Down the Hills and Round the Bends

My kids have a lot of Thomas stuff. And over the years, people have commented about it. I always just shrug it off. At best, they’ll think my kids are lucky. At worst, they’ll assume my kids are spoiled brats with far too many Thomas trains.

But there’s a story behind why we have so much Thomas stuff and it runs pretty deep. If I were to tell them how we ended up with so much Thomas stuff, they might end up feeling uncomfortable and I don’t like making our houseguests uncomfortable. So I shrug it off. Their worst assumption is better than the discomfort they may feel knowing the truth.

Back when I was going through fertility treatments, I used to bring Emory to the doctor with me. He was about a year-and-a-half when I started going (March, 2009). He was two-and-a-half when I stopped (June, 2010). I don’t think he remembers any of it. At the time, all he knew was that we very regularly visited a doctor. I packed a bag full of toys and snacks and we’d sit together in a big waiting room. He kept me company. Most days our visits were fairly uneventful. I’d have some lab-work done, maybe a sonogram or two.

On Friday, May 30, 2010 we packed an entire Thomas bookbag full of Thomas trains and headed to the doctor for an IUI. For IUIs, Em almost always came along because Toby had to be there as well. That day, Em wanted to take all of his trains and since he had a Thomas backpack specifically made to hold Thomas trains (equipped with a compartment to display favorites and everything) he had room for a LOT. Nearly every train, as well as a few tracks, came with us that day.

Toby’s part never took all that long. He was off to work in no time. My part took longer. Not only did I have to undergo the actual procedure, but I had to wait for the sample to be prepared as well. That usually took between 15 and 30 minutes. The sample was given to me in a tiny vial, the contents of which were usually pink.

Before our first ever IUI, I had no idea where to store the vial.

“What do I do with it?” I asked the tech. “Do I just stick it in my purse?”

“Many women put it in their bra, right here.” She told me, pointing to the center button on her lab-coat. “Keep it near your heart. Maybe it’ll help your chances.”

I sent TobyJoe a text message: I HAVE YOUR SPERM IN BETWEEN MY BOOBS.

To which he replied: THEY’RE DOING IT WRONG! NO WONDER WE CAN’T GET PREGNANT!

So, hold up. I know what some of you are thinking: this sounds horribly unromantic and unnatural. And it is weird. I’ll give you that. But at the time, it was just the way things were. The process became my job. We needed to go through this in order to have a second child. And believe me, I have had every last thought you might be having as you read this, even the terribly judgmental ones. It’s OK. I get it.

I won’t sugarcoat the truth. Ultimately, and it’s become clear to me now, I was being selfish. It’s that simple. I just really wanted another baby. Therefore, I went ahead and carried a vial of pink sperm around in my bra for 30 minutes and made jokes about it. I brought my kid to the doctor with me since we didn’t have childcare. I packed backpacks full of toys and snacks and we camped out so I could hopefully, one day become pregnant. I did all of these things and overlooked all the weirdness involved because I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t let it go. I wanted so badly for my son to have a sibling.

I was unlucky to have to experience it, but lucky I was able to.

So, yeah, about those trains. After you pick up your sample, you wait a bit longer for the doctor to perform the actual IUI. So Em and I made ourselves comfortable in another, larger waiting room. I usually stared out the window (the office had a pretty decent view of the East River) while Em played with his choo-choos. Many times, there were other kids present, families in the exact same situation we were. So Em often had a playmate. Overall, our visits were pretty OK.

When they called my name, we packed everything up and headed into a room that looks exactly like any other gynecological exam room.

The procedure itself only takes about 30 seconds. But after it’s done, you have to lie there for a bit as it doesn’t bode well to get up and start walking around right away. And then sometimes they’ll want you to have some blood drawn, so we were shuffled off to the lab.

And this is where we left the trains.

It wasn’t until after we got home, did I realize they were gone. I ran out to the car—nothing. I texted Toby, letting him know so on his way home from work he could maybe pick up a few. He managed to find an L Train and a 6 Train at the drugstore. (Thank you, MTA!)

I called the office the following morning and a woman informed me that they did indeed have the bag and that they would put it aside for me. I told her that if my son was OK with it, we might not be back for a bit. I was scheduled to have a followup appointment two weeks later to check HCG levels (pregnancy stuff) so I figured that if we could wait until then, we would. She told me not to worry, they would be there.

