fade to black…

It is not that I didn’t fight to get pregnant, and once I did, to stay pregnant. I did the holistic creams on the belly, I drank the raspberry leaf tea. There wasn’t an internet in those days, so whenever some well meaning person had some “advice”, I was willing to take it.

When I found out I was pregnant, for the third time, I was surrounded by all of the people who chimed in with third times a charm, as if this was some fun game I had been playing. I was working the night shift, in those days, at a physically taxing job. Immediately my doctor (new to me, because I was always on the lookout for a professional who seemed to care) notified them I was a “high risk” pregnancy, and while it seemed my employers were very irritated, they were flexible. It was only three short weeks of their begrudging accommodations, before a 3 a.m. call for an ambulance had me on the way to the hospital. The pain and the bleeding had ripped through me, from side to side, like the slash of a sword.

I remember I felt all at once devastated and matter of fact, as though I’d been holding my breath and waiting for this to happen.

I lost my baby. I was just under 8 weeks along, and there were odd complications so I was put on 7-10 days of bedrest, determined by pain and bleeding. Ultrasounds were less frequent, I guess, because once it was confirmed that I was miscarrying, the hospital didn’t feel one was needed.

We passed the days reading cheesy romance novels allowed, in bed. (well, Chw still went to work, but when he wasn’t working…) Somewhere along the 6th day, I received a registered letter (which I had to get up from bed to answer the door for, which felt like the icing on the cake of that situation) that I’d been fired from my job. While it wasn’t a loss to the caliber our baby had been, we needed the money and panic set in.

I never did like pulling up to that production plant, after that, which was something we’ve had to do fairly regularly as my mother-in-law still works there.

The ambulance ride had ushered us into the era that felt so much like a numbed out version of shampooing. Scrub, rinse, repeat… Scrub, rinse, repeat…

My fourth pregnancy, sometime later, had me miscarrying at 7 weeks, only to learn three weeks later that I’d been pregnant with twins and one had survived. This sweet little survivor became known as our miracle. It was hard not to feel a shift in the universe with this plot twist. I was put on bedrest and I was determined to make “this one stick”, but at 15 weeks, I was once again in the hospital saying goodbye.

Throughout the duration of both of my following pregnancy losses, I remember very little. It seemed I’d grown so skilled at the art of miscarriage that I went about it completely blank. I remember settling for a deli job close to home, and a lot of tension because my husband’s employer threatened his job often due to the missed time he’d had, from ER visits and my hospitalizations. He took that frustration out on me, which is valid. We were young. By the time we lost our seventh baby (6th actual pregnancy), he was done. His biggest reason was grief at work. I was not done. My biggest reason was my achingly empty arms.

Some people mean well, with the words they give the grieving. Some people don’t stop and think about what comes out of their mouths at all. In the five years that felt literally defined by struggle and loss, I had a lot of such words.

One time, flipping through the channels, late at night, I caught a seen from a horror movie. The face of a character morphed into this terrifying demonic being. I knew nothing about the context. I wasn’t even one to stay away from scary movies. Even so, decades later, that face will still randomly pop into my vision, and I hate it. This is similar to the ways those words stitch themselves into our souls. I hate them. I don’t cling to them, but forever they are there, reminding me.

Reminding me of my failure as a woman…

Questioning if I’m even a woman, since I can’t do the one thing women were made to do.

Highlighting my flaws, and how God, or even those precious little babies, chose to leave me.

I’m older now. I know better. I know just what to do with those words (and frankly, their speakers) but this doesn’t take away the instant power to knock me down, that the wordy memories have…

