I thought a lot about the title of this blog. Miscarriage seems like an ugly, loaded, and antiquated word. It makes it sound like someone made a mistake, like they dropped something they were carrying. The fact that I am still processing though, is that last Thursday, we learned of our miscarriage.
We started out that Thursday feeling pretty good. We were in our 10th week of pregnancy. We’d been reading the books. A few weeks ago the books said our embryo had grown limblets and they were starting to make “fluttery movements”. Later, we read about how there should be finger pads, then about how the embryo was a fetus, and the difference was that there was no tail anymore. By the time last Thursday rolled around, we had a good idea of what we expected our fetus to be. We were excited that day, because we had an appointment with our maternity doctor, and we were hoping to get a date for an ultrasound.
That morning, though, Julie had a tiny bit of spotting. The maternity doctor told us that there was still a pretty good chance everything was okay. I had heard that this was actually fairly common, and wasn’t alarmed at all until the doctor mentioned that about 50% of the time everything is fine. Needless to say, I didn’t like those odds. She said this as she was putting the velcro cuff on Julie’s arm to take her blood pressure. I think it was a testament to Julie’s calm demeanour that her blood pressure was fine. If you had taken mine at that moment, it would have been off the charts.
The doctor had a little gizmo for listening to the heartbeat of the fetus. We listened quietly but she couldn’t find it. She reassured us that at this stage that is very common. She put together a requisition for an ultrasound. We got in the same day.
I couldn’t tell what I was seeing on the ultrasound screen. The silence in the room, however, told me something wasn’t right. Julie said she knew right away. After a few minutes of poking and probing, the technician told us to wait for the radiologist, who would go over the results with us.
The results were not good. My eyes and ears were working, and I remember hearing the radiologist say that at this stage, the size of the fetus was about 3 weeks behind.
That there was no heart.
That it was missing other organs.
That it wasn’t a viable pregnancy.
But, my mind wasn’t really taking this in. I learned later that neither was Julie’s. I was jumping right in to stage 1 of the grieving process, denial. The radiologist and technician told us about some of our options from here, but I don’t think either of us really took those in, either. I was just thinking, there has got to be some way this can work. Maybe the dates were misinterpreted. Maybe we conceived later in the month they were thinking. By the time we got back to the car to drive away though, the fact was starting to sink in. We were not going to be expecting a child on May 11, which was the due date we had been looking forward to.
I have wanted a family for a long time. When we first saw the blue cross on the pregnancy test in the first week of September, I was beside myself. The emotional part of my brain was doing back flips and an interpretive dance that the conscious part of my brain could only really understand as some crazy mixture of happiness, love, fear, and confusion, but mostly happiness. Julie remarked that week that I was smiley. I felt smiley. I’d think about all the things that were coming down the pipe. First words. First steps. The day in day out. Not wanting to eat broccoli. Appreciating swings and jungle gyms again, and in a new way. Packing lunches. The stuff that I have no way of anticipating. The whole kit and kaboodle.
So, Thursday, it became clear that this was not not a viable pregnancy. Having a child was not going to happen, at least, not this time.
I felt a range of emotions. Mostly sadness. Also some anger. Anger at what, I do not know. The nearest I can tell, it was at the heartless little fetus. After weeks of doing my best to imagine that little critter in Julie’s belly, with the fluttery limblets and the finger pads, I came to learn it was all a lie. There was only the imagined idea of those things, it never actually existed. It’s like that heartless little jerk just informed me there was no Santa Claus, or that my friends were just pretending to like me, or something like that.
Which, I might add, feels pretty terrible.
And, I am told, anger is another stage of the grieving process.
Another thing we’ve now learned, is that the loss of the child is not the end of miscarriage woes. There were several options we could choose from to move forward from there, and none of them seemed too pleasant. Right now, Julie is going under general anesthetic to have the remnants of the pregnancy removed. I am sitting next to the bed she’ll be returned to when she wakes up. Anything I am going through right now is peanuts compared to what she has been having to do.
It’s Saturday now, and it’s a relief that it’s happening. We’ve been waiting since Thursday. Because Julie wasn’t supposed eat before the procedure, she’d been skipping meals until a call would come to let us know it wouldn’t be for another 12 hours, so it’d be safe to eat supper.