We didn’t rush back right away. And I regret that. I was so wrapped up in myself at the time, I didn’t do the right thing for my kid. I didn’t drive back the very next morning to get his trains.

Thirteen days later, we headed back to my doctor’s office where he would confirm what I already knew; I wasn’t pregnant. Again. I was already feeling pretty down for obvious reasons. I’d failed for the umpteenth time at this seemingly basic thing. But when the woman behind the front desk told me the bag was gone, I fucking lost it. Right there in the middle of the waiting room, I went off the rails sobbing.

Now, I’d seen several women break down before in that waiting room. My breakdown wasn’t anything special. I was just another sad woman crying in the fertility clinic. The trail of tears leading to and from that place is Nile long and Amazon wide.

The woman behind the counter just stared back in bewildered horror, apologizing for her mistake as she was the one who told me they’d be there waiting for us.

I looked down at Em. He had been excited since we’d be getting his trains back. I talked about it all morning. He just looked up at me and said, “Choo-choos, mama?”

Tears poured down my face and onto the floor below. I was unraveling.

I was crying because I couldn’t get pregnant; I was crying because I’d lost a baby 11 months earlier and I still hadn’t properly mourned it; I was crying because my doctor’s office was going to close for 3 months that summer and everything would be placed on hold; I was crying because I completely fucked up and lost my son’s favorite backpack full of his favorite toys; I was crying because I wanted to punch whomever took the trains; I was crying because I didn’t have the energy to argue with the woman who broke her promise; I was crying because this was all my fault; I was crying because I failed at everything.

Everything.

I explained to Em the best I could why we weren’t getting his trains back. I explained that I would make it up to him somehow and that I was so, so very sorry. I was sorry for far more than just the trains. But he didn’t know that.

Well, we never got those trains back. The backpack is gone too. And I have often wondered about the person who took them, if they felt badly about what they’d done. It occurred to me that it had to be someone working there—at a fertility clinic!—where they worked with hormonally charged women, often heartbroken and/or desperate. I realized they must have been pretty ballsy.

I wonder if they have any idea how much pain they caused that day. Would they have even cared?

Later that morning, I called my mother and told her what had happened. She knew what I’d been going through. My mom was pretty crushed by the whole ordeal as well, and immediately went out to buy Em some Thomas stuff. At some point, she told the story to my aunt, whose job includes visiting dozens of garage sales every week. She hit the jackpot somewhere in New Jersey. That aunt told some of my other relatives, and before we knew it, we were being inundated with Thomas stuff. Em ended up with at three times the number of trains we’d lost that day.

I saw the inside of that waiting room once more after that. It was for an IVF class, exactly two days after I broke down at the front desk. And I didn’t know it at the time, but I would become pregnant with Elliot (naturally!) 8 days later. Who, incidentally, is the biggest Thomas fan I know.

Three Years Ago Today.

Three years ago today I lost a baby, and then this happened and a door opened up into what would become the worst year of my life. I stopped speaking to people. I ruined friendships. I stopped writing. I quit doing the things I loved. I became the Un-Me, someone I no longer recognized. I was living in grief 24/7, grief and failure. I was no longer the person I’d known all those years.

If you’ve suffered from infertility, you probably know what I’m talking about to some degree. If you haven’t, you probably think I sound dramatic. That’s OK. I probably would have agreed with you prior experiencing it firsthand.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to write about 2009—about my infertility—for a long time. I should have written about the ordeal while it was happening. And I have a number of regrets for not doing so. But I was ashamed. I felt like a failure. I was broken. Writing about it meant having to publicly admit all of that. I was too ashamed (proud?) to do that. And I’m sorry about that. Because I think many of you could have helped me.

Anyway, now I know. So I plan on writing about my experience because it’s a huge part of who I am today. I’ve changed a great deal specifically because of my infertility. And I suffered silently and didn’t need to. I need to set that straight, come clean, and possibly help somebody else.

I wrote for a long time tonight and wanted to post my story, but I realized it needs more attention and so I’m going to wait. However, today is an anniversary, not necessarily a positive one, but an important one so I needed to write something. Consider this a promise and a space-holder.

And forgive me for my silence.

My Due Date.

