I have been contemplating posting this for quite some time. I consider myself an open book and fairly free in the “social media realm” but this has been a struggle for me. I was inspired by the courage of a friend whom I already admired and respected for her talent in photography but for whom my respect grew even more when she announced the loss of her pregnancy on Facebook last week. She did so with grace and gratitude for the love that she is surrounded by and it was a sad but beautiful thing to see. So here it goes. This is our story of loss. It can’t all be butterflies and rainbows but it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and share something that hurts as much as something like this does. I am hopeful that sharing this story will bring comfort and companionship to someone, anyone that has to go through this. This is very raw and perhaps offensive at times, but it is as real as it gets and my true account of one of the saddest events of my life. I wrote this mostly to document my experience and put it into my Project Life but it has always been in my head that I should and eventually would share it. So here it goes….
The photo on the left is what we THOUGHT you looked like… The photo on the right is what you truly looked like when you stopped growing….
January 16th, 2014
The day seemed long because I was anxious about our appointment. Your Grandma made me chocolate banana cupcakes with strawberry cream frosting. They were a Pinterest request and “she just happened to have everything she needed laying around” so she whipped them up and brought them to work. They were DELICIOUS! Those pretty little cupcakes seemed like the perfect way to start the day that would be the day that we would FINALLY know you were “real”. Your Dad and I would finally get to hear your little heartbeat and see your tiny little body on the ultrasound screen. Yes, I was anxious but MOSTLY excited!
Your Dad (always the multitasker!) was dropping a car off at Brandon Outback so I picked him up there. On the way out to Brandon I listened to “Riding Elevators” on repeat. I sang the lyrics at the top of my lungs with the windows down and my heart wide open. I had such a content and peaceful feeling, so light and…. happy. We were about to actually FEEL like parents!
We made it just in time for our 3:15 appointment. I did my obligatory “pee in the cup” and luckily we didn’t have to wait very long. So in we went to the ultrasound room. She told me to just undress from the waist down so she could do an intravaginal ultrasound and get really close for the “pictures”. So I did, slipped on a gown from the waist down and laid back in the chair. The space was very small so it was a little awkward with Don in there, but he found a corner to occupy and the technician came back in. We got started and she told your Dad that we would do the “fun stuff” first. So he was ready with his phone to take pics and video. Within a minute she had an image on the screen and I remember her saying something like “looks like you’re not as far along as we thought”… To that I naively responded with something like “yeah we found out really early so it may be off a little…” (Whatever the hell I meant by that?) I will hold in my heart the memory of this one flash, this one image where I could see “you”. You were “floating” in darkness… and then in an instant, “you” were gone. She started rapidly snapping through taking screen captures of every angle. Still completely chill and unaware of what was happening to me, to us, in that moment I asked he if we could at least hear the heartbeat? She said “No, I wouldn’t do that with this machine, let’s just wait till you see the doctor.”
And just like that she stood up and left the room, I put my pants back on and looked up at Don and shrugged my shoulders and said “well maybe something is wrong?”. He looked at me with love and said “I’m sure there’s nothing wrong”. Such sweet naive little love birds we were. So off we went to the next set of waiting rooms. As we sat there I still really had no idea what had just happened or what was about to happen I don’t think Don did either. We were ill prepared to say the least. Fortunately I wasn’t letting my mind wander to worst case scenarios, I was just existing in that space and time. I was present in only that moment and that was all I could manage.
My favorite, “Anna” (she’s a nurse practitioner) was in the hallway giggling and laughing, basically shit talking about a crazy patient. Don and I giggled, it was hard not to hear them and it was funny. A nice little distraction while we waited. She saw us and proceeded to give us the story, we laughed some more and then she ducked away for a minute. I took that chance to explain to Don how much I like her and that she was who I saw for my annual visit right after he and I got together. She stole my heart at that appointment when she told me “this is the happiest I’ve ever seen your vagina”. I mean how could I not love her after a statement like that? She also made sure to hook me up with as many free samples as she could manage and extra scripts and what not. So yeah, she’s cool and I really like her.
A few minutes passed and she came back with my file (“our file”) and she called Don and I into the doctor’s office. We followed her in and sat down….
She had “the face”….
I remember so much about this day, but the next minute or two? They are in there somewhere but it’s a blur. I do know that in those two minutes I put on my “matter of fact face”, nodded, accepted the facts, asked logical questions and said “ok…” an exceptional amount of times but I don’t remember Don saying anything… “Anna” left to “give us a minute” and so we could wait some more for the doctor… As she shut the door behind her I remember her saying “the doctor will be in with you shortly”. Never in my life has that phrase bothered me or incited any sort of anxiety, but, in this moment it hurt. I couldn’t understand what the hell I could possibly need to see the doctor for at this point.
and also didn’t…
and we were quiet.
