12 weeks – part 8: due date

August 24, 2014

“Sooo…you’re pregnant,” he said.

“Nope, I’m not,” I replied.

“Yeah, you are!” he insisted.

“Nooo…I’m not,” I insisted back.

He proceeded, “Oh, I thought you were pregnant…was that a while ago?”

“I was, but we lost the baby,” I tried to say lightheartedly.

“Oh, jeez, I’m sorry…”

This exchange was nothing short of awkward. It happened a few weeks ago between a well-intentioned buddy of Mike’s and me. I’m sure he half-read a post on Facebook back in February, didn’t calculate the months that had passed and failed to look down at my very un-pregnant waistline. I’d like to say that this was the only time this has happened. But it isn’t. It’s by far the worst, but it’s not an isolated incident.

Shortly after this weird conversation, I left the ungodly high temps of Oregon to spend time with my family in Michigan. It was incredible to see how my nieces and nephews have grown and matured. I loved hearing about the latest accomplishments of my three “babies” who are now pre-teens, the joyful giggles of my preschool-aged niece and nephew as they swung on the tire swing, and the hilarious intonations of the two toddlers as they figured out how to communicate all the thoughts in their funny little heads.

During one of our family get-togethers, in a wild game of balloon toss, my almost-three-year-old niece brought me a balloon, lifted up my shirt and tucked it under.

“You have a baby in your belly!” she squealed.

I smiled warmly at her and said, “I do? You’re so funny!”

She laughed and ripped the balloon out, returning to her game of keep-away. I sank back and bit my lip. I wish.

Looking down at my concave belly, familiar feelings of disappointment and loss traveled through me. Pouring into my anxious stomach, sadness settling into my toes. I would have been huge at this point if it hadn’t happened.

Soon the exhausting sound of a young child crying about a peanut butter sandwich or some other desperate need interrupted my thoughts. I watched the self-denial of the mother who got up from the table, leaving her untouched lunch, to tend to her child. Guilty and conflicting feelings of relief washed over me. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe motherhood is not for me. But I know deep down that this is not true. Nobody is ever ‘ready’ for kids.

My good girlfriend and I were able to catch up after quite a bit of time apart during this time at home. She gave me opportunity to process this last year, which I hadn’t done in a while. One realization that I came to through our chat was that, although no one has ever told me I can’t talk about my pregnancy, I feel like I shouldn’t. Somehow I have internalized an idea that a woman only has the right to talk about her pregnancy if she actually has the baby. However, if you were just “a little pregnant” (whatever that means), you shouldn’t talk about it because it comes with a sad story.

An example of this illogical rule I’ve created would be if, say, you go out to dinner with friends who have a baby or children. It wouldn’t be weird for the mother to reference her morning sickness during the first trimester if it comes up in conversation. Oh yeah, I could never eat eggs with runny yoke when I was pregnant for Joey. However, if I were to talk about the morning sickness I had when I was pregnant it doesn’t have such a happy ending. I lived on Rice Chex for 12 weeks. The end. I feel like at this point everyone is then going to start thinking about a dead baby, which is downright depressing. And nobody likes a Debbie Downer.

But I want to talk about it! I want to claim it, to own the motherhood that I held in my heart for a brief moment. I love remembering the time when I felt so completely important and powerful, even if it ended too soon. It feels good to commiserate with fellow mamas who know what it’s like to avoid a hot tub and a glass of wine. (Do you realize how HARD that was for me? How does one do this for nine months?!) Instead, I mention it to people who I know are willing to listen and have signed up to be there for me even when it feels like I’m “dwelling” on something I should be over by now.

My dear friend told me that I need to talk about it. She reminded me that the only person wondering why I’m still bringing it up is myself. Rather, those who love me are probably wondering how I’m doing. This encouragement she extended to me was an allowance of love. It strengthened me to own this piece of my story without fear of “depressing someone.” So here I am, mentioning it again. I’m hopeful that talking about it more, even six months later, will encourage any other women or men who have experienced this loss to speak up about it too.

I know why this is so hard right now. I have been thinking about this month for nine months. For three of those, I had very different expectations for what would befall. And for the remaining six of those months, I have been attempting to piece back together a future that I had built quite a bit of hope in. My “someday,” that is still possible, just not on a timeline that I had determined for myself.

