I have hesitated to write about this. Partly because I struggled to put my thoughts into words. Partly because, having found the words, I figure I’m bound to offend or hurt someone, as this is a very painful subject all around. Partly, also, because I find my reaction to the loss of my baby to be rather outside the norm, at least the norm that is talked about and written in books.
But, I’ve also noted that a common thread in any book or discussion about miscarriage is that women who lose thier babies feel that miscarriage is swept under the rug, hidden, not talked about, as if it’s something shameful or too hideous for the rest of the world to contemplate.
So here I am, writing about it.
I was only 13 weeks into the pregnancy by my calculation, but I lost my baby amid very real labor pain and what seemed like buckets of blood. I cried and refused to go to the ER. I couldn’t stand the thought of a D&C, strangers scraping and cutting. Or harsh chemicals in pill form to hurry things along. But I couldn’t survive the endless bleeding either, so I went to our midwife center and was tenderly cared for by a lovely midwife who took time out of delivering live babies to help me through the loss of mine. Josiah held my hand through it all and did his best to be tender and caring. He went out of his way and out of his comfort zone to do this. And on the way home, the man who hates sugar with a passion stopped and bought me two Cokes (I don’t know why not one large one) because he wanted to get me something that would just feel good after all that trauma. My family really pulled out the stops to help out, caring for the kids, cleaning my house, encouraging me to go back and lie down, plying me with food. Even the children were on their best behavior. My dad wrote a sweet poem for the baby. Asrat came and sat on the bed and told me how sad it was to have “a mom who is sick”. He kept coming up to our room, bearing notes and “presents” and books hoping to cheer me up. In the middle of that horrible rotten day, I was confronted over and over with how very blessed I am.
Also on the way home, the song Blessed Be Your Name came on the radio and I turned it up loud and cried some more. Then I came home and played it over and over again. And cried. And then I dried my tears because that song is what I believe. I am 100% pro-life and know that I did not just “pass some fetal tissue”, but lost a living baby. Yet I cannot shake my fist at God. I didn’t make that baby, I didn’t put life into him, I carried him and nourished him but he wasn’t mine, nor was I entitled to a certain amount of time with him. I can’t understand the “Why?” of this loss. But I can’t claim the right that that understanding, not being the all-knowing Creator of the universe. So it is what it is. After death, life marches on and I don’t feel comfortable spending a whole lot of time submerged in sadness or anger.
Here is where I diverge from the norm. I haven’t felt jealous of pregnant women, or upset reading baby announcements. I might feel a twinge of sadness and loss, but it doesn’t last. It makes me tremendously happy to see people accepting and enjoying the blessing of children. The more the better, in my opinion. I haven’t cried every day. I haven’t spent a lot of time feeling depressed. I have, however, noticed a real increase in neurotic behavior, like feeling panicky about whether I remembered to turn the stove off even after I’ve checked it three times and physically touched each of the knobs to make sure they’re off. The first week, following the miscarriage, I also noticed that I was particularly impatient and cranky with the kids. Things that normally don’t bother me suddenly seemed intolerable.
In terms of the world around me, it’s not pregnant profiles or newborns in their mother’s arms that sets me off. It’s attitudes. I read a lot of books, and involve myself in a couple of online forums. I cried for the first time this week after a discussion about the realities of the rotten things about parenthood. Lord, I’d give anything to know that in December I would be waking up 3 times a night and having spit-up flying down the back of my shirt at all hours of the day. Yes, my kids drive me crazy sometimes (even, I would venture to say, often). Yes, I’ve spent a good bit of the last six years slightly insane from sleep-deprivation or kooky hormones or a combination. Yes, I yell at my kids because they know exactly how to drive me bonkers, and seem to enjoy doing it. But now there’s a hole in my life. One less kid to tantrum and poop on the floor (and in their clothes, in the car, through “no leak” diapers, all up their back and into their hair) and make me want to jump out a window…One less kid with his own personality, to thrill me with his new discoveries, give me drippy kisses, gaze into my eyes…One less kid to teach and train and hold and cuddle and tickle and adore. I had to stop getting “mothering” books at the library and reading parenting and women’s magazines because the “obligation to be honest” about how parenting is such a miserable state of being was making me grind my teeth in frustration. Yeah, I discovered at this point that I’m not big on hearing about life-wrecking little ankle-biters ruining all the fun. This realization has also put a spotlight on my bad attitudes. I’m as prone to having them as anyone. I need to deal with them and cut it out. I couldn’t fathom how blessed my life is until I was expecting the addition of another child–with all the reorganization that would take, and the extra money out of our budget, and the gosh-awful misery of the last weeks of pregnancy and the insane hours a newborn keeps–and that child died. Leaving behind nothing to organize, budget for, or complain about. I am wholly aware of all the downsides of parenthood. Now I’m more aware of what I’m going to miss about having a new baby and doing it all again.
Looking back after a few weeks, I have some regrets and questions in my mind. I wish now I had seen the baby. I wish we had brought him home to bury him. At the time the midwife offered but I wasn’t able to say yes. Sometimes I wish we had had an early ultrasound or at least our first prenatal visit. Might we have heard a heartbeat, come away with at least an ultrasound image to remember this baby by? Or perhaps that would have caused more problems if no heartbeat had been found and we’d been urged to have it “taken care of” medically. There’s no beating myself up, but a lot of wondering. I wonder too about the pregnancy itself, and why I didn’t notice how different it was from my others. I was not feeling well, but looking back, most of that was a feeling of apathy and malaise, rather than my normal nausea and exhaustion. Instead of my normal nausea, I simply didn’t want to eat. On the day I felt like eating, suddenly everything tasted like dish soap and I couldn’t choke it down. I even noted shortly before the miscarriage happened what I can only describe as physical depression. I wasn’t sad, I had no reason to be, I didn’t feel like I felt when I was depressed long ago, but all I wanted to do was lie down in a dark room with the blankets over my head. I did exactly that, twice, and Josiah kindly cared for the children but he was very concerned because that was very unusual behavior for me. Perhaps my body knew something was wrong before I was aware of it. It was a pregnancy that was full of Not and None, even while the baby lived.
When I was putting together a little box to remember this baby, I ran across a sketch I’d done when just pregnant. Originally, it was a profile view of a mother in a rocking chair, during one of those midnight feedings: head bent, hair bedraggled, clothes in a mess, looking down at the baby in her arms. When I looked at it after the miscarriage, I was struck by how Not There the baby is, just a few light whirls to represent the top of his head. When I look at it now I see a woman, head bent, dreaming of a baby that isn’t really there. Me.