Silent Heartbreak

I had a miscarriage when I was 24. It was one of the most devastating events of my adult life.

For three months, I was sick. For three months, I planned out the entire future of this little being nestled safely in my womb. I even had a name: Rose Marie Elizabeth. Then, at a routine doctor’s appointment, it happened. She couldn’t find the heartbeat.

I was told not to worry, “It’s not uncommon, but just to be sure, let’s schedule you for an ultrasound.”

“But.” I hate that word. It’s always a caveat to other things. It’s hardly ever a good sign. I love you, but … I brought this for you, but … Check’s in the mail, but … Things are fine, but … ”

Off I went for my ultrasound. I was laying on the exam table with a blanket wrapped around my middle, wearing a too-big, generic hospital gown in a quiet room, tucked away from the main flow of the clinic.

I should have known.

The technician was very kind, very gentle, and sensitive to the news he was about to reveal. I had no idea how to read the images on the screen. I could see a sack, but it looked empty. His face told me what I wasn’t brave enough to ask. “I’m so sorry,” he said, “these things happen. There’s nothing you could have done. It’s not your fault.”

I don’t remember changing my clothes or walking out of the clinic, but I remember sobbing in the car as though my soul had been shredded from my body.

They told me that it could take up to two weeks for my body to have the miscarriage. I was in agony. My mind was tortured by the thoughts of what I was carrying around inside me. Of the life I had so lovingly planned just a few moments before. Now it was nothing but shambles around my feet. Everything felt broken: my mind, my body, my life, my baby, my dreams.

Two weeks later, I felt the first pain. It came slowly at first, very far apart, and just like regular labor, it gradually increased in speed and strength and length. I drove myself home from work but shouldn’t have. I don’t remember anything but thinking I was going to die.

It was just like giving birth except there would be no baby at the end of all the work.

I couldn’t do it. I was literally a shaking lump of tears on the bathroom floor. Somehow, I managed to get the phone to call 911. The woman on the other end was soothing, and I felt safer.

I ended up in the hospital Emergency Room that night. Unfortunately, the nurse was cruel and unsympathetic to what was happening to me and the obstetrician was busy with happier things upstairs to pay much attention to me. Two residents took pity on me, giving me a warm blanket and a shot to numb the pain. They offered simple but powerful kindness by touching my knee and stroking my hair as I cried. Twelve hours later, it was over. The obstetrician examined me, and I was sent home.

I had no idea how to heal. Is time my only option, because sitting in that murk and disillusionment would have killed me.

I decided to go to the book store to find a book about miscarriage. I was standing in the grief section trying to find something that would work for what I was feeling. Nothing. I went to the death section. Nothing. I went to the self-help section. Nothing. There was nothing for me. I’ve never felt so completely alone. Dejected, I sat on the little stool meant to help people reach for the higher shelves and just cried. I cried for my baby and for me and for my hopes and dreams that seemed so very far away. And I cried, because I was angry that happiness had been ripped away from me.

As I was leaving the bookstore, I passed by the baby section—where all the “new mom” books are, the cute baby faces in cute baby clothes, where all the happy families hang out. At first, I was going to keep walking because the thought of looking at what I had just lost threatened to unravel my last thread of strength. But something inside me told me to be brave, to just look up, to look at the titles, that it’ll be OK.1405283_85836809 purple flower

I picked up a book about natural pregnancy. It was called Immaculate Deception. I don’t know why I picked it up. Maybe it was the word “deception” since that’s how I felt. Or maybe it was “immaculate” because the word held a promise that better times where ahead. Whatever the reason, it was the book that would lead me to my two beautiful home water births. It was the inspiration for finding my power as a woman. It planted the seeds of expectation: that we all deserve a respectful birth which empowers us and celebrates our strength, within in a culture that respects our choices.

At the time, my miscarriage was one of the most painful events I ever went through. It took me months to physically recover and years before I recovered emotionally. But I believe everything happens for a reason, even our darkest moments, and if we can be brave enough to just look up, we’ll be fortunate enough to discover what that reason is and be better for knowing.

*Originally published in the New Baby 2012 edition of Attached Family. Click here to access past issues of Attached Family. If you are not already an API member, you can join now for free by using the link provided on the Attached Family page.


Miscarriage – The Silent Empty Box

To be filled with life is something.  To be pregnant with a growing little miracle of science and nature in your belly is beautiful.  To lose a pregnancy is sad.  The feeling is surrounded with so many emotions.  Guilt, loss, nothing, emptiness, aching, breaking, bending into shadows dark.  I had to take a break today and submerge myself in some creative work.  I wanted to shake this feeling of empty.  Shake it loose from the empty box it resides in now.  Like a box with nothing inside.  Just invisible strings connecting back to my heart.  I don’t know how to put it in words so I am not going to worry about using dazzling adverbs or catchy phrases, but they may just happen to come out that way.  I just want to write a post about it.

There are so many women out there feeling this same feeling today, yesterday, tomorrow.  It covers me like a vine nobody can see.  Much like a bean pole vine grasping to anything its tendril can reach.