My due date would have been tomorrow. Not that the actual date means much in the real world of pregnancies that go to term, but it is significant to me. It makes me think about the “Choose your own adventure” that is life, and how much choice we actually have. I wonder what could have been had a right turn been made rather than a left. Modern technology makes this curiosity a little useless though because I know the baby was never viable to begin with. There was no choice that I made that put me on one path versus another.

Is it possible that I am thankful? Not thankful that my life went this particular direction (because I would never wish the disappointment I’ve felt this year upon anyone). But I am thankful that my life is what it is. Because the same roads that have brought me pain, have also brought me more love and peace than I could ever imagine. I’m thankful that sometimes life just does its thing and you just have to trust that there is a way it’s supposed to be. I’m also thankful that through this difficult valley, I have learned so much about giving myself grace and acceptance for whatever I’m feeling right then. Even when it feels wrong or misplaced or expired. Grace. Whether you believe it comes from above or within. You can’t get through shit like this without it. Nor can you heal without talking about it, honestly, with people you love. I’m thankful for these things and more.

© 2014 D. Willson


Inspired by this collection of writing, I have begun to collect other’s stories about their experience with pregnancy loss. To learn more, please visit my Baby Elephants Project page.

12 weeks – part 7: wondrous

May 4, 2014

A few weeks ago after a yoga class, I realized that my eyes were leaking again. In fact, they had been since the beginning of class. I’d been doing pretty good the last week or so since it happened. (I often feel weird about what to call it: my miscarriage, our baby’s death, the D&C, D-day?) It seemed that I might have been transitioning out of the angry stage and into some semblance of acceptance. Or perhaps more realistically, surrendering because there was nothing that I could do to change what had happened. Chromosomes malfunctioned, the baby stopped growing, my pregnancy had come to an end.

Like it or not, I didn’t get to write the story. I repeated this in my mind and encouraged myself to let it go for the hundredth or maybe even thousandth time in the last three months. I lay with my eyes closed and let gravity pull the tears across my temples and onto my yoga mat. Everyone else was dripping bodily fluids from the 104 degree room, so I hoped the other participants would think it was just sweat.

The yoga instructor gave some words of congratulations for making it through the difficult class and said, “I leave you with words from the prophet.” She then opened a book and read,

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain. And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; and you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields. And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.”

This didn’t help my leakage problem. Though the words could apply to many different stories, I felt as if they had been hand picked for me. I self consciously looked around and then up at the instructor, to see if she was standing in some sort of celestial flood light from heaven. But she wasn’t and everyone else lay still on their mats with their eyes closed, unaware. It was all perfectly mundane.

After the class I asked the teacher where she had gotten the passage. She explained that it is from a book called The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and wrote the name on a sticky note. I thanked her for the class and choked out another little, unattributed thank you. I then went directly to the bookstore across the street to purchase the book.

When I got home that evening, I began to read. The premise is about a man, a prophet, who is leaving a foreign city that he has lived in for years. As he waits for his ship to come and take him home, the people of the village ask him to tell them about different parts of life like love, marriage, children, work, laws, friendship, etc. It took me a while to locate the passage again but a few chapters in, I found it:

“And a woman spoke, saying, ‘Tell us of Pain…” 

I read the passage over and over, as if I were unpacking a trunk full of a lost loved one’s things. Laying each item out side-by-side, trying to find that one piece that would help it all make sense. Here is pain, and breaking, and winter. As I looked at the collection, what puzzled me were words like wonderous and serenity lying among the others. In my understanding of good and bad, dark and light, there wasn’t room for ambiguity. Surely pain could not be wondrous.

I then thought about people who like pain. Those who actually enjoy getting tattoos or paint macabre scenes while wearing black turtlenecks. Trying not to be judgmental, I make space for this brooding group of humans (who sometimes border on insane in my mind). But I’ll never understand the love of zombies or blood. It’s just not me. And the idea that pain could be wondrous or looked upon with serenity seemed loony to me. (I’d like to apologize now to anyone who may be wearing a black turtle neck and painting skeletons as we speak. I’m sorry if you are offended.  I love you…but I just don’t understand you.)

While I agreed that pain and joy were connected, they were opposites. You could hate one and love the other. Without fully understanding what I was “meant” to learn here, I set the book aside and decided to tackle it on another day. Like I said before, grief is exhausting, making 8:30 p.m. seem like a perfectly good bedtime for any adult. So I went to sleep and hoped that the anxious nightmares wouldn’t visit me again as they had several times a week since it happened.

