Are You Currently Pregnant?
I sat in the waiting room chair and read it again.
Are You Currently Pregnant?
What’s the definition of pregnant? I thought. Did the baby have to be alive? Was I still pregnant? And why did it matter right now? I was there to have my blood drawn.
Seven hours earlier, during a 12-week sonogram, a doctor had informed us that our baby no longer had a heartbeat. But the standard form born from America’s bureaucratic, medical womb was cooly oblivious to the facts: in less than 48-hours, I was scheduled to have the baby removed from my body.
Was I currently pregnant? I wondered.
I drew a question mark next to the “Yes” and “No” checkboxes.
I finished the forms and gave them back to the woman behind the counter. Written on a piece of paper next to her computer keyboard were the words: “A whore of a day.”
Earlier that day, I had met with a nurse at my doctor’s office. She sat down across from us and read questions from another medical form.
“When was the first day of your last period?” She had asked without looking up from the clipboard.
“April 29th.” I said.
She looked confused, certain I was mistaken. She stared at the form. I saw her eyes scan it, pen poised, as she worked out the math in her head. It’s as if she looked to the form to find out how one might proceed in this situation: “If patient answers A, proceed to question D.”
“Are you sure you didn’t have a period in May?” She finally asked.
“No. It was April.”
Her confused expression morphed into one of concern.
“I’m 3-months pregnant.” I said, relieving her. “But the fetus has perished. That’s why I’m here.” My voice trailed off.
Perished? I thought. I said the sentence again to myself. The fetus has perished? My thoughts had become a byproduct of a new and acute confusion. My response to this pregnancy sat somewhere between the profound attachment I had developed to the baby growing inside of me, and the manmade comfort I got from reminding myself that it was still a fetus, a sac of cells.
“I’m so sorry.” She whispered looking away from the form.
We left for the hospital at 5:45 AM on Wednesday. It had been a terrible night. Our son was up every hour from midnight until the minute we left. On top of that, I had gone into labor. My husband and I stumbled out onto the sidewalk in a daze.
The drive into the city that morning was a typical one. Our driver sped through the city streets with little disregard for those around him. The city was just waking up. The usual neighborhood drunks littered McCarren Park’s many benches, as a few well-dressed people walked past them on their way to the subway.
I am lover of mornings but that one was hard to appreciate.
When we arrived at the hospital we headed up to the 10th floor. They checked me in and handed me a bag with a hospital gown.
“This is the same robe I wore when I had Emory.” I said to my husband.
We sat down and talked for a while about the little things, mundane things. We discussed our upcoming vacation to North Carolina and probably having to cancel it. In truth, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around three women at varying stages of their pregnancy.
“I’m not sure I’m strong enough for that right now.” I said.
“I understand.” He answered.
We talked about the procedure and how I might feel after it was all over.
A young doctor, probably a student, walked in clutching a clipboard. “I need to ask you a few questions.” She said sweetly.
“What is your current mood?”
I glanced over at my husband, judging by the look on his face he found it strange as well.
What is your current mood? I repeated it to myself.
Did she want me to dissect my level of sadness, a level I hadn’t known existed up until two days ago? Did she know why we were there?
“Sad?” I answered uncertain.
After she left the room, Toby and I talked about how inhuman much of the experience had been. The great number of unnecessary medical forms that had been given to me, the inappropriate questions involved, the fact that following protocol isn’t always a good thing. We made a few Kafkaesque comments and tried to laugh about it. Putting aside the gravity of our situation and our intense sorrow, the unfortunate events taking place around us could have been stopped had each person put aside the rigid, bureaucratic protocol for a minute and tried to be a little more human.
The whole experience was morbidly comical.
We sat in silence for a while.
“So, yes to the autopsy?” I finally asked.
Autopsy? I thought to myself. Where had this word come from? You autopsy a dead person, not a fetus. And the testing would have nothing to do with the fetus; they would be using the placenta.
“I mean, yes to genetic testing?”
“I guess so.” He said.
I nodded. “But no to gend…?” I was unable to finish the word. I deflated.