On Monday I took a bus from 14th Street all the way to the Upper East side. I enjoy riding the bus. Many people find that crazy, but I do. I love getting lost in thought while moving through the streets of Manhattan. There’s just so much to look at, so many things that don’t go together, yet somehow it works. It’s like I’m entering a diorama of my very own head—thoughts are free to come and go as quickly as office buildings, delis, taxis, and tenements. For an obsessive person, this feels quite good.

Right around 23rd street my thoughts came to a standstill. One of them tripped me up, stopped the flow of traffic. It was too fascinating to move around, too seemingly important to let go of. A thought that makes you go, “Huh.”

I think some thoughts really are better kept at 140 characters or less, so here is what I tweeted at the time.

Remember this post? I wrote the following:

If this story were taking place in a novel—if she were a fictional character—she might go to the delivery ward and sit in the waiting room watching pregnant women come and go; ankles swollen plump with water; cheeks puffy from practicing breathing techniques; bellies newly vacated and deflated. She might even buy a newspaper, like she did with her first, the one born right in the middle of a tornado, the first tornado in 100 years! Because that’s what fictional characters do—they do something poignant or peculiar in order to keep our attention.

Now, had S.’s sister called me, say, today and asked me if I wanted to visit the hospital, I’d have taken Life aside and had a word with it. Because truly, had Life done that—thrown me a curveball like that—I’d have wondered if Life was indeed toying with me. But as it were, Life was two days away from coming off as The Real Joker. No. Life wasn’t about to drop all coincidence, man-up and say once and for all: This is all happening for a reason.

Life ain’t like that. Life is mysterious. It keeps one guessing.

I could go on and explain moment by moment how Monday played out, but I’ll spare you the mundane details.

I shed some tears in the lobby.  If there’s one place you’re allowed to cry without anyone paying you much mind, it’s in a hospital. I texted Toby Joe letting him know how hard it was being there. And that I hadn’t really thought that it would be. I wrote that I needed to get a hold of myself for S.’s sake. That she may misinterpret my tears to be about her appearance or that things looked much worse than everyone let on. (Which, by the way, isn’t the case at all.)

I would not, could not make the visit about me. So I texted a few more messages to Toby and included a few obscenities about Life and I let out a couple of “Ha Has!” Because, it really is kind of funny if you think about it, maybe not in an Adam Sandler kind of way, but funny nonetheless. And I realized that this is something I think I have going for myself: when it comes to serious matters, no matter how difficult things are, no matter how sad or troubling they seem, I will find the part to laugh about.

But I digress.

I watched infant car seats get carried in and out of the lobby. I picked out the “It’s a Girl” and “It’s a Boy!” balloons and each one sent a thousand tiny gasps throughout my chest. Never mind the sick people, the people who were there for other reasons. I wasn’t looking for them. I was looking for the new life. I was looking for me.

And so I waited. Because that’s what one does in a lobby: they wait. And I thought. I thought about everything that happened, and everything that has happened since. I thought about where I might be in a year from that moment, where I might be sitting and if I’d still be waiting. I thought about the cheap plastic boxed gifts we buy people, the cards with sentiments that help us say the things we’re unable to say on our own. I thought about the power of hope and how it’s a damn good thing Pandora closed that box in time.

Hope.

Eventually I texted S.’s sister letting her know I was downstairs. I told her not to hurry, that I was fine and to come down whenever she wanted. I told her I was in the lobby, right outside the gift shop, the one filled with breath mints, junk food, and metallic balloons asking that someone Get Well Soon.

Don’t worry. I thought. You will.

NaBloPoMo: The Morning News: Sacrifice

A silent reader sent me an article today that had me in tears—huge, blubbering, messy tears. It was written in 2007 and for that reason, I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before today. I wanted to thank her for sending it along. And I’m not sure why, but I also wanted to post it here as well. (Warning: it is sad.)

It’s called Sacrifice. It’s written by Andrew Womack about his wife’s triploidy pregnancy. For those of you that don’t know this already, I had a triploidy pregnancy. It was devastating. His story hits so close to home for me, I find it difficult to read. It’s so similar to what we went through, it sends chills up my spine.

It’s close to home physically as well; we live two blocks from the street he mentions walking down. Haunting.

NaBloPoMo: Don't Make Us Lonely.

Something you may not know about having a miscarriage is that loneliness is one of the worst side-effects. I can’t explain why this is, it just is. And it’s not a normal loneliness either. It’s not one I have ever experienced before, nor do I anticipate finding this type of loneliness within any other situation. It’s impossible to describe and when I try to, I picture words like hopelessness and darkness and other relatively empty descriptions.

