Friday, May 28, 2010

Always Our First Baby, Never Our Firstborn

I haven't told many people this, but about a year and a half ago, I had a miscarriage. When I first had my miscarriage, almost everyone I told about it in those first days (pretty much just my professors so they would know why I wouldn’t be in class the next week - more on this later) told me that they had had a similar experience. Almost every single one of them! And, after my miscarriage, my doctor told me that one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. One in three! That’s a huge percentage! And yet we never talk about it! I remember being so angry and frustrated that I didn’t feel like I could talk about my experience even though so many other people had gone through the same thing. Why should I have to suffer in silence? I remember deciding that I would be very open about my experience. But I didn’t follow through on that....until now.

A couple weeks ago, a friend gave birth to her baby girl, who was born still at 26 weeks. Before this experience, this friend, Kristin, had created a blog in which she wrote letters to her unborn baby; the blog was incredibly sweet and heartfelt and, in many ways, helped me to heal from my miscarriage in ways that I had not been able to before that. So when her baby was born still, I, as a follower of the blog, was devastated right along with Kristin (though, of course, I can only imagine how insignificant my devastation is compared to her and her husband's) and figured the blog would end...but I was wrong. Kristin is an incredibly strong woman, and she has continued the blog, making it a tribute to her baby and a source of comfort, hope, and resources for other women going through similar experiences. I have been so inspired and healed by her blog. In many ways, it is the reason I am ready to share my own experience. So this is for Kristin, her husband, and her baby girl - no longer in her arms, but always in her heart. This is also for my baby, who lived only a short while in my body but lives on in my heart and mind forever. I love you so deeply, and think of you all the time. I can't wait to meet you in Heaven, Baby - save me a seat!

For two days, beforehand, I had been having some pregnancy-like symptoms, so on November 11, 2008, I took a pregnancy test…and it was positive. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and in the next 24-hour period, I took four more, “just to be sure.” All of them were positive. I was terrified and shocked. My husband, Brady, and I had definitely not planned on having a baby yet. (For his part, bless his heart, Brady was thrilled).

The first two days, I remember being consumed with fear and anxiety – about money, about housing, about the pain of labor, about finding a good OBGYN. But on the second day, my fears began to make way for joyful anticipation. As Kristin mentioned in one of her blogs, I loved walking by all the familiar faces I passed on a daily basis knowing that I had this incredible secret and no one else (save Brady) knew about it.

In our excitement, Brady and I decided to tell a few close friends right away. They were, of course, thrilled for us. One of them, a very dear friend, even made up a little song on his guitar to celebrate with us. This friend used to call me "Buddy" as a nickname, so he serenaded my stomach with an adorable rendition of, "Baby Buddy, I love you already."

That Saturday, November 15th, Brady was working an overnight shift at work, as he occasionally did. He came home for a little bit in the afternoon and encouraged me to get some rest, as I had been complaining of cramps most of the day. I took his advice and went to bed early. At about 3 am, I woke up to severe abdominal pain (like cramps but worse and different). When I got up to go to the bathroom (which, since getting pregnant, I had to do about four times a night), I discovered blood…a lot of blood. My pants were soaked and it had even seeped through to stain our sheets. And I just knew, in my gut, that I was having a miscarriage. But I didn’t want to believe it...I couldn't believe it. How could I be having a miscarriage? I had only known for a few days that I was even pregnant!

I tried to call and text Brady, but, since it was three in the morning, he didn’t answer. I called into my OBGYN’s emergency line, desperately hoping that they would tell me that this was normal and everything was okay. Instead, they confirmed my fear – I was most likely having a miscarriage, but to be sure I should go to the emergency room.

Not long after I hung up the phone with the doctor, Brady called. Through my sobs I told him what was happening. He told me to try to sleep, and he would call me in a little bit once he was able to finagle his work schedule to come home early (he worked at a group home and, legally, there had to be a certain ratio of employees to residents). About ten minutes later, I got a call from Brady’s spiritual father (the man who married us). After talking to me, Brady had called him, and he called to pray with me. After praying, he also encouraged me to try to get some sleep.

But how could I possibly sleep at a time like this? Not only would the pain make it difficult, but beyond that, let’s be honest, who can sleep when they think they are having a miscarriage? So instead, I picked up my Bible and began reading Psalms, not really expecting to find anything that could offer any comfort at that exact moment. But within minutes, I stumbled across Psalm 4:8, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” And, surprisingly, I did find comfort in this verse and was able to lie down and sleep in peace, if only for a couple hours.

By 11 am, Brady had made it home and we were on our way to the hospital. I hadn’t showered that morning and was embarrassed to be going out in public, but the pain and bleeding had not yet subsided, so we felt it was important to go to the hospital and get checked out. When we got to the hospital, we waited for quite a while before finally getting a room. I dully (and still with a sense of shock) answered all the questions I was asked before being admitted:

“Is this your first pregnancy?”


“How much bleeding is there?”

“I don’t know. A lot?”

And my personal favorite:

“Has there been any whitish, fleshy discharge that looks like chicken fat?” (which, if I had seen it, would apparently have been my baby).

“No.” (Praise God!)