For 12 weeks, we had excitedly discussed whom I had been carrying. We pictured this person as a small child, toddling behind Emory. But we weren’t sure, and faced with the option of finding out made us both fall to pieces. The moment we give it a pronoun, whether it be “he” or “she”, the option of referring to it as a “sac of cells” or “just a fetus” is off the table forever. There’s no going back. There’s no undoing that knowledge. While a side of me knows that this fetus probably stopped developing because it was very sick, the larger part of me pictured dozens of holidays, and a hundred first stumbles and falls. I already pictured this person crying, keeping us up at night, endlessly pooping, farting, and laughing. Finding out its gender would take us further away from rationalizing its sudden absence and move us closer to seeing him or her as a living, breathing person (with a name we’d already brainstormed) that had died.
Neither one of us know what we’d do with that knowledge. I’m not sure we’ll ever know how process that information, which is why that file will likely remain closed forever.
“I just don’t think so.” Toby said. “Not now.”
We held each other and cried.
Just then a cheerful doctor came in to let me know that it was time to say goodbye. I kissed my husband.
“I love you.” I said.
“I love you too.”
I have had several operations over the years. When it came to anesthesia, every single one of them was conducted in the same manner. I was either sedated or put to sleep entirely in a pre-op area and later wheeled into the operating room. Most of the time I hadn’t ever actually seen the inside of the OR.
But this was different. I walked myself into the OR, wheeling a tall IV bag alongside of me the whole way. I said goodbye to my husband at the elevator bank, walked through a sea of surgeons in the “Patients Only Beyond This Point” section of the hospital, and personally climbed onto the operating table.
The room was really cold. I found it fitting. My doctor placed a blanket on top of me. I told her I didn’t much care about comfort. She placed one hand on my belly and the other one on my right shoulder, “You should be as comfortable as possible during all of this.” She whispered.
Her pager went off. She walked over to the phone that hung on the wall to my right.
“How far apart?”
“I bet she is….”
She listened some more.
“Ok, well, I am in the middle of something. I’ll be down there once I’m finished.”
My surgeon was about to remove an 12-week-old fetus from my uterus and then immediately head downstairs to deliver a healthy baby. I couldn’t breath. I began to sob. When I closed my eyes, graphic imagery streaked the inside of my head. When I opened them, I realized I wasn’t dreaming. Where would my fetus end up later that day? Would it be burned? Tossed out? Used for science? Was it a girl or a boy?
Was it a girl or a boy?
I hope to never know for sure, but I think that moment is what insanity must feel like.
I felt envy for the woman downstairs, the one in labor. Perhaps she was in the very same room that I had given birth to Emory in almost two years earlier. I cried harder.
“This is just a bump in the road, Michele. Everything will be OK in time. You will have a healthy baby. This is difficult, but I promise you, this is just a bump in the road. You will get through this. You will get through this.”
I collected myself. I felt strong again. I would get through this. I will.
“I hope so.” I said. “And I hope that someday you’ll deliver Emory’s little brother or sister.”
“I look forward to it.”
The anesthesiologist started the antibiotics and it sent a dull, painful ache up my left arm.
I noticed that at some point the song “Wonderwall” had come on a radio they had stashed in the corner.
Back beat, the word is on the street that the fire in your heart is out.
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before but you never really had a doubt
I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now.
“We’re going to start the twilight sleep now. When you feel sleepy, it’s OK to close your eyes.”
And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I would like to say to you
But I don’t know how
I have a knack for thinking about every wrong thing at every wrong moment, which is why at that very moment, I began thinking the following: maybe I made a mistake, that as a mother, I had failed. Maybe this baby hadn’t died. Maybe we were wrong. Maybe they should check for a heartbeat again. Maybe it started up again.
Tears streamed down my cheeks.
And right before I closed my eyes and checked out of the room completely, my doctor put both of her hands to my face and looked directly into my eyes. “Do not cry, Michele. Please don’t cry. You’ll have bad dreams. Think about your son. Think about Emory.”
You’re gonna be the one that saves me
And after all
You’re my wonderwall
I did. I made the tears stop. I thought about Emory. I thought about his beautiful and crazy blond, Einstein hair, and the fact that I call him Professor. I pictured his infectious smile, his laugh, and his bright blue eyes. And just as I closed my eyes, I pictured a little boy with him—another blue-eyed creature.
They are running through a sprinkler together, their pale legs are covered in wet grass and all around us smells of wet dirt and newness, like a thousand healthy roots among a million specks of soil.
It’s late spring. There is laughter.
