Truly I hate to beat this already dead horse. But I feel like this must be said and I must remember, year after year, on this very day. It was on this day, 8 years ago, that I started miscarrying the baby I had carried for almost 12 weeks. It hurts to remember the gut-wrenching sorrow that I endured on that day and the weeks and months to follow. It’s always difficult for me to remember… but I must.
Before that day, I was a happy-go-lucky, no-one-can-stop-me, innocent of all innocence pregnant lady. I was newly married and giddy about life! I’d bought (and read) all of the pregnancy books. We had already started discussing names for our little tyke. I’d bought some clothes and little things for him/her already because I just couldn’t wait for that day to come where I would meet this precious child. I’d lay awake, dreaming about this kid and what (s)he would be like, where (s)he would go to school, what friends (s)he would have, would (s)he favor mom or dad, couldn’t wait to smother him/her with so much love and kisses, and all of the ways (s)he would bring joy and love to our new little family home. Oh yes… I loved this unborn kid fiercely, with all of my heart.
That’s why I was never so shocked when I realized on St. Patrick’s Day that I was unusually bleeding a bit. Pregnant women don’t typically bleed, right? I’d known that all of my life. It was after hours, so hubby took me to the ER to be checked out. ER doctors…. God bless their little hearts…but I would have to say 98% of them have absolutely no idea what to do with a pregnant woman. So they did some blood tests. They helped make me comfortable. They eventually did an ultrasound…. But what did they come up with? They said the results were….. Well, they were inconclusive and I should probably just visit my OB/GYN first thing Monday morning. I left there with a knot in my stomach because I knew the truth in my heart. I truly believe they knew the truth on that day, but for some unknown reason they just didn’t give it to me. And I had to wait a whole friggin weekend to have it confirmed. That was really just the worst weekend…. Waiting, waiting, waiting, no answers, just waiting with knots in my stomach and unable to eat because of the anguish and impending doom I felt would happen on Monday.
Blessed Monday, it did eventually appear. I made an appointment with my OB/GYN, yeah you know, the one who shared a building/practice with like 3 others so that it was a giant, impersonal waiting area where I got to wait with seemingly every other pregnant woman the planet. Oh, I still remember the horrors of this day, and very vividly, in fact.
It was mid afternoon when they finally squeezed me in. Getting to wait with all of those other pregos was the joy of my life! (This is where a sarcasm font would come in handy). When my doctor finally did the ultrasound, all she could come up with were the coldest words I believe I have ever heard someone speak in my entire life. It was kind of a “tsk tsk…. No heartbeat. I’m sorry” Wait…. What? I remember the ultrasound. I still remember the feeling I got when I saw that picture of my beautiful baby, he was curled up and looked like he was having himself a good ol snooze time.
But there was no heartbeat.
He was in my womb. His heart was no longer beating. He looked like a sleeping beauty, but he was gone. I had her check again, just to be sure. But it was true. My baby had died. In my womb. I was carrying a dead baby.
And I was welling up with so much grief and pain that I didn’t know if I would even live through it.
The first best part was the coldness and lack of compassion on the part of my doctor when she confirmed my worst fears. I mean… Sure, she saw this sort of thing a lot, but how about a pat on the shoulder or a genuine “I’m sorry for your loss”, give me something to work with here, lady! The second best part was when I had to walk to another part of the office and sit there with a scheduling person schedule my D&C and go over really important things — you know, those things every woman wants to go over right after she’s been told her baby is dead — insurance and when can I come in for the surgery? and all of the ins and outs of the surgery. (Since this was obviously such a good time to go over this.) I was sobbing… Loudly. I felt like I was stuck in a horrible nightmare and couldn’t wake up. In fact, when it was time to leave, they “let” me use the back way out, probably so that I didn’t scare all of their other patients who were actually still pregnant. (Which didn’t include me, anymore.)
Daryl drove the car up and I limply got in it so that we could make our way home. My sister called and texted me…. “How’s my nephew?”, was the text I vividly remembered. All I could bring myself to respond, through blinding, hot tears, was “dead”. (Yeah…. Sorry for that shock and awe, sis.)
I remember the doctor. I remember her name. I remember her face. (And every time we drive by the building, my husband may or may not curse at the place…. This I can neither confirm nor deny.) But this isn’t a smear campaign for “really bad obstetrical doctors in Tulsa” — because although she could certainly take the cake, that’s not what this is about. (And frankly, once she performed my d&c, I never went back to her again.)
I went through 4 other miscarriages after that. I hope I never go through another one. Because each one of them rips a little piece of my heart away. Each one of them leaves a hole that will never be filled. Each one of them leaves behind dreams and hopes that can never be realized.
What must it be like, to go through a pregnancy, and never even have the thought cross your mind that you could lose the baby? What must it be like to be so innocent that, while pregnant, that you don’t worry and your heart doesn’t skip a beat every single time you use the restroom, for fear of uncovering evidence of a miscarriage? Truly… I know envy is a sin, but I envy any woman who is able to go through a pregnancy without these worries. I was that woman. Briefly. But once I encountered the pain of miscarriage… That innocence was lost forever for me.
But here I am, 8 years later, suffered through 5 miscarriages total and have 2 beautiful, wild boys to show for it. I wouldn’t trade any minute of that pain I went through. It helped shape me into the person I am today. And I would like to leave you, dear reader, if you’re even still there, with just a few pieces of friendly advice– The kind that only comes from having painfully experienced something for yourself.
When a friend tells you they are miscarrying, please don’t ever utter these words:
1) You can try again!
2) At least you have other kids.
3) You weren’t *that* far along…
4) It just wasn’t meant to be.
I know the words may be true. It may have been God’s plan. It may not have ever been meant to be. Some people can try again, some cannot. Yes, it’s a plus when you already have kids, but it doesn’t take away the pain. (i.e. It’s sort of like saying to someone who has lost their mom, “at least your dad is still around!”). But honestly… hearing them said is like resentful nails on an old chalkboard.
While the above mentioned are generally intended to be thoughtful, in my experience (but I can’t claim to speak for everyone), a grieving mother does not need salt rubbed in the open womb. Instead of offering the above well-meaning but meaningless thoughts, how about just a big hug? Are words really necessary? How about crying with her, offering your shoulder for her to cry on? Or tell her you’re praying for her (and genuinely do) and you know she’s hurting. Offer to make cookies or bring some food over. Check on her weeks later to see how she is holding up. What if we were to do these things instead of saying those above words?
These actions will certainly never mend her broken heart… But the fact that you care enough to act, instead of offering advice, would mean the world to her.
If you have experienced the pain of miscarriage for yourself (or even if you haven’t), I would love to hear from you. We are kindred spirits, you and I.