November 30, 2015 5 minute read
I am laying on a paper sheet staring at an old, faded magazine photo of a garden that is taped to the ceiling, which I think was put there to cheer up any woman who finds herself in my exact position, but ironically it is only making this whole experience even more depressing. With my legs in cold metal stirrups, a thin sheet providing a false sense of privacy, I am told, “we think that your uterus is now empty.”
The young resident had no idea what a horrific and yet accurate choice of words she used, considering that is exactly how I feel inside.
I am currently in the process of having my second miscarriage in four months.
I never realized how important numbers are to the world of infertility until my husband and I started to try and get pregnant two years ago. After a year of trying we were allowed to go for initial testing to see if anything was “flagged”, like a low sperm count or hormones that aren’t compatible with ovulation. We weren’t considered “infertile” just yet, but we entered the minority group considering the fact that we were told 80% of couples will get pregnant within the first year of trying. As I approach the age of 30, I am told that my chances are only diminishing with every month that passes and although 29 isn’t considered “old” by any other means, in the world of fertility our window is already beginning to close.
It took us a year and a half to get pregnant the first time. We made it to 6 weeks before we landed ourselves in the emergency department where we were told that “these things just happen” and that we are “still young” and that it’s a “good sign” that we got pregnant in the first place. We were told that 1 in 4 pregnancies end this way, so we are not an outlier, but adding to the sad statistic. We were sent home after I required an emergency surgery without any instruction on how to pick up the pieces of our broken hearts. We decided that we would focus our efforts on the future, and we thought that getting pregnant again would help us heal and move past the loss of a child that we would never get to hold.
We were cleared by our doctor to try again after one month of healing, and as luck would have it, we got pregnant right away. We booked appointments early, had an early scan at 6 weeks that showed a vibrant heartbeat, and were told that lightning rarely strikes twice. Only between 1-3% of women experience a second miscarriage. We were told to relax, that our first miscarriage was probably a fluke, a bad set of chromosomes that landed themselves in the wrong place. This baby was beating its little heart and had found a safe place to land. We told our closest friends and family who had cried with us when we lost our first baby, and they cheered our good fortune that our bad luck was behind us. We were cautiously optimistic, and celebrated together quietly when we surpassed the timing of our first loss.
At 7 and a half weeks pregnant however, we ended up back in the same emergency room, knowing what was to come. We were seasoned pros for an experience we would never wish upon anyone in the first place. For the second time in my life, I tearfully told a triage nurse that I was certain I was having a miscarriage. After being ushered into a private room this time, an upgrade from the curtained off square we sat in before, a kind doctor tried to find our baby’s heartbeat that we had seen only a week before. After 2 minutes she turned the lights on and said, “I’m having a hard time finding a heart beat, which is concerning.”
I started to cry as I nodded my head because I only came to this place to have what I already knew be confirmed by someone else. My husband squeezed my hand with sadness in his eyes because he knew too. She was nice and tried to give us a small piece of hope by saying she still needed to consult with the radiologist to confirm anything. But I had taken that hope before when it was handed to me the first time, and I had only felt worse for having grasped so tightly onto that tiny shred of nothing. This time, I let the hope fall to the floor between us, and I never picked it up again.
It is now a couple of weeks later, my legs are spread open in the most undignified position one can find themselves in, and I am being examined by the young resident and staff doctor who both fail to recognize the pain written on my face. They don’t see the tears I am holding back, nor do they know how it has taken every ounce of energy to get dressed this morning, arrive at the clinic to have my blood drawn for the umpteenth time, and to answer the same questions I have answered repetitively over the last several weeks.
No, this was not my first pregnancy.
No, I currently do not have any living children.
These questions are mundane, every day questions to the staff that ask them, but they don’t seem to grasp the pain that they create as the answers are choked out of my mouth.
I recently read an article that described the grief experienced from a miscarriage is akin to the grief felt when a close loved one passes away, and yet the grief experienced by childless mothers like me is nearly invisible. You are not given bereavement leave for the loss of your child that never lived beyond the boundaries of your body, and you are lucky if you get to take a little time off work to heal physically, let alone emotionally.
Some people will turn to you when you tell them what you are going through and they will tell you that you are lucky that it happened so early on and that there was probably something wrong with the baby anyway, so it is good that it turned out this way. You are told to not lose hope, to try again, to stay positive, and to move forward. These are all things that, in the best case, fall flat on the ears of the bereaved, and in the worst case, cause more pain. For many mothers like me, the loss of our babies is as real as if they had been born to us, and yet our grief is often not considered in the same way.
It is cruelly ironic that I had my second miscarriage in October, which is “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month”, and yet unless you have been where I have been, it is unlikely that you are truly aware of the pain that this loss creates inside of you. For those women who have laid where I have laid, who have stared at the same faded garden photo that is taped to the ceiling, my eyes mirror the sadness of your eyes and I will never once look at you and tell you that “these things just happen” or that you are “lucky” to have had it happen so early on in your pregnancy.
In the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “a person is a person no matter how small.”