Part of our Creative Voices Series – A Look at Loss and Miscarriage
I have never felt so observed.
Tilting my head to cry quietly into my husband’s shoulder as a sea of strange faces looked on.
Lying cold on the hospital bed, while a woman, unknown to me, probed my womb.
Confusion: After more than a decade of bleeding like clockwork beginning one day a month, my period did not arrive. And yet pregnancy test, after pregnancy test revealed that I was not pregnant. My son was just over a year old and we weren’t planning another child so soon and yet something inside of me felt that some sort of momentous movement was happening. In reality, it was the antithesis of movement – stuck.
One morning, another test later, I found the faint vagueness of positive pink lines on a pregnancy test. Maybe I was pregnant after all. And then the shock of realizing it wasn’t what I wanted after all. Barely my head above water after more than 9 months of Postpartum Depression the idea that I was pregnant again so soon frightened me. My revelation that it might be so didn’t leave me with trembling joy, as it had before, it left me doubting I had it in me, and daring to wish for something else.
Do you understand the guilt of this? Sitting on my bead in a state of shock, I allowed myself to feel sadness over the prospect of having another child so soon. But shouldn’t I want this? Isn’t this a beautiful thing? And aren’t I so incredibly lucky to be here, seeing those lines and knowing that life was inside of me? I needed to be happy, I needed to feel okay. I needed to believe that everything was going to be okay.
I felt the pain then, sitting in this mix of terrible emotion. I hadn’t even told my husband about the baby when I started to feel a radiating pain down my leg. And no matter how I moved or what I did, it persisted.
My mother was happy. She told me always, in all cases, a baby is a joyous thing.
But this baby made me scared. And this baby made me feel pain.
It got worse. Through the day as time ticked on and the thought of a baby took shape, the pain got worse. As the enthusiasm for pregnancy rose, and the fear dropped, the pain got worse.
I knew just as I grabbed for her — she pulled away. I lost my chance to hold her. That is the guilt of loss, the loss of what you never had, because you didn’t want to grab it and when you did, when you understood the beauty, it was too late. I was too late.
They say she never really existed. And there should be some comfort in that. A fertilized egg it came to rest in my fallopian tube and never continued it’s journey. I don’t even know if it was a girl, but I believe it was.
I lay in a hospital bed and listened to the whispers all around me – as they discussed the truth they thought I was too delicate to understand and handle – I fell in love with her. I wanted her. And yet I knew what I wanted … it wasn’t even there.
They left me on bed rest for a week; told me to go home, not to work but to lie in my house thinking about what was happening to me. They told me they didn’t know why I felt this pain – but that there was a chance that I had an ectopic pregnancy, that the pain was the fertilized egg lodged in my fallopian tube and that of course this baby was never going to be.
I went home. I went to work, briefly to shrug “No, I’m fine.” “Oh I’ll be ok.” And to gather things to do. I went home. I lay on my couch and felt the sting of trying to believe in something I knew deep deep inside wasn’t to be.
And when I returned to the hospital, I lay on a new bed, and a technician probed me with a wand. She let the air out of the room with the release of her breath, with the uncomfortableness of her discovery.
She didn’t even have to tell me that my womb was empty. It was in the way she looked at me afterward, like I should be wrapped in the arms of love.
We sat and waited for the doctor in the waiting room. No one had to tell me the truth anymore. I cried on my husband’s shoulder as the crowded room looked on. I cared and didn’t care what they thought of me. I cried for her and I cried for me – I cried from the guilt of not wanting and the fear that this was my punishment for not wanting. I cried for my husband so excited to hear that I was pregnant again. And I cried for my mother who thought it was such great news. But mostly I cried for her. She didn’t live, she couldn’t live … anywhere but in my heart and mind.
Who knows why this fertilized egg stuck in my fallopian tube. I know now that the fear was not that I lost a baby, but that I myself would be in great harm. An ectopic pregnancy can result in rupture of the fallopian tube. The bed rest, though they were so quiet about suggesting it, is actually to prevent this life-threatening event from happening. I never once thought of myself; I mourned the loss instead.
I knew the void. I stepped in it when I allowed myself to want, even after unwanting. The void was the emptiness of my womb as my body let go.
I was lucky, they said. My body let go of the pregnancy naturally and a few days later she officially left me. I bled like it was all a mirage .. a late period after all and never anything more.
I know many women have felt the loss of a pregnancy. How unfortunate so many of us know this void. I have always struggled to process mine, and find in writing I am better able to forgive myself. In imagining you, reader, forgiving me, I think I am better able to let go. There are words, where there once was nothing. And there is understanding, where there once was guilt, fear, love and then loss.
I am writing and healing as I write. Writing for healing is such a powerful, profound act. As we re-launch our Creative Voices series, I wanted to share with you a story from my life. As we celebrate our upcoming workshop – Write Your Story, Heal Your Story – I invite you to think about how you might write through your own healing.
Will you join us to learn tools and tips for not only writing powerful essays that defy loss, but an opportunity to celebrate stories of beautiful triumph. Our online workshop Write Your Story, Heal Your Story takes place June 14th.
We will be featuring stories of healing from participants in our workshop in this regular column. So learn to write, write and then publish! Join us and learn more.
You see… I think she lives on because she transformed me. There is, then, a piece of her inside me (and this piece causes no pain – I realize that now).
I got married at 20. Got pregnant the 1st time at 23. It wasn’t planned. My magic # was 25 when I would have my 1st child. I cried. I wasn’t ready but by the time I went to the doctor and realized I was miscarrying, I wanted more than anything to have that baby. I just needed a month to adjust, I guess. I miscarried but the Dr. Said,don’t worry. You are so young. We were married 10 years. 5 miscarriages later, infertility specialists and a ton of tears I gave up. I would have no children and accept my loss. My wonderful former husband, the man I am so grateful to marry and love is now remarried and has a child. Just what I wanted for him. It’s about acceptance. I carried guilt for not wanting that 1st pregnancy because it didn’t match my plan. But I realize now, it was the beginning of my journey. When I started to grow and live life.
Karen Bannister says
Dee, thank you for sharing your story. You are brave and remarkable. I am heavy with your loss, but light that we can share this with each other (we need more stories) And you are right – it is about acceptance and I love that you wrote that.
Thank you for sharing so authentically, it takes courage. Such an intense experience with mixed feelings of guilt, fear and love. She transformed you and helped you grow. Guilt and fear transmuted into understanding, compassion and love.