This week, on the Rainy Day Collective Podcast, guest Ashley Cherie is here sharing her story with loss and how she has used that pain in incredible ways, to restore rightness to the world around her. Her story is so inspiring and brave, and I hope you’ll check it out!

~~~

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is something seen as unacceptable to talk about, by more people than not. The silence translates a disregard and implies that we should know how to deal with this trauma… Cliche’ sentiments tell us that this loss of life was meant to be.

It is imperative for women’s emotional health and well being, that we share our stories and normalize our experiences with loss. It doesn’t matter if the mother was a teenager, or forty-two, loss is LOSS. There is grief and trauma and so many things that are so misunderstood and, tragically, so many things that women are encouraged to bury and ignore.

This month I will be sharing my stories here, and others via the podcast and social media. I will use my voice and platform to spotlight resources. I will adamantly state, for the record though, that I believe the most powerful resource we have is that of connecting and empathizing with others… Through one of the most isolating and lonely experiences in this life, I want to be a voice that tells others this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

a little lemon yogurt cup…

I don’t remember learning that I was pregnant again.

I DO remember that we couldn’t afford a baby and I was panicked about how to keep the light bill paid, have some semblance of food in the house, and the timing seemed overwhelming. We didn’t even have the “luxury” of a telephone, which is a thought I cannot even fathom now.

Months into our marriage, it felt morally different this time. The deeply buried shame surrounding my first pregnancy, and loss, belonged in the past. This time it was all different.

I was differenent.

It was all right, and proper. Even though it heaped onto the stress of struggle, we were excited about this little baby our love had made. We saw ahead to only good things…

It was a completely ordinary day when the spotting occurred. In a panic, I went to my neighbor’s house to phone my ob-gyn first, and my husband (at work) second. The doctor wasn’t worried, but wanted me to come in anyway. My husband was trying not to worry, across the phone lines, as he assured me he’d be home as soon as he could. These were the days before cell phones. The days of a shared car, and living in the middle of nowhere because it was cheap.

I waited, resting and paranoia-still, in the embrace of our waterbed. It felt like it took forever for my husband to make it home. Eventually I drifted off, into a dream where I rocked my baby in a warm room, streaming with rays of dusty sunlight. When he finally came through the door, and woke me with a kiss to the forehead, I knew that everything would be ok…

It was different this time.

My engineer minded husband, with all of his facts and science, grew so animated as he told me about how he’d felt prompted to stop at a yard sale on his way home. He didn’t know why, but as he quickly scanned the table, he’d seen these three adorably vintage nursery dishes and he knew they were meant as a sign.

“It’s different this time!” He’d said the words I was gripping, so tightly, hope pouring from his mouth as a glint shone in his eyes. The hope from him poured all over me. I was usually the one who chased after signs and clung to the projected evidence I needed so desperately to believe in.

Last time, he’d been so detached. Wasn’t his presence proof enough that our baby would live? He was usually so negative, wasn’t his optimism the evidence I needed?

For the thirty minute drive, the man I loved chattered on and on about the nursery and how cute it would be.

“you love to decorate and I can’t wait to see the home you make for this baby!”

Signs, signs… everywhere were signs

In the waiting room I was, naturally, surrounded by other pregnant women there for routine appointments. I allowed myself to live in their energy. They baby bumps became more of the same signs I was seeking. I’ve been wearing maternity clothes for a few weeks now, once that happens, it’s obvious the baby is going to be just fine. I spoke the lies deep within the confines of my mind. They were naive reassurances for me, but also bargaining tips for God, as if to say “you’re the one who let it get this far, so don’t you owe me now?”

On the other side of the waiting room door, my doctor saw no concern.

The spotting was light. “Normal”, his monotone delivered. An ultrasound showed a healthy baby boy, and his words literally promised us there was nothing to be concerned about. He sent us home with bedrest instructions, and we floated the entire way.

My mother was my best friend in those days, and I was too elated of the news that our baby was a healthy boy, so before I headed to bed I went next door to make a collect call.

It had been just over four hours since the spotting had started, as I stood at Heather’s yellow phone mounted on her kitchen wall. I wore a flowery cotton maternity shirt and white capri pants. My own baby bump was small, but present. Since it’s appearance, my left palm always wanted to cover it. As I stood there, I couldn’t stop touching that tight, round tummy. I remember how divinely bright the world seemed, reminding me of my sweet dream from hours before.

Everything was going to be ok.

The call wasn’t more than a few minutes long. Even so, before I was able to cradle the receiver, I felt the unexpected crack of an egg break against the top of my head. I still remember the feeling of that imaginary egg’s insides as they traveled through my head and down… Down my center, gaining momentum and force, until it pushed through to my toes.

It was instantaneous and jarring. My neighbor Heather let out a small scream, jolting me from the confusion of the moment. I looked down to note the now crimson crotch of my pants and the red quickly pooling, at my feet.

I ran to the solace of my own bathroom, my husband on my heals. As soon as I pulled my underwear down, we saw it there, our boy. Pink and palm size.

I could still see dusty sunlight everywhere.

From a thousand miles away, I could hear my husband’s wailing. I knew I had never heard an agony like the one escaping him, but I could not take my eyes from that which I held in my hand.

Was this him?

Was he gone?

This wasn’t how miscarriages happened. It was too fast. It hadn’t hurt at all.

The doctor had promised

Heather’d had the sense to call our doctor, and then drove us in. They’d asked us to bring the fetus, so we put him in a large plastic yogurt container because what else were we supposed to do?

I remember, it was from an old lemon yogurt. Lemon was, oddly, the only yogurt I’d ever been able to eat, but I loved it and ate it every chance I could. In those days of poor man’s meals, yogurt was a luxury.

I spent the long car ride staring so intently at that cup. Beside me I could still hear the devastation of my husband. Even more distantly I could feel the quiet-wet of tears upon my face.

“Yep, that was the tissue.” the doctor delivered, as he walked into the our exam room. His tone was the same as if he were announcing the appearance of junk mail, in the mailbox.

“I thought he was going to be ok?” my voice cracked some, as I asked it. I realized I had spoken nothing, and that my throat muscles had been strained tight for far too long.

With a slight chuckle he responded, “yeah, obviously I did too.”

He reminded me, as if I’d forgotten, that I had experience with miscarriage and to just go home and rest like I did before. Nature knows how to take care of things.

There was no physical pain until later that night. Two ER visits later I had an emergency procedure done, sans anesthesia or pain killer, in the hallway of a Caldwell Idaho hospital, by a resident doctor acting on impulse. I held my husband’s hand and screamed. It was a pain I’d never known before, and then we were sent home with a prescription of codeine. As the days passed, the pain only grew more intense. It would take an entirely different doctor actually listening to me, to solve the problem with one shot. Eleven days later, anyway.

Those days had my husband running into interstate traffic because he was so overwhelmed with the grief he felt. There was walls punched, agony screamed. Every day felt like the emotional equivalent of the pain from the hospital hallway.

Those days had me numb to the agony of loss, while consumed by the shame I felt at having not been able to give him a baby…I knew that this horror he was living, was because of me. The guilt I felt over not going home immediately and instead standing to call my mother. If I had done as I was supposed to, I was certain our baby would have lived.

Also, I felt stupid… Stupid for hoping. Stupid for believing. Stupid for thinking we could have a baby. We couldn’t even have a home phone.

I would never buy a lemon yogurt again…

I was 18 and he was 20.

Our pregnancy had been just shy of 16 weeks along.

