The strangest thoughts go through my head in times of panic. The other day I was getting a very uncomfortable pelvic ultrasound and alternated ‘Wow, I’m surprised no one’s come up with cordless wands yet’ with ‘Oh God, Oh God, please let my baby be ok..’
I never saw this coming.
It took us 18 months of patience, faith, and fertility treatments to get pregnant with my now 15 month old daughter. I know that is nothing compared to what others go through, but to me, it was “hell for a heavenly cause”. It felt like the better part of every month was spent in early morning trips to a 6th floor office where I would be poked with needles after I’d answered the same questions again and again. In the grey dawn I’d rush to the elevator, as familiar with its lurches as I was with my own hands. I’d sign-in to the office on the ledger kept by the plastic plant with its yellowed, yarn, knit cozy, and smile hollowly at ladies who shared my cycle. We assessed each other with eyes averted, wondering who would be the next to disappear from the rotation- an absence that would indicate success of the best kind.
I never dreamed I would able to conceive naturally the second time around. The joy that I felt after finding out that we had done just that eclipsed almost everything but the birth of my daughter. It felt unreal. After I had peed on 5 sticks, I finally let myself rejoice. My blood-work was great, and our hearts were bursting with pride, excitement, and love.
Just 4 weeks into my pregnancy, that baby was an active part of our family, shaping it with its very existence. At 6 weeks Hubs and I were making life-changing plans to put motherhood first; to let our daughter flourish as a big sister; to grow our house along with our family. We were creating the future.
I embraced the change lovingly, yet was still wary of sharing with too many people. My mother and father in their adorable enthusiasm didn’t exactly hold back however, and by 8 weeks I was getting welcome congratulations from the outside world. I decided to plunge in subtly – I made a sweeping reference to having ‘another one on the way’ in an article I wrote for Yummy Mummy Club, and was tickled by the response. Only a few people caught it at first, but I felt comfortable and excited sharing the news. Yes, my second baby was on its way. The three of us were going to be four.
Sometimes in business I get one of my ‘gut feelings’- that seemingly never-wrong intuition about a path, plan, or result. I wonder why, when it seems like the most valuable currency in life, intuition fails us. I didn’t have an inkling, premonition, or foresight as to what was about to unfold.
I have Crohn’s. I’ve had symptoms for over 10 years, and was finally diagnosed 4 years ago. Again, like in the sphere of fertility, I am very lucky with how mild my condition is. While I have never fully gone into remission, I manage very easily with 4g/daily of Pentasa (an introductory level treatment of prescription 5-ASA pills).
At 9 weeks I started manifesting what I thought was a mild flare. I didn’t have the more disturbing symptoms of the disease, so I chocked my constant visits to the bathroom up to pregnancy hormones, and my Crohn’s. Then they started getting worse. At the end of the week my symptoms had intensified, and I grew concerned about staying hydrated and the effect this might have on the baby. At 10 weeks and 4 days, I was admitted to hospital and given intravenous fluids, and was booked for an ultrasound.
After she spread the perpetually cold gel over my abdomen, the technician paused in her observation and said meaningfully ‘hmm..your baby is only measuring 7 weeks..’ Did that mean the dates were wrong? It never occurred to me that it might hint that my peanut had stopped growing at 7 weeks, until I looked at the tech’s face. Her brows seemed rigged with meaning. I felt an ice cold grip my gut, and my existence seemed to quiver. ‘Oh’ was all I could say.
We finished taking fetal measurements in that panicked silence, my mind ricocheting off strange non sequiturs, but always back to the prayer of ‘Please God’ white noise.
For the next 12 hours my mind raced with questions. What did this mean? Was it just a really small baby? Wouldn’t I ‘know’ if this wasn’t a viable pregnancy? The team of doctors had told me there was no heart-rate, but they had also said they were going to do a confirmation ultrasound in 48 hours. Did that mean that it could be a mistake? Was there still hope? I was clinging to any shred.
The next day, all the teams on their rounds started with ‘I’m sorry for your circumstances’ or ‘I’m sorry for your loss’. I forced myself to ask one of the consults if the news was 100%. His eyes dropped from mine, and I knew it was over. “99.9%” was the eventual muffled reply.
Much like peeing on several sticks to find out I was pregnant, I needed to hear it from about 7 doctors before I believed that I was going to miscarry. I numbly heard them talk about my options, but I only heard bursts. “…Dilation and curettage…Misoprostol…” It was over.
After booking my final ultrasound, I was discharged. My husband walked me to the car while we made idle chatter. The sound of my voice was alien to my own ears, but I kept talking just to feel real. The day seemed to betray me with its fresh spring air and vivid blue sky. A cardinal even chirped melodically. ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ I thought.
I wish I could say that this story has a message of perseverance; some bolstering prose about overcoming dark times, or clear-as-a-bell wisdom born in hindsight, but there just isn’t any. At least not for the time being. There is only the waiting, and the not knowing.
One of the doctors reminded me ever-so gently that 1 out of 4 pregnancies result in miscarriage. Also, 1 out of 4 pregnancies result in the baby having birth defects. Are we so frail? Is it really such a gamble to bring a full-term, healthy, baby into this world? We take so much for granted, don’t we?
I am going to leave the rest unwritten. I haven’t had my procedure yet, and I haven’t said goodbye. I will not be posting about this again for some time, if ever again, but I wanted everyone to know how much heartache I have for any and every woman who has experienced this peculiar, intimate loss. I also wanted to extend my heartfelt thanks to my supporters, family, and friends. Whether in realtime, over Twitter, Facebook, or by phone, just knowing that you are there during this time gives me great strength. Your kind words bolster my courage to take the day one minute at a time.
I am ok. I will be okay. I just need to process the information, watch Gilmore Girls, eat meatball subs, and cry. I will hold my beautiful daughter tight, and squeeze my husband’s hand. And then I will take my first step on a new path. If you are searching for the right words to comfort, ‘I’m sorry’ is the most eloquent, meaningful, and closest to my heart. Maybe one day I will speculate, but I gently ask that no one tries to answer the most loaded of questions: why. I am too raw to endeavour to think about fate, to see that everything happens for a reason, to entertain that this is a blessing in disguise. Right now I need to tend to my heart, and the memory of a very special little soul, who I connected with, loved selflessly, and dreamed with.
Goodbye my Little Peanut.
..And is not that a Mother’s gentle hand that undraws your curtains, and a Mother’s sweet voice that summons you to rise? To rise and forget in the bright sunlight, the ugly dreams that frightened you so when all was dark… – Lewis Carroll