Last week I announced on our blog the exciting news that we were expecting our second child. I mentioned that I had an upcoming prenatal visit where I could compare how much weight I lost with this baby compared to with Sam. I was close to 12 weeks. Our doctor couldn't find the baby's heartbeat with the Doppler, which he assured me was normal this early in gestation. We pulled out the mini ultrasound machine, "just for fun". I joked that Ryan was going to be so mad that he stayed home with Sam and missed an ultrasound.
The mini ultrasound showed no heartbeat, and no fetal movement. Our doctor called in the attending physician, who confirmed that she couldn't see it either. I got rushed to the diagnostic center for a full ultrasound. It took the tech there about 30 seconds to confirm that the baby had no heartbeat, and had stopped growing about 3 weeks ago. She told me she was sorry, but that it was unmistakable that "my child had died."
Can you die without ever really being alive?
I know from my training in perinatal genetics that miscarriages, especially first trimester losses, are fairly common. Logically, I get that. But the irrational side of me never ever thought I'd be one of the women sharing that common experience.
The days after we got the news were pretty awful. My body still hadn't let go of the pregnancy, so I was still nauseous and exhausted. I had to take medicine to induce the actual miscarriage. Feeling so betrayed by my body was one of the hardest parts for me. Just waiting around for it to happen was awful.
This next section is not for the faint of heart or stomach. I suggest skipping to the next paragraph if you are either.
No one tells you that having a miscarriage is not like having your period. After taking the medicine, I hung out on our hide-a-bed with Ryan, waiting for the bleeding to begin. I felt cramps for a while, which I had expected. We were watching a movie, and I got up midway through to see if anything was happening. Without realizing it, I had bled all the way through to the pad of the hide-a-bed. I ran into our bathroom. As soon as I sat down, I lost two huge blood clots, which no one told me would happen. I think I got a little hysterical at that point. This was all that existed of our baby, and I was supposed to just... flush it away? That is, I think, the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I kept telling myself that the baby died weeks ago, and no spirit inhabited that clump of tissues. But it was still hard. I didn't prepare well for it.
It has been a week now since we found out. Things are getting better. My nausea vanished, and I am trying to make our apartment a home again, something I neglected when I was sick. As my friend Lindsay put it, work is one of the best ways to move past grief. It is still really hard to tell the people who ask me how I'm feeling (because everyone asks pregnant women that question) that I feel fine, physically, because I'm not pregnant anymore.
My sister called me after my mom gave her the news, and cried with me on the phone. She asked me if it felt like I had lost part of my family. What I couldn't say through the tears is this: Those family members who die are not "lost" to us. My family will last forever, every single member of it. I won't get to hold this baby in my arms and say hi after an exhausting, triumphant labor, like I did with Sam. I may have to wait 60 more years to meet this other member of my family (although if I keep eating junk food the way I do now, it might be a lot less), but meet him or her I will. And not just a passing "Oh hello, oh you're that baby? Well great, enjoy heaven", but I will meet them as their mother, who will fill the role of their mother in the eternal life to come. I know that this is true.
As that great philosopher Jagger once said, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need. I needed love and support, and to feel like I wasn't going to be left to suffer alone. I have received so much from my wonderful friends and family. Thanks for the flowers, Lindsay. They really cheer up my apartment. Jessica, only you could say "Kara, this really sucks about your fetus" and make me laugh instead of cry. Thanks for the ice cream. Elisa, I can think of no one else I'd rather eat Panda Express with on the day we found out. Somehow, you knew I wasn't ready to talk, and I really appreciate how you let me have a normal dinner and not an awkward one. Mom, thanks for telling the rest of our family for me. It was hard enough to say it on the phone to you. I wouldn't have been able to say it 5 more times. And to all the rest of my friends, thanks for the hugs, and the sorrow I saw in your eyes. Thanks for being sad for me.
Sam is happy to have his mommy back. I think he was really bored with me the past 6 weeks, when I could only watch him play instead of playing with him. I'm really grateful that he is so oblivious to what's going on. It makes it easy to lose my own feelings in trying to make him feel like the most special person on earth. Which of course he is!
Ryan is my rock and my anchor. He accepts my feelings, and always tries to give me what I need. I don't think there is another person out there more perfectly suited to being my other half. I am truly blessed to have him as my husband forever, no matter what.
Don't be sad for me for too long, friends, because I plan on being happy again real soon. We don't move on, we move through, and we come out at the other end stronger, better people.