I have always strived to be honest in all of my posts. There are times that I worry that someone will take what I have written and misconstrue the context or the meaning behind what I am writing. So I have the dilemma on trying to sensor thoughts or words and yet stay true to what I am trying to accomplish. Since all you are seeing is black and white words you can’t see if I am smiling, laughing, crying, or just plain mad when I write. That can be the trouble with the written word. Sarcasm can be lost in the black and white. Seriousness can be down played when you aren’t looking into someone’s eyes while trying to grasp and understand where they are coming from with their words. Even with this worry that you can be misunderstood, the written word is so meaningful to me. Seeing my ideas come out of my head and giving them life so others can see and possibly try to understand is a huge deal. I can write these bold thoughts (I can say them too but there is something about having it written down), carefully constructed words and feel through them.
But it wasn’t something that my parents really dwelled on. Or at least my perception was of that. We knew we were loved, we got gifts, we got cake, we had special meals, but birthday’s were pretty much just another day. Not like some of my friends who got new outfits galore and flaunted that this is not only a birthday, but birth week and birth month. That worked for their family and that is fine – no judgment there, just wasn’t my life. The older I got the less I cared about my actual birthday. I wouldn’t yell if someone wished me a happy birthday but I don’t publish my birthdate on social media just because I don’t. It just isn’t that important to me. I don’t like the attention that is dished out on my birthday, I feel singled out and for some reason it just makes me feel bashful and uncomfortable.
Andy would always tease that he would throw a surprise party (which would be my definition of pure torture) or would make a big deal on my birthday. Since my birthday is right before his we worked out a truce. If he promised to not do anything like that to me, I wouldn’t do anything like that to him (he can’t stand surprise birthday parties either). All of that to say when my birthday for 2018 started to approach I wasn’t dreading it, but definitely didn’t want to make a big deal about it. I said as much. Andy rolled his eyes as he normally does, but that was that.
This is not an advertisement or endorsement of birth control or political statement by any means, but I take my birth control religiously. I have PCOS and the birth control makes my life much better. It keeps me regulated with my periods and with symptoms and I am just a better person on birth control. A month before my birthday I woke up from a Sunday nap and had to pee. I was slated to start my new pack of birth control that night and while I was walking to the bathroom I didn’t remember really having my period. I remember going to the store and buying feminine hygiene products, but didn’t remember actually using them. I remembered being moody and displaying the symptoms of PMS with the poise of someone that needs Midol, but the actual period I didn’t remember. I did some math and thought, “crap that’s weird.” But that isn’t completely unusual for me. Birth control keeps me regular 99% of the time, but if I am under a lot of stress or some other factors I will miss a period (and work had been super stressful). I looked in my cabinet and just happened to have a home pregnancy test.
Just for giggles and to continue with the habit that if I start a new pack of birth control and don’t have a period I always test. It has been a habit for a long time and just a hard one to break (starting way back shortly after we got married). I peed on the stick, put it flat to dry and finished my bathroom experience and got up. I grabbed the test and headed for the trash and glanced at it as I tossed it in. I started out the bathroom door and froze. I went back to the trash can and picked it up. Two pink lines formed a plus mark. I sat it down on the sink and stared at it. I dug the box out of the trash and re-read the key. Then looked at the test again. I took a few breathes and went back to the bed. Andy was lying there looking at his phone and I flopped down and looked at him opened my mouth and closed it, then looked at the ceiling. At some point Andy asked “What’s wrong?” I responded. “Nothing’s wrong, per say.” I had his attention. He put his phone down and he looked at me and asked again. I said, “I took a pregnancy test and it was positive.” “What does that mean?” was his reply. “I’m pregnant.”
We both stared at each other in disbelief. I never had a positive pregnancy test. Not even when we were in the middle of all of our treatments. We were shocked. We laughed. I cried. I got out of bed and walked around the house then got back in bed. I went to the bathroom and looked at the test again. We dedicated years, and a lot of money, and so many treatments and appointments to this plight with only negative results. We were told it wouldn’t happen, so we gave up on ourselves and started the adoption process. We have been through so many tears and sorrow and heart break with the adoption process as well. But now, while on birth control, when those dreams had long flown away, been completely changed forever and that hope gone, I am pregnant.