~~~

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is something seen as unacceptable to talk about, by more people than not. The silence translates a disregard and implies that we should know how to deal with this trauma… Cliche’ sentiments tell us that this loss of life was meant to be.

It is imperative for women’s emotional health and well being, that we share our stories and normalize our experiences with loss. It doesn’t matter if the mother was a teenager, or forty-two, loss is LOSS. There is grief and trauma and so many things that are so misunderstood and, tragically, so many things that women are encouraged to bury and ignore.

This month I will be sharing my stories here, and others via the podcast and social media. I will use my voice and platform to spotlight resources. I will adamantly state, for the record though, that I believe the most powerful resource we have is that of connecting and empathizing with others… Through one of the most isolating and lonely experiences in this life, I want to be a voice that tells others this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

holding space…

When I was seventeen years old, I was unmarried and terrified while wearing only a hospital gown in an early morning emergency room. I had woken up to a pooling of blood, on a friend’s couch, and assured that this was something a pregnant girl did not want to experience.

Prior to that morning, I had learned all sorts of things about being pregnant, and a woman, that I hadn’t known. I hadn’t known that my body needed sleep, or that I shouldn’t lift anything heavy, or that I should be drinking plenty of water… I learned these things from the parents of friends, who spoke them to me as if they were common sense. I don’t blame them really.

I was a child.

A child, growing a child, in my body.

And so, when I awoke, in pain, to bleeding, it was a 21 year old guy who told me that was a bad thing. I hadn’t known.

