This is by far the hardest post I’ve written. I’m saying that from the outset because my thoughts are already scattered and my emotions are raw. I’m fighting back tears right now, but I thought maybe the best thing to do would be to go ahead and get my feelings written down while I was experiencing them. I can’t promise all my thoughts will be completely coherent, but I will do my best to explain my feelings.
Let me first say this before I even start: this is a touchy subject. Every momma who has experienced a loss deals with it and grieves in her own way. I would never presume to judge their choices, actions, or feelings. This is not about what I think people should do or think, this is only about me and my experience. Please read this understanding that these are my raw emotions regarding my own miscarriage, and not a commentary on anyone else’s experience. I almost hesitate to write it because I don’t want anyone who has had a miscarriage and disagrees with my feelings on it to assume that I’m making a judgment about how they handled theirs. I don’t write this to persuade anybody of anything. I write this because I made choices that I didn’t fully understand. I would do things differently if I had it to do all over again. This is for your contemplation, nothing more.
We were married about 6 months when we found out we were pregnant with our first baby. We were ecstatic! We talked about having a large family even before we were married, and we were happy to be starting out so early. I was feeling dizzy at work, which is why I took the test in the first place. I can still remember taking the test and leaving it in the bathroom while I went back to the kitchen to do something…probably deal with dinner, I don’t even remember. Colby went in to look and brought it out to me with the biggest smile on his face! I don’t think either of us really believed it yet, but there it was! I remember hugging in the kitchen, exactly 10 years ago this month. My OB was over an hour away in my hometown, and there weren’t any doctors of any sort in the small little town we lived in at the time. The thought of driving 30 minutes to the town my husband worked in wasn’t appealing to me, because that would mean finding a new doctor, and I was happy with mine, so I went back to him. As we sat in the room getting our very first ultrasound, we saw our precious little baby there on the screen. Neither one of us could stop beaming with pride and excitement! The nurse pointed out all of his features. ***We never found out the baby’s sex, but I can’t stand to call him “it”, and we wanted a boy and have had 3 boys since, so we just say he was a boy. We’re really not certain, but we’re going with that!*** We saw his huge head, how it was as big as the rest of his body. We saw tiny arms. Then the tech showed us the heart. That tiny little squiggle on the screen that was rhythmically moving…that was our baby’s heartbeat. Wow, how awesome was that? That God created life in my womb! That my body was providing life-sustaining sustenance to his tiny body. I was in awe. The nurse tried to listen for a heartbeat, but couldn’t find it. No matter, we’d hear it next time…so I thought.
The next month was a blur. I don’t really remember much. I’m sure I was looking at baby items online and all the things new moms do. I think I even picked up some parenting magazines. Then something happened, something I wasn’t expecting. While at work, I went to the restroom and I was bleeding. That scared me. I thought, “This isn’t normal.” I called my doctor. The nurse wanted me to come in right away. I told her I was an hour away, and it was already past 4 and they closed at 5. She scheduled an ultrasound for the next day and told me to go home and lie down in bed and rest. I was nervous. I was scared. I lay in bed and worried. The drive the next day took forever. We were ushered into a dark little room where I was going to have another ultrasound. After the nurse finished, I went to the bathroom to clean myself up, and though I didn’t know it at the time, the nurse was talking to Colby. She said she couldn’t tell him anything, that we would have to wait for the doctor. But then she turned the screen purposely toward Colby as she typed in her notes: no heartbeat. She was preparing him for what he was going to have to do for me. He hid it well, I had no idea. After all of this, I was still holding out hope that everything was going to be okay. We went down the hall of the medical mall down to my OB’s office and waited for him to see us. When he did, things became real. He told me he was sorry, but that my baby didn’t have a heartbeat. I held it together while he was talking, and I can honestly say I can’t even remember what else he said in that moment. I vaguely remember something about he probably had abnormalities anyway and wouldn’t have been viable, but that’s about as much as I recall. As soon as he left, I lost it. I mean I was crying, sobbing, wailing…I didn’t even care who could hear me. Colby held me in his lap like a little baby, trying so hard to comfort me. At some point the doctor came back in to talk about my options. He said he wanted to schedule me for a D&C. I had no idea what that was. He said if I didn’t do that, then the baby would pass on its own and it’s too painful (I think he meant emotionally), so he would prefer I did the surgery to remove the baby. I trusted him, and I figured he knew what was best. He said he’d schedule it for that afternoon.