I’m glad she’s in there now. I’m glad I live in Canada where I have access to the excellent team we have been working with, and the only thing I have to worry about financially is the parking fee. I’m glad that when Julie comes back to the bed I am sitting next to, it will be over. Overall, though, glad does not describe my state of mind.
I have learned, however, a few things that are meaningful and useful to me through this process.
Soon after we learned we were pregnant, I was working out of town in Toronto and Las Vegas for about 3 weeks. Usually when I am doing this, I am very busy, and finding time to call Julie is difficult. In the past, on these long distance phone conversations when she has been telling me about her day and I am waiting for my turn to tell her about mine, I have grown impatient. I’d think, “she has no idea how important the work I am doing here is”.
In the grand scheme of things though, it’s not that important. It seems that way, the total budgets for the corporate events I work at frequently tally in the millions for just a few days, and the scale of them is incredible, and everyone involved is usually dialed up to 10. It’s show biz.
This last trip was different though. When I was talking to Julie and she was telling me about doctor’s appointments and how big the embryo should be at this stage etc, all I could think about was how unimportant this conference was. It meant nothing to me compared to my love and concern for Julie, and this new family we were starting.
It occurred to me that I’ve probably always felt this way, but when you place yourself at the absolute centre of your universe, you lose perspective on things like that. Having a family to think about put me just to the side of the centre of my universe, and suddenly it became abundantly clear to me what is at the centre. While doing a good job and making sure I was happy with what I saw projected on the screens at the conference was still important, it wasn’t nearly as important to me as what was happening at home.
This, I think, is the main reason I want a family. I want that perspective, and I want to have those relationships in my life. I am sure there are other ways to find that meaning, but this is the plainest and most obvious way I see to get that into my life.
And on Thursday, when we found out our pregnancy wasn’t viable, and would have to be terminated, and everything seemed pretty bleak, Julie and I stuck together. I called the clients that I wasn’t going to be able to make time for this week, and I told them their projects would have to wait for me. There was a temptation to dive into work mode so as to ignore some of the processing I have to do around the loss of our pregnancy. There was (and still is) the fear that the ramifications of putting them on the back-burner will bear poor results for my business.
But I knew (and still know) on a higher level what I needed to do. I needed to be there for Julie. I needed to let myself need her as well. The clients were very understanding, and the time lost from me on their projects will not cause the sky to fall. Julie and I need to stick together right now, and that’s just how it has to be.
The most important thing I have learned through all of this is about my priorities. Family is coming in first. This is the way I like it. Nothing about losing this pregnancy has been good, but knowing what my priorities are, and that I like my priorities is a comfort, and this whole experience is helping me to be sure of what they are.
There is another thing I have learned. It’s about secrets. When the blue cross showed up on that drugstore pregnancy test, I wanted to tell the world. I wanted to blog about it desperately. The thing is, that most people don’t tell anyone. They keep their cards pretty close to their chest until the end of the 1st trimester. That would’ve been just a couple of weeks and change away for us, and in my mind I was composing the blog I’d write announcing our big news.
But, I thought, statistics show that the chances of a miscarriage are pretty high until the end of the first trimester. I wouldn’t want to share the big news prematurely. In fact, I think part of the reason I haven’t made any entries lately is because I couldn’t imagine blogging without mentioning this really, really big event in my life.
All that said, here I am, blogging about the miscarriage. Moments ago, thinking about the title and whether or not to call it for what it is. The fact is, miscarriages happen to a lot of people, and while it is sad, I don’t think it’s shameful. In fact, if anyone cares enough to read this, that’s a comfort. I don’t want this very big experience I just had to be a secret. It’s a really, really big drag. It’s sad. It’s also a fact, and a part of my story.
So, next time we see the blue cross, I’m not holding back. be prepared, if you are reading my blog, for the emotional roller coaster that is trying to have kids. We are going to keep trying, and we are going to succeed, one way or another. It is hard to see a bright spot in the future now, but to quote a line I heard in a movie last night, we have hope, “pure, naked, fragile hope”. That’s how it feels, naked and fragile and tender and vulnerable, but I am very happy that we have hope, and each other, in this rough time.