For those of us that have experienced this loneliness, we eventually break free from it. We’re different at the end, but we get rid of it. Soon life returns to normal again and once we get there, we hope our friends and family will be there waiting for us. And we hope that they act normal too. When our friends and family don’t act normal, that loneliness has a way of finding us all over again.

Today I found out that a friend has been keeping her pregnancy from me. She told everyone we know, but excluded me entirely. Here’s the problem with that: when you’re pregnant, you get bigger. So you can’t keep the secret up for too, too long. (Especially with a second pregnancy.)

Her belly had grown since we last saw one another, but I didn’t say anything. Most people know by now that you don’t ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless she’s crowning. But then she just blurted it out.

“I didn’t want to tell you, because, well, you know…” She added.

Just then our other friend walked over and said, “Oh, did she just tell you the big news?”

And that’s when I realized that everyone knew but me—all of our friends. She chose to keep it from me.

I said congratulations and meant it. Then I stood there like a fool, no idea what I was supposed to say next, like I had forgotten my lines. How do I react now? I thought. Everything that came to mind seemed off, like I was supposed to follow some anticipated response, their anticipated response.

I understand her intentions, which is why I’m writing this today. Her intentionally keeping this from me until it was impossible not to, made me feel lonely all over again—like I was the odd man out, damaged goods, cringe-worthy. She did not treat me like she had treated everyone else. She made me different. And that hurt. It hurt so much more than the hurt she thought she was sheltering me from.

I can’t speak for every person that has had a miscarriage, but I’m willing to bet there are others that feel the way I do. So. If you know someone that has gone through a miscarriage and has arrived on the other side, please be normal. We want you to treat us like you do everybody else. Don’t put on kid gloves. Don’t avoid us because you’re afraid you’ll break our hearts. Don’t put us in the corner by ourselves. We want to feel normal.

Post Miscarriage: 8 Weeks Later.

It’s been 8 weeks since the D&C and miscarriage. I’ve received some email asking how things are going and I’m just now getting around to answering that question.

Physically

I’m (finally) no longer pregnant. It took a while as many of you suggested it might. And it was frustrating, more frustrating than I can possibly say, but eventually things worked themselves out. What I find most interesting about the whole ordeal is that I got back on track physically right around the same time I felt solid mentally—like really solid. There were days I hated biology with every ounce of my being (sort of like when people hate the weather when it interferes with their sporting events or vacations), but perhaps it did me a favor.

Now that time has passed and I feel better, I realized once again that body and mind are not two separate entities. Why I tend to separate the two, I have no idea. All I know is that instead of hating biology so very much, I should have seen it as a necessary mourning period. Granted, I didn’t want to hear that back then. I don’t want to hear that now. You try telling that to a woman after a miscarriage, a woman who’s had her future ripped out from under her and wants nothing more than to get that future back again. She’s going to tell you to kindly shut the hell up. And if she’s too much of a wimp to say that to your face, she’ll be thinking it.

But retrospect is funny.

Mentally

I feel like a different person. There were days back then when I seriously questioned whether or not I was going to survive. No joke! It reads a bit melodramatic now, but I really felt that way. Granted, I did suffer postpartum depression again, and to put it bluntly: that sucked. But a month or so after the miscarriage, things started to get a little brighter; six weeks later, brighter still. I’m now 8 weeks out and I feel OK again, happy even.

I suggested right after the miscarriage, that I wasn’t the same person I used to be. And that’s still true. The difference is, I wasn’t particularly pleased with that fact back then. I worried I might not like the new person I was becoming, that she might be too cynical and bitter, resentful and anxious. But I’m not. I came out OK, hopeful even. In fact, this miscarriage put into perspective a great deal that I probably would have continued to ignore had it not happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’d do anything to not have a miscarriage be a part of my history, but since it is, I’m trying to see it in a positive light. (I did the same thing with 9/11 after the initial terror wore off.)

The cliché is true: sometimes really bad things give way to great things. I’m still waiting for the great this time around, but I have no doubt it’s coming my way.

On Motherhood.

