I wrote this on January 1, 2002 after my miscarriage at 11 weeks.
When I had my daughter, I wrote her birth story a week after she was born. She laid on her daddy’s chest while I recounted the events of her birth. I was triumphant and proud, overwhelmed with emotion.
Tonight, nearly two weeks after my miscarriage, I find the need to recount what happened. I waiver on the edge between an overwhelming sadness and a sense of peace. I never want to forget the life that was; though in the remembering there is much grief.
Things were not going well with my midwife. She was a friend and wonderful woman but was not returning my phone calls and seeming to take her time scheduling me for an early ultrasound to date the pregnancy. There was confusion and frustration on my part; I felt like I wasn’t being taken care of. I was afraid to push for what I wanted, after all, she was a friend. I didn’t want to “bother her.” My frustration mounted and I decided to begin the process of looking elsewhere for care. I called the four homebirth midwives on my insurance’s list and left messages around 5pm on Wednesday the 19th of December. By 5:30 that night, one had called back. I was in the middle of making tuna casserole-my family’s favorite cheap dinner. I spoke with her as I was making dinner. Violet was playing in her high chair. Mike was due to arrive home any minute.
“Honey, how far along are you?” she asked me. I started to cry. “I don’t really know. I thought I was only 11 weeks, but my midwife thinks I’m measuring farther along than that. She thinks maybe 16 weeks.”
“Why don’t you just come on down to my office. I have an ultrasound machine that can date your pregnancy right away to ease your mind. You could come on down tonight-though I know it’s late notice.” I didn’t hesitate. “I’ll be there at 7.”
Excitement! An ultrasound that night! When Mike got home we were both relieved and hopeful that this was going to be the new midwife. Mike couldn’t go along, though, because he had rehearsal. I drove to her office (30 minutes away) and fell in love with her birthing center. It was attached to her house and very, very nice. The midwife was dressed very formally in a suit and gold jewelry. She ushered me into the main room of the center and had me lay down on the bed. Violet played with toys in the next room.
“There’s your uterus—that’s definitely a pregnant uterus. See all the fluid? Oh, and there is your little baby. Now that is not a 16 week baby.” She moved the scope around a bit without speaking. “Honey, can you push in right here with your hand to hold your belly down?” I thought, “Oh, I’m getting so huge so early…my belly is in the way.”
She still didn’t speak. “Is everything ok?” I asked as I studied her face. She was very solemn. “Well, I’m trying to find a heartbeat, and I just don’t see one.” She moved it around some more. I focused on the little bean-shaped child and knew. My eyes welled up with tears. “The baby isn’t alive, is it?” I asked. “No, sweetie. It doesn’t look like it. I’m also seeing that your uterus is very jagged up here.”
“What does that mean?” I’m crying now.
“It means that this is a pregnancy that probably won’t continue.”
Somehow, I knew. Not on a conscious level or anything, but deep down, I had a hard time connecting to this baby from the beginning. I attributed it to working full time and having another child keeping me so busy. There were times I felt guilty for forgetting I was pregnant. Of course I felt connected to the idea of having another child, but this child’s spirit never reached out for me like Violet had.
By this time I was sobbing. There I was in a stranger’s office, a half-hour from home. I couldn’t call my midwife. What would I say? “Uh, I was interviewing someone to replace you and found out my baby is dead.” It was a sticky situation—how could I get referred without my midwife’s consent?
“You need to go to the emergency room tonight and tell them you are having terrible cramps. Make them give you an ultrasound. From there, they can refer you to a doctor who can manage your care. Make them listen to you.” She said.
I got in the car and somehow got us safely home. I called my dad right away and sobbed to him the news. He was sweet and sad and said all the wrong things, but he usually does and I could tell he was trying. I called my friend who lives in the same building at work. I choked to her that I had lost the baby and could she please watch Violet tonight and could she please bring me a pack of cigarettes. She was on her way home and would be at my house within 20 minutes.
The funny thing is that I actually quit smoking for this pregnancy. I hate to admit it, but I never quit with my daughter. I felt guilty and regretted it so much that I stopped for this baby. I still lost it.
My friend arrived and held me up until right before Mike got home. I didn’t know how he would take it and knew he needed to not have an audience when he heard the news. He got home and the first thing I said was, “Sorry that it smells like smoke in here. I’ve been smoking.” His face sort of contorted and he began to ask “What? I don’t understand.” I simply said, “Honey, I lost the baby.” He rushed to me as I began to sob. He held me up and supported me to the couch. His arms held me tight as he cried with me. “Oh Jesse. I’m so sorry” he said.
I told him about the plans and he, although shell-shocked, agreed. Our friend came upstairs as he was on the phone to his dad. It was 10:30 by now. His dad was asleep. After he was done apologizing for waking him up, he said, “Dad, we lost the baby” and started to sob to his father. Such a different conversation from when our daughter was born…those tears had been so happy.
