Words usually come easily to me. They dance off my fingertips with no backspaces or drafts involved – they happen and they work. Last weekend was different. Words following loss are different. They don’t come from the heart, they come from pain and nothing I write seems good enough. For days, I didn’t plan on saying anything, but then I remembered what a close friend once told me about her own pregnancy losses:
The first time, I was alone. I told no one. The second time, I told everyone.
Over the last two moths, we’ve bought a home and moved out of the place we loved and lived in for several years, where we imagined we’d be forever. And while the move itself was welcome and we entered a new chapter in our lives feeling fortunate, we grieved where we once lived. The place our son grew up, where I’d brought our daughter home as a newborn, legs lanky and purple, eyes big and blue.
In all this action and chaos, I wasn’t really keeping track of my own body. The week after an emotional goodbye to our assumed-to-be-forever home, I found out I was pregnant.
Oh God. Not really the words I expected to say upon glancing down at a pregnancy test.
It was somewhat of a surprise, Adam and I were completely stressed having just made a major life change and unsure how much we could handle with another child on the way. As the weeks passed and the news settled, however, the stress of new changes transformed into excitement and joy.
Our oldest would continue to be the kindest, gentlest big brother. Our youngest would claim the child as her own. I pulled clothing out and realized maybe now just wasn’t the time to give it away. I teared up thumbing through old spit-up stained onesies that were too packed with memories to part with – lucky I hadn’t, we could reuse those dirty little things.
With my bloodwork done, I was found to be in great health. Everything was looking fine, including our outlook on our growing family. I was so tired, and so excited.
When I began spotting a few days after finding out I was pregnant, I didn’t worry much. I’d spotted frequently with my first pregnancy. To be safe, I scheduled an ultrasound before my 10 week visit. The heartbeat was strong, and my worry melted in to relief.
The bleeding increased after the ultrasound, which I wrote off to irritation. When dull cramps began, a pit formed in my stomach.
I convinced myself it was a subchronic hematoma, because Google convinced me that was the case. Of course, I’m not a successful Googler and preferred to have an actual medical option. Back to the doctor I went, three days after my first ultrasound. I came prepared with questions to ask. How would I manage a subchronic hematoma? Would it interfere with the pregnancy?
My appointment was last Friday, January 27th, 2023
That day, a deluge of rain in Kihei made our road impassable. With the roundabout near our street closed to left-turning traffic, I had to loop around nearly half a mile and circle back to the highway to get to town. I called Adam, gasping sobs of frustration as rain padded against my windshield and the wipers swished overtime in the standstill traffic. He was at home with our kids keeping their stir crazies at bay as best he could as I made the trek into town.
It took me over an hour to make the usually-25 minute journey, and I missed my initial appointment.
Luckily, they slotted me in for the last appointment of the day, 4pm. I made it to town in time to get a salad from Fork and Salad along with my favorite drink, strawberry lemonade.
Must be a girl, I thought, having craved nothing but sweets the last several days. As I drank the last of my lemonade in the parking lot, I poked the side of my breasts for the 12,451th time that afternoon to check if they were still tender. They were, and my nausea was still in tact, so I felt confident in my Google diagnosis. After polishing off the lemonade I made my way to the doctor’s office just a couple of miles away.
The rain belted against my windscreen as I pulled into the last available parking spot at the edge of the medical center. I chose to forgo the rain jacket and instead bundled my arms across my chest and shuffled quickly into the office from across the parking lot.
Having a look
After checking in, I found a chair in the waiting room, watching women come and go from their appointments. Through the wall, I heard a squeal of delight, laughter, cheering, as a mom-to-be found out the gender of her first child. I smiled, remembering what that was like for me 7 years ago.
The rain outside continued to bucket down, and I watched droplets cascade off of vibrant green foliage through the crack in the black blinds. I sent the pic to Adam. Weather not much different in town!
The doctor knocked on the door and entered the room, I shoved the phone back in my bag hastily without sending the message and adjusted my paper towel of modesty.
The doctor arrived. He dimmed the lights and clicked on the monitor. I closed my eyes.
“Let’s have a look,” he said.
I have a photographic memory.
I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, I can’t remember my times tables but I do remember what I see in moments of importance. I remember that just a few days earlier, I’d seen the flash of a heartbeat on the monitor. Today, I saw nothing. And, because I am incredible at reading the room, I knew the doctor wasn’t feeling good about this either.
“Usually, I see a flicker,” he said, “I don’t see the flicker anymore… I usually see the flicker by now.” No, I mustered through a shuddering exhale.
“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”
Ok. I’m shaking.
I’d just become confident in saying hello, and now I was saying goodbye. That afternoon, I found out our baby no longer had a heartbeat.
I wrote this document five times. Words usually come so easily for me, and now I have nothing.
I’m angry, I’m heartbroken, forced to push through these feelings as a means of survival because nothing stops.
“I’ll have the nurse come in to discuss options.”
Ok. My heart is in my throat. Usually able to speak through anything with strength and confidence, no words escaped. I pressed my chest against the chair in an effort to suppress my emotions.
“Be kind to yourself”
“This is, unfortunately, quite common”
“Go home and try to rest”
“I’m so so sorry”
“Do you have any questions?”
