Trigger Warning: Description of Miscarriage
Author’s Note: This letter was originally written as a personal email to a friend of mine to provide some comfort after her miscarriage. I refer to the embryos in this story as babies because that is what these particular pregnancies were to myself and my friend to whom this letter was originally addressed…and feel that it is the woman’s right to define her own pregnancy how she sees best exemplifies her personal situation.
I am going to pretend to know what you are going through. It’s not the same, but I have been there. “One in three” is the statistic I’ve been told. One in three pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Often, the woman doesn’t even know. It may be a late period, or a heavy one, or, maybe you’re going through what I did and you’ve seen the positive test, you’ve felt love for the baby and then you wonder what kind of fucking mother you must be if you hadn’t fucking realized it’s gone?
When I found out I was pregnant in August 2012, I was stoked. I did some quick math and determined that the baby would be due on April 13th. My hubby’s birthday is the 11th and my dad’s the 12th. An April delivery would mean that I could be back on the saddle in time for cyclocross season in the Fall! What could be better! As soon as that line appeared on the test, I was in love. You can’t help but to be when you get exactly what you want. EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO PLAN. The day after my daughter’s H’s birthday was my 8-week appointment. The midwife on call was U, who had attended H’s birth. She was so happy, and she hugged me and sent me over to the next office for the confirmation ultrasound.
I didn’t get to see my baby. The technician’s face went white. She was taking measurements and would only say, “It is protocol to have the doctor look at ultrasounds before we show the patient.” I said to her, “That’s bullshit. Something’s not right, isn’t it?” No answer, as she click-click-clicked away on the machine. She had me wait in a room while they reviewed the photographs. The room was next to the waiting room and the parade of pregnant women seemed never-ending. Like fucking Macy’s balloons floating over my head, shadowing me and my sadness. The phone rang, and it was the midwife. “Jessica,” she said in her measured German accent, “the baby’s heart beat isn’t there.” I don’t know what she said after that, but it was something like “It could be because the baby is actually only 6 weeks, which matches the size reading, and therefore there’d be no detectable heartbeat yet. We will try again next week.” But the tone of her voice betrayed her words. I knew what had happened.
I was alone. Not only was Hubby at work, but I. Was. Alone. I sat in the car and cried and tried to understand what had happened. My baby was gone. It had died two weeks earlier and I didn’t even notice. I felt betrayed by my body. My breasts were still sore. My uterus, previously exercised by H, was still subtly pushing out my stomach. I’m veteran baby-maker, general overachiever, and a fucking labor and delivery champ, so how could I have lost the baby? I felt like it was my fault and I let down Hubby, my family, and myself. I lost the baby. I was alone. It was the middle of the day and no one was answering their phone. I lost the baby! But it didn’t matter when the phone finally did ring. I was still alone. I had lost the baby.
A week later, I got the confirmation. My body had already started to dissolve the pregnancy, which is good, because at least I didn’t have to go through the pain of a D&C. But that also meant that the bleeding could happen at any time. I felt like a ticking time bomb.
It happened while I was picking H up from pre-school. September 13, 2012. I rushed home. I tried to keep H in front of me so she couldn’t see the blood. I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet and braced myself for what would come next. My hopes, my dreams. My “perfect” family. Lifeless life.
Since it was so early, it wasn’t anything to identify. But I knew what was there. There were first steps and toothless grins. There were creative hands and running feet. There were fights over curfews and veggie consumption. There was a little of me and a little of Hubby and then I had to flush the toilet and I died inside. There isn’t a Tweet for that. There isn’t a Facebook emoticon for the silent suffering of women who loses a child. There wasn’t a thing I could do but dry my tears, saddle up in a pair of sweat pants and make dinner. And I did. Because that’s what I had to do. Because that is what grown women do.
We create life, we carry life, we give life. But we also create love, carry love, and give love. You will always have your baby, whom you may have given a name, and I will always have TBD. (Arrested Development fans may laugh). And there will always be love for those babies. I cried on April 13th. I showered until the water ran cold and cried and I was sad.
I don’t know how long you will feel like shit. I don’t know how long you will mourn. But allow yourself to feel like shit and mourn and do that with your partner, because they also feel like shit and are also in mourning although neither of you may have the words to say it. You are not alone, although you may feel it. And day by day, you will feel a little less like shit and every day you will mourn a little less, and someday soon you’ll see two pink lines appear in a gray screen and you will be happy. And you might also be sad because you will wonder, will this be like last time? And it won’t, although it could be. Because every baby is different and every pregnancy is different.
I hope with all my might that you are able to bounce back quickly. That, once the physical healing is done, you get pregnant again and all is well and as perfect as it can be. Because it won’t ever be perfect. Because no part of parenting is perfect.
Even if you are pregnant with another baby, you will cry and wonder what your lost baby would have looked like, would have weighed, and what fabulously wonderful pithy Facebook post you would have used to introduce him to the world. And only you know how much you love him.
Regardless, I hope this helps. Gather your strength. You will grow from this. And when that awful day comes and you get a call or an email from a friend, or see the pain in another woman’s eyes when they look at your pregnant belly, you will do what all of us “one in three” do. Give quiet support. Give your story. Give your love.
Jess is a superhero living in New Jersey with her sidekick/husband. She enjoys her work in facilities management and reading Rosie Revere, Engineer (the book du jour) to her two small daughters whenever she can.