What you’re supposed to be reading today is three months worth of posts about how Emory was going to welcome a little brother or sister into the world on February 3rd, 2010 and how his mother and father were elated that their family of three was going to become a family of four. That’s what was supposed to take place this week. Instead, you’re reading about how on Monday morning we went in for a 12-week sonogram only to discover that the fourth member of our family didn’t make it.
Three months ago.
A little over 10 weeks ago, I peed on a stick and found out I was pregnant. We were trying so it wasn’t a surprise. We were so happy.
The next couple of weeks seemed far too easy. I continued following my normal routine. I even worked out regularly. I didn’t feel pregnant and therefore worried. I wrote post after post asking where the nausea was. Where was this pregnancy? Why did it lay so dormant? With Emory, I didn’t get sick, but I knew I was pregnant immediately and felt pregnant the entire time. But this pregnancy was very different. I even wrote that I would probably come to regret wishing for nausea. And as I entered the sixth week, that’s exactly what took place.
The nausea hit me so hard, it literally knocked me to the couch 75% of the day for almost two months. I became totally useless. I wasn’t able to clean or cook or care for my family. I barely showered. Toby Joe took on every role from cooking and cleaning, to working and paying the bills, to playing with Emory. I could barely get my son out the door to make sure he got some much needed sunlight and playtime. I was so sick.
Naturally, I wrote things on here—unpublished things—that, due to the outcome of this story, I will probably regret for a long, long time. And even if I delete those entries now, I can’t erase them from memory. My sickness was so intense that during my darkest moments, I regretted the pregnancy.
Writing that down now makes my chest feel as empty as my uterus.
Week 8. The Heartbeat!
I visited my OBGYN on June 24th and 8:30 AM. Staring back at me from that monitor was the strongest and tiniest heartbeat ever. The room filled with smiles. Mine was the biggest.
I called Toby immediately to tell him the good news.
The next couple of weeks moved along very much the same way. I was sick all the time, laid up and I whined constantly. We took the week of July 4th off to head to my parent’s house so that we could relax together as a family. Toby played with Emory the entire time as I crawled around alongside them.
I can’t say it enough: I was so sick.
I started to outrgow my clothing around week 10. I’d heard that this happens quicker with second pregnancies, so I didn’t let it bother me too much. I packed up my regular pants, and pulled out some old maternity clothes, sweatpants, and elastic skirts. I even went shopping! I bought some really flattering maternity clothes. I wanted to enjoy this pregnancy to its fullest, that meant dressing like a pregnant mother, enjoying the greatness of my belly because this was to be our last child, and therefore my final pregnancy.
Last week, I pulled safely into week 11. I saw the end of my first trimester on the horizon and hoped for a nausea-free period. We spent last week anxiously awaiting our twelve-week sonogram, but the nausea never let up, not once.
I’m not sure if things were getting worse for me physically, or I was becoming less resilient, but this past Saturday was brutal. I woke up and moved from my bed to the couch where I stayed all day and night. That day was by far my worst. (Although I had said that a dozen times prior to Saturday.)
Saturday night out of nowhere, I began sobbing uncontrollably. And you see, that’s the thing; prior that day, I hadn’t experienced the usual mood swings associated with being pregnant and I had them pretty intensely with Emory. I know all pregnancies are different and perhaps that was my body’s way of giving me a break, but I felt pretty solid emotionally the last 3 months.
But on Saturday at 8:30 PM, all of that mental stability hit a brick wall going 1000 miles per hour. I was suddenly devastated. I simply could not stop crying. I read stories that made it worse. I read a story about someone losing a premature baby at 24 weeks, that it had died in their arms. I sobbed harder. I fell to bed that night sobbing. I woke Sunday at 5:30 AM still crying. That lasted several hours. By mid-afternoon, I had gotten control of myself again and all of us went for a walk.
Looking back, I think—and I know this might sound crazy—but I think that’s when the baby’s heart stopped. And I think that my body knew it.
Monday morning had come and I felt better, excited about the sonogram. I could not sleep past 4:30 AM. I got up, fought through the nausea, showered and prepared myself mentally for what was to be a wonderful day. I packed a bag for Em to take to the doctor with us. I put on one of my nicest outfits, jewelry. I even wore make up! My husband would see his second child for the first time. My son would see his future brother or sister. It was going to be a great day.
We arrived early. I drank 24 ounces of water and nearly peed my pants while in the waiting room. My name was called. We walked in, answered a few questions and took our seats. A monitor hung from the ceiling above. Toby Joe told Em where to look.
And you see this next part? It’s the part I keep playing over and over again in my head and it makes me feel desperate, like a trapped animal. We were blindsided by what happened next, totally blindsided. I did not expect them to tell that the baby’s heart had stopped. I had prepared myself for other things, but not that. We had just entered our 12th week of pregnancy. Even the pregnancy application I had on my iPhone stated: “Congratulations! You’ve entered the 12th week. The chance of a miscarriage drops substantially this week.”
The technician measured my uterus first, checked it out for abnormalities. I saw our baby immediately, arms, legs, a back and head. Even the slight outline of a profile.
Then the air in the room changed. I think it happened when every muscle in the technician’s body tensed up. She took the sonogram device and bounced it up and down on top of my belly.
“I’ll be right back.” She said.
“Is everything OK?” I asked, knowing everything was not.
