Saturday, October 14, 2017


*October is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month.

I lost our first child on May 29, 2010.  The date is ingrained in my memory because it was two days before Memorial Day.  It was a Saturday, and the cramps and the bleeding started early.  I probably would have thought it was my period overdue if I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test weeks earlier and excitedly presented it to my husband in a box as a five-year anniversary present.  But, I knew the truth.  My body was busy creating a life, and I convinced myself of what the books told me—that what I was feeling was simple growing pains and spotting associated with early pregnancy. 

But, they—the blood and the pain—were too much, I realized later that afternoon.  Something was wrong.  I told Mark we need to go to the ER.  We had no choice.  It was Saturday, and my doctor’s office was closed.

We were quiet on the way to the hospital, listening to Stevie Nicks’ lovely and haunting song “Rhiannon” on the radio.  She’s always been one of my favorite singers, and I listened to the song as I hadn’t before, about a woman taken by the sky, and I began to think of my baby that I was willing to stay inside of me as Rhiannon.

“Well, I don’t see anything that looks like a pregnancy,” the ultrasound tech said two hours later as she squinted at the screen before us.  She was tired, cranky, and ill-equipped to give the news. 
I was quiet as I stared at the black screen that showed my womb.  Maybe she was right.  The bleeding hadn’t stopped and the cramps were still ballooning—made worse by the catheter and ice cold water emptied into my bladder so she could stick a wand inside of me to get a clear view of my uterus. 
But if she was right, why was the pregnancy test they’d done when I first got there positive?  I clung to the thought of it—my one little rope as I dangled off the side of the Empire State Building. 
It took days to know for sure.  Hours later, a tired, gray-haired doctor came in and said there appeared to be something still inside my womb, but that they’d need to do a blood test in a couple of days to see if my HCG levels had dropped (meaning I’d lost the baby) or if they remained steady (I was still pregnant).

So, we went home without news and on Memorial Day, I went in and watched while they stuck a needle in my arm and drew blood.  Then we went to a barbeque joint and ate sandwiches, continuing to lie to ourselves about good news to come.  At least the bleeding and cramps had stopped.
I was at work when the nurse called me.  She was kind and quiet as she told me the HCG numbers had gone down.  She never said the words “miscarriage” or “lost pregnancy.”  I wondered how often she was burdened with delivering news like that to someone. 

My bosses were accommodating, one of them having lost a baby, herself.  They offered me time off work, put up signs to say my classes were cancelled due to illness.  When I was able to get back in front of the class to teach them composition skills they’d take with them, one student said, brightly, “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

I stared at her a second too long.  They didn’t know, and they never would.  Grief, I’ve always felt, is a most personal emotion, something one must feel alone before sharing it, and my grief was alive and well where Rhiannon had once been.  It was mine, and mine alone.  I thanked my student, and began my lesson for the day.

Connor saw me through the mountain of losing Rhiannon, and he was with me when we found out we were pregnant for a third time.  It was a surprise, but a happy one.  I only stilled when the ultrasound tech told us the due date: January 19, the same date Rhiannon had been due. 
But that stillness eventually gave way to joy when we heard the baby’s heartbeat and saw on the monitor little movements from the tiny baby curled into a ball.  We took those priceless first pictures with us, and I proudly showed them to my co-worker, one of only a few people who knew this little sweet secret.  I suggested the name January to Mark, and he liked it. 

In the early stages of pregnancy, one goes in for checkups about once a month.  When I went in for my second, the doctor ran the little portable monitor over my still-flat stomach.  And he couldn’t hear a thing.  He was kind, told me everything should be fine, but that he was sending me down the hall to the ultrasound room because he was having just a bit of trouble finding the heartbeat. 

A bit of trouble. 

I gathered my things and went down the hall where I sat on a bench.  I’d worn pink that day—a faded top and earrings.  It was a subconscious decision but was it a premonition?  Was this baby a girl?  I prayed that she (or he) was fine, the way I’d frantically pray in math class the day we got tests back. 

“I’m sorry,” the tech said as she removed the wand, the same kind that the previous tech had used to tell me she didn’t see a pregnancy.  I hate those wands. 

The doctor called it a missed miscarriage as I sat across from him in his office minutes later.  Just like that, January was gone.  He or she had died peacefully, nestled in my womb, but my body had trouble believing it, just as my mind did at that moment, and therefore still carried my child inside of me, still released hormones that made my emotions and breasts sensitive.
I accepted the doctor’s hug and looked at the floor as enormously pregnant women discreetly looked my way, probably curious as to why I was in silent tears, probably correctly guessing why, and most likely grateful it wasn’t them.

I was still holding Connor when  Mark came in with Papa John’s pizza and cheese sticks—my favorite—for dinner hours later, this one little thing he felt he could do to help me out.  We’d had Papa John’s for dinner at one a.m. after our emergency room visit two years prior, I’d considered.

A few days later I went in to have a dilation and curettage.  It was still dark when I arrived at the same wing of the hospital where I’d had Connor.   The nurses were kind, speaking in kind of hushed tones as they stuck a needle in my arm and wheeled me to a room I hadn’t been to in my visit before.  It was all white and lights, colder and more sterile than the room where I’d had Connor.  I hadn’t had a reason to be in this room before.  This was a place to lose a child, not to have one.
I watched the ceiling as they pushed the medicine into the needle in my hand and when I awoke, January was gone.  I mumbled through sleep and anesthesia, asking if they could tell whether it was a boy or a girl.  The nurse shook her head sadly as she helped me off the bed.  She probably had to answer that question a lot. 

That night and for several nights after, I fell asleep on a pallet in Connor’s room, right next to him, and we ate a lot of takeout.  I returned to work a few days later and found some peace lilies on my desk.  The grief wasn’t mine, alone, this time, though it did linger with me for a long time, just like it had with Rhiannon.

It took my body a long time to readjust, too.  This pregnancy wasn’t released, like before, but rather taken from me, and so the weight gain and the hormones, the sensitivity, and the pain, both physical and emotional, stayed right where they were for a long time.
Until one day they weren’t.  I eventually began cooking for my family again.  I went jogging like I used to.  I saw movies with Mark, read novels, took Connor to the park and out for ice cream, worked on my new stories. 

And about eight months later, I was pregnant with my sweet Lydia.

So, we never got to meet Connor and Lydia’s siblings.  Those prayers went unanswered, but God did answer my prayers about Connor and Lydia, proving that He knows, of course He knows, what He’s doing.  We’ll get to meet them eventually. 

It’ll just be a little later than I’d originally hoped. 

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