A few days later, I read a blog post by a friend of mine from high school. She had lost her little girl at birth seven years ago and wrote beautifully about what knowing her daughter for 23 minutes had taught her. She spoke of lying on the floor face-down, weeping for the story she couldn’t write herself and the things she could not control. This was a posture I was familiar with.  At the end of the post she included a quote,

“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”  Kahlil Gibran

There I was again, looking over my shoulder and wondering if someone was watching. Like I was in The Truman Show and all the scripts were being written for me. Some might see this as the perfect analogy for God (or positive energy, or Goddess or Love – whatever your flavor). Is God speaking to me through Kahlil Gibran? Could God place these details in my life so that I can begin to understand what happend? Probably. Maybe. I hope so.

I decided to read more of The Prophet and found the passage from which my friend had quoted. I discovered that my thoughts of joy and pain being connected were mirrored in Gibran’s words:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which you laughter rises and oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain…  Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable.”

Compared to his thoughts on pain, this selection from Gibran made more sense to me. And as I read it again, I began to see life from a different angle. Even though I have a hard time accepting it, pain and sorrow are made up of the same stuff that joy is. They have the same ingredients: Love, delight, comfort, peace, hope. 

So what can I conclude from Gibran’s words, written nearly a hundred years ago, but somehow seem to be aimed directly at me? As I sit in the winter of my grief, a season I’m not sure how long will last, I may be finding some serenity in my miscarriageI would not wish this pain upon anyone. But I take the well that it has carved into me as making capacity for joy. And instead of trying to stop my tears, I use them as a reminder that I experienced such beautiful delight just a few months ago. If I am ever lucky enough to have a baby someday (because, in light of all the things that could go wrong, the fact that any birth happens is nothing short of luck) I will probably feel my joy more keenly. And the fact that I am able to come to these conclusions today, is truly wondrous.

© 2014 D. Willson

12 weeks – part 6: letting go

April 5, 2014

I think I would be remiss to leave my “12 Weeks” story on the uplifting note that all was well – that I have grieved and now I’m better.  Because that’s not how miscarriages work, that’s not how grief works.  It becomes the monkey on your back that you carry with you to work every day, the elephant in the room when you’re out to dinner with friends, and sometimes it even becomes an angry bull in the china shop that is life.  But then somehow between the trapped moments, there are points of freedom, clarity and peace. My mind has become a menagerie, and my thoughts are equal parts remarkable and untamed.

And for some reason, this week seems to be harder than the week after my miscarriage.  I don’t know what it is.

Well maybe I do.  I’ve been unsure whether to share this detail of “my story” with you as it seems unnecessary.  However, as I’ve worked on acceptance and understanding of the recent change of my plans, I have searched for other’s stories that might help me feel less alone.  Also, I have always loved physiology and find the next part of my story pretty fascinating to share (albeit painful and frustrating).

The Friday after I had my D&C, while I was out to lunch, my doctor called to explain that they had gotten the lab test results.  I was quite surprised to hear this because I didn’t know they were doing any testing on the fetus.  She spoke in a careful way, each word wrapped up in softness.  “The lab results indicated that you had something called a partial-molar pregnancy, which is caused by a genetic fluke.  But it does bring the possibility of some complications that I’d like to discuss with you.”  I had just started eating a hamburger and the restaurant was pretty loud.  I asked her to hold on a second, tossed my lunch into the trash and walked outside.

She went on to explain to me that essentially, our baby had 3 sets of chromosomes as opposed to the normal set of two.  These babies don’t tend to make it beyond the first trimester and if they do, they often cause risk to the mother if carried to term and none have lived beyond 10 months.  Because of this genetic abnormality, there is another risk factor.  The triploid set of chromosomes causes the placenta cells to grow abnormally.  Which means, in some cases, the cells could continue to grow unchecked after miscarriage.  And in the worst cases, these cells can spread to other areas of the body and can be cancerous.  Though treatment is nearly 100% effective, chemotherapy is the route to get rid of them.

Cancer.

Chemotherapy.

The two C-words that make my heart shrink and retreat.  I thought of the beautiful people in my life who have had to own these words.  How they wore them with such grace and strength – even though they did not ask nor did they deserve to have to bear those things.  While my doctor assured me that the chances of this becoming cancerous were very slim, I just couldn’t shake the words off.  They felt like two ton weights resting on my chest.