I would like to thank everyone who has reached out to me over the last several days. You all have helped me as I work my way through this. I am forever grateful. You have no idea how much it means to me and how grateful we are to you as a family.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. From the bottom of my heavy heart, thank you.
One more thing: Mom it Down posts will resume next week. I need a week or two to process everything and haven’t felt much like baking. Murray will return next week as well. He’s currently a full time snugger.
You are a brave, brave woman, and thank you for sharing your story with us.
This is purely excellent writing, Michele. Heartbreakingly sad and yet so beautiful. You capture the despair and retain the hope of your situation so well that it’s inspiring.
I hope you and your family continue to get through all this the best that you can. I think if you keep writing, you most definitely will.
Once again, you eloquently relate that which many may never be able to say out loud. Thank you.
The description of the ridiculous insensitivity of some aspects of the health care system like the forms which do not apply and the OR telephone call are a wake-up call to all in healthcare to remember that patients are foremost people.
“Please don’t cry. You’ll have bad dreams.”
I like your doctor and I’m glad you listened to her.
I want to come and hug you, I hope for the best for you and your family.
As difficult as I can only imagine writing this must be for you, thank you once again for finding the strength to write it.
So often, all the time, really, if you hear a whisper about a woman having a miscarriage, you ask if she is OK, and you hear that yes, physically, she’s fine, and she’s still able to have more children. And that’s that. You never hear anything else. And it’s really, really important for people to know that that “anything else” is real and painful and horrible.
I can’t help but think that this isn’t what you want to hear right now, but you are beautiful and so is your writing.
Thanks for sharing so much for so long with so many. You’ve created a wonderful community.
You are seriously one of the strongest women I know. I hope that when the day comes that I start having children I have one ounce of the strength that you do. If I am so fortunate to have even that one little ounce of strength than I will know that I can handle it because an incredibly strong and brave women before me taught me so.
Your words have brought me to tears. Again. I can only echo every single word that the others before me have written. Sharing is one of the most beautiful acts, truly born of compassion, that humans can do for one another. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing. I am so very sorry for your and Tobyjoe’s sadness and will be thinking of you both. ps. My sister-in-law and brother experienced a miscarriage two years ago. I had no idea what they must have gone through.
This entry was beautifully written, so raw and poignant. You brought me to tears. After I read this, I went and picked up my 5 month old, hugged him and thought of you and the pain I can’t imagine you are going through.
I am amazed that you are publicly writing about it, but I can assume that it is therapeutic on some level. I know writing on my blog is for me. I hope that women who are going through something similar, and those who do in the future, find this entry and take solace and comfort in your experience.
I am sending love to you and your family. Hugs to you and sweet dreams.
Thank you! Thank you for sharing your experience: it brings tears to my eyes. You are an amazing writer. Please write a book so that I can read it and send a copy to everyone I know.
I’ve been checking your site to see how you are doing. I hope that you had moments of joy with Emory today to help you through this horrible time.
I related to what you wrote today. When I went into the hospital to have a d&c I had to go to the labor and delivery ward. I was sent to triage where pregnant women were waiting to be admitted. A nurse came up to me and happily asked how far along I was, I didn’t really understand why she was asking so I said, “I would have been 10 weeks.” She gave me a strange look and left. She must not have known why I was there…
This must have been so difficult for you to write. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. It makes my heart hurt for you.
My heart aches for you and Toby Joe. Hugs to all of you.
I keep trying to comment lucidly but can’t focus my thoughts. All I can say is I’m so sorry for this experience for you and Toby. Be strong.
I’m sorry and thank you. Thank you, for sharing your intimate story with us, the internet. You are brave to share with such a wide audience. I am sending positive thoughts to you and your family.
So sorry that you had to write this story. Sending you peace.
I want to come out there and bake cookies and take care of all three of you…
Instead, just know that I am sending your family so much love. You’re all in my heart.
And tears are streaking down my cheeks–I’m glad your doctor was ‘there’ for you, know what I mean? Thank you so much for sharing Michele–you don’t know me from Adam, but you (and Toby and Emory) really were in my thoughts all weekend. Wishing you peace.
So much love to you and Toby and Emory.
this was hard to read – in a way that i know i’ll remember it. thanks for writing this, i can’t imagine how difficult it must have been.
