All these posts have been popping up on my Face Book newsfeed about October being the month in which we recognize and become aware of pregnancy and infant loss.
Which is kind of funny.
But not funny hah-hah. Funny weird and karmic.
Because five years ago, in October, I lost a pregnancy. It was in between having Jack and getting pregnant with Emily.
I purposely say I lost a pregnancy and not a baby. Because it was early on– only 10 weeks– and I really didn’t think of it as a “baby”. It was more or less a clump of cells. And it didn’t grow the right way after it implanted in my uterus. It was science, really. But it was also heartbreaking.
I found out there was no heartbeat at the eight week “confirmation” appointment, when a tech stuck a wand up my lady parts after unsuccessfully trying to probe my flabby abdomen.
I’ll never forget her words, “Yeah, there’s nothing in there.” She went off to find a doctor to confirm what she had already confirmed. No baby.
It was an awful experience, and my husband had stayed home with Jack so I was all alone in the doctor’s office. They put me in a chair to wait for a doctor, in a hallway where other pregnant women were wandering through for their own appointments. I wept openly. People stared openly. After it was all said and done, I promptly switched OBGYNs so I would never have to go back to that place.
A flurry of blood tests and ultrasounds ensued over the next few days, to “confirm” that there was indeed no viable fetus in my swollen and nauseous belly. It was exhausting and sad. I cried. Like, a lot.
No one had known I was pregnant other than my husband and best friend. For some reason, I hadn’t wanted to tell anyone I was pregnant. I’d been terribly sick and the combination of nausea and exhaustion led me to depression. It was like my body was giving me a message that the pregnancy was not to be, and to be completely honest, I didn’t really bond with it. Whatever “it” was.
So, I cried, but not because I was losing a baby.
I cried because I was really tired. I cried because it was unfair that I had been so sick and my boobs had been so sore and it was all for naught. I cried because I was pissed about having to pay the deductible on my insurance for emergency room visits and an operation because my body couldn’t even miscarry a baby properly, let alone carry one.
And that was the rub.
I felt like a failure.
I was embarrassed and angry with my body’s ineptitude to grow a human.
It sounds ridiculous, I know. But after living in a certain shell of muscle, fat, water, and bone for 30-something years, I had grown into the assumption that I could expect certain things from my earthen vessel. And when it failed me, I faltered.
Back then, when I lost this pregnancy, I didn’t want anyone to know. I had to take a leave of absence from work for three weeks because my body wouldn’t stop bleeding, and my blood count dropped, and I could barely get out of bed. No one other than my direct supervisor knew what was happening to me. That was both comforting and isolating. I thought to lie to people and tell them I had Lyme Disease, or mono, or a psychotic break– anything would be less humiliating than admitting I’d had a miscarriage.
Furthermore, I did not want to see the look of pity in people’s eyes, and I did not know how I would respond when they offered words of condolence. I didn’t know how to explain that I was not sad about losing a baby. I was sad about my body failing.
Looking back on this experience, through the veil of time, I can see it was a very transformative time for me. I learned some truly humbling lessons about myself, my body, and life. I also learned about the strength of my family, the adoration of my husband, and the treasure of Jack’s presence in our lives.
I’m not ashamed to talk about my miscarriage anymore. And even though that pregnancy never took the shape of a baby in my womb or mind, it left an indelible imprint on my heart as both a woman and a mom.
Women have all kinds of feelings about pregnancy losses. None of those feelings are wrong, or better, or worse, or right. They are all just feelings.
A friend of mine from work had been pregnant at the same time as me. She was further along, and had her baby a few weeks after I finally “completed” my miscarriage. I continued to pat and talk to her pregnant belly, and it felt fine to me, although she had confided in me that she was worried I would feel bad. It’s a weird survivor’s guilt moms have around other moms. But I was able to honestly reassure her that I felt nothing but joy for her.
A few weeks after that, she brought her new baby into work to visit. A tidal wave of despair smacked me off my feet and I couldn’t even look at her baby. It shocked me. I ran to my office, locked the door, and bawled. Fortunately, my friend is one of the most caring and understand people I know. She got it. And while she never held it against me, I’ve felt bad about that reaction to this day.
It just goes to show what a charged issue this is. We sometimes have feelings about it we don’t even know we have, or that we could ever have. I think part of this is our culture of multitasking and not really being aware at times, or suppressing and repressing intense emotions because we just don’t have time to deal with them. I think another part of this is just the inherently unpredictable and infinite nature of grief.
I’ve known other women who have lost pregnancies and who have lost actual babies– babies they have named and held in their arms and loved with their entire hearts. I would never lump my miscarriage in with their losses. I know I’ve glimpsed but a shadow of their pain, and yet, I feel a sort of camaraderie or sisterhood with these women. My loss was real too. It was different, but it was real.
Lots and lots and lots of women have miscarriages.
We are not alone.
And even after all these years, and all this processing, when I see those posts pop up on Face Book, I still feel some pretty intense feels.
It’s not a bad thing, though, because it lets me know I am not alone. That I was never alone, and in some way that helps to retroactively repair the self-imposed pain and isolation I felt back then.
You’re not alone either. If you would like to talk about your loss, please feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear from you, and to be here for you. xox.