My doctor explained that the placenta cells produce the same hormone as a fetus does in early pregnancy (that which is detected by a pregnancy test – HCG).  The way they check for abnormal cell growth is through weekly blood tests.  Once you get three negative blood tests back in a row, they proceed to do monthly blood tests for six more months after that.

And the trick to all of this being accurate is that I absolutely cannot get pregnant.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

So every week for the past five weeks, I have had to sit in the same waiting room of my clinic with pregnant women and tiny babies, waiting to get my blood drawn.  This weekly reminder that will eventually turn into a monthly reminder.  And someday it will fade away.  But right now it is ever present.  I’ve seen the clinic more now than when I was pregnant.  Everyone there seems to know my “situation.”  They smile apologetically at me.

I suppose it’s nice to be making new friends.  I try to encourage myself.

But that’s the polite part of me.  Every time I’m there I want to pick up a chair and throw it.  And I want to yell at the lady behind the desk, Yes!  I still f-ing live on _______ street.  Yes I still have Moda insurance!  You just saw me last week and you’ll see me again next week!  Can’t you remember anything???  And to the stupid girl who hit a nerve and bruised it the last time she drew my blood, I would like to say thank you!  Thank you for giving me a minute-by-minute reminder any time I reach for something that I had a miscarriage.  Or the nurse who insensitively said that I am “still chemically pregnant” on the phone.  Umm, no I’m not!  That was taken away from me.

Then I slip back into my nice mode.  I’m sure that the desk lady is required to ask me every time where I live and that the phlebotomist must have been having a bad day. I don’t know if there are any excuses for the nurse on the phone, maybe she’s never had a miscarriage and doesn’t understand.  And I soften a bit, feeling awful for my thoughts and judgment.  I say a quick prayer for forgiveness and try to send them love and light as best I can.

All of the encouraging stories of “we started trying again after a month and now have a healthy baby” feel like teasing.  I have not gotten a negative blood test yet but my numbers have been within normal range and have dropped like they are supposed to over time. I’m not as worried about cancer.  But this isn’t going as I had planned in my head.  I planned to wait the month that they suggest, then we were going to try again.  Now I have to wait and I watch the weeks tick by that are turning into months and I worry that they will become years.

I would have been 20 weeks this Tuesday.  This could have been the week that we found out “what kind” of baby we were to have. A little girl?  A boy?  Was my hunch wrong?  Instead, I will sit in the office waiting for my sixth blood test.  Waiting for very different news.  Trying to keep my inner grizzly bear from emerging.

Right now that Disney ballad “Let it go” from Frozen is on the radio every morning.  As annoying as it is becoming, I sing it at the top of my lungs, like all the little 4 year olds you see on Youtube who are equally as moved by the song.  (Do yourself a favor and watch these funny little munchkins if you haven’t yet.)  The music critic in me thinks that maybe the kids are a little sharp on the last high note, but I forgive them because the abandon in which they sing is inspiring.  I imagine myself throwing off the weight of this grief I’m carrying, twirling around with my hands in fists and my eyes squeezed shut.

But the reality is that it is not something you can just toss off your shoulders and move on.  Each day you might only chip off a small chunk of the yoke that sits on your shoulders, binding you to “the news” that is slowly becoming your history.  And over time a bit of the wood seems to have settled into your bones, becoming a part of you.

Anne Lamott recently said,

“This business of being a human being is infinitely more fraught than I was led to believe…It’s hard here, and weird. The greatness of love and laughter, the pain of loss, the bearing of one another’s burdens, are all mixed up, like the crazy catch-all drawer in the kitchen.”

That’s how I feel these days.  I am a pair of scissors lying next to a matchbook from an old hotel.  And it seems like these past few years I’ve been desperately trying to organize the inconsistencies and lack of logic that I see all around me.  I need to close the drawer and let it go.  My plans and my timelines are simply not required to get me from point A to the inevitable point B.  Whether it’s God, or Fate or the Universe or Love or Physics – something else infinitely more powerful than me is saying, I’ve got this.  Let it go.

