October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss awareness month. I’ve seen some strong sisters posting on Facebook about their personal dealings with this particular trauma and it’s had me thinking of my own miscarriage.
It’s been over 10 years and I still remember the details so vividly.
The day after Trysten and I told Zach we were going to have another baby I was on the floor of our local Y writhing in pain. A doctor’s appointment confirmed everything was fine with the baby and everything was fine with me, probably just implantation pains they said.
A month later we were returning from my nephew’s birthday party and I just didn’t feel well. I told Zach I thought I just needed a long nap but after waking up drenched in sweat we headed to the ER. My temperature was over 104 degrees so they admitted me, telling me if it got that high again it wouldn’t be good for my baby who was a few degrees higher than me as it was. I sent Zach off to spend the night at home with Trysten and settled in feeling better knowing I was in good hands at a hospital.
What felt like a few hours later a nurse came to check my temperature. The details are fuzzy here, probably because of how high my temperature was but I just remember her muttering, “Oh Tesi” and then yelling Code and pushing a button that made a loud sound. Nurses came running in, I felt them lift me up and set me back down. Then they were covering me with something, I couldn’t be sure just what. I went in and out of consciousness for awhile but when I finally came to enough to understand where I was I realized I was laying on and covered with ice packs. The same nurse that discovered my fever was rubbing my head and heads with something so I asked if her if my baby was ok. She looked at me and said, “I have no idea honey, we’re just happy you’re still with us.”
After she left I called Zach to tell him we had lost the baby. I had the strongest knowledge that it was gone that I just couldn’t shake, even after they confirmed a heartbeat the next day. The doctor explained there was a smaller chance of miscarriage now that we had entered the second trimester. He seemed so sure that I wanted to believe him.
They sent me home but a few days later I started bleeding. Zach wanted to go to the hospital but I knew it was too late.
When we went in the next day I’ll never forget the face of the woman who did my ultrasound. She knew immediately, as did we, but she couldn’t tell us. I started shaking as she made us wait for the doctor to deliver the news. He wanted us to go right in to the hospital to perform a DNC.
After I woke up from anesthetisa I began yelling, “I want my husband! Bring my husband to me!” A friendly nurse came up to me and said I wasn’t ready to see visitors but I wasn’t having it. We had just lost a baby, I wanted only someone who knew what that felt like to be with me. She finally sent me to my room when I wouldn’t stop screaming for Zach. It’s so unlike me to be so vocal I can’t believe I did that but I did.
I thought that was the end of it, that life would move on. Many women had miscarriages and go on to have healthy pregnancies, I had women like that in my life. I tried so hard to shake off the loss. How could I be so full of mourning for a baby just a few months old? I didn’t even know him.
Him. I always knew it was a son.
A few weeks after that, while enjoying a soccer game of my brother’s I started to hemorrhage. I told my mom who was sitting next to me that something was wrong and as soon as I stood up she could see why. The chair, the ground beneath the chair and most of my lower body was covered in blood. We were in a remote, different part of the state so we covered the backseat with as many towels as we could find and drove me to the nearest possible.
Here the details become fuzzy again. I remember this time in snippets stretched out over years.
Walking through the hospital, a trail of dark blood following behind me.
A wheelchair, “Sit here ma’am while we get you registered.” Blood. Everywhere.
Being lifted onto a table, hospital staff taking off my pants and examining me. Blood. They are covered, I am covered.
I fall asleep. I dream of the baby.
Jolted back to consciousness. There’s a needle, they just shot me with something. It hurt.
They make me walk somewhere with my mom. I am scared, I’m so scared. So is my mom, though she won’t say it. So much blood. Why is there so much blood, Tesi? She asks. We walk silently afterwards, terrified of the answer.
I get to the room and then nothing.
I woke up to hear I had been taken back to surgery, some kind of balloon was inserted into my uterus and a connecting tube was attached to my leg. My uterus had collapsed on itself and was forming scar tissue. They had to remove all of that and then insert the balloon to prevent it from happening again.
The next months were spent in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals getting procedure after procedure done. The procedures were spread out just long enough to allow me to begin to process the grief and then it was a time for a new one. Reopening the wound, ripping out the healing, forcing me to start again.
I was 23 and had no concept of how to deal with that kind of grief and trauma. I didn’t know how to verbalize what it felt like to come so close to dying and then, upon losing a baby, almost wish I was gone too. I didn’t know how to tell anyone, not even Zach, that I wanted so badly for the floor to open up and swallow me whole the grief was so large and insurmountable on days.
Because I was 23 and a born people pleaser I hid my devastation so well. But inner turmoil has a way of showing itself so I acted in aways that would devastate my family-even years down the road. I felt so alone at the time. So many people were flippant about miscarriages because they happen so frequently that I didn’t feel a right to my grief. I didn’t understand how some women seemingly got over it-I wanted to be one of those too.
Sometimes as women it’s so hard to tell our stories, particularly of loss. The world likes to shrug it’s shoulders and chalk it up to hormones and yet our stories matter. We are the keepers of these memories. I am the only one who knew this baby on this side of heaven and his story matters to me. If I keep quiet, it feels like a betrayal of his memory, like it never happened in the first place.
Even the terminology adds to the grief. “MIScarried” as if I did something wrong while carrying the baby. “Loss” as in the same thing that can happen to car keys. I lost my baby the same way I lost one of my earrings. It’s so hard not to feel responsible when even the telling of the story uses words that blame rather than words that heal.
It’s also so hard to tell our stories because people get skittish when you talk about sadness. As much as people are craving honesty and vulnerability in this digital age, so many of us turn away to the brutal parts of the human condition. We want you to be honest but could you please put a smile to your vulnerability so we don’t feel so awkward when you tell us?
The truth is, I still cry about it sometimes. Dailah loves asking for stories at bedtime and a few nights ago she asked me about the baby that I lost. The kids know about this baby and so I was telling her some of my (less gruesome) stories and I started to cry. She rubbed my back and I said, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t cry over something that happened long ago. A sadness is a sadness no matter the time. It’s ok to continue feeling it forever.”
In some ways I think my miscarriage has helped me grapple with the loss suffered by my boys. One look at them and you would never know the tragedy they’ve dealt with in their short lives but it shows up in tiny, unmistakable ways that I catch every time because of what I have been through as well. I was so scared of having another baby and losing it that I spent most of Dailah’s pregnancy hyper-alert and awake. Of course my boys would be hesitant to welcome me as their mother, of course they would take some of their sadness and frustration out on me. It’s completely normal, I’ve done it too.
If you are or know someone who has lost a pregnancy or a baby to stillbirth just reach out to them today. Don’t say, “It was God’s plan” or anything remotely close to that. Just say something simple, “I’m thinking of you. I don’t know what you’ve been through but I love you. I remember your baby, too.”
After I lost my baby I received a card from my Aunt Glenda. In it she told me that upon hearing of my loss she pictured my Grandpa meeting my baby in heaven, and how happy they must be together. The image stays with me today, the gesture from my Aunt is something I won’t ever forget.
As a friend you won’t stop their grief but it might reassure them that their one precious baby isn’t relegated to their memory alone. And that might be enough to help them heal, even just for today.
My love to you mamas remembering your babies today. They matter, you matter. We might be internally beaten and scarred but we are alive to tell our stories, and sometimes that has to be enough. Peace and love to you.