For as many steps as I’ve taken toward moving on, there are still days where I feel like I’m caught in quicksand.
No matter how much I work, or how many weekend trips I plan, or how many runs I do in the morning, no matter how much I fill my day planner, I cannot escape the miscarriage. I’ve tried my best to fill my life with work, and friends, and church, and books, and magazines, and exercise. I’ve tried not to leave any room for grief. But somehow, it keeps finding its way in.
If I’m quiet for one moment, I slip into a daydream where I imagine myself six months pregnant or decorating a nursery. I catch myself imagining my husband rolling over in the morning and kissing my big belly, whispering to our son or daughter.
I fall into pockets of sadness in the mundane moments of my life – just today, in the simplest act of wiping down the sink after rinsing dishes. I had to turn away from my husband because I didn’t want him to see the tears in my eyes. I know he could sense something was wrong but there’s nothing I can say that will help him, or anyone understand.
I’ve been feeling much better lately. Really, I have.
I’ve been thinking about what I learned from this whole experience and I’ve come up with a few things:
Grief is like a tsunami. It comes suddenly and in huge waves. It completely drowns the heart and mind and then it recedes, slowly. Eventually, things get back to normal but it takes time and you can’t rush it. And that takes me to my next learn.
Time really does heal. Yeah. It’s cliché and I wouldn’t have believed you two months ago if you would have said I would feel like myself in just eight short weeks. But I do. I think the catch here is that you have to be willing to heal and, for me that meant finding out that you have to…
Trust the process. I’m still working on this one. Pregnancy is a forty-week process. Miscarriage is a process. The monthly menstrual cycle is a process. Grief is a process. Healing is a process. I’ve learned I can’t rush any of it. I’ve tried and it just leads to more anxiety. Anxiety leads to suffering and here’s what I’ve learned about suffering…
Suffering is a choice. After this experience, I can distinguish between grief and suffering. Grief is what you feel when you lose something that meant a lot. Suffering is becoming a prisoner to grief. I can grieve my loss but I will not suffer from it or because of it because I deserve more.
If a woman in my life ever experiences a miscarriage, these are the things I would tell her. She wouldn’t believe me, of course, because it’s not something you can believe until you go through the process yourself. But I would tell her anyway because when you go through a miscarriage, you want to know that it will get better even when you simply can’t imagine anything but the pain of the loss.
While I’m sad I had to learn these lessons in this way, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to come away with something and I’m proud to say that I survived.
Early June will mark 8 weeks since my miscarriage. Eight weeks was how long my baby lived inside of me. In eight weeks, nearly all the organs in my baby’s body had started forming. Its eye lids were sealing shut. It had hands and arms, and legs. It had a beating heart. And then, it was gone.
So here I am, 8 weeks not-pregnant. It’s almost like a dream; something that I’m sure and certain seemed so real but there’s nothing that exists to prove it to me. I would question whether it all happened, but the empty place in my heart tells me it did.
My best friend is well into the second trimester of her pregnancy. She is exactly where I would have been. She sent me a message the other day after hearing her baby’s heartbeat for the first time. When I opened the message I simultaneously had two reactions. The first was one of excitement for her; her first true sign that life exists inside. The other reaction was one of sheer shock.
Since the miscarriage, it hadn’t occurred to me that pregnancy ends in anything other than a miscarriage and here, in my life, written in a text message on my phone, was an example of how it does.
That was a confronting moment and I spent a few seconds whimpering and trying to stop my face from contorting into the expression that ends with tears and gasping.
I couldn’t do it. I cried on my husband’s shoulder, soaking it with tears and begged him to help me understand why. “Why not us? Why not our baby’s heartbeat? Why did this happen?”
He didn’t have an answer. No one does and believe me I’ve asked: doctors, nurses, friends, and yes, God. The same thing I hear over, and over, and over again is “Everything happens for a reason.”
OK. I can buy it. I get it. It makes sense. But what’s the reason it happened to us? Answer me that and should I be fortunate enough to have a successful pregnancy, I’ll name my firstborn after you.
I never thought I’d be so anxious to get a period. Yes, you read it right: anxious, not eager. I’m starting to get jumpy here. Before the pregnancy, I was regular to the hour. It was actually kind of creepy. Now, I’m on day 35 of Period Watch. Yep – it’s an official event with official lingo.
I’ve adopted some of the National Weather Center’s lingo to help liven up the waiting. “Watch” actually means, conditions are favorable though no actual signs have been spotted. “Warning” means that there’s been an actual sighting.
Indeed, conditions are favorable. It’s been more than 20 days without bleeding and my last ultrasound showed no remaining products of conception. Plus, I really, really, want to get it. What’s not favorable about that?
Getting old Aunt Flo will be the first sign that my body is back in business. The second sign will be getting another one within a reasonable time frame.
I feel a bit like I’ve become my own science experiment. Watching, waiting, observing; adding variables like vitamins and folic acid: “Let’s see what happens if I take these.” And then, subtracting other variables: “If I don’t wear a pad, and I wear white pants, will karmic forces intercede?”