I was almost 11 weeks along when I lost my baby. It was a Thursday, April 8, 2004 to be exact. I was devastated. I remember how much pain I was in when I woke up from surgery. I couldn’t stop crying. I know this might sound strange, but afterward, mom took me to get my hair cut. I had been needing one for awhile and hadn’t found the time, and it was just sort of something to distract me and get me out of the house. Of course, the hairdresser wanted to chitchat like most of them do. . .which I normally quite enjoy. . .but that day I cried, and my mom quietly told her what had just happened. I sat there and just let her cut my hair, and it was soothing. My boss gave me the weekend off, so we spent one more night with my parents and then drove to his parents house to be with them. I think Colby needed his parents just like I had needed mine. He also needed his best friend. I don’t want to say anything more than that, because both of us grieved in very different and personal ways, and that’s part of the story I want to remain private.
Back at work, I could hardly function. The guy across the hall at the video game store was wondering how he was going to be a daddy now that his girlfriend was pregnant. A teenager in my store was pregnant, and another teenager working one of the kiosks with her boyfriend was pregnant. All these unwed teenagers having babies, and here I was married and wanting a baby and I lost mine. It wasn’t their fault. But it still stabbed my heart like a knife. Mother’s Day came, and I got no card, and I got no Happy Mother’s Day greeting. I felt like I was a mother. I knew I was a mother. But how could I tell my family, “Hey guys, you know, I AM a mom with a baby in heaven, and I still want acknowledgement on Mother’s Day?” Yeah, that was kind of weird even for me. So how could I hold it against them if they didn’t even realize how I felt? I couldn’t, and I still don’t.
Halloween rolled around, and I went into the back of the store and bawled like a baby. You see, my baby was due on October 30, and the sight of all the people trick-or-treating at the mall with their cute little dressed-up kids was just too much for me to handle. My dad had joked with me about having a Halloween baby, and I wondered what the odds were that he’d actually be born that day. Every Halloween I think about him, how old he would be. Last Halloween he would have been nine. I can’t hardly believe that I would have had a nine year old right now! One thing I do remember that really upset me was the bill from the hospital. When I got it, the itemized statement said, “Abortion”. Abortion? I didn’t have an abortion, I miscarried my baby! I was angry. I thought, “How insensitive! Here I am grieving, and they’re saying I had an abortion?!” I didn’t realize that the procedure I had to remove my dead baby from my uterus was the same one they use when performing an abortion in the first trimester. No, I didn’t have an abortion and purposely kill my baby, he died on his own; but seeing that word on the paper really hurt. Even now when I fill out medical history, when I have to write “D&C” under surgeries, I make sure to write “miscarriage” next to it, just to be clear. And now that I realize what it was, the thought of my baby being unceremoniously scraped and suctioned out of my womb makes me sick.
So let’s fast forward to the present day, ten years and three boys later. Over the past ten years I’ve had my breakdowns periodically. I had one a couple weeks ago. But this one was different. For the first time since I lost my baby, ten whole years later, I felt guilt. I don’t mean just a little guilt, like, “What if I did something to cause it?” I know I didn’t cause it. I felt guilt for the first time because of how I handled the miscarriage. This is the part where my emotions may make no sense to anyone but me. Now, in all fairness to my past self, I had never known anyone who had had a miscarriage, at least that I knew of. In the very least it wasn’t talked about, and I had never thought of how I would handle that situation. I have to cut myself some slack, and I’m sure I will eventually, but like I said, this is still fresh for me, just a couple weeks old. Here goes: “Why did I do the D&C and not give birth to the baby? Why did I not have a private ceremony and bury him? Why did I let him get disposed of with the rest of the medical waste? He wasn’t waste, he was my baby, and I feel like I threw him away. I did nothing to honor him. I knew he was a real person, I knew he was my baby, I was grieving his loss, but I feel like my actions didn’t honor or respect him. Why didn’t I name him? Why didn’t I hold him?” These thoughts never crossed my mind 10 years ago. I didn’t realize what I was doing, nor that I would regret it all these years later. Would it have been hard to give birth to a dead child? You bet. I am sure that no matter what I did, it would have been hard. How can it not be hard to lose a child, no matter what the circumstances? But in the doctor’s effort to spare my feelings, I think what actually happened was that I waited 10 years to experience those feelings rather than deal with them right then and there. Except that now it’s too late. I can’t go back and do it properly. I can’t go back and honor him by bringing him into this world and holding his tiny body and telling him I love him. Now I feel like I have no closure at all. These old wounds are creeping back into my heart and all I can hear is my own voice scolding me, telling me I did the wrong thing.