© 2014 D. Willson

12 weeks – part 5: sail on silver girl

March 7, 2014

Everyone kindly tells you to take time for yourself, to grieve.  An allowance that may not have been given the same sensitivity in years past, when miscarriage was a silent burden women must bear alone.  I know I am blessed to have been given a “handle with care” stamp on my forehead and I will not take that for granted.  But even with the permission and space to grieve, no one gives you an instruction manual.  There are no recommendations about how to act and what to do.  So you watch yourself carefully, wondering what to do with your hands and whether you’ve accomplished this thing called “grief.”

I don’t think this is uncommon.  Ten years ago when I was a junior in college, the mother of a friend of mine from high school was tragically killed in a car crash. And though we hadn’t stayed terribly close since we graduated, I called my friend up to check on her after the funeral.  At first we made awkward small talk about surfacey things like the snow and final exams but eventually we eased into how she was doing with the loss of her mother.  She asked me, “When your dad died, how long did it take you to get over it?”

Her voice was shaky and I could tell there was no selfishness behind her question, even when using words like “get over it.”  She was in over her head and she just wanted some measure of how long it would feel like she was drowning.  I found her question a bit amusing, though not in the laughing sort of way.  Because it had been eight years since my dad had passed and I still had days where I felt stricken by grief.  I told her that and realized it wasn’t helpful information.  What I should have said is, it will fade with time and that time will be different for everyone.

Nearly five weeks ago now, I received news that plunged me down below the water line again.  So, following the advice from everyone and their mother to “take time for myself,” I took a couple days off work that happened to back up to a furlough day, a weekend and a holiday – giving me six days to grieve however I felt necessary.  This took the form of doctor’s visits and phone calls and filling the spaces with mindless entertainment.  Gorging myself on crime-scene shows that solved all the apparent problems within the allotted hour time slot (which probably didn’t help my already anxiety-prone mind).

One week later I found myself back at work.  The first day was rather unproductive as I had a steady stream of friends stopping in to give their support, which lead to much-too-long personal conversations during work hours.  I felt bad “taking time to grieve” on the tax payers dime, but I wasn’t sure the first day back could be managed any other way.  So I looked at the sign I have next to my computer that says, “Let whatever you did today be enough,” and I said ok.

For the most part, distraction is good.  And I found the daily challenges of work to be refreshing in comparison to hours of laying around.  I guess, there was necessary time to help my body heal after surgery.  However the lack of purpose began to sink in about day five and the physical act of standing up and getting your blood flowing again reminds you that you are still in fact alive.  At work I had to-do lists and emails to answer, easy things to tick off and feel important.  A little white lie that was necessary for survival.

But after work, in the emptiness of my house, the clouds rolled in.  I would lie on the couch and cry from the minute I got home.  Not sobby tears, but leaky tears.  I would wish for the hours between dinner and bed to blink by so I could just sleep.  Grieving was exhausting.  I’m guessing this is depression talk.  But I didn’t feel depressed – I have before and it wasn’t the same.  I just felt broken, so needy and weak.  Like a Christmas ornament mended with Elmer’s glue.

I know time is not something you should wish away.  It is a non-renewable resource that gives me pain when I consider the day when I will have to say goodbye to another person I love.  Love that makes me want to make myself small and curl up in my husband’s shirt pocket so I can be close to his heart all day long.  It’s not sane love.  It’s irrational and frightening.  I only feel it mildly on normal days.  But in these days of mourning, I feel it so deeply that my heart aches.  How can we feel the depth of love and depth of loss so equally in one singular moment?  I feel like I might be going mad with this feeling.  Yet it’s also the buoy that keeps my head above water.

Watching endless hours of TV is not a sustainable method of grief.  So eventually I went to the bookstore to look for a book on miscarriage.  Perhaps a “how-to” survival guide for beginners.  At the back of the children’s section, in the same row as the pregnancy books I had perused just a few weeks before, was a tiny section on “grief and loss.”  There were three books about miscarriage on the shelf and they were nestled among titles like, What happened to Grandma and Dealing with Divorce.  I picked up one and leafed through its pages.  The chapter titles encapsulated a woman who had to battle in silence, alone.  While I know this was a story many women had lived, it wasn’t my story and it didn’t seem applicable.  So I placed the book back on the shelf and walked away.  Making a mental note to write a strongly-worded email to the store manager about their less-than-helpful selection and pretty callous location choice for books of that nature.