Photo by memomuse – “Bean Pole Vines in My Garden”

Something sturdy, mounted in dirt, standing upright.  This vine of sadness can’t grasp onto nothing.  So I grasp and curl around words.  Around people I trust.  Around acknowledgement that it happened. That’s its over. That I need to grieve.

As my mind curls and bends in thoughts of what may have been, what was just yesterday, before the bleeding started, before the sadness erupted.  Before yesterday, I was cocooning into a ball of beauty, growing inside, feelings of joy and elation surrounded me.  Flowers and fruits of joy rippled in the sun.

“Layers of Light” – Photo by memomuse Layers of light echoed over me, through me, around me, spinning into thick spidery webs.  Now there is nothing.  Just this box of invisible sadness nobody can see with the naked eye.

Long story short – I went to visit my dying mother in Colorado three weeks ago.  The night before I left, my husband and I made love.  I went home to Wyoming and Colorado where I feel the most alive and vibrant, for it is home and my place on this earth.  I have been transplanted to North Carolina and I am trying to make the most of it.  But back home, where I come from, just as the Kenny Chesney song sings, I love it there.  On this journey where I thought I was going to say goodbye to my mother, I was surrounded by a land that knows me.  That I know.  That I love.  This journey home, this journey to say goodbye, something magical happened.  We conceived a baby.  A miracle.  A seed that sprouted into life.  I found out last week I was pregnant.  I took three home pregnancy tests and was more surprised with each positive test, as I have struggled with infertility in the past.  My son is just thirteen months old.  We were not actively trying to get pregnant.  So it was a surprise to find out we were pregnant without even a blink of the eye, without a blink of the heart.

I took a home pregnancy test on Monday, then Wednesday, and then Saturday.  All positive.  The faint blue line got thicker with each test.  I took a urine test at the doctor on Monday and they told me to come back in a week because it was, not without a doubt, positive, but there was a shadow line.  So I took two more home tests that week, Wednesday and Saturday.  And sure enough, positive.  I started to feel the pregnancy symptoms, fatigue and drop to the floor tired.

I went in to take another urine test at the doctor yesterday,  feeling it wasn’t needed, feeling pregnant, feeling sure a life was growing and thriving inside me.  I didn’t need a doctor or lab technician to tell me I was pregnant.  Something bigger happened – a life bloomed from my journey to say goodbye to my mother.  How serendipitous.  How miraculous.  How joyous. It made the fact that my mother is dying a soft sleeve to rest on.  To rejoice on.  I was sure this baby was a girl and I was going to name her Eleanor Elizabeth and call her Ellie Elizabeth.

My mom, Elizabeth, and me as a baby

Elizabeth, named after my mother. I had visions of her soft curls, her big blue eyes, her big heart.

When I took the test at the doctor just yesterday, I noticed some blood.  Frightened, I told the nurse.  Then the results from the lab technician came in.  The test was negative.   I fumbled with my paperwork to hand to the check out clerk at the doctors.  She gave me a silent nod and a sweet abbreviation of sugar, “You’re all set, Sug.”   I wanted so badly to walk out the back door, nobody to see my sadness or my tears, as they began to gush. I walked past all the ripe bellies, round and plump with life.

Sometimes I wish there was a sign women going through the grief of miscarriage could wear on their back.  “Please treat with kindness – grieving heart – may slumber slowly today and tomorrow and certainly the day after next.”  But it is invisible.  Our eyes are swollen, sad, and watered with tears only time can heal.  There is no clock for this time passage.  It is not an hour, a week, a month, or a year.  It is a hole in our heart.  We go on.  And on. And hopefully you can give a hug to someone in need.  Perhaps, you just don’t know.  And what do you say? There are no words.  Just invisible tendrils trying to clutch at something strong, sturdy.  For it may be the hope of another chance at conceiving.

My toddler in my arms
Perhaps it is the smile from a toddler in your arms.  Perhaps it is the earthy soil in your hands as you plant a memorial garden.  Perhaps, the box is still empty when you shake it, although you are sure something is inside.  Something thick. Something heavy.  Because something like a life just doesn’t vanish when you bleed.

* This essay was written four months ago.

Worry Over Miscarriage

By Rita Brhel,

At the end of December, I found out that I’m pregnant with my third child. My first emotion was pure joy and uncontainable excitement. My second emotion was worry. Worry over the health of my baby, worry over the fear of miscarriage. Not that I have any particular reason to worry, but some expectant mothers have this practice of not announcing their pregnancy until the second trimester, just in case a miscarriage should happen.

I found out with my first baby that worry and motherhood go hand-in-hand, so this emotion was nothing new. But still, there is nothing pleasant about worrying. It doesn’t bring a magic solution. Worrying doesn’t guard against bad things. But I am a worrier by nature.

Today, I decided that I’m not going to wait to announce my pregnancy. I’m in my first trimester. I have a long way to go before I see this baby face-to-face. And I don’t want to wait that long to tell the world that there’s a new little one in our family.
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