I have two babies that died.
I don’t really talk about it and I don’t think I’ve ever written about it before. Not because I’m ashamed, but because what happened seems so intensely private to me.
I have come to realize though, that I have found healing in hearing the stories of others and realizing that I’m not alone. It is my hope that my story will help someone else.
October is Pregnancy And Infant Loss Awareness Month. That means a lot of things for a lot of people. Research – let’s find out why this happens and try to stop it. Remembrance – let’s mourn for our littlest ones, lost. Support – let’s show our love to those close to us who are hurting.
For me, it is a bit of all of that.
Around the time that Sweet Hippie Daughter went off to school that little internal ticking became more and more distracting until I had to sit down with Handsome Hippie Hubby and tell him how I felt. I REALLY want another baby!
We discussed it for a long time. Finances were an issue. We were scraping by without a penny to spare. He was feeling too old. “I don’t want to be raising kids until I’m a senior citizen,” he told me. But, after a year or so, on my November birthday, he said, “You know, I think maybe I’m ready for one more baby, too.”
We did everything right. I cut out caffeine and alcohol and took up walking. I went to the doctor and got checked out from head to toe. I was older, but not so old – still in my early 30s.
In March we got the news we’d been waiting for. Baby was on the way! I was ecstatic! I ran out and bought a maternity shirt that day. My arms were already aching to hold my baby. I felt just like I did with my first pregnancy – perfectly healthy with very little appetite but no major nausea. I was an insomniac and dry toast gave me heartburn just as surely as hot-pepper-covered pizza.
Toward the end of April I had a sudden urge to use the bathroom. I sat down and found myself in a horror movie. There was so much blood! I didn’t have pain at all. Just bleeding. A lot of bleeding.
I screamed for Sweet Hippie Daughter and she came running, right away. “Go next door to where Daddy works and tell him I need him. It’s an emergency. I need him to take me to the doctor right away.”
It seemed like 10 seconds later that he was at my side and helping me to the car. I cried a little. I knew what was happening. I knew they couldn’t stop it. But I kept telling myself I was wrong.
At the hospital it didn’t take long at all for them to confirm my fears. “Your hormone levels are far too low. This is way too much blood. The pregnancy is ending.”
That’s when I lost it and started truly sobbing.
The doctor, who had been very cold and more physically rough than any I’d ever been to, actually asked me, “What are you crying about?”
I was sent home to recover with instructions to follow up with my OB/GYN in the morning.
I asked myself the doctor’s question, “What are you crying about?” I didn’t ever hold this child. I hadn’t really even told anyone about the pregnancy yet. It was so early in the pregnancy that the embryo probably never even had a heartbeat.
But it wasn’t just an embryo. It was my baby.
More than that, it was the hope of a baby in the future. If I lost this one, who’s to say that I will ever be able to carry another?
It seemed like it should have hurt more. As the hubs tucked me under the blankets of our bed and sat there, brushing my hair away from my forehead it seemed like my body should require some nursing. But the truth is my body felt fine, even as a piece of my heart withered up and died.
I only told a handful of people what had happened.
To my surprise, very nearly every woman I spoke to had her own story. I couldn’t help but wonder. How common is this?!
In May there was another positive test and I was very happy but there was a shadow this time. I didn’t run out and buy anything. I waited.
I had learned that the vast majority of miscarriages happen in the first 8 weeks. How many? Some reports guess that nearly 75% of women experience an early miscarriage at some point in their lives – often without even realizing they were pregnant. I passed 8 weeks and started to have hope.
In week 9, in the middle of Sunday morning church I felt that now-familiar “letting go” feeling and knew that the bleeding had started again.
Another baby was gone and hope was even further away. Even my doctor started to hint at a problem. “Do you remember having issues with your IUD? Did you have a lot of pain after your daughter’s delivery?”
There was no reason that anyone could give me why my body could not hold on to my babies.
The doctor told us to stop trying for a month and, when I had another positive test I should call her that same day.
In August I called her. She immediately put me on hormones and sent me for an ultrasound. I was 5 weeks pregnant and my little bean showed up beautifully in grainy black and white.
“There is no heartbeat,” the technician told me. “But that’s nothing to worry about. It’s very early. We’ll try again in a week or two.”
At six weeks there was no heartbeat.
At eight weeks there was no heartbeat and the tech stopped trying to be cheerful.
The nurse from my OB/GYN’s office called and said, “this is not a real pregnancy. There’s just an empty sac there. I expect your body will reject it any day now. Call us right away when that happens.”
Not “if.” When.
At 9 1/2 weeks I was still waiting for that moment when I went in for yet another scan. I stepped into the bathroom and there it was – a tiny spot of blood. Just one tiny spot. I came out and told the tech and she said, “it’s OK. It’s not so much. Let’s look anyway.”
And there it was! Fluttering away like mad. My little bean was alive! And I was bleeding.
It was one of the most terrifying times of my life. I was afraid to move. I was afraid to sneeze. I was terrified every time I went to the bathroom.
I would talk to my belly. “Hold on in there! I know it might be hard but I saw how strong you are. Just don’t let go, OK? Hold on and I promise to do everything I can to help from my side of the wall.”
Thanks be to God that at about 14 weeks the tiny trickle of blood stopped.
We dared to start sharing our good news and at 20 weeks our ultrasound showed us a rather large, perfectly formed baby boy.
He held on. He held on until contractions started at 36 weeks.
“No! Not yet!” I told my belly. “At least another week or two, OK? It’s getting close but it’s not time yet.”
And he held on.
38 weeks came and I was exultant. “You can come out now!” I said.
And he held on.
40 weeks came and I was massive and miserable. “Please, for the love of God, come out, son!”
And he held on.
42 weeks came and it was time to call in reinforcements. “Go in and get him out!” I begged.
And they did. It took a c-section, one nurse kneeling on the table, pushing down on my belly, and two on the tail end, pulling with forceps and a vacuum. The hubs stood there looking horrified while trying to reassure me and I lay on the table thinking, “golly, that guy got somebody’s blood all over his shoes,” and wondering if I was going to throw up because something felt very weird in my abdominal region.
A little side note: They give you some pretty powerful drugs at times like those.
A whole OR full of med students Oohed and Aaahed when they finally dragged my reluctant, perfectly round, very pink, squalling, nearly 10 pound baby boy into the world.
He had a perfect knot in his umbilical cord. It was explained to me that every time I had a contraction he would be pushed downward. That motion would tighten the knot and cut off his air supply. By pulling away from the cervix he would stop the contractions and be able to breathe. If labor had progressed he would very likely have been stillborn.
He is our miracle baby.
The second he was in my arms he latched on and started nursing and I swear, in 3 1/2 years the kid hasn’t stopped eating yet.
Finally, our baby was with us, whole and healthy and loved so very much.
I still hold him and wonder about my other babies. Would they have been boys or girls? Would they have Sweet Hippie Daughter’s extraordinary insight? Would they be as insatiably curious as Toddler-saurus Rex? Would they have had eyes like mine or, like their siblings, looked more like their Daddy?
I will never know. And I don’t think I will ever be OK with that. The loss of those children left a mark that will always be tender, though it’s no longer as raw as it once was.
I understand now, that I am not alone. Millions of women deal with pregnancy loss every year. We are not alone, but each of our stories are as unique as the babies we loved and lost.
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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