Having a miscarriage made me realize just how much I love being a mother, and that my new title in life is Mother. I’ve been a little reluctant to embrace that fact. (Why do some working women feel that motherhood is somehow less important than making money in the corporate world?) Truth is, being a mother is a full time job, and an important one at that. I’ve said as much before, outloud with conviction. But it was only after having the miscarriage did I begin to see it for myself. Mothers are responsible for molding the next generation, a generation that will likely be saving us from the mess we created.

That’s important stuff! We’re important people!

(And don’t you forget it.)

On Womanhood.

I think the second biggest realization that came from this is that I love, love, love (times one hundred thousand) being a woman.

I received a great deal of email after my miscarriage. So many of your stories brought tears to my eyes. The pain many women have endured, the heartache they’ve been through, it’s baffling how any of us are still whole and haven’t lost our minds completely.

For weeks I read stories about great loss. But no matter how different each story, there was one common thread among them all: hope and strength. Every last email sent to me held at least one of those two themes. And that saved me from my loneliness.

Looking Ahead.

Who knows what the future will bring Toby Joe, Emory and me. But I do know this: I’m making it my duty from here on out to pay your kindness forward.

To my fellow women: Don’t ever stop reaching out to one another. I truly believe that by doing so we can save lives. We’re beautiful people, us women.

(And don’t you forget it.)

A Triploidy Pregnancy: Incompatible With Life.

We received the genetics report back from my doctor yesterday.

I had been anticipating yesterday’s phone call since my D&C took place a month ago. I worried that the report would bring us results suggesting that I had done something wrong. (I think every parent thinks that.) I worried it might be something on Toby’s end. I thought the report might inform us that there was something horribly wrong with our genetic makeup. I mostly worried about my age and the eggs I have left. But none of that was the case with this pregnancy.

Our fetus had something called triploidy, a rare condition incompatible with life.

From Healthline:

A fetus with triploidy has 69 chromosomes, rather than 46. The majority of fetuses with triploidy are spontaneously miscarried during pregnancy. Those that survive until birth will have severe growth retardation and multiple birth defects. This condition is incompatible with life.

This baby had a whole extra set of chromosomes, 69 instead of 46. It hadn’t had a trisomy after all, which is precisely what I had been feverishly researching.

I was floored by this information. The biggest question weighing on my mind at that point was: OH MY GOD. How did I go 11 whole weeks?

“That’s what I wondered too.” She said. “I’m shocked you didn’t miscarry sooner.”

She went on to tell me that this means there’s nothing inherently wrong with my eggs or my genetics and there’s nothing wrong with Toby’s either. She said there’s nothing I could have done to stop this and there’s nothing I did or did not do that caused it. She reassured me that should we ever wish to try again, there’s nothing that suggests we’ll have problems in the future.

We talked a bit more about how I have been and I thanked her once again for being so kind to me that day. She said I can thank her when she delivers my second child. And I wept.

It should go without saying that Toby Joe and I yearned for and imagined a healthy baby. But this was not that baby. This baby wasn’t the one we named or pictured in our minds. This fetus didn’t stand a chance at life at all. This baby simply wasn’t meant to be no matter how much we wanted it.

This information helped me immensely, but I still wish my body figured it out sooner. I wish it hadn’t worked so hard at keeping this fetus alive and for so long. And I’m left wondering if this is why I was so completely wrecked with sickness. But that’s something I’ll likely never know.

After we got off the phone, I began researching the information she had given me. I plugged terms into Google and it spit back answers. As I combed through information, I realized that she had inadvertently given me the gender. And I was surprised to discover that knowing as much didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I think that’s because I knew that this fetus never stood a chance at life, so this wasn’t the person I had imagined and named after all. (Or maybe it’s a defense mechanism, either way, I’ll take it.)

So, how does triploidy happen? Do you care as I do? The researcher and forever wonderer in me does care and so…

There are a few different ways triploidy pregnancies can occur:

From Healthline:

The most common mechanism for triploidy is the fertilization of a single egg by two sperm.

This is what is referred to as paternal inheritance (2 sperm, one egg). It accounts for 60% of cases of triploidy. The placentas are small and non-cystic.

The other mechanism is an error in cell division in which an egg cell ends up with 46 chromosomes instead of 23.

This is what is referred to as maternal inheritance (egg with 46 chromosomes fertilized by sperm with 23). This accounts for 40% of cases of triploidy and is often referred to as partial molar pregnancy, where the placenta is enlarged and cystic.

My placenta wasn’t enlarged or cystic. A partial molar pregnancy had been ruled out for me.