We thought maybe it was a fluke with the test because God only knew how old it was. We went to the store and bought a different brand and the next morning I tested again. Two pink lines. Pregnant. I called the doctor and set up an appointment to have lab work done a few days later. I left work and peed in a cup and they confirmed that I was pregnant than did some lab work. I was scheduled for a new OB appointment the following week. We went to that appointment and they did an ultrasound. It was amazing. We were there for something we long thought we would never experience. She tried an abdominal ultrasound but decided to switch to a vaginal ultrasound. She stepped out so I could get undressed and was back in the room in a minute or two. She could tell I was a little nervous, but she said that it is common for this US (especially early on) when trying to see something so tiny. I didn’t correct her, I was nervous that there would be no sac, nothing there. She looked around for a few minutes and was quiet. I lay there knowing the news was coming. I gripped Andy’s hand tighter and braced myself. The tears were gathering in my eyes and one slipped out down my cheek. The technician opened her mouth and said. “This is the sac, and do you see this thing moving?” We both nodded not speaking. She said, “That is a heart beating.” She continued on measuring and explaining what she was doing. She said we were 6 weeks. She said she wanted to see if she could hear the heart beat, but said at this early we might not be able to hear it. She pulled it up and I held my breath. In that small quiet room you could hear the fluttering beat of that precious heart. The tears streaked down my face leaving a salty trail. She gave us our due date: 12/13/18. She printed out our Ultrasound pictures and handed them to Andy. We met with the Nurse Practitioner, learned a lot, got a lot of congratulations and made a follow up appointment.
Our world changed. We had this little baby now. Despite all the things that went wrong prior to this place and all of the things that it had to endure to get here, we had it. Our magic bean. One of the ultrasound pictures made it look like a Koala Bear, so we started referring to our child as Magic Koala Bean or MKB.
We decided to keep it a secret for as long as possible because we know the risks that can happen, but we were elated. There were funny things that happened that we had to lie to protect our secret. We giggled about them all and knew that when the truth came out it would be forgotten or at least understood. Otis was excited about MKB too.
Two weeks later I started spotting. Which I was informed was normal. After a day of that, I called the doctor and spoke to the doctor on call, just to calm my nerves. She gave me some things to look for and told me when to call back, reassured me and I was able to breathe. It eased off. A few days later it started back, and was heavier. I sent a message to my doctor and after he asked some questions he said call Monday for an appointment if it hasn’t stopped. It hadn’t stopped. It wasn’t in the danger zone (soaking a pad), but it was still there and I was so scared. We made an appointment for May 8th. The day before my birthday. A month after we found out about our MKB. It wasn’t with my normal doctor but with one of his partners.
The ultrasound technician tried the abdominal route and decided to switch (I am not an expert, but I saw the sac at least I thought I did, and I feel confident that she did). She stepped out so I could get undressed and was gone for 15 minutes or so. I looked at Andy and told him that it wouldn’t be good news. Last time she was in our room quickly, this time she was gone too long. I told Andy that she would be waiting on the doctor to come in and break the news to us. I said she is probably waiting outside whatever room he is in to tell him to come in here. I don’t know if he believed me, but I just knew in my entire being that was what was going on. When she reentered the room she stated that the doctor would be joining us in just a minute, because they like to be there for ultrasounds. I knew right then and there that our MKB was gone. The tears started to fall silently. He came in and she started the US. He stood there staring at the screen. I don’t know if he was willing something to happen or if he was hoping that he was missing something. He could have been trying to come up with the words that would shatter our lives a little less. In the silence of the room, I said from the table, “the sac looks empty.” He took a deep breath and said sorry he just wasn’t seeing anything there. There was no heart beat. There was nothing viable. We lost our MKB and the doctor confirmed it. We cried. We were given options and we cried. I opted out of surgery and elected for the miscarriage to happen “naturally.” He didn’t know my history so through tears I walked him down our long road to this moment and I asked him if this was a fluke. Was this just a cruel punishment for something? Why did this happen now when all those years ago treatments didn’t work? He showed compassion and empathy because him and his wife had been in this same position (miscarriage). His answer was one that made me feel better, but also didn’t. He said he didn’t feel like any pregnancy or baby was a fluke. He completely understood why I asked that – given our history. He said he wished that he had an answer but that he couldn’t provide an answer to why now. What he did say was that he didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t try again. Try again? We didn’t “try.”
This was just one more reason to not be excited about my birthday. On the way home I forbid Andy for uttering one word about my birthday, this time he didn’t have any smart remarks.
The next day was my birthday. I went to work and acted like my life was fine. On the inside I was shattered, broken beyond repair. I spent my birthday bleeding. The life literally draining out of me. The next day I was scheduled to be in a different office to help cover people being out so I couldn’t call out myself. I took my heating pad with me because the cramping had already gotten so bad. I sat for 8 hours tattered to a heating pad and popping Advil and Aleve like they were candy. I sat there wanting to cry, but not having the tears. Wanting to be at home, but not wanting to be alone with my thoughts.
My thoughts that were fractured and broken already hurt in a completely new way. At a time when I thought the next heartbreak from this journey was admitting failure and having to withdrawal our name from the adoption agency – not this. Thoughts on miscarriage and what the world doesn’t tell you. Harsh realities that you don’t know until you walk that path. A path that isn’t the same for every person that miscarries, but similarities that cross over into different stories.
