February 11, 2014
This was the day we planned to announce our pregnancy. I woke up equal parts nervous and excited. My hand rested on my still pretty flat lower belly as I lay in bed and I thought about how we would go about telling people. We’d call the people who needed to hear it in person. Later, we’d put something on Facebook. But I was feeling all judge-y about how everyone announces it on Facebook so I wasn’t sure if we’d do it. I just had to make it to the appointment to make sure everything was ok.
I checked in to the clinic early as I had left work the second I possibly could. A tired looking nurse called my name, pronouncing it wrong and giving me a smile when I made eye contact and corrected her. As we entered the room, she asked how I was doing. I always tell the nurse way more than she cares to hear because I’m never sure whom I’m supposed to tell the whole story to. Soon a midwife came in. She was dressed in corduroy pants and a striped sweater. Her hair was natural, no makeup and she looked like she ate a lot of kale. I liked her instantly.
The beginning was easy. She asked me how I was feeling and I proudly explained that I felt really good finally, that I was beginning to see the light at the end of the morning sickness tunnel. We laughed about ridiculous things I had read in books that I now had questions about. (Can eating peanut butter give my baby asthma?) After gathering all the pertinent information in her slightly outdated laptop computer, she asked me to lie back so she could examine me. Her hands were cold on my belly. I wondered if she could tell that it was growing. But her words did not match the things that I saw in my changing body, “You are very tiny. I can hardly feel your uterus.”
Next the blue goo was squeezed on my stomach, her little Doppler machine slipped around my skin as I listened intently for a sound. I heard a heartbeat and she explained that it was my own. She mentioned something about trying to find a rice grain in a hayfield. After a while, she said she was going to go get the ultra sound machine, making a joke about how her coworkers are going to start teasing her because it was the second time she couldn’t find a heartbeat that day. Not to worry though, the first baby was breach.
As she started the machine, the image popped up of my little creature. She couldn’t figure out how to zoom the machine so she left again for an ultra sound tech. While she was gone, I stared at the image on the screen. It was still a blob. It was small and almost appeared shriveled. Though it wasn’t zoomed, so I assumed it was just a matter of time before I’d see the heartbeat. But I began to think about the possibility that something was wrong. I began saying please let it be ok, please let it be ok over and over in my head. But I realized that if there was something awry, no divine intervention would make a difference in that moment.
The midwife returned with the ultra sound tech and I noticed that the tech moved the screen away from me. The midwife said, “your baby is very small. She is taking a measurement. Yes, it is measuring eight weeks, three days.” She paused to let me process this but I didn’t comprehend what she was saying. Then she put her hand on my knee and said, “I’m afraid that you have had a miscarriage. It looks like the baby stopped growing around eight weeks.” In that moment my reality shifted. I sat up and said, “ok” to the midwife. That’s apparently what I say anytime I get bad news. Ok.
I wondered how I would react, as if I was watching the scene unfold on a TV screen. But then I realized I was an active part of it. I felt like I should respond the same way when a waiter tells you that they are out of the soup of the day. You’re kind of pissed, but it is what it is. But what your mind thinks it should do and what your body decides it needs to do are not always a match. My shoulders shook and I fell apart, crumbling in front of strangers as their voices echoed with words of, “It’s ok to cry. This is a very terrible thing. What you are feeling is ok.” The midwife asked me if I wanted a hug. I didn’t. But I didn’t want to appear rude, so I accepted the hug. She asked what I needed. I had no idea.
The rest of the appointment was a blur. She left the room for a while so I could call Mike. I crouched on the floor and dialed his number, knowing that he’d know the instant he heard my exhalation into the receiver which was followed by quiet sobs that I couldn’t contain. When the midwife returned, we went over my “options” as I sat and stared at my hands. I do that a lot, when things don’t feel real. I look at my hands and I can always convince myself that I am awake because I will my hands to move and they do. But in this moment my head swam and when I moved my hands they seemed detached from my body. It felt just like I was in a dream. A really terrible dream.
As I sat in the car after the appointment trying to compose myself, I kept trying to measure my emotions. How the elation of one day compares to the weight of heart break. I went in at five weeks and was weighed to see where my pregnancy would begin, I went again at eight weeks and had lost 7 pounds, I went in at twelve weeks and had gone up two pounds. Is two pounds all that this heartbreak weighs? Or do you measure it in weeks? Am I allowed to grieve 12 weeks worth? Certainly this can’t hurt as bad as someone who had a stillborn child. Or someone who actually knew their child and had to watch them go. I had to make sure I felt the correct amount. Not more than I deserved. But it felt like I was trying to pour a giant bucket of water into a tiny measuring cup.
When I was pregnant (I suppose as I write this, I still technically am), I felt a fullness in my womb. As if the life we had created was an ever expanding universe that inevitably would expand beyond me. In that moment in the doctor’s office, when the midwife’s hand touched my knee, that expanse collapsed upon itself. The tummy that was bursting out of tight jeans was now concave. A womb that just a few minutes before still yearned for life, that still expanded and grew despite the light that had gone out, was now shriveled. Like the little babe that rested in me for weeks without life.
I spent 12 weeks carrying a baby that never grew bigger than a raspberry. The last two days I have also carried the knowledge that the lump of cells that I somehow grew to love has no life left in it. It now feels as if I’m carrying around a heavy tomb. It is a weight I can hardly bear, though there is hardly any mass to make it measurable. Like being crushed by a pile of feathers. Tomorrow I go in for a D&C to surgically remove the tangible matter of what we created. I am so scared. Not of surgery or anesthesia or complications. I’m scared to let go of this part of me, even though the weight of it is suffocating right now. I’m afraid of the lightness of being empty.
But I am not without hope. (I say that with forced necessity because it’s a theory lost in some recess of my brain right now, not a certainty I feel in this very moment.) I know as I return to my normal life, I will be surrounded by the prayers of so many people who care for me. I know that for Mike and I, whatever the plot may be for our story, it will be woven with love and tenderness. And I know that being a mother, even for just 12 weeks, has changed me forever. Within these echoing truths, I am not without hope…
© 2014 D. Willson