I’ve hemmed and hawed over writing this or not writing it. I’ve shared before but never on a larger scale. October 15th is pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. So I can think of no better time to share what we are NOT saying.
1 in 4. 25%. A staggering number when you think of it in terms of statistics that we as women all share. 1 In 4 of us will become pregnant and not take a baby home. Look around wherever you’re sitting right now, or next time you walk outside. Count women as they pass. 1, 2, 3…4. Her. It’s her. It’s me. It’s maybe you. It’s our friends, our sisters, our daughters, our mothers. And we don’t talk about it as much as we should. So when it is you, it’s hard not to feel alone.
In December of 2006, I went to a party with my husband at a friend’s house. I love crab stuffed mushrooms so I made some as my dish to share. As I mixed them and baked them I was caught off guard by how bad the crab meat smelled. It was awful. I wondered if I’d done something wrong. I am NOT the worlds best cook. I order up some mean Chinese food though… I took them to the party anyway. It was far from home and I didn’t want to get sloppy so I only had one drink there. I peed every 10 minutes…ever heard of “breaking the seal”? That’s what I thought happened to me. We drove home that night, still having to pee…and I looked at my calendar. 28 days. I hadn’t had a period in 28 days! Some of you are saying so what freak that’s normal…not for me. 23, 24 tops. Never 28. Sweet mother of mercy! The crab meat. The peeing. It all made sense. I made Lewis stop for a pregnancy test on the way home even though it was 2:30 in the morning. We had only been married about 3 months. Our lives were very undecided. We didn’t know where we were going or what we wanted to do. We were living in my moms house, Lewis worked in a gas station, and I was waitressing. We were not ready for a baby.
Something happens when you take that test. All of your hopes and dreams and fears and anxieties are trapped on a little white stick that you just urinated on. What would it say? The moment those two pink lines appear, everything changes. Regardless of how you feel about this situation, EVERYTHING is different now. I was both horrifyingly scared and excited simultaneously. 2 little pink lines. One so faint it was barely there, but it was literally day 28…I took the other 3 tests that came in the box over the next two days (just to be sure), and every day the line got a little bit darker and more obvious. At that moment, I became a mom.
We found a doctor who would see me at 8 weeks. We found state health insurance since I had none. We even found an apartment (it was time and we couldn’t stay at my moms forever). My mom even helped Lewis find a better job. We started dreaming about our new roles. We imagined our baby. We thought about names. We wondered who the baby would look like. Facebook was a fairly new platform at the time, and at 6 weeks, with some confirmed blood work from a women’s clinic, we told our Facebook friends. We told our work friends. We told our families. The 8 week appointment went great! Our baby looked like a tiny croissant, or the alien from The Faculty.
Then 11 weeks arrived. We went to the doctor again because I have other issues we needed to keep an eye on. We did some chatting and took more blood. We made our way to the ultrasound room and we got a picture, but she told us this baby was measuring a little small. I had no idea what that meant, but when she asked me to come back in 1 week, something seemed not quite right, but she never said that. She never said it wasn’t right. So we went home and carried on. We continued to daydream and try on our new lives. At 12 weeks she broke our hearts. There was still a baby in there, but this baby had not grown…no tiny flicker on the black and white screen where the heart beats and the little line of sonography static blinks just for you. Just stillness.
2 days later, I was scheduled at the hospital for a d&c and exploratory laparoscope at the same time. Quick outpatient, general anesthesia, no big deal. Nothing has processed. It was just a tiny croissant…it’s no big deal. I got to the hospital and signed my papers, but there was a mistake! My papers said I was having “an inevitable abortion”. I’m as pro-choice as they come and I’ll argue it until the cows come home, but I was not having an abortion! They made a mistake! They need to fix this mistake! Did you know that when you have a “missed miscarriage” (fancy for incomplete) you also have to have an “inevitable abortion”? I did not. So they wheel me back. I count backwards from 10. I only remember to 8. I woke up with a small tube in a recovery bay separated by just curtains from the rest of the patients waiting to go home. After my tube came out, I asked the nurse if that was it. She said yes, and then something broke inside of me… some sort of protective floodgate released and it all came pouring out. The sadness, the feeling that I had disappointed other people with my failure. I failed this baby somehow and my body failed Lewis, and our parents, and our friends, and every single thing that we dreamed about. And it was in that moment alone in a curtain section with a strange nurse I’d never met, that I was hit with guilt and anger and shame…all at once. The nurse came over with tissue and some crappy grief pamphlet on loss and left.
The next few days were sort of a blur. We had just moved, Lewis still had to work, and I had intense pain from where they had burned out my scar tissue during the laparoscope. I was in our new apartment alone. Watching movies in my bed and not seeing anyone during the day. Just alone. I felt so stupid. So stupid for being so excited and attached to an “idea” of this tiny person whom I had never met and never would. I felt like past doctors I had seen were right and I would never carry a baby. What a terrible disappointment I must be. Time passed and I started to feel better but not quite whole.
When I returned to work, I was out 5 weeks for the scope, I thought I was better and ready, but the first person I saw when I walked in the door asked me how my little bean was growing… it’s not…it’s dead. Thanks for asking. But I didn’t say that. I said nothing with words but probably a novella with my face. My friend swooped in and whisked me away and said we aren’t talking about that. It was super needed in that moment, as it wasn’t the time or place, but overall that was the general theme everywhere. We weren’t talking about it. We weren’t engaging on a subject so taboo. A subject so uncomfortable. A subject that isn’t polite. A subject that is difficult and involves grief that others sometimes don’t understand. And when we did engage, we heard things like “at least it was early on” or “that wasn’t your baby, everything happens for reason.” Or how about “You’re young. You can try again.”
But what people didn’t know, since we didn’t talk about it, was the dreams I had for this baby. This person with half of me and half of Lewis who was going to be beautiful and had some potential names, and eye colors, and hair colors, and future dreams and ambitions. This person we will never meet. This person that we almost never talk about anymore now. Because they’re gone and we never met them. This person who was inevitably aborted, viewed in a hospital as medical waste.
I have witnessed more stories like mine. I have witnessed with my own eyes, and my heart, stories immeasurably more difficult than mine. Stories of such loss and heartache that you cannot understand why in any universe this would happen to good people. Stories that shake your faith. And yet, it’s uncomfortable, so we don’t talk about it. There is so much power in what we are not saying. My challenge to everyone, is to tell their story. I am 1 in 4. If you are 1 in 4, become a part of the dialogue that removes the stigma that we can’t say it out loud. We are better than a crappy grief pamphlet. We can let the next (1,2,3…) HER know she is not alone. And know that it will hurt and be awful and she CAN talk about it. October 15 is also my birthday and this year, as a gift, I’d like everyone to tell their story and shout, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I GRIEVE WITH YOU. I KNOW YOU HURT AND I DID TOO. AND I WILL NEVER FORGET. Hashtag it: #1in4 #123her