So very still and quiet.
I pulled out my phone and sent Anita a text. She was at the port on a cruise ship and was eagerly awaiting an ultrasound snapshot. Instead I crafted a text:
“Baby stopped growing :( I am ok, we are still at Dr.’s office now. Just wanted to let you know before you left. I love you.”
That was seriously shitty but necessary. She was moments away from setting off on a trip and I had to TEXT her the news that her niece/nephew didn’t make it. Just one of many messages that would need to be relayed.
“Anna” came back in and said one more thing, what that was I couldn’t tell you because that’s when I broke. My “matter of fact face” melted right off and right behind slid the first tear betraying me and my keep it togetherness completely. The damn burst and then I was wide open and vulnerable. Hurt seeping into every cell of my body as reality and her cold bitchy ways started to set up shop right in my dead womb. As this is happening “Anna” says “There it is. It was inevitable.”…. She then hugged me and I wept. Embarrassed and hurt I wept in her embrace. She looked over my head at one point and asked Don how HE was, if he was ok. I remember that but I do not remember hearing him respond but I am certain he had his “military/strong man face”. She left again, this time leaving me with the box of tissues. Dammit.
Don and I alone in the room again I finally look over to him and said something like “I’m just worried about what you’re going to do…” In my head I was worried about what he was going to do as in be mad or crazy upset? Because I knew I didn’t have it in me to help him manage any of that in this particular moment. His response was epic and so classic THE DON, he says, “Well I’m not going to divorce you.” HA! To that I said something like “you better not mother fucker! and that’s NOT what I meant!”
Dr. “S” finally arrives. I don’t know her, never met or seen her before… Seems appropriate that she should have “this talk” with us. So she begins by going over the facts. The baby stopped growing at 7 weeks, I was in the midst of a missed miscarriage and here are your “options”. A fantastic snapshot of our life at the time would be the first question I ask as soon as the “options” are brought up, “is that going to be covered by medicare?”. “Medicare? or Medicaid?” she asks. I seriously responded with “I don’t know, I have a gold card.” (Fuck my life.) She said that she didn’t want me to worry about that, that it would all be covered… She pretty much told me that having a D&C was my best option. My body had let five weeks go by without aborting the baby itself so there was no telling how long the “limbo” could take if it happened naturally… So I chose to have a D&C. We went over some paperwork, signed my name a couple times. Then it was off to the checkout counter. This part of the process was way too long and I was doing my best not to completely fall apart while answering questions, making decisions and scheduling. Don kept it together too although it was difficult and I could feel his patience waring thin as we waited and waited to get out! In the end it was decided that I would have the D&C on Monday, the 20th, Martin Luther KIng Jr Day and Mikaela’s birthday… As good a day as any I suppose.
We got in the car and it was quiet. I had been playing “your song” through my iphone so now there was just silence. We stopped at a gas station to fill up and headed home. We didn’t say much. Don seemed to be most worried about having to tell his sisters which pissed me off a little bit at the time. But looking back it seems like a perfectly acceptable concern. I considered turning on the radio but couldn’t think of any station that would be playing the appropriate soundtrack for the drive home after finding out your baby is dead. So it remained quiet.
We took the new expansion off of the crosstown, mostly by accident but it turned out to be a good distraction. It was the first time we were on that road, seemed strange to get such different views of our city from way up high. When we got to “malfunction junction” it was almost five o’ clock and I knew that your grandma was waiting for an update… I was so sad to have to call her and tell her this. Nothing is ever real until you tell your mom, you would have learned that I know… So I took a deep breath, let out a sigh and called…
I think I said “Hey Mom” I don’t remember what she said after that, I think she asked a question about you. I remember I managed to squeak out through my choked throat “there is no baby” and then she said “what?” in the sweetest most comforting heartwarming voice that can only come from one’s mom and then I explained that you had no heartbeat. That you had stopped growing at 7 weeks. A lot of what came next is a blur I just remember being very worried about her. She was so excited about you and so very happy for us. She will someday be the most amazing grandma. I am so very sorry that she will never know you. She asked if I felt like I needed her to come over and while her love is always welcome it felt like something that Don and I needed to tackle together. Not to mention a mom hug in that moment would most likely have sent me into hysterical convulsions. We said “I love you” and with that the hardest call was done.