Oh Michele, I’m so very sorry to hear of your loss. My thoughts are with you and Toby.
so sad to read, michele, but so meaningful that you wrote about it. i’ve been thinking about you so much. you will get through it.
My heart goes out to you. The post is beautiful. I am so sorry.
I have been thinking about your little family a lot. I hope that you are finding healing. Hug Emory extra tight, and give Murray some extra scritches.
this made me cry.
i still think you need to be a writer of sorts.
Thank you so much for writing this. A friend of mine just had a miscarriage and reading this has given me some sense of what she must be going through. You and your family are in my thoughts.
I am thinking about you. You are so brave to share your pain, so beautifully written. It goes right to my heart. I am so sorry.
Long time lurker here just to offer some words of support. I know how much you are hurting right now. I had two miscarriages before we finally had our sweet girl this past January. Just wanted to say I am so so sorry. This fucking sucks, doesn’t it? There’s nothing more to it. Hugs to you and love to Toby Joe and Emory.
Thanks again for your honesty and openness. You are so strong. Take care.
Thanks for sharing this experience. You are brave beyond belief. Be well and someday soon you’ll be writing about Emory’s brother or sister. We look forward to it. Peace.
Beautiful post. You are such a strong person to share what you are going through. I hope each days brings you a little more peace and a lot of joy.
I am so sorry for your loss. Your post has provided wonderful insight into what a woman (and a family) goes through after a miscarriage. Thank you for sharing with us and not holding back. My thoughts and with you and your family.
Your post is making me weep. I am so so sorry for your loss. “perished” seems like the aptest word to me in this case. I am so sorry.
And I am incredibly impressed by your bravery and grateful for your candor. I am 37, we are trying for our first child, and the odds are significant that I may go through this one day. I am sure your words are helping and will help many, many people. Hang in there.
Last Thursday, we got the results of the genetic testing from my D&C. We also found out the gender.
I think your instincts on this are spot on. If I could un-know it, I would.
I’m thinking about you and your family.
Michele, I’m so sorry. You are so brave and generous to share this nightmare with us. For those who have not suffered a loss, you have brought the experience home. We all ache for you, with you. We are sending you gentle hugs.
I’m truly sorry to read about your loss, I too miscarried our second baby, slightly different circumstances as I had a sense of foreboding from the moment the baby was conceived and I wasn’t given the option of finding out the sex. I’m sorry about that, I think I would of liked to have known… today, several years down the line I have a beautiful daughter that I thank the “universe” every day to have brought into our lives, I console myself somewhat thinking that she may never have had the chance to get here had someone else taken her place, I feel strongly that it just wasn’t the right time for that little one to come and join us and I just want to say to you Michelle, that this will get easier, time will ease your pain and you too will have a brother or sister one day for Emory …
take care and I wish you well…
I am so sorry. These are words that don’t do much to help. I know. I lost a baby when I was 18 weeks pregnant. I went into labor and somehow didn’t even realize what was happening even though I alrady had 2 children. Then my water broke and I knew it was over. I just kept wishing I could take those moments back, do something different. The doctor thinks I had an “incompetent cervix,” I felt incompetent. So many people said “Thank goodness, you have children.” I felt bad that I still felt SO bad. I had never felt SO bad in my life. I really wanted that baby, I was so happy to be pregnant. My husband didn’t want to get pregnant again, I was devastated (huge understatement). I cut off all my hair, laid in bed all day, cried, and made my friends and family crazy by talking constantly about how much I wanted a baby for months. More maternity clothes I ordered came in the mail. My regular clothes wouldn’t fit, I couldn’t bear to wear maternity clothes. I kept gaining weight like I was still pregnant, my breasts hurt. I couldn’t look at pregnant women or babies. I felt so much jealousy, something I was unaccustomed to feeling. I couldn’t believe something like that could happen to me. I was weird a LOT. My heart hurt for so long. My good friend had a baby, my husband’s ex had a baby, my best friend had a baby. My heart still hurt. I drank a lot of margaritas, even though I have never been a drinker. I tried to push through. It helped a little when my due date passed. My heart still ached. Then, I got pregnant again. I was so afraid to be excited. I was still weird. I had a scare at 18 weeks again and had to take Terbutaline (to stop preterm labor) for the duration of my pregnancy. I had a baby girl and she was perfect. My heart stopped aching. I wish there was some way to help ease your pain. I hope you can take me at my word that it WILL happen.