I did have questions that wouldn’t be addressed in the 10 page brochure that looked to be printed in 1986.
Why am I here alone on this table in a dark room while my husband watches over our kids at home.
Why did the room beside me erupt in congratulations that echoed down the halls moments before I was told mine hadn’t survived.
Why did I have to pick up medication at the pharmacy with a sweet newborn cooing behind me.
Why wouldn’t I allow myself to feel sad because I have two healthy children at home.
Was wasn’t I told how to cope emotionally with what would happen at home over the weekend.
Why did this happen just before Adam’s birthday.
Why did I have to be transferred to multiple departments and explain my circumstance FIVE TIMES in an effort to schedule a follow-up appointment.
Why was my next ultrasound appointment left on my schedule and why can’t I cancel it online. It’s mocking me.
Why is “it happens a lot” supposed to be comforting? I find no comfort in other women and families experiencing this trauma.
Why was everything okay earlier in the week, and falling apart now?
WHY IS IT RAINING.
Yes, I had questions.
Another nurse entered the room.
“Do you need a hug?”
I held her so tight and I didn’t let go. My tears wet the shoulders of her black cardigan.
I hope this story finds its way to her, because she in that moment of human connection gave me the strength to leave the room in one piece, to fall apart only in the solitude of my car. The way she looked right into my eye, the way she exited the room to find me lotion soft kleenex that I could use to blow my nose in lieu of the paper towels in the examination room. It just meant something. Thank you.
Walking in the rain
As the last patient of the day, I walked down the corridor, past janitors sweeping floors, through the open doors and into the pouring rain. Yeah, this isn’t waiting for the car. I began to sob loudly, arms pressed against my chest once again as the rain beat down and I made my way to my vehicle, one of the last still remaining in the large parking lot. I shut the door, shuddering from the cold and adrenaline. It’s hard to explain how cold I felt in that moment, despite the fact that it was 77 degrees outside.
Glancing down at the cupholder beside me I saw the drained cup of strawberry lemonade I’d gulped down before the ultrasound, convincing myself it must be a girl because I’ve craved sweets non-stop. I crumpled the cup and screamed.
WHY IS IT RAINING.
I drove to the pharmacy down the road, explained my prescription to the woman behind the counter to help me pass the pregnancy.
The pharmacist approached to assist, handing me the medication.
“Do you have any questions?”
“No. Thank you.”
I stepped outside to an eerie warm light, menacing storm clouds above me. The drenching rain that had shrouded the island came to a sudden stop. As I drove home from the pharmacy, a rainbow appeared above the building I’d just visited for my appointment. I took this god awful picture just as the light turned green. The rainbow followed me home until it was swallowed by darkness after sunset.
Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby came on the radio. I’d never heard the song before.
Go to sleep you little babe (Go to sleep you little babe)
Go to sleep you little babe (Go to sleep you little babe)
That’s it. I pulled over by the humane society, unable to see through my foggy eyes. I would have preferred something a bit less fitting.
She’s long gone with her red shoes on
Gonna’ need another lovin’ baby
After a few minutes I composed myself and made the rest of the drive home.
The next day was Adam’s 40th. Instead of celebrating we spent time at home, bound to the walls of our home by the persistent rain and flooded roads. Sitting on the bench outside our room, I invited myself to feel something.
Mostly, I felt sorry. And sad.
“I’m sorry I’ll never hold you,” I whispered.
I wondered what their smile would have looked like.
If they would have been a girl or a boy.
Which of your older siblings would take to them first.
“I don’t want to say goodbye. I want to hold you.”
A breeze blew through the palm trees seemingly out of nowhere. I allowed myself to cling to the hope that this was homehow a sign. People cope with loss in different ways. For me, it’s finding signs that someone might still be with me.
What happened is tragic, what happened is traumatic.
I went back inside to the gleeful sound of our kids enjoying what was probably too much ice cream with sprinkles and whipped cream.
Sliding into our bathroom in an effort to remain unseen, I examined my profile in the mirror.
My belly stuck out ever so slightly. Bloat.
I’m sad I won’t hold you. I’m so sorry.
I wrote this document five times. Words usually come so easily for me, and now I have nothing. But I’m going to tell everyone.
At first I hesitated, so many of our clients are expecting mothers. But then I realized, there’s a good chance many of them have experienced the same thing, and perhaps this story would be comforting.
I wrote this recollection not only to navigate my own feelings surrounding the loss of our baby, but to help anyone who might be going through something similar. The fear. I was afraid not only of the loss itself, but the pain. Scared to see the baby. So afraid because I didn’t know what to expect.
I can’t close my eyes at night without working through the words of the doctor as he performed the ultrasound, the image itself, the fear and lonliness I felt despite having support around me via texts and offers of help.
I wrote this story to reflect on the fleeting process, the experience I had discovering what had happened, the strange feeling of guilt and shame and being aware that I was surpressing emotions that required outlet. Honestly, I wrote it to remember, and hope it serves as a reminder that you’re not alone if you’ve experienced this, no matter what the scenario surrounding the pregnancy itself, loss requires grief. For me, knowing other women had endured this pain didn’t help, at least not yet, but it might help you, or a friend. I wrote this because I scoured the internet for a story that felt like my own – maybe this sounds like yours. Thank you for being here.