Terrified and young, in my very first emergency room, where nurses and aides buzzed around, not attempting to hide their disdain at my situation- I was a mess. I suspected the bleeding meant something could be wrong with my baby. I tried asking, but the worker bees simply ignored my questions and my fears. At times they would respond with their own questions like “where is your mother?” and “how will you be paying if you don’t have insurance?”

And my answers only left them judging me more.

The doctor who told me that I was experiencing a spontaneous abortion wore mismatched socks, smelled of stale coffee and reeked of the very awkward history we had, though of course he didn’t remember me. When I tried to use my voice to tell him I did not want an abortion, he and his nurse found me not worth the time an explanation would take.

For fourteen days I had daily trips to ER’s, to ultrasound appointments, to lots of waiting and bleeding, and pain and not being worth the time explanations could take…

For fourteen days I saw dozens of professionals instructing me to “come back” if this happened, or if that happened… And for fourteen days, terrified, confused and alone, I laid on a sofa bed and prayed I would bleed to death.

I had quilted together that I was miscarrying my heartbeatless baby, but that no one knew when the actual event would occur. I had been told by countless people that:

  • I was too young to be a mother.
  • I had no business being pregnant.
  • I was way out of my element.
  • I had been careless.
  • God was so disappointed in me.
  • I deserved what I was going through.

Amidst it all, literally starving and so hopeless about a future beyond that borrowed sofa bed, it took a former high school friend bringing me groceries to understand that kindness could still exist.

On the thirteenth day, my ER trip had a tennis ball clot fall from me as I stood to put on a gown. The nurse was annoyed and quickly pointed out that there was no tissue inside, so I really needed to pass the fetus quickly before things got worse. Despite her frustration at my inability to do such a simple task, the only emotion I saw from her was her annoyance at the boy loudly flirting with the nurse outside of the exam curtain.

That boy was my boyfriend.

On the evening of the fourteenth day, I lay on that sofa bed cramping and clotting and finalizing the horror of miss-carrying my baby. My boyfriend was upstairs with friends watching a movie about a plane crash, where survivors ate people. I prayed like I had never prayed before, that God would end my breathing.

Aside from that gift of a grocery delivery, I saw no kindness. Not from doctors, nurses, social workers, adults in my life or my baby’s dad. There were no phone calls to see how I was doing, and no “I’m so sorry” that my heart had shattered into an uncountable number of pieces…

It was clear that I was shameful.

The voice from the back of my mind told me this was true. It suggested my baby had gotten to know the mess of a mother she’d have, and she’d chosen to die instead. When I dared question the validity of those words aloud, no one really disputed them.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is something seen as unacceptable to talk about, by more people than not. The silence translates a disregard and implies that we should know how to deal with this trauma… Cliche’ sentiments tell us that this loss of life was meant to be.

It is imperative for women’s emotional health and well being, that we share our stories and normalize our experiences with loss. It doesn’t matter if the mother was a teenager, or forty-two, loss is LOSS. There is grief and trauma and so many things that are so misunderstood and, tragically, so many things that women are encouraged to bury and ignore.

This month I will be sharing my stories here, and others via the podcast and social media. I will use my voice and platform to spotlight resources. I will adamantly state, for the record though, that I believe the most powerful resource we have is that of connecting and empathizing with others… Through one of the most isolating and lonely experiences in this life, I want to be a voice that tells others this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

september scent…

Our first apartment was this great little space, loaded with character and charm. Though we have lived in many different homes over the past twenty seven years, that first place may have been the greatest, at least where uniqueness was considered…

We had moved in, in May.

The carved wood french style front doors sat a top a flight of metal steps, (the apartment was directly above a chiropractic office,) in the small downtown of a city. The history of the building was that a beloved Ob-Gyn and his wife had created the apartment on the second floor of this beautiful, old house, to be their residence. The main floor he had converted into his offices, and the once-carriage-house building in the back was renovated into their birthing center. By the time we came on the scene, however, many years had passed and each unit was rented out individually. Even so, it was a regular occurrence to encounter someone saying “oh, you live in old doc’s place! I had my kids there!”

None of that is remotely relevant to this post, but sometimes a fun rabbit trail of backstory is in order. Today, on this very average first-day-of-autumn, steaming cup of tea in hand, this moment seemed the perfect match for such a thing.