Miscarriage is a taboo for most people, like infertility struggles. People don’t want to talk about it because it isn’t “happy”. And that because people don’t want to talk about it, you feel shame. Shame because your body rejected your baby but also shame because you will make people uncomfortable. Shame because these thoughts stay in your head and eat away at you and feed your self doubt.
What the world tells you about miscarriage is silence. Is this unfair to say? Yes it is. People can’t reach out to you and support you if they don’t know. For the people that we actually told, we mostly got support. Is it unfair to hold that information to yourself and expect that other people will pave the way for you in society by sharing their painful stories? Yes it is. I can’t expect other people to share their miscarriage stories, when I am too ashamed and sad to share my own. A double standard, clearly, but one that is hard to navigate inside your own head let alone sharing those things out loud.
What the world doesn’t tell you….
When the ultrasound tech starts the ultrasound and decides to switch gears and goes out of the room so you can get undressed and says be back in a minute, but it takes 10 minutes – expect the worst. She has gone to get the doctor to deliver the news that is coming that she doesn’t want to say. It isn’t her responsibility to shatter dreams and hopes and tell you that your prayers didn’t work. When she comes back and says doctors like to be in the room for the test (but you have already had ultrasounds in this facility and know they don’t – unless something is wrong). It is ok to let tears fall after she comes in and she says sorry for the delay but she was waiting on the doctor to come out of the room he was in to “let him know you are there.”
That the doctor comes in the room and is squinting at the empty sac turning his head like a German Shepherd puppy (minus those amazing cute floppy ears) trying to see something that isn’t there and trying to come up with the words to soften the blow. When you say from the exam table “the sac is empty” and he breathes almost a sigh of relief that I already know the inevitable, so the next words coming out of his mouth won’t be the complete shock he thought they might be.
That his hasty retreat from the room isn’t to be rude (at least in our case) it was to research my chart and try to provide answers once we are moved to an actual exam room.
That after this kind of news the ultrasound tech changes her tone and won’t make eye contact because she looks like she wants to cry with you. That her “I am so sorry” was the first of many at the office and had pain behind it because she knew that she was instrumental in bringing this reality to light and even though it isn’t her fault – changing our lives for the worst.
The walk of “shame” from the ultrasound room to the patient room to talk to the doctor is one of the most emotionally difficult walks there is. Wallowing in the floor sobbing was not acceptable when that is what I wanted to do. Punching the wall and leaving a dent was not acceptable when that would at least give me some outlet of frustration. That tripping the next person that walked by smiling was unacceptable (granted that would be mostly unacceptable any time) but when you are that sad and frankly pissed off you don’t want to see happy people. In the matter of one minute from US room to exam room all of these emotions slam into you like a semi barreling down the highway. People staring at you trying to decode the tears as you attempt to slow the sobs.
That even when you felt like you knew what the answer was going to be, that it would hurt just the same.
That behind the closed doors clutching your spouse those emotions just turn into tears and sobbing. Angry tears, sad tears, devastated tears, frustrated tears, dreams ending tears, jealous tears, distraught tears, failure tears, shame tears, what if tears. They streak down your face like the ocean leaving a salty streak that you won’t notice for hours.
That for a few minutes you would be grateful for the time alone with your spouse to cry and be alone so you can wrap your head around things and process before the doctor comes in to talk to you. But after a few minutes you would wish and hope the doctor would just hurry and come in so that you can leave and escape this place.
That when he comes in he talks to you, not at you, and he apologizes over and over. His compassion is there and as you are sobbing you cling to his compassion and that holds you together for the time being.
That when the smiling check out girl takes your encounter form and looks at you and asks how you are and you try to be polite and say “I’m ok,” then she looks at the form and sees the code for miscarriage and she stops smiling and says “I am so sorry” with such sympathy. Then she excuses you from the rest of the check out process so you don’t have to be in the “baby office” anymore since you don’t have your baby.
That when you call to cancel your next OB appointment and the f/u from the miscarriage appointment, the person on the other end offers to pray for you and that is nice, because you are having a hard time finding the right words to say to God.
That you want to sleep. When you sleep, you don’t feel the cramps and you can escape from the pain – physically and emotionally.
That with each passing “milestone” you think, if you lived you would… (be certain gestation, size, due, first holidays, age, etc).
The cramps are horrible and add to the emotional aspect. The bleeding is horrible and gross with clots and just weirdness. That your cervix opens to pass the “biologic material” or “biologic remains of tissue” – and you can feel it. That the only time you will ever “hold” that child is when you wipe them away.
That there is an emptiness, a new broken, and your heart hurts. Each time it beats there is a searing pain.