Soon I’ll be sampling my own cervical mucus and comparing it to pictures on the internet. But hey, it’s in the name of science! Exhibit 100E: Female Homosapien post-miscarriage.
Come to think of it though, when you’re trying to have a baby, conception is really more science than it is romance. If you look for information on trying to conceive, then you’ll probably come across three of the most popular topics:
Temping: the process of monitoring your basal body temperature to detect the subtle rise indicating ovulation is imminent or occurring. A decline in temperature after a slight elevation usually indicates the egg was released and not fertilized. If the temperature stays elevated, it could indicate implantation of a fertilized egg.\
Cervical mucus: I wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to start sampling it. Otherwise known as CM, cervical mucus morphs throughout the month from sticky to creamy to slippery and thin like egg-whites. It’s the slippery thin stuff that helps sperm swim and when you see it, it’s time to get it on if you know what I mean.
Charting: the process of recording temperature and cervical mucus among other signs throughout your monthly cycle. There’s a whole system of checks, and circles, and squares and letters and morse code involved with charting (just kidding on the morse code part – but it’s almost as complex)
All of that is well beyond my reach at this time though. I’m still waiting for my monthly cycle to make an appearance for the first time since January. I’ll give it two more weeks until I start to panic. In the meantime, I think I’ll go buy some white pants and see if I can tempt the universe.
I’m convinced that the universe is conspiring against me. The day I first found there was a problem with my pregnancy my doctor was delivering babies. The day I didn’t see a heartbeat on the ultrasound screen, my doctor was on vacation and my husband was en route to San Francisco for a business event. The day I actually had the miscarriage, my hubby was in Washington, DC. When the nurse called to schedule my two-week follow up appointment, it made sense that she said, ‘Ohhh. Gosh. The week we need to get you in is the week the doctor is scheduled for jury duty.” Come on universe! Really?
I digress, however. Today, I want to share my follow-up appointment saga.
Because my doctor was out fulfilling her civic responsibilities (and for the record, “I have to deliver babies” is not a valid reason to be excused from jury duty in the great State of Ohio), I had to select, from among more than a dozen, another doctor in the practice. “Do you have a preference?” the scheduling nurse asked.
I requested the doctor a friend recommended and didn’t hold my breath for anything special. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by the women who walked in the room and said, “It’s hard coming to our offices and seeing so many pregnant women and babies, isn’t it?”
Let me be really honest here. Her compassion wasn’t unprovoked. The nurse who called me in from the waiting room had the gall to ask “How are you?”
Well, after sitting in a waiting room full of glowing women in various stages of pregnancy, I was undeniably not OK. Through gritted teeth, I basically told the nurse about how sucky my life is right now. She was lucky to walk away without bruised shins.
I guess my reaction was a bit startling because she led me to a room right away and the doctor was knocking on my door within a matter of seconds. I can only imagine what the nurse must have said. Probably something along the lines of “We’ve got a situation in Room 2. Take your tranq gun.”
Wiping my eyes with the back of my hand and uncurling my lower lip, I nodded in acknowledgement of the doctor’s question and thought about apologizing for my emotional behavior. I decided against it and let her make the next move.
The doctor was blessedly calm. She’s what my friend would call ‘granola.’ You know. The type of person to wear Birkenstocks with socks and play an acoustic guitar after dinner and before reading Organic Gardening on her soy sheet set. In other words, exactly what I needed. (By the way, I have no idea if this doctor wears Birkenstocks or gardens organically but I would be willing to bet yes.)
We chatted for a bit and she jotted down notes as I recounted the events that landed me in that room on that day. She answered all of my questions, did an internal exam, ordered blood work and said, “There’s no reason to wait if you want to try again. You can start with your next cycle.”
“Let me clarify,” I said. “You mean, as soon as I get my period, I can stop using protection?”
Nodding, she said, “Yes. Your next cycle.”
For the first time in weeks I smiled. I was overjoyed. “Thank you. Thank you for your time and your patience.” I hurried out of the room nearly knocking over the nurse I initially almost knocked out. I went to the lab to have my HCG (the pregnancy hormone) draw and then made the good news call to my husband.
The excitement of that visit lasted just over 24 hours. I got a call the next day from my doctor’s nurse. “Your HCG is still at 13. We need to make sure it gets to zero. Can you come back for more blood work in two weeks?”
I was devastated. I am devastated. How can this be? I’m not pregnant but the pregnancy hormone is still in my blood?
“It can take some women a long time to drop to zero,” the nurse explained over the phone.
“Well, what if it doesn’t drop?” I asked.
“We have no reason to believe it won’t,” she said. “We just like to make sure it gets to zero.”
Through more probing I was able to find out that some women require an “intervention” if the numbers don’t continue to fall. The nurse didn’t care to elaborate on what exactly an intervention entails. Left to my own imagination, I pictured a cold hospital room and machines that beep. I hope I don’t have to find out.