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.