Once we got through traffic we stopped at Al’s aka Nebraska Mini-Mart to get ice and coke because we had decided that cocktails were definitely in order. He gave us what we morbidly deemed the “Dead Baby Discount” after he asked how “things” were going and he became the first person we told… in person. I just said to him that it didn’t work out and he reassured us that we’ve got time and we’ll try again but that he most definitely would not be taking our money on this occasion. Good times.
Conveniently we had an appointment scheduled with Joelle to sign the new lease for our house. So when we all sat down to go over the paperwork she became the second person we got to tell in person. She too was reassuring and kind. After she left Don and I went to ABC on Kennedy to get some more cocktail supplies and then we headed to Chipotle so that Don could get some comfort food.
We came home, made cocktails, took a couple pictures to shove into my project life and Don ate not one but TWO Chipotle burritos. He loved you a lot little one. Dead baby grief requires double duty comfort food apparently. We spent the rest of the night making seriously inappropriate dead baby jokes which helped us to laugh instead of cry. I called Valerie and let her know, she too was heartbroken but, she and I are both very logical people. Mother Nature knows best and she decided it just wasn’t meant to be this time. Val does a great job of helping me to see the silver linings of things. Excelsior! I decided that a round of informative matter of fact texts to close friends was the easy way to tell everyone. There was no way I could speak out loud the explanation over and over. I just couldn’t. So I checked that task off my to-do list and had many heartfelt responses of sympathy. I realized that Don had not called his “people” and I knew he needed a little push…. So, I texted Don’s bestfriends and let them know that they should call him. One called after I had some time to text with him which worked out good because the other called right away. He spoke to both of them for a little while each and he seemed to feel “better” once he had gotten those conversations off his chest. I eventually got to talk to Amber which was an extremely hard call, but luckily Don and I had had time to loosen up beforehand. It was really sad to realize what a precious opportunity it was for Amber and I to be pregnant with our first babies at the same time and to face the sadness in knowing that that will never be possible again. It was a once in a lifetime chance that was now gone.
We wrapped the night up dancing in the front room to techno songs to the point of pure exhaustion. We cuddled together very tight in bed that night, neither of us giving the other too much space to move or to get lost. Our grips were fierce having been reminded in such an intense way, just how very fragile this life is. We are lucky to have one another and we will always love “you”. You helped Don and I to see just how much we do want a family and also to feel and experience just how intense the love for one’s own child can be. You were so tiny but you shifted our world in the best way you could by showing us a glimpse of everything we’ve always wanted. Thank you for that. We needed you.
January 26th, 2014
It had been a long day celebrating Gasparilla and it was so nice and comforting to end the day at home with just my big sister. Anita and I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning talking. We covered every emotion that I was going through but also everything that she was and had gone through. It’s tough work being a big sister. It was the first time we had been together since everything happened. It was so incredibly good for my soul to share everything with her.
When she left the next afternoon, I was just starting to have “cramps”. They came in waves and were uncomfortable but mostly manageable. But as I stood in the frame of our front door watching her back out onto the street and drive away, I realized that I was alone. And it started to ache. Being alone is not something that normally makes me unhappy or vulnerable, but, I think my body and mind knew what lay ahead and being alone felt more relevant in that moment than it has in a very long time, maybe ever.
I was alone with what was left of “you”… and “you” were about to leave me completely. There I was alone and becoming empty. I ached for my husband but I quickly became too consumed with the process to think of much else. I started to hurt all over, physically it would come in waves, later I would learn that those “waves” were similar pains to contractions… Thank you for the practice sweet one…
My heart hurt the most. I missed you, I missed the hope for you that I fell in love with. What was left of you was leaving me and I was ALONE. Alone in a new and foreign way.
“I go home to the coast it starts to rain I paddle out on the water. Alone. Taste the salt and taste the pain I’m not thinking of you again. Summer dies and swells rise the sun goes down in my eyes. Take these broken waves, darkly coming to take me home. And I’ve never been so along and I’ve never been so ALIVE.”
-Third Eye Blind
A part of me wanted “your dad”, my husband, my partner…But this way was better. I was not in charge of managing anyone else’s emotions, instead I had the freedom to FEEL EVERY ONE OF MINE. I now know that I needed this to be something just you and I shared. An experience only to be remembered by “us”. And so “we” did… and so it was.
After about 6 hours of painful waves, throwing up from pain meds and taking care of the physically real remnants of “you” I finally felt the last bit of “you” leave me. It was done. “We” were done and I was now left with the task of once again feeling complete with every piece of “you” gone. I was alone. But I, unlike you my love… was ALIVE.
Thank you so much to all of our friends and family that have been so amazing as we have recovered from all of this and somehow managed to fall even deeper in love. We are incredibly grateful every day.