Why now? Why am I just coming to terms with this? Perhaps reading several blogs about other parents’ experiences have helped me finally confront my emotions. Today I saw this one by Tom Riles for the first time. Here is an excerpt that pretty much sums up what I wish I would have done and why:
On his Life of Dad Show, Riles recounts their sad experience:
“As the day went on, it was devastating but she went into labor and had the baby…and that’s why I wanted to tell this story because I wanted people to know that this is an option. The baby was born, we held the baby, the doctor gave the baby to us, and we were with him for about an hour just taking turns holding and singing to him and talking to him and telling about his brother and sister and we were crying, we’re crushed, but at he same time it was beautiful. Even though our son wasn’t alive, life never felt so, I can’t think of the right verb, amazing….parts of it were amazing, to be holding your son there… At the same time you’re thinking about the life that he’s not going to have…so sad but at the same time so powerful knowing and proud knowing that we, especially my wife, did everything she could for that kid, and gave him the same respect and love and support as she did our other two babies that are of course, are alive…and to have no regrets at this point.” (emphasis mine)
I feel like I could have handled the death of my baby differently, in a manner that would have brought him honor and respect. His short life could have been, and should have been, celebrated. I also want people to know that they do have an option to do something different than the standard procedure for miscarriage. I wish so desperately that I would have know ten years ago. Maybe someone reading this now will be able to make a more informed decision if they ever experience this tragedy themselves.
So now what? I don’t know. Will everyone think I’m weird if I start saying I have 4 children, not 3? I have friends who have lost children minutes, hours, or even years after they were born, and it seems normal and reasonable for them to say they have X-number-of kids and one is in heaven. After all, they were here on earth, they have pictures, they had family celebrations together, people knew them. But for miscarriage? Especially since I didn’t do anything for him when he died? What can I do now to honor him? He doesn’t even have a name. So what do I call my first baby? I’ve been saying “my angel baby” (even though I know people don’t turn into angels when they get to heaven, but that’s a common term for them that people generally understand). Do I give him a name now? I have no answers, just mixed emotions.
Now I just want a redo, a chance to honor my very first child. I’m at a loss for what to do at this point. I want redemption. It’s only by God’s grace that I will find peace. I don’t think there’s a single thing I can do at this point that could right that wrong. I’ve had his sonogram picture all these years, and I think one thing I’d like to do is find a nice frame and put it somewhere special in my home to honor him as part of our family. A dear, sweet friend of mine also did something so kind and overwhelming that I can’t hardly believe it. She ordered me a very special wrap in honor of my little angel baby. I can’t wait to get it and wrap up my newest little squish, and remember how every life is precious and that he mattered. He mattered to me, he mattered to Colby, he mattered to God. I wish I could have held him and told him how much I love him. Now it’s something I whisper in my prayers, and I hope he hears me now and knows that I will always, always love him dearly. I hope he forgives me. . .I know God forgives me, and maybe one day I can forgive myself and begin to heal again.
See my follow-up post, Pregnancy After Miscarriage.
***UPDATE: We named him Eli. All my kids have biblical names, so I wanted him to as well. It’s Hebrew for “ascended”. I couldn’t think of a better name for him.***