“So this is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.” I read that quote in a play assigned for a college English class, the words floated into my head on the worst day of my life. My husband and I went for our 12 week check-up at the midwife’s office on the Friday after Thanksgiving. We were so excited because we’d hear the heartbeat again, schedule the appointment for next month to find out the sex, then go Black Friday shopping for some maternity pants for me since mine were almost too tight. The nurse tried to find the heartbeat with the doppler and couldn’t, but she said to not worry because at 12 weeks my uterus was barely out of my pelvis yet and it was hit or miss with a dobbler. Next, my midwife came in and tried to find the heartbeat and when she couldn’t she said it was no big deal and that happened at least once a week. She said we’d jus go over to the ultrasound room and do an over the belly ultrasound to see the heartbeat since that’d be easier. The minute we saw the baby on the screen I knew he was dead. I’d been almost 10 weeks when we’d last seen him and heart his strong heartbeat. He’d been bouncing all over the place and posing for the camera. Now he was still and just lying there with his tiny little arms crossed. He looked so much bigger and more like a baby than before. He was beautiful. Noel said the words I’d known were coming, she was having trouble finding a heartbeat. She went and got one of the OB’s to come try, but I knew that was a Hail Mary. Dr. Greene came in and said the words I knew in my heart already: there was no heartbeat, my baby was dead.
The air left the room and I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I needed to vomit but I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. I cried more tears than even before and held onto my husband as he did the same. Our beautiful baby was dead inside of me. The doctor explained I was having what’s called a “silent” miscarriage because I had experienced no cramping or bleeding. He said the baby probably had a chromosomal defect and that if it had lived it probably would’ve had a very short and painful life. I was told I needed a D&C to remove the baby and the contents of my uterus because my body wasn’t going to miscarry naturally. Dr. Greene assured me the procedure would be done under general anesthesia and I could go home right after. I was put down for a Monday appointment with another doctor in the practice to, hopefully, get me into the OR that day. He said there was no way to get me in that same day because they were already booked for all the OR time. I would have to carry my dead baby inside of me until Monday. When he left, Noel and her nurse took turns holding me as I cried. Noel said I very well cold start to miscarry naturally between then and Monday because now that my mind knew what was happening, it could signal my body to check on the baby and do what it needed to do. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t keep my baby alive and I couldn’t even miscarry right. Noel said that my body was just really really good at being pregnant and was trying to make the baby okay the only way it knew how. That didn’t help.
We had to go to the hospital for blood work since their tech was out still. I cried all the way there as we called my mom and dad and told them. I cried in the ER where we had to register for the lab. I cried in the lab. Then I cried as they took my blood. All I did was cry the entire rest of the day. I woke up that night after three hours of shallow sleep and couldn’t breathe. It all hit me all over again and I couldn’t lie there anymore, I had to move. I paced our house as I cried out from the darkest part of my soul and cried. I asked God why. I wondered what I’d done to hurt my baby. I wondered why drug addicts and people who didn’t want kids were allowed to carry and birth healthy babies while mine had died. I’d followed all the rules, hadn’t even had caffeine the entire time to lower my chances of miscarriage. I’d failed.
My husband trailed after me the entire night and held me when I’d be still. I wanted to die. I told him I wanted to go with our baby because that’s what a good mommy did. He wouldn’t leave me alone, he was afraid I’d do it. I probably would have. I fell back asleep for an hour once the sun came up. I didn’t move from bed that entire day and I wouldn’t let Thomas open any curtains or blinds. I couldn’t see the sun or the beautiful day when I knew my child was dead. I avoided mirrors and looking down because I couldn’t see my baby bump without falling apart. Our dog, Athena, refused to leave my side. She followed me every step I took, even following me to the bathroom and waiting until I was done which she never does. She laid next to me and plastered herself against me making sure to have my hand over her at all times. It was like she knew my pain and wanted me to know I wasn’t alone.
My doula came to see us that afternoon. She held me as I cried while in bed and told me it was okay to have all the feelings I was having. Laura is a beautiful soul. She brought a basket with a frame for one of the ultrasound pictures, three flameless candles, two journals for us to use during our grieving, a pen, a teddy bear so I wouldn’t have to walk out of the hospital with empty arms, and a full refund of all we’d paid so far. Laura listened as I talked about every emotion I was having, all of my sadness and anger. Her presence was comforting as I allowed myself to voice things I hadn’t even let my mind fully accept yet. I admitted I’d wanted to kill myself and how strong that urge had been and how hard I’d had to fight against it. I told her my fears of my baby being alone and cold after he’d never been alone or felt anything other than the warmth of my body. I showed her the tiny blanket I’d made during the night in an attempt to outrun my thoughts during the dark sleepless hours. I made it for him so he wouldn’t be cold and would know his mommy loved him. I told her how disappointed and angry I was with my body for not telling me something was wrong. When I finally was out of words, I just looked at her through teary eyes. What more could I say?