We went to the hospital and were ushered right in. My blood pressure was through the roof and they were worried about me. But then we waited in our room for what seemed like ages before the on-call doc was in. She asked me a million questions that I tried to answer, but I was really just lying so it was hard. She was about to diagnose me with the flu. “It’s really going around.”
“You don’t understand, I think I am having a miscarriage. I need you to see if my baby is okay!”
She did pelvic exam and said my cervix was closed. “Must be a bladder infection,” she deduced. Shit. This wasn’t working.
“Look, I know I’ve miscarried. I had an ultra sound at a midwife’s tonight and she couldn’t find a heartbeat. She told me to come here and make you give me an ultrasound.” The doctor looked at me like I was a lying sack of shit and said, “Well, why didn’t you say that in the first place? Who is the midwife of yours?” as she threw the Pap smear swabs in the trash. I tried to explain but it was too much. I wouldn’t tell who gave me the ultrasound—I wasn’t about to get her written up. She was just doing something nice for us. She stormed out. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. The jig was up.
Turns out I did have a bladder infection. My labs came back that night showing a severe infection. News to me. A doc was going to call me the next morning to have me come in. I went home and fell into a dark, fitful sleep.
The next day I was seen in the early morning by an odd doctor who wouldn’t make eye contact and kept asking me what I wanted to do. I told her I wanted an ultrasound to confirm a miscarriage and then a D and C. “Ok” she said, like I was the boss. I have to laugh. My biggest beef with docs is that they are too in control of women’s bodies. This doctor was letting me do everything from diagnosis to treatment.
She did an internal ultrasound and a regular one. Baby looked bigger than on the midwife’s ultrasound, but the poor thing was just laying there. Sort of floating. No heartbeat. I kept looking at it, thinking I could will it to live. It looked so perfect and so beautiful.
She sent me to radiology where the u/s tech switched on the TV-sized screen for us to watch. She did a ton of tests on the baby. The saddest one was when she showed the heart rate line. It just ran straight. I burst into tears. I cried in that office for nearly a half hour. She couldn’t get her tests done. She kept saying how sorry she was.
So the D and C was for that night at 5. We arrived at 3pm and the kind nurse who gets me changed for the surgery told me she’d get me a pretty gown. They were all so nice, except they couldn’t get an IV in me. Finally, I had one vein left. We all had our fingers crossed. It worked. I still have the bruises on my hands from their missed attempts. Oh well. I call them my battle scars.
The rest is fuzzy, although deeply painful. I tearfully said goodbye to Mike before surgery. The nurse led me down the hall toward the operating room. We walked through the doors and the smell of hospital overwhelmed me. It was freezing and the bed looked like a modified cross. The arms of the bed were perpendicular to the bed itself. The arm restraints were clearly visible as was the body restraint. It was so cold. I was shaking uncontrollably. I got on to the bed sobbing. I lay down under the sterile white lights and knew this was the last time I would ever have my baby with me. I wanted to stop time and hold my empty womb, I wanted to die. I reached up to my tummy and whispered, “My baby, my baby…” The nurse took my hand and held it. “I know, sweetie, I know.”
I woke up in pain. Meds were injected. Somehow I got to the car. Somehow I got home. I don’t really remember much about the night.
The next day was better. I was up and down. We had a party that night (a dinner party at our house—I’m crazy, but I didn’t want to reschedule. I needed my friends.) I made a beautiful alter for the baby with all of the condolences people had left on Babyzone and cards we had gotten. Our house was full of fresh flowers. We lit a candle and I wrote a message to our child:
To our beautiful baby
You were wanted
You were loved
You will be deeply missed
Love Mommy, Daddy and Violet
I put up stars and fresh flowers on the alter. The baby’s ultrasound photo. The alter was simply beautiful. It helped so much.
A week later I went back into the operating room for another D and C. My uterus was infected and there was a large amount of tissue and clots up there causing the infection. The second time around was easier. The nursing staff remembered me. One asked what the baby’s name was. “Elijah or Isabella” I said. “Which do you think it was?”
“Elijah,” I replied. “Well, both Elijah and Violet are lucky to have you as their mommy.” God, the kindness of those nurses still makes me teary. They were angels.
I’m doing better. My heart still aches. I’m sure it always will. I believe that this did happen for a reason-though I am not sure why yet. Time will leave me the lesson, that I am sure.
In February I attended a drum circle lead by two shamans. The group meets once a month and was mostly women (except for the two shamans). They did a healing round and I told them about my loss and that I was having a hard time letting go of my spirit child. They did a round for me as I held onto various objects on the goddess alter. I had a vision: my child clung to my chest and was crying. I told him I loved him very much. He said he didn't want to go and I agreed. But we both knew it was time and he looked into my eyes. He said he would see me again. "I love you in this world and the next" my child said to me as he let go and drifted away into the universe.
When the round was over, I was sobbing and so was nearly every other person there. They had seen it too--they told me what they saw before I told them my story. They all said he would be back--the time wasn't right for him. Or me.
We have just started ttc again and I am so excited to begin this adventure again.
Thanks for letting me share.