“I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition—that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are—even if we tell it only to ourselves—because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about.” ― Frederick Buechner,
October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. This week I’m taking the time to share my loss. It’s not a fun or happy story, but it’s a common one.
As I feel the tiny movements of Baby Eden flicking around in my abdomen, I am reminded of the very different experience I was enduring just a year ago.
As Buechner points out in his words above, it’s important to tell our stories. Especially the difficult ones. Our sense of humanity depends on real people sharing real life, opening the door to vulnerability and connection.
Portions of this post were written in an email I sent to close friends and family immediately following the experience and it was a way that I processed my pregnancy loss at the time. As I read it again, I feel as thought the words may be comforting for those who have experienced similar stories with less support or community. My hope is that anyone who has felt alone, surprised, or angry about their loss will find some connection here and embrace the part of humanity that puts us in times of suffering.
We found out I was pregnant early August 2018.
At about 6 weeks along (mid- August), I called to schedule my first prenatal visit. That call turned into 6 more weeks of being put on hold and jockeying back and forth between my primary care and prenatal care, who were at an impasse in scheduling me my first prenatal appointment. Oh the insanity that is the healthcare system.
On a Monday (Sept. 24), at about 11 weeks along I felt like something was wrong. It’s difficult to explain but the best I can do is: I didn’t feel pregnant anymore. Call it mother’s intuition, knowing my body, or hormonal paranoia, I just knew something was not normal. Two days later, I went to see my primary care physician. They put a “rush” on an OB appointment and ultrasound. What does a “rush” mean? It means I would have to wait another 8 days. What would have been my first prenatal appointment was not available until Thursday (Oct. 4) of the following week. That being said, we took matters into our own hands and a couple of days later (Sept. 28) went to a non-medical ultrasound facility looking for a simple of answer to our burning question. Is this baby alive? Geoff and I watched the big screen as the technician told us that there was no blood flow, no heartbeat, and the baby had stopped growing around 8 weeks. No, it was not alive. And it likely hadn’t been for over 3 weeks.
From that Friday until Tuesday I was walking around in somewhat of a fog. I had just spent seven weeks planning, preparing, enduring for something that would never happen. All of a sudden, regardless of my successful business, my beautiful toddler, my loving family, I felt like I had lost a sense of purpose. So empty, yet still very much weighed down by the lifeless body suspended inside of my own.
I had so many thoughts. Does it know that I loved it? What if it didn’t feel like its life mattered if I didn’t know when it ended? Did it feel alone if I wasn’t aware of the moment when its heart stopped beating? If the medical system had gotten its shit together, what would it have been like to find out about the loss at 8 weeks and then walk around waiting for a natural miscarriage for 4 weeks?
These are all questions to which I don’t have answers.
On Tuesday night (Oct. 2), at 12 weeks “pregnant” I began experiencing labor pains (yes, ACTUAL LABOR CONTRACTIONS) and my body finally released the baby to be followed by what can only be described as a horror-film-level-gore (not, as the internet likes to say, “a heavy period”). While nothing life threatening was happening, I was pretty anemic and dehydrated from the ordeal. At home I couldn’t sit upright without almost losing consciousness. I’ll spare you the details but will mention that I ended up in an ambulance, taken to the hospital at midnight only to be administered IV fluids TWO HOURS LATER. Around 5 am, I was hydrated enough to be able to drive myself home.
This week has been one that I never could have expected or planned for. I did not know that you could carry an unviable fetus for weeks before an actual miscarriage took place. I did not realize that you actually experience an abbreviated form of labor for a tiny body that’s only been growing for 8 weeks. I was not anticipating the rollercoaster feelings of purposelessness, emptiness, loneliness, exhaustion, gratitude for my healthy child, utter reliance on my husband, and incredible sadness for the life I will not meet in April.
While this experience is still pretty fresh, I will say that so far I’m not suffering under the weight of questions like “Why me?!” or, “This is so unfair!”
Before this week, I was already aware of the statistics around miscarriage. I understand that it is fairly common. One in four women will experience a miscarriage and 15% of pregnancies are miscarried. This is mostly due to chromosomal abnormalities which would have made it impossible for the baby to live, obviously.
I’m not totally sure why I haven’t fallen down the rabbit hole of self-pity or questioning the universe. Maybe it’s the statistical knowledge, maybe it’s my personality. I will say that if there’s anything that I’ve learned over the course of my life it’s that 1. I am not in charge. and 2. Life is not fair.
Hardship doesn’t take into account if you’re a good person or bad person, young or old, full of good intention or malice. Lovely, kind, intelligent people get cancer, muscular dystrophy, and die in car accidents.
Life is speckled with suffering and so far, the greatest solace I’ve received is knowing that I’m not alone and I will take this moment to thank the many friends who have come forward with their own stories of pregnancy loss. Empathy is powerful and an example of how vulnerability is strength. Another way I find hope is in the conviction that this tiny and brief life had a purpose. A bigger one than I may ever realize.
The pain of loss creates discomfort, discomfort leads to change, and change leads to growth. For if I cannot grow from this pain, how will I ever find joy?
Harvard trained Psychologist, Dr. Susan David says, “ Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”
I believe this to be true as I look around and take note of the people in my life who have made an impression, lead me through me hard times, offered me compassion. All these people have endured discomfort, suffering, and sometimes blatant tragedy.
When I think about what I want for my kids, I find myself hoping that they never have to endure discomfort. Experiences like the pain of a breakup, getting cut from the team, or losing a loved one. But in that same thought I know that hard times are necessary for forming resilient, empathetic, and strong people. The kind of people that I want my children to grow up to be. So I guess I don’t really hope for a life free from difficulty, but that they would feel supported, loved, and recognize purpose in their pain. Confident that there’s light on the other side of their tunnels.
I don’t know why we lost this baby at this time, but I do know that there is light. There is purpose in my pain. This baby’s life had value and now that little soul, no matter how immature, is resting in the mighty arms of a loving Heavenly Father. While I am reminded that I am not in control of my life I am also asked to walk in love for others, trust in God, and compassion towards myself.
-written Oct. 2018