Instead of a book on miscarriage, I left the store with a book on faith by Anne Lamott.  She is an author that has always intrigued me, especially as an f-bomb dropping, feminist, liberal Christian.  I didn’t know she was these things at first.  At first she was an author that gave me courage to be a writer.  In her book Bird by Bird, she taught me to face my fears of being honest in my writing.  A bravery I didn’t know that I had, but have been actively using in my recent years as a writer.  In the face of no other choices, I found her book Traveling Mercies and decided it’d have to do.  I had been wanting to read more of her work anyway.

Have you ever read a book and wondered if it was written just for you?  You find yourself uttering things like, yes and mmm hmm every other paragraph.  You are taking notes and underlining quotes to remember.  Anne Lamott talked of grief and pain, of children and joy.  Her stories were honest and angry but still managed to end on a note of hope.  And on page 68, she looked me right in the eyes as if to say, I know honey.  I’ve been there.

All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and as privately. But what I’ve discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it.”

All this laying around, avoiding my grief in sleep and mindless television was not going to work.  And time wasn’t going to magically make it all disappear.  I had to be willing to feel the pain in order to heal from it.  I wasn’t quite sure what this looked like, but I knew it had to be different from what I had tried.  I began to think of the things I had been avoiding.  Things that make me cry, things that make me feel alive.  And I made a point to start feeling these things again.

It started with walking into our guest room and picking up the baby blanket my mother had crocheted us and burying my face in it.  Smelling its lack of baby smell.  Breathing in, Let.  Breathing out, Go.  It continued with letting myself cry when I saw a pregnant woman or a precious tiny baby.  It was awkward. I slipped into bathrooms and sat on the toilet with my head in my hands.  Yes, that was you just a few weeks ago.  Yes, this really sucks.  Yes, you wanted that and it was taken away.  Yes.

Last week it came in the form of watching Whitney Houston music videos on repeat. Feeling the drama of her live performances, chuckling at the ridiculousness of her eighties attire. I watched her perform at the Grammys, holding hands with CeCe Winans (making me remember the slumber party in eighth grade in which my best friends and I stood on the couches and sang Count on Me at the tops of our lungs), and singing a drugged-out, too-thin version of Exhale in which she still managed to be the biggest diva on the stage.  The beauty of her voice and words of her songs made me weep.  And weeping felt good.  Especially with a sound track.

I could write a book called Healing your Heart with Houston and they could put it on the shelf right next to the book about Grandma dying.  It’d probably sell ten copies and I’d get all kinds of compliments about my honesty.  But it probably wouldn’t give anyone any more of a clue about what it means to grieve than when they first began.  Because that’s just it, grief isn’t defined by specifics. Rather for me, it is a lot like labor.  A concerted effort of feeling.  You breathe in a memory, a song, the feeling of loss, disappointment, or joy and you exhale acceptance.  Eventually, on the other side, you find the birth of hope.  Not just the forced sentiment, but the real upward impetus.

And one day, while listening to the song Bridge Over Troubled Water for the umpteenth time, you finally hear the words.

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way

And you weep with joy because you realize you’re no longer under water.

© 2014 D. Willson

12 weeks – part 4: waking up

February 21, 2014

Before finding out that I had miscarried, being pregnant was my constant, the lens in which I saw the world.  It was new and took a while to sink in, but just about that week, perhaps two weeks before, I began to believe that I really was pregnant.  My body seemed to be changing, the “actual size” pictures that compared the fetus to various fruits and vegetables in the baby books, were getting larger.  And because you can’t see any of it happening “in there,” your reality is what you are being told about it all.  Like measuring the chance of rain.  The confirmation of these events at this point occur in ultra sound and Doppler readings. I had even begun to dream real dreams that I was pregnant.  I woke up with my hand on my belly.

As I waited for the midwife and tech to figure out the ultrasound machine at my 12-week appointment, every detail was crisp and rimmed with the gleam of sterile bright light.  The crackly white paper on the exam table, brightly colored Danskos that perfectly matched the nurse’s scrubs, the white tiled floor with an unpredictable blue square that peeked out from under the stool.  But moments after those words were spoken – “Honey, I’m afraid you’ve had a miscarriage.” a woozy filter dulled my every sense.  The midwife’s touch, the sound of the gabbing scrub-wearers gathered around the nursing stand, the smell of the ultrasound jelly they used to confirm the news that was descending on me.  I had entered a blurry nightmare.  But there was no real panic or horror. Just acute pain.  So I’m not sure if you can really call it a nightmare at all.

