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.