“I have to get the doctor.” She answered.
We waited. I suggested that something was very wrong. Toby Joe, forever the optimist, said everything was fine. He told me not to panic.
The technician walked in with the doctor. The doctor asked permission to look again. Fighting back tears, I asked her if something was wrong.
“We’re not seeing a heartbeat. But I want to double check.”
I covered my face and began sobbing. I heard Emory’s voice next to me, “Mama? Mama?” He was worried. My 2-year-old was concerned for me.
There was no heartbeat. I had had a miscarriage. It had happened sometime very recently as the baby measured an easy 11 weeks.
We were told to go home and mourn. I felt bad for us, sure, but I can’t imagine being a doctor having to break that sort of news to someone especially when they’re so filled with joy.
When we got home, my OBGYN called.
I was given three choices: I could schedule a D&C and have the baby removed at the hospital by her colleague; I could have the baby removed at a clinic where viable pregnancies were also terminated (and I’d therefore have to fight through a line of protesters); or I could wait it out at home.
The clinic surrounded by protesters was out of the question. The option of having it at home worried me sick because of how far along I was. My doctor informed me that what was about to happen was not at all subtle and that having it at home was going to be very difficult. (Translation: I would have seen hands and little feet, the start of a nose, mouth, a profile. And I’m crying again.)
I chose to have the D&C. But had to wait for two days.
Those two days were equivalent to what I imagine purgatory might feel like if surrounded by hell on both sides. We were zombies. We tried to play with Em, hide the pain on our faces. It was hard. But I think we did OK considering, Toby Joe more so than myself.
I spent the majority of Monday crying on our rooftop overlooking this great big city, flipping between two songs by the The Rolling Stones. Toby Joe, bless his heart, worked on damage control and sent out an email to all those I had told about the pregnancy. (I sent out a few as well.) By evening I had the worst headache imaginable. I took two Advil. Because I could. I ate sushi. Because I could. I had a Guinness. Because I could. I fell to bed crying. Because I could. I barely slept. Because I couldn’t.
Yesterday morning—Tuesday—was horrible. I woke up at 5 AM, still feeling very pregnant. The fetus was no longer alive, yet I had every last bit of the nausea I had had all along. I cried into my caffeinated cup of coffee. I deleted over half my contacts on Facebook, leaving only certain very close friends, people I know in real life, and family for reasons I’m still unsure of and will likely regret. I deleted paid for pregnancy iPhone applications, threw out the congratulatory “New Baby” folder I’d been given by my doctor, and wiped out my entire iCal through next February. I wanted to retreat from everything I had known, redirect my life, look to the genuine.
I looked outside at the falling rain, a fitting backdrop, and wondered why the story unfolding was making its way into my history.
Later, I walked to the drugstore to get a prescription that would soften and prepare my cervix for the following morning. As I walked down the street in the rain, passing happy, oblivious people, I thought, “I’m carrying a dead body inside of me. I am carrying our dead baby inside of me and no one here knows.” I imagined stopping one of them and saying this. I imagined the look on their face, what their response might be for a crazy person. And if it weren’t so damn tragic and true, it might be darkly comical.
By afternoon I gathered my strength. My mother was arriving and I had to focus on what was to happen the following morning (today) at 6:30 AM. This baby had died because it was never going to be viable—bad math, not meant to be, genetically problematic, whatever the reason—it was not viable.
That night, I inserted one of the pills I had picked up earlier from the pharmacy and fell asleep in my husband’s arms. I woke up two hours later in labor. Let me tell you, going into labor when there’s no living baby to welcome at the end is a heart-wrenching experience. I called my doctor at 12:30 AM to ask her how much pain I was supposed to feel. She informed me that as long as I wasn’t bleeding, I should wait it out.
I woke up the following morning (today) at 5:00 AM after a pathetic night’s sleep.
This morning, I had our baby removed at the hospital, which was an experience in that of itself. (For now all I’ll say is I will never be able to listen to “Wonderwall” the same way ever again.)
I will write about the D&C eventually, after I let it sit for a few days. Right now I am terrified of suffering from PPD again. I don’t have a new baby to hold in order to make it a little easier this time.
There is a great deal of mourning still to come our way, a great deal of pain to experience. I know this.
Today I feel as OK as anyone who went through this might feel. Physically, unfortunately, I still feel very pregnant. It’s better—the nausea—but it’s not gone yet. And the horrible taste in my mouth that’s been haunting me for months is still very prevalent.
Nature is cruel.
The sorrow I have felt over the last two days is sorrow I never knew possible. I searched for stories like my own online and found a few but not nearly as many as I yearned for and many dated back four years or more. Maybe this sort of thing is just too personal. Maybe women need to mourn alone. After all, I’ve never felt this alone before. I’ve never been so afraid of what the next minute might bring. This is why I wasn’t going to share my story at first.
But then I pictured a woman going through something like this one day soon. She’s inexplicably sad and in search of a little company. She is in search of comfort. This imaginary woman forced me to write today. Someone needs to try and be there for her should she come looking.
I’m not in the clear yet, nor is my husband, who is suffering as well. For all I know, I’m still feeling the effects from the anesthesia and drugs as I write this, but at least now I have a little bit of closure. I’m most definitely more empty than I was yesterday, but I’ve opened a new book up to a brand new page and I’m hoping the next story will have a much happier ending.