Many blessings to you and your family.
I am sobbing for you Michelle. I cannot imagine how painful in every manner this must be for you and TobyJoe. Offering sympathy seems bland, but please know it is sincere and yes, yes, you will get through this.
I wanted to post a comment when I first read this post but couldn’t find the words. I took several days to think about, hoping to find the “right” thing. Then I realized there is no “right” thing. All I can do is say that I’m terribly sorry for the pain and grief you and your family are going through. And I hope that knowing that someone you don’t know is wishing you comfort and strength at this time helps, even a little bit.
I am so sorry.
(When my doctor asked me the current mood question I just sobbed for about 20 minutes.)
This makes me feel so sad for you but so happy that my daughter is healthy, I was scared she wouldnt be as I had no idea I was pregnat until 20 weeks, was having periods up until then, I was eating things you shouldnt when pregnant, got drunk 2 times and did sooo much heavy lifting, things like washing machines and under counter refridgerationg. I was told I may of had a twin loss but I never knew for sure.
I wish you all the best in the future, take some time to enjoy your son, one day you will birth him a healthy sibling!
my thoughts and prayers are with your family at this most difficult time. thank you for sharing your inner most feelings. you are a strong woman.
I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for having the brave heart to share this. I’m sending it to a friend who has just gone through the same thing and is having trouble processing any feelings about it at all. I think it will help her to read your words. Beautifully written.
My love and hugs are with you. She was right… you WILL get through this.
Kerry and I pray for your family’s comfort and solace.
I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I am SO sorry. Two years ago I had a miscarriage and didn’t want to talk about it to anyone. My husband forced me to tell a small group of people (friends and family) and I am so glad he did. As time has passed I have been able to talk about it a little bit more, and you have summed up exactly how I felt . . . and maybe still do. I guess I didn’t want to talk about it because of the fear that people wouldn’t really understand. May God give you peace and healing. Thank you for sharing in such a public way. . . and helping me to heal up my wound a little bit more.
I’ve been away on vacation for the past week with no Internet but wanted to let you know that I thought about you every day. I am so sorry you have to go through this and am glad that you have the strength to write about.
i have read your words and they are so familiar to me. i share your pain and sorrow. my tears mirror yours. god bless you, your family, and your little ones.
i am in tears for both of us….may they bring us strength. may you find healing, strength and peace
Thinking of you.
I just wanted to say I’m thinking about you, and sending you mad love from here.
Having been through this nightmare, my God, I wish I didn’t know your pain. But I do. All too well. I don’t even know you and wish I could take this unbearable pain away for you. It’s a grief I’ve never felt before.
You’re beautiful words brought it all back. But I think sometimes you need to go back to remember where you were and where you are.
It’s hard to be grateful during such an emotional time. But I promise you’ll get there.
You and your husband are in my thoughts. I wish you a lifetime of happiness and a healthy, happy sibling for Emory.
[…] – As Tears Go By and My Miscarriage – “And just as I closed my eyes, I pictured a little boy with him — another blue-eyed […]
I had a miscarriage on December 24.2005. My first baby. I don’t think you really ever “get over it”. It’s just a tough, cruel part of life. But I believe that my baby is alive in “heaven” or whatever you want to call it, and is looking after my family on earth. I was blessed with a sweet little blue eyed boy, Sawyer, on June 1, 2007. He sounds a lot like your son Emory. Thank-you for sharing your story. Even after all these years I still find myself thinking “My baby would have turned 4 this summer”, and so on…Thanks again for the story, I think you will find that it not only helps you heal, but all of us in the world that read this and know that there are other women and families who can relate to the heartbreak of losing a baby.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. My husband and I had 3 miscarriages back to back. We have since gone on to have a beautiful baby girl. As a previous poster wrote you don’t really ever “get over it” but it will get easier.
Your story really brought back all the memories and the emotion and I just wanted to say thank you for your painful honesty. You and you husband are in my prayers.
Thank you for sharing this. Not that sobbing incontrollably is my hobbie.
I just started reading your blog. After todays entry I’ve poured over the last six months of entries. You are an amazing writer so much detail humor and a rich voice.
I’m sure as you hoped a woman in need of company in grief will appreciate you opening the up. I’m sorry for your loss.