I have this mental list of topics that I will write about here someday. You know, that day when I don’t have anything else to say, when I have time to write and think, and when I’m feeling particularly emotionally strong. Shockingly, that particular combination of events comes up less often than you’d think (although the “don’t have much to say” is a less unusual phenomenon).
Probably top on my list of things I think about but don’t discuss are the two miscarriages I had between the boys. I thought about them and — unusually — talked about them at the time. But then as soon as I was out of the throes of emotional convulsion, it didn’t seem like quite the thing to talk about anymore. Really, nothing kills a conversation like the following:
Me) Yeah, that week my husband got a new job, we placed an offer on a house, the Sox clinched a World Series berth and I found out I was pregnant! It was crazy!
Them) Really? I thought Thane was only ____ old!
Me) Yeah, the house, job and World Series worked out, but the pregnancy? Not so much.
So, like millions of women before me, I just don’t mention it.
I had two miscarriages, and they were both appallingly hard in their own unique ways. The first one took me completely by surprise. I got pregnant easily enough. It was a second pregnancy, so I thought I knew the drill. I was feeling a little better than I had the last time, so in my optimism I decided I was carrying a girl. She became Kitty, in my mind, after Schroedinger’s cat. (I had made a joke about how I was Schroedinger’s pregnant in that interim period when you know you might be pregnant but you don’t know if you are, and the moniker stuck. I found it highly ironic, later.) I was a low-risk pregnancy, so we didn’t do a 6 week ultrasound or any fancy-schmancy monitoring.
At about 10 weeks, I saw a tiny amount of spotting. Sure I was being paranoid over nothing, I called my midwife and went in for an “of course everything’s ok” ultrasound. I laid down, and told the tech that I wanted to see the heartbeat. She did standard ultrasoundy stuff. Then she moved the screen away so I couldn’t see it. Lying there on the ultrasound table the back of my brain processed. She was super quiet — usually the ultrasound techs are chatty and informative. Finally she said, “I need to call your doctor. Wait here.” And I knew. I knew I knew I knew. By the time my midwife was on the line with the “I’m sorry but” I was already into the shock and grief and it seemed like I’d always known. I went home and called my parents, pacing the sunny back yard. I gamed that night, and laughed and cried.
But. I was still pregnant.
They didn’t want to “take care of it” right away because there was a tiny chance (I knew there was no chance based on my home pregnancy tests) that the dates were off and it was just too early to see a heartbeat. So, we waited a week. The second ultrasound showed the same thing: no heartbeat. No growth. Nothing. My doctor told me to schedule a D&C. But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted it to happen that way. Unconscious in a sterile room with people I didn’t know, having something done TO me? Did. Not. Want. I asked if I could have the chemical versions. They didn’t have experience with them or confidence in them. I put my foot down, refused the scheduled surgery time, and found a study that was investigating how the drugs work in women with missed miscarriages. I had to wait a while longer before I could get that, though. In the interim, I attended my brother’s college graduation, praying the whole time that the issue would just take care if itself. I felt like a ticking timebomb, pregnant with a child who was, to put it quite bluntly, dead. God, that was the hardest part. By the time I actually got the drugs to induce the miscarriage, I was so ready to be done. I was 12 weeks pregnant by the time it took affect.
It had, of course, a huge impact on me. It took me a few months to feel like I was ready to try again. My previous cavalier attitude vanished. There were almost two traumas — the fact that I had already crafted this child in my imagination, my Kitty, and she was gone and would never be. And then the ordeal of enduring and arranging to no longer be pregnant — to have to be so intentional! — was a second layer of hard.
Then came that weekend in late October when I found out I was pregnant again. There was no reason to believe I would have any further trouble. In fact, my problem seemed to be staying pregnant when I shouldn’t, not an inability to carry a viable pregnancy. But I’d gotten myself put in a higher risk pool. So when I showed up at my midwife’s office right after the first positive, we immediately started doing bloodwork and ultrasounds. The entire pregnancy was like a “That’s good. No that’s bad” joke. The second blood test came back with levels of hormones that were lower than they should’ve been. The ultrasound showed an embryo smaller than it should’ve been. But then the hormones would go up and the embryo would be still grow. After a week where it didn’t, I went in for the “confirming” ultrasound that I had another missed miscarriage and…. there was a heartbeat. Half the speed it should’ve been, but there was a heartbeat. I have, somewhere in a box, the CD that has pictures of that heartbeat. None of us expected it, but there it was, bright blue and red.
I miscarried the next day, on my own this time. It sucked too. I never named that one, and I actually regret it. It’s as though without a name, I didn’t acknowledge the existence, and there WAS for a flicker of a moment, a heartbeat.
There is, of course, a happy ending to my saga. Two months after that miscarriage, I got pregnant again. This pregnancy was text-book (except for some placental excitement we didn’t find out about until after a safe and healthy birth) and Thane is a thriving happy boy. I am not overwashed with sorrow for the children I did not bear. The grooves of sorrow are being washed away by the waters of time.
So why do I share this? Why interrupt my happy mommy blog and talk about this ancient sorrow and risk nasty comments (which will, by the way, be deleted if you make them)?
After my first miscarriage, I actually gave a sermon on the topic. I was never shy about talking about what was going on with me. And the number of women who came up to me, confessed their own past sorrows and their relief at knowing they weren’t alone, shocked me. The statistics vary, but I’ve read that one in four or five pregnancies ends in miscarriage. So every other woman you know who has two kids likely also had a miscarriage. I think that in this century of oversharing, the stigma and loneliness is diminished, but I still wanted to offer my story, and my support, to the other women out there who might be going through the same thing.
You are not alone.