In our case, this egg was most likely fertilized by two sperm (but I am by no means a geneticist).

Had you told me about this disorder a year ago—even two months ago—I would have thought, “Wow, that’s some crazy rare weird genetic stuff. What are the chances?”

From Healthline:

Triploidy occurs in about 1–2% of all conceptions, but most of these pregnancies end in early spontaneous miscarriage.

Yeah, no chance that’ll be me.

Oops.

A month ago, when my life became such a blur I’m not even sure I was the one living it, my doctor called to give me my options. After we decided to schedule the D&C, we spoke more about doing a biopsy and running the genetics. I wasn’t sure if that’s something I wanted to do at the time. I went back and forth with her on this and finally just asked her, as a friend, to tell me what I should do. She replied, “Well, knowledge is power.”

I agreed to do it.

Yesterday was a bad day all around for many reasons, so when her call came in, I prepared myself for the absolute worst. If there was one day I needed some power, it was yesterday.

I realize that this post may read a little matter-of-fact, a little stony compared to other posts I’ve written on this topic. You’ll have to forgive me for that. But yesterday’s news brought me some closure, a little more strength and a bucketload of hope.

I’m still not sure if we’ll ever have a go at this again. I am, after all, 35 and not getting any younger. But I know now more than ever before that some things truly are outside of my jurisdiction, completely beyond my control. I now know that for whatever the reason may be, this happened to us because it had to happen to someone.

Instead of asking, why us? Today I’m asking, why not?

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before: I’m going to buy a lottery ticket. Because I reckon our place in the universe (statistically speaking) has a little bit of leveling out to do.

What To Expect When You're No Longer Expecting.

It’s been four weeks since I had my D&C and four weeks, two days since they told me they could no longer find a heartbeat. And, get this: I’m still pregnant. My hCG levels are at 79. They dropped a measly 61 points over the last 7 days. I still have pregnancy symptoms, yet no baby—no growing belly.

For lack of a better phrase? This is bullsh*t.

That means I have at least another two weeks of feeling pregnant. At that point, I can hopefully move on (at least physically).

What you may not realize about “having a miscarriage” is that it’s not just the act of losing a baby. It’s a long, drawn out process where you spend months waiting for your body to get back to normal again; it acts as a constant reminder of what has happened. And that’s just the physical aspect of it. The mental part may linger on forever.

So, for anyone who has ever thought, “Hasn’t she moved on? She can try again!” It’s not nearly as simple as one might assume.

Toby and I have not yet decided if we will ever try again. Neither one of us are strong enough right now to deal with what we just went through. I’m not sure I’ll ever be willing to face the possibility of having it fall apart again. And that’s what it’s all about, facing the possibility. Because the innocence and excitement I had regarding pregnancy is gone.

But say a woman does want to try again after having a miscarriage. Many doctors suggest waiting at least one menstrual cycle to do so, most suggest waiting three months. If a woman is above the age of 35, she is likely feeling pressure to try again right away. For many, that opportunity may not present itself until six months down the road.

So, has she moved on? No. Don’t ever ask a woman that. In fact, don’t even think it.

I’m frustrated. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m ready to move on from this, put it behind me to some degree and my body won’t let me. This miscarriage is all I have been able to think about specifically because I’m still technically pregnant. I still have the bad taste, the excess saliva, the heartburn. I still have the mood-swings of a pregnant person. (If you need proof of that, see this post.)

I am idling, watching the days pass by like a run-on sentence in search of a period. Literally.

Never have I felt this frustrated, sad, and pissed off. I feel like stomping on every petty complaint I’ve ever had, ridiculing it for its juvenile nature.

I’m not the same person I was a month ago. I’m not sure I’ll ever be that person again. And I’m not sure if I miss her or if this new person is the better protector. Either way, I’m frustrated.

She’s frustrated. Whatever.

I know that tomorrow will be better. And I know that someday I’ll feel lighter. But for now I’m idling and frustrated.

And pregnant.

Edited to Add:

Just when I thought the day could not get more emotionally charged, I get a call from my doctor with the genetics report.

Believe it or not, it made me feel better. I now have a little more closure.

My Miscarriage.

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.

“I know.”

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.

I nodded.

“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 10 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?”

She listened.

“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 11-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.”

Because maybe
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.

As Tears Go By

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 Mourning.

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.

Today.

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.