Trigger warning: Death, miscarriage, pregnancy loss, D & C.
Disclaimer: Writing (and posting) this account is part of my process of dealing with my grief. It is long and raw and somewhat graphic, at least on an emotional level, but it’s what I need to do. Thanks for your grace as I pour it all out.
(Written sometime during the wee hours of April 4-5, 2013.)
They took her from me today.
I knew it had to be so. Her body remained, but her heart stood still, silent.
We’ll never know exactly how long she was there, but not there. It was only a few weeks ago that we saw her heart beating strong on that precious black screen.
The flicker brought confidence. They say that once you see it, your chances of loss diminish to 3-5%.
But for days I had felt empty. For days I pushed thoughts away, taking comfort in the absence of scarlet.
Yet I remained in the fog of a fear unspoken.
Two days ago I broke my silence to confide in Ryan: I need to hear the baby’s heartbeat once more. It’s probably nothing, but I just don’t feel pregnant anymore…
I hated to even articulate the possibility and I rationalized that it must have been the change of trimesters that made all of my symptoms disappear.
I couldn’t wait until Friday when I would see my midwife and that familiar Doppler would run over my belly again.
And now, clothed in a faded blue gown they wheeled me to the operating theater, ceiling tiles and florescent lights passing endlessly above me. I dared not look to the right or the left in case I made eye contact with someone who’s tender gaze might trigger more tears.
After two days of suffocating sobbing and groaning and trying to breathe my body was weak and exhausted and my eyes were near swollen shut anyway. I was tired of crying, of feeling. I longed to be numb.
But numbness never came. I felt everything.
A nurse squeezed my hand. I cried.
I thought of Ryan alone in the waiting room. I cried again.
I imagined the boys playing at a friend’s house, blissfully unaware of what was happening to their mama today. I cried more.
They fumbled with needles and veins and triple- and quadruple-checked my name and date of birth and had me verify signatures on consent forms. I kept right on crying.
Someone asked me if I needed a moment and I assured her that I didn’t. I’m not sure that I’ve stopped crying since the awful moment in the dark room where time stood still as the sonographer told us there was no heartbeat. (Was that really only yesterday?) I sure as hell knew I wasn’t going to finish my crying now.
No, not now as they prepared to take her.
At some point you begin to wonder if there are any tears left. But it doesn’t take long to realize there are more. Always more. It’s just that at times like this they come hard and fast and hot, soon after you thought just maybe you’d caught your breath enough to grasp at some composure for a tiny, brief interlude.
But composure is for acceptance speeches and job interviews and thoughtful conflict resolution. It’s not for mothers standing face-to-face with the death of their child and their dream and the life that they once knew.
I blinked as soft tears continued down my cheeks and rolled onto my neck, while kind and caring doctors and nurses met me with eyes of compassion and extended soft voices as they instructed me on what was about to take place.
Except for one. (Why does there always seem to be one?)
What difference does it make? She snapped when I asked to know the gender of our baby. It makes no difference. Why do you need to know?
My jaw dropped in disbelief and I could feel the cold stares of the others in the room toward her – willing the young surgeon to stop before I became completely undone.
It’s personal, I muttered, stumbling and cracking over my words. I can’t explain, but I just need to know. It’s personal. It’s just personal.
It makes no difference, she snapped again. It’s not standard procedure. Why do you need to know?
Though already broken I was breaking all over again: It’s personal, it’s personal, it’s just personal, I sobbed over and over, wishing Ryan was there to speak for me as I crumbled under the weight of my inability to string more than two words together.
And that was it. She crossed it – the fragile line of my sanity – and I lost grip of the calm.
I raged against the stranger—my enemy in sterile uniform—reminding her that I had just. lost. my. child. (had she forgotten?) as curse words stormed in my head. But instead of finding their way out through words, the wailing returned instead. Not weeping born out of sadness, but sobbing and gasping of outrage and frustration, fear mixed with fire.
The truth is, I was glad to have someone to be mad at.
She had nothing to do with death or my baby or the dark night of my soul, but she was there – the one rostered on to scrape my girl from the hollow tomb inside my belly into the cold, sterile world of an operating theater where she would package her up in plastic and send her to a laboratory where they’d look for chromosomal abnormalities and clues so they could categorize her and turn her into someone else’s statistic.
All I needed to know was her gender, but I couldn’t—can’t—explain why.
I wailed and the stranger left.
So I felt it – her seeming indifference – and it cut the gaping wound deeper.
I was a number to her. She called my baby “product” to dispose of. This was a procedure to her, not a life-altering right of passage that a mother in my shoes would give anything to escape.
How could I not be angry?
Eventually the wailing gave way to breathing again.
In and out.
In and out.
She returned to the room and I apologized for lashing out. I’m no hero but I set my heart on letting go for she knew not what she was doing. Truly. And I knew that.
More importantly, I didn’t want to go into surgery with anger as my lingering emotion. Sadness yes, but not anger. More than anything I couldn’t bear the thought of rage suffocating my last moments with our baby. It just wasn’t right.
As I squeaked out an I’m sorry she cut me off with more justifying remarks about her insensitive line of reasoning. Unable to bear it, I turned away desperately wishing I could somehow make her stop. the. talking. when a nurse leaned in close and whispered that I needn’t apologize for anything right now. She shook her head and without words said, this young doctor has no idea; she doesn’t know our pain. (And I knew that nurse had lost a child, too.)
I closed my eyes and let more tears wash my breaking heart, letting go of the stranger interfering with my peace and taking hold of The Only One Who Really Knows.
Soon after, I woke up in recovery knowing it was finished.
I felt relieved and tired and sad and at peace… and yet very, very empty.
It was just me. Alone. Never again mother and child (this child) sharing form and body. The finality was heavy.
But soon, love returned. In walked a tall man in the shape of my husband (who’s shape looks like Jesus) and I knew I was never really alone.
There have been oceans of tears in the hours between then and now (a night has still not passed), but sitting here in the quiet of my home while my babies sleep with only the sound of crickets harmonizing with my keys, I rest in my soul.
I do – I rest.
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. –Psalm 38:18
How I feel that now. Though raw and exposed, I feel covered somehow. And I realize this presence is a gift and I need it and want it and feel it and receive it.
The anguish remains but I know in my depths that things will be okay. It seems not that long ago that I was saying it first: I will be okay. Strong and fragile, we will be okay. (And we were.)
He’s gone before me. Though still hazy, I can see Jesus a little more clearly now.
(Have I yet mentioned the Peace? Because it’s there, friends. It’s so tangibly, painfully, beautifully there.)
This will not be an open and shut chapter of our lives. I know that. I know myself.
I feel deeply. I love intensely. There will come questions and wrestling and fears and insecurities. I will write and write and pray and write. (And writing will be my prayer.) And I will talk about my baby, and my pregnancy, and my heartache. And I will listen. I will open my eyes again. I will try to learn.
And I will know the loss of our child until the end of my days.
But I will also know healing. It will come. In time. And with prayer. Unhurried and yet complete. I hope for it, and I will look for it.
As the joy of my boys and the love of my husband and the support of my village and the Peace That Surpasses slowly saturate my bones, I will learn how to breathe and move and hope again.
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. –Isaiah 54:10
Because even now—drowning in grief and pain—I can smile at how our baby was conceived: in love, with intention, in grace, and with a whisper and nudge from heaven. She was always, always meant to be.
I cannot understand how she was not meant to be for longer, but I do know that she was forever meant to be.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. –Psalm 139:15-16