don’t tell anyone they are pregnant until after the first trimester of pregnancy. I understand it from the perspective that you can lose a pregnancy in the early stages, but that is exactly why I think people should know. Those first 12 weeks are incredibly isolating. I felt like garbage. All I wanted was for everyone to know why I was feeling and acting terrible. I wanted everyone to let me grieve my loss. I wanted to not feel alone.
I encourage you to talk about it. Even if it’s hard. I encourage you to break that mold.