They took me to a room, gave me a gown, and hooked me up to an IV. They had put a diaper-like pad over the bed so the bleeding wouldn’t leak through to the mattress (If you have ever seen a housetraining pad used for puppies, it looked a lot like that. For all I know, they actually got it from a petstore); it made me feel embarrassed and infantile all at the same time. After what seemed like hours, the doctor finally came in. He did a physical exam, and gave us some positive news. My cervix was closed, and if I had been miscarrying, it would have been open. So far, there was no sign of miscarriage (minus the buckets of blood), but he knew of plenty of women who had experienced bleeding early in their pregnancies and went on to deliver perfectly healthy babies. He ordered some tests and sent me to have get an ultrasound – the first and only ultrasound of my first pregnancy. I remember getting a moment’s worth of happiness from being wheeled around in the hospital bed on the way to have the ultrasound (something that always looked fun when I watched Scrubs or Grey’s Anatomy), but the joy only lasted for an instant.

The ultrasound technician warned me in advance that she was only authorized to perform the ultrasound, not talk about it. I would have to wait for the doctor to look at it and explain it to me. Even though I knew this, I did what probably every other pregnant woman does in a situation like that and tried to trick her into giving me some piece of information, no matter how small. She was a tough egg to crack and didn’t budge in the slightest (probably because she experiences this type of coercion-attempt on a daily basis).

When we got back to my room, we had nothing to do but wait. Eventually, the doctor came back in. His face did not mask the bleak news well. Though my initial exam had looked positive, my test results did not. My hCG levels were much lower than they should have been. Physically, it didn’t look like I had miscarried, but my test results suggested otherwise. He diagnosed it as a “threatened abortion” (lovely phrasing, don’t you think?) and told me that I would need to go to my doctor’s office in two days to get my hCG levels tested again. If they weren’t significantly higher, I had miscarried.

So for the next two days, we waited it out. I hoped and prayed that I hadn’t miscarried – that it was just a fluke - that the initial exam had been accurate and the test results were wrong. I clung desperately to the hope that the doctor's stories of women bleeding early in pregnancy had given me.

On Tuesday morning, we went into the doctor's office. A nurse took my blood and told me that they would get the results to me as soon as possible. If she was able to get it tested right away, we would find out within a few hours, but it could also take a full day to get the results. We went home and waited some more.

A few hours later, at about 2 pm, I received the phone call I was dreading. My hCG levels were even lower than they had been at the hospital – I had indeed miscarried. As I tried in vain to process what I was being told and hold back the tears that were stinging my eyes, the doctor asked me a number of questions about whether or not I was married, whether this pregnancy had been planned or not (so he wouldn’t feel as bad if I hadn’t wanted this baby?), whether we wanted to try to have a baby again right away, what type of birth control we were using, and so on. I numbly responded to his questions, but after the first few, I couldn’t stand it anymore and politely but firmly shut down the conversation. I didn’t know the answer to all of his questions right now; I needed time to process. I would talk to my husband and get back to him later.

And then I cried. I cried for hours. I cried until there were no more tears left to cry – until my brain pounded violently within my skull. But as tired and exhausted and worn out as I was, I could not sleep that night. I remember leaving our bed (so as not to disturb Brady), going into the living room, laying on our couch, and sobbing (my tears had apparently regenerated enough by that point to allow me to cry them out again). I remember texting my dear friend (the one who had sung to my stomach only a few days before) and asking for prayer. I remember saying to that friend, “I honestly don’t know how to pray right now.” And I remember feeling the deepest, darkest despair I have ever experienced. I truly did not believe that I could ever be happy again.

Brady, God bless him, was wonderful throughout this experience. He was so supportive and loving, and I have never loved Brady more than in that next week when he took care of me. I remember being so afraid that he wouldn’t love me anymore, because I had lost his baby – I had failed him. But the complete opposite was true, and he showed it in the way he treated me during that time.

We were both in our senior year of college when this happened, and Brady went to each and every one of our professors (as I wasn’t leaving the apartment at the time) and explained what happened. Then he packed up everything I could possibly want (including seasons 1-5 of Gilmore Girls which he watched with me without complaint throughout the next week) and whisked me away to our dear friends’ cabin (the same place we had spent our honeymoon about six months prior). We spent that week at the cabin eating junk food, lounging on the couch, and watching lots of tv and movies. Looking back, those two weeks of time were, by far, the experience that has strengthened and deepened our relationship more than anything else.

It took me a long time to be happy again after my miscarriage. It took me a long time (almost a year and a half, to be exact) to be able to hear about someone else's pregnancy without being intensely jealous. It has also taken me this long to begin to feel not defective, not broken. It was not my fault. I will be pregnant again someday. I have hope in this now. A lot of these changes, a lot of this healing, is thanks to Kristin's blog and her willingness to share her struggles with me. So, my thanks goes out to you, Kristin, for all that your blog and your baby girl has meant to me. Thank you for empowering me to share my story.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Hooray for you and Brady for laying bear your heart-wrenching experience. Wow. My eyes read your story and my brain receives the information, yet my soul does not comprehend the magnitude of the words. OF COURSE IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT, my clueless male inner-voice says. There is a complexity to parenthood, especially for women, that I will never fully grasp. Thank you and blessings to your family for giving us a glimmer of what miscariage - and the love that can be forged - is like.