Once the dust began to settle around me, there seemed to have been an inverse shift in my reality.  My short pregnancy began fading into a soft and feathery memory.  Like a beautiful dream that felt so real.  One of those dreams that you think, if I could just fall back asleep I might pick up where I left off.  But whenever you fall back asleep it is never the same.  The scenes have shifted and the characters aren’t quite right.  And you ache inside to feel that perfection again, that moment right before the realization that you were actually asleep.

Now that I’ve woken up, I worry that people will shake their heads at me and say, “You have no reason to be sad. You must be crazy.  It was just a silly dream.”  I feel like a little girl who was playing house, pretending to run a household of cabbage patch kids and stuffed animals.  Isn’t that sweet, the adults around me say.  She really thinks she is a mom.  And then they laugh patronizing laughs that only exist in my head.  I have to keep telling myself (and saying it out loud) that I was pregnant.  There was a living, growing baby inside me.  I really did taste a honey sweet moment of motherhood.

I have a terrible thought every time I watch the screen with my interrupted life playing on it.  I think – yes, this makes sense, you don’t get to have a baby because you don’t get good things.  You get less than good things.  You get things that are inadequate and insignificant.  Like the feeling I got when I was nine years old and I did the cake-walk at my school’s ice cream social.  That disappointment would burrow itself down in my gut each time I saw others win and I walked away empty handed.

If I ever believed in the devil, it would be now.  That evil little voice that tells me that I won’t ever win.  That things will always just be alright – not great.

But this is bullshit.  Among a million other winnings, I have always counted my luck in meeting my husband as a reason I cannot believe that little whispering liar that is the darkness of my thoughts.  Mikey is better than ok, he is amazing.  He is not perfect, but he is perfect for me.  I have won the prize with him.  And I am lucky to have loving friends and family.  And a nice home and job and a car and a bunch of things that are far beyond necessity.  This baby thing is not yet another thing that I can chalk up to bad luck.  It wasn’t a cruel joke being played on me by an evil step mother – pretending I can go the ball then giving me the list of chores I must complete before I leave.

It is a hard, terrible thing that really happened. Over the past three months I was sick and tired, then crushed and vacuumed, now I’m broken and wandering.  I held something beautiful in my hands and it slipped right through my fingers.  It wasn’t my fault and I’m not being punished.  It’s just part of life and I’m simply waking up to this reality, as I have a hundred times before in varying degrees and survived to tell the tale.

I am trying to think vaguely about trying again.  But my thoughts turn to precise lines and details.  About months and if we get pregnant in October that means I’ll be due in June.  I’m thinking about fertility diets and progesterone and yoga and vitamins.  I’m thinking about perfection and avoiding this tragedy again.  Because even though I have the assurance that it was a genetic fluke, I worry that I could make a choice that would affect a future pregnancy.  And I’m pissed.  Like after a car crash that was my fault.  I’m pissed I wasn’t paying attention and that I didn’t leave two minutes later and that I was distracted.

I seem to have wandered into super OCD fix-it mode.  If I just do these ten things (no wait, 14 things.  No wait, 23 things…) then I will solve all the problems of my world.  What are my “problems” to date?  Well for one, the baby that Mike and I planned for and started to paint into our future vision died.  The baby that was just starting to weasel its way into my heart.  The little ball of cells that was beginning to take the shape of an alien-like human.  That had paddles for hands and a depleting tail.  But it had the eyes and nose and ears of the little baby that we hoped to some day kiss.  That’s a big problem to deal with.  It hurts and I don’t understand the response I’m having to it.  It’s affecting my brain function and my ability to read.  It’s caused me to question my job and the meaning of life.

Other “problems” that seem to be fixable.  Well, I’m pretty much an inactive human being.  When I was pregnant with little blob (should I call her Kiki instead?  Was the name even necessary?) I got on that elliptical and I worked hard.  And I chanted to myself – “I’m going to be  a strong mama, this is for my baby.”  Perhaps it’s because I’m feeling low, but I don’t know how to conjure up those passionate feelings of love and care for my own empty-uterus self.  I struggle to even drink a glass of water.  I did that for my baby.  These perfectly human, normal parts of living are so labored.  I yearn for rest.  All I want to do is go to sleep.

© 2014 D. Willson