Laura then told me how my body hadn’t failed me, it had the opposite. My body was really really good t being pregnant and had tried to make my baby live the only way it knew how: by keeping up the same things it’d been doing. Instead of guilting me for my dark thoughts as I’d feared, Laura told me they were completely normal and that she was proud of me for resisting them. She told me I was strong for choosing to stay. SHe touched the blanket I clutch in my hands and told me she knew I was a good mother because I’d thought to make my baby something to keep him warm and remind him of me. She told me I was still a mother even though my arms would never hold my baby. I felt some better after she left.
The next day I took a long soaking bath with lots of epsom salts as a way to say goodbye to my baby. It was almost sacred the way I soaked in the salty water I’d scented with oils and how I anointed my body with lotion and oils afterward. I couldn’t prepare my baby’s body, but I could prepare mine. A friend came and sat with me for hours listening as I cried and holding me. She listened with an open heart and shared my pain of the loss of my child. Her visit helped the most of all because I stepped out of my grief for a brief time to catch up on the world around me.
I woke up after three hours of sleep the day of the procedure. I washed my hair with my favorite shampoo and conditioner, put my favorite body lotion on, and got dressed i yoga pants and a UK sweatshirt. I had spent hours obsessing about what one wore to undergo a D&C for a dead baby and that was the best I could come up with. I called my dad to talk to while I waited for the sun to rise the time to leave to arrive. I knew Thomas needed sleep but I also knew I needed someone to talk to as I waited. Once it was time, I told my dad I’d talk to him later and I loved him and I went to wake up Thomas. My mom arrived and we got into her car for the drive to Lexington. I didn’t talk and neither did Thomas. I cried through the wait in the office lobby, while the nurses took my weight and blood pressure, in the exam room while we waited on the doctor, and the entire time the doctor told me what was going to happen. She gave up her lunch to fit my procedure in so I wouldn’t have t spend another night with my dead child inside of me. God bless that woman.
My procedure was scheduled for 12 and it was already 1o so we went straight to the hospital to register and get prepped. The rabbi from my temple had said he would come when we’d called him on Friday and we called him again to let him know the time and place. I’d prayed all weekend to begin miscarrying naturally so I could have somewhat of a birth for my baby. I’d started cramping Friday night and continued with increasing frequency and strength, but nothing felt painful and there was no blood. I’d somewhat made peace with that as we reached the hospital and began the checking in process. Once they had me back in the pre-op area, the nurse told me to go ahead and get changed into the gown and socks and she’d be back in to get my line and all that started. I stood up and took off my pants and felt a gush of warm liquid between my thighs. I looked down and saw blood running down my legs. My prayer had been answered. I was miscarrying naturally. I was having a somewhat birth and getting to say goodbye to my baby on my terms. I got the nurse and told her tearfully that I was bleeding. She got me a pair of mesh panties, a pad, and wet wipes to clean myself up with. I cried as I wiped away the blood and clear fluid.
The chaplain came in to see me. She was very nice and shared that she’d also suffered a miscarriage. She listened as I told her what we wanted for our baby. The hospital, St. Joseph East, runs a program for miscarried babies where they get a burial in a local cemetery and are prayed over after their arrival. I told her our baby’s name: Sayre Lee Taylor. I wanted them all to know who our child was because a name holds power. I told her about the blanket I was holding and that it was for him to be wrapped in after he’d left my body. She showed me a tiny casket she’d brought with her for Sayre and said she’d make sure he was wrapped in his blanket inside of it. Next, my rabbi came in with my mom and Thomas. He prayed with us and cried as I wept for our child. His wife had miscarried as well and he knew the kind of pain we were going through. He held my hand as I laid in the hospital bed, arm sore from a painful IV insertion and feeling blood coming out of me with every cramp. Rabbi kissed my forehead and told me he’d see me at temple when I felt up to it and that we’d be in his thought and prayers. The nurses gave me a sedative and wheeled me away from my family toward the OR. I told the OR staff Sayre’s name and told them to tell the doctor when she came in because I wanted them all to know who was arriving that day. They’d let me carry his blanket in with me and I clutched it in my hand as they prepared to put me under. I cried hot tears that ran down my face as the kind eyes of the anesthesiologist broke for me and the OR nurse held my hand as the world faded away.
I saw all of my family with a little boy who looked slightly like me and slightly like Thomas. They were all laughing and smiling. My baby was holding my stepdad’s hand and was waving at me and showing me he was alright. I woke up in post-op oddly at peace. I knew my baby was safe and with family, surrounded my love. I asked how long it’d taken and they said only ten minutes and that all had gone well. Once I’d proven I could eat ice, drink water, was bleeding normally, and could pass urine, they let me leave. We got Panera on the way home and I ate broccoli and cheddar soup in one of the recliners downstairs. The cramps weren’t bad, the bleeding was lighter than most periods, and I was sad but felt like I could move forward.
My heart is broken but I don’t want to die anymore.The doctor said we can start trying for another baby as soon as she clears me next week. Everyone has assured me I’ll be able to have another baby very very soon. I hope they’re right. I cannot thank the people who’ve called, texted, and come by to see if I’m okay, Those who brought meals sustained our bodies and spirits. And all of the women who shared their stories of loss with me helped me not feel so very very alone and broken. I still have a ways to go, but progress is progress no matter how small.