I was working the graveyard shift in those days, at a local food production plant, while my husband worked days at a glass factory. We were young, pretty naive and absolutely broke, but life felt rich despite what our bank account showed.

I had an elderly hispanic lady who lived a few houses down from our apartment, that worked with me. Fun little side note: When I first met her, I hated her. In all fairness, I didn’t like her because she was so mean to me. She didn’t have great english, and when she had been assigned to train me for my very physically demanding (no joke. I’ve never worked so hard, in my life) job, she was awful to me. I was 19 at the time, and honestly just wanted to do my job, and live my life, and also for everyone to love me and find me capable…

It had been a few days after we moved in, as we took a walk one evening, that I saw her sitting on her porch. She glared at me, probably thinking she was cursed that I was her new neighbor. This continued a few times, and then one night at work she gave me a small bag of vegetables from her garden. After some time passed, she approached me and asked if she could ride to and from work with me. She didn’t know how to drive, and it would make it a lot easier if her husband didn’t have to stay up late to take her to work, get up early to pick her up and work a demanding job in the middle. Though I still wasn’t her biggest fan, I was more than willing to help her out. By the time September approached, our long drive out to the Plant was one of the highlights of my day. I loved her, and have missed her since our days together. I can’t imagine how absolutely hard her life was. THAT JOB was hard, and I was young. I also can’t imagine how scary it would be to train younger, more able bodied people, when you desperately needed the job. I wish I had realized these things then, but how could I? I was a baby…

Anyway, it was one September morning after work, as my steel-toed boots clanged up those metal stairs, that the Scent of September met my nose. How I had lived nearly two decades and never experienced anything like it, I’m not sure. Suddenly, bone-tired and weary, I stood traveling through Septembers past. Apple picking in Gem County orchards… laughing with friends… camping in the mountains and bundling up tighter because the weather was cooling quick… angels in leaf piles… horse back rides through a sea of color changing trees… countless mugs of steaming ciders, cocoas and tees… hay rides with boys I liked… bon fires, sleep overs, first dates… walks home from school… bailing hay…

the flood just kept coming.

I suddenly smelled fresh apple crisp, and then the taste of fresh bread with my grandmother’s apple butter. My nose recalled the way that one boy smelled sweet, like honey, and musky like the color of amber, remembering my heart’s pitter patter at the way his smile stirred my soul.

There, on that step, one random September morning, I relived a million similarly ordinary September moments as if they had just happened.

No other calendar day has prompted such a magical montage moment like that, but somehow every year there will be an autumn day to tickle my nostalgic senses. I call it the Scent of September, because I don’t know what else to call it really. Creative, I know…

It always surprises me, catching me off guard.

It also reminds me that this life is beautiful, and magical, and that these moments, though fleeting, live on…

an afternoon…

The afternoon sun poured through the windows. The breeze carried with it the songs of the birds, high in treetops.

Full disclose, though I sat curled up with a book, a notebook and a pen, in the coziest chair my sunporch holds, this is not that porch.

I absolutely adore this image from Arno Smit. I would be in heaven over a room like this, but my husband, ever the engineer, would have none of it. He’d note the plank floor and old everything. It would never fly.

That’s ok, though, because I love this space of ours.

It was this very sunroom that sold us on this cottage, in the first place.

I imagined a napping daybed, for all of those glorious naps that I do not take.

I imagined late nights of cocktails and cards, which this room has proven absolutely perfect for. Beneath its dim ethereal of twinkly globe lights, many a beautiful bottles of wine have been shared over life sustaining conversations. Tears have been shed, cathartically; stories told, life lived.

It is the ghosts of these moments, the ticking away of the seven hundred and thirty-eight days that this room has been our home. We may grumble over the impossibly tiny kitchen, or the minuscule bathroom, but each whine ends in resolution when one or both of us sighs the sunroom…

The jars of tea brewed in this room, the books read, the chapters written… SO MUCH life.

Simply put, it’s a painted concrete slab of floor, surrounded by uninsulated window screens. It isn’t really wired for electricity, as it was a much-later-after thought to the home itself. Even so, realtor photos showed us potential. We looked at the space and knew the life it could live.

The lives we could live.