That there is a grief so deep and wide. And aiding that grief is that shame. That you don’t want to tell other people because it would make them sad. That our road has already been a difficult one and people supporting us don’t need to add one more chapter of sad disappointment to it. Telling people would lead to those looks of pity. Telling people would admit to the failure that happened. Not that you did anything (so to speak) wrong, but that things went horribly wrong and you had no control to stop it, to protect your child. That you don’t want to tell people because you don’t know if it would ever happen again, and the added stress of people asking you if you are pregnant again would just add to your anxiety and shame if it actually never did happen again. That asking would emphasize that you lost something already. That you would interpret people asking that question to mean that your baby that is no longer here doesn’t matter and possibly never did. That I wasn’t far enough along for me to really care or be upset or for “it to count”. That people wouldn’t understand that a loss is a loss, and it is hard. That your grief goes beyond the physical loss and extends into the loss of dreams and ideals. That the hopes that were tied up in our MKB were lost and with that comes a profound grief as well.
That they can tell you to “try” again and there is complete fear in that simple word. We didn’t try in the first place and what if it doesn’t work. How invested do we get in opening up these old wounds? How far are we willing to go to prove this was or wasn’t a fluke? How much money are we willing to sink into this and add to the money we have already sunk?
There is so much to learn in the world of miscarriages. There is so much I have to tell myself, to remind myself it wasn’t my fault, even though when the world crashed down around me it certainly felt and some days feels like it is because I couldn’t hold it up. I have to remind myself that there is no shame in our infertility journey. That even though it is sad and heart breaking and that sometimes people don’t want to talk about Addy (and now probably MKB), because it is too sad, that it is our story no matter how broken and messed up it is and that is ok. That our children matter to us and we talk about them all the time. That even though our children aren’t breathing they live inside us. That broken can be beautiful.
As we approach my birthday for 2019, I remember those moments of joy and elation last year. I also remember the devastation that lead to my birthday boycott. In almost a years time, since our loss, Andy and I have been on a roller coaster with so many different things. Highs of Andy graduating and work done on the house to lows of Otis passing and the loss of family members and the uncertainty of was MKB just a fluke?
After the darkest and most horrible storms come a rainbow. We are excited (and yet cautious) to say we are expecting ours 10/6/19. Working with the doctors we tried again and just when I was about ready to toss in the towel we got news that we are pregnant. Our doctors are great and have done a lot of hand holding and double checking to make sure we are on the right track. I appreciate everything they are doing for us to keep us calm and reassure us. This excitement doesn’t erase our journey this far. This doesn’t make all of that “ok.” But it does help. It hasn’t completely healed our brokenness, but it has helped. This doesn’t take place of Addy or our MKB. This baby will know of their siblings in heaven, Addy that we saw and loved, and MKB that we felt and loved. While we are over joyed at this miracle we long gave up hope for, I am still feeling anger and bitterness towards God. Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond thankful for this chance at carrying a child and being a biological mother and Andy a biological father, but there is still this feeling of why. Why did it take this long? Were our prayers not good enough then? Why did Addy have to die? Why has this road been our road? Why did we have to experience so much heartache? Why did we have to empty our bank accounts before? Why did we have to go through the adoption processes? People saying that this was all in God’s plan or timing – they may feel that way, but to me that is not comforting. To me that minimizes Addy’s birth and death as well as our weeks carrying MKB and that tiny heart beat that stopped too soon. That takes away from their stories. That takes away from this long road we have been on. That makes it seem like we should just “get over” all that we have been through instead of allowing it to be part of our story, no matter how sad. This does not minimize the years we have dealt with infertility – this does not ease that hurt. It changes it – yes – but that sting lingers, as I have been told by other infertility friends it always will. My God is big enough to deal with my bitterness, anger, continued sadness, and lingering grief. He is so great that he can see those emotions and walk with me through them and at the same time see the joy and happiness and how thankful and blessed we are. He knows that my heart has been shattered to pieces and that while this fills my heart with so much joy there is that possibility it might never be entirely hole again. He is ok with that. He understands my fears that this will all come crashing down around me and that I won’t be able to breathe easy until I hold this baby in my arms. And that after that I will hold my breath as we reach each milestone until the day I take my last breath. He understands that this happiness comes from a road of pain and tears, and that we will embrace all of that road and will remember where we have been to get this far.
Infertility messes with your head. It creates self doubt and feelings of worthlessness. It has this taboo and shame that no one wants to talk about. I understand all of that. The statistics glare at you. 1 in 8 experience infertility. 1 in 4 experience child loss. I belong to both of those categories. This pregnancy doesn’t erase those facts.
We are grateful and blessed. Our journey is not over. Our road is not final. Our story starts with a new chapter. My heart still aches for the heartache of the past and wounds that have been open too long; but it beats for the hope and love of the future.