February 23, 2006

Another February memory

It was sixteen years ago today.

I was younger, of course, and pregnant with my third child. We were having a quiet weekend, building a new bookshelf for our home. I was just beginning the second trimester of pregnancy, and some of my energy was returning. My other two pregnancies had been healthy and normal, and I knew what to expect. Usually I feel really great during the middle part of pregnancy.

I did not expect to see blood. And I knew right away what that meant. I was having a miscarriage. A sonogram confirmed what I already knew: no heartbeat.

I chose to stay home for the miscarriage rather than go to the hospital. I did not want any unnecessary medical procedures. I trusted my body. I knew what to expect from the contractions because I’d had two children already. The midwife told me what danger signs to watch for.

The waiting part was the hardest, waiting to go into labor when I knew that the contractions would not lead to a birth. I just wanted to get it over with.

My mother took my two children home with her. Friends brought food – lasagna, salads, desserts – all the comfort foods they knew I liked best. My sisters and women friends kept calling on the telephone. Red-haired Sister, who lived out of town, sent flowers and gifts. The women in my life knew what to do to be supportive; the men, for the most part, did not. But they tried.

My father did not say anything to me when they came to get the kids. He can be strangely inarticulate. But he brought me my favorite painting, a scene up at camp he had painted, and gave it to me as a present. I still have that painting. It hangs in my living room. My brother drove from Camera City with his girlfriend, and gave me a pot of tulips that he said I could plant in the garden when spring came.

My husband kept himself busy doing tasks – cleaning the house, folding laundry, finishing the bookshelf. He did not know how to talk about his own feelings, or what was going on. I think he was very nervous about my refusal to be admitted to a hospital. He finds doctors and hospitals and medical tests very reassuring, and he does not understand my dislike of all things medical.

The contractions began at night. I sat on the couch with a book, trying to read through them. I did not want to use any of the breathing techniques I had used during my other labors because it made me feel sad. When I am giving birth, I welcome the contractions, knowing that the rhythmic movement is opening me up, getting me close to seeing the baby. But I did not welcome these contractions. I didn’t want them.

I remember sitting on the floor of my bathroom (chosen for the linoleum floor, which could be cleaned easily), breathing through contractions, feeling kind of dizzy, leaning against the bathtub for the coolness of the porcelain. My husband, who can be very supportive in other situations, faints at the sight of blood, so he had to leave the room. I talked to the midwife on the cordless telephone, and she reassured me that it would be over quickly.

And it was. I put the placenta in a plastic container to send to the lab, took a shower, and climbed into bed with my husband. I felt empty and bruised. In the morning I would call my friends and family, talk to them, allow myself to be comforted. But in the dark of the night, I grieved for the child I would not have.

It was sixteen years ago. I don't think of it much any more. Except once each year, on this day.

44 comments:

Friday Mom said...

(o)

Not sure why, but it makes me especially sad to think of you alone in the bathroom through the labor.

peripateticpolarbear said...

(o)

listmaker said...

I'm so sorry, jo(e).

Sue said...

(o)

sheepish said...

This brought tears to my eyes, especially, as friday mom notes, that you went through this alone.

ArticulateDad said...

Sad. Thanks for sharing. This is a part of life usually hidden from the world. Perhaps, this will help me, as a guy, to deal better with the eventuality.

Rana said...

(o)

Yes, also to the reactions about being alone in the bathroom.


It really is a place where we go when sick, to be comforted by, as you put it so well, the coolness of porcelain.

No wonder you view February with misgivings - one more in a quiet litany of late-winter grief.

negativecapability said...

I can't even begin to imagine what that waiting felt like...and the image of placing the placenta in a bag is so haunting...thank you for sharing this story.

OneTiredEma said...

So sorry for your loss :-( You were very brave to go it alone, although I understand your impulse to just have your body work through it. (Kudos to your mw too.)

Mona Buonanotte said...

You said this in such a very lovely way that now I'm crying.

Thank you for sharing this. I feel I know you better now.

reverendmother said...

(o)

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

(o)

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Oh, jo(e). I'm sending hugs, along with everyone else.

Marie said...

(o)

HeyJules said...

(((o)))

Terminaldegree said...

You write beautifully, even of such sad things.

The part about being alone really is painful. I'm sorry.

(o)

corndog said...

Peace to you, Jo(e), on a difficult anniversary.

Yankee T said...

Yes, peace, jo(e).

mc said...

(o)

halloweenlover said...

I'm so sorry, Jo(e). Thank you for showing us that after something as painful as this, you can still have so many blessings in your life.

Kathryn said...

Oh Jo(e)
another bond between us.
Mine was on bonfire night (5th November) and after bleeding for 2 days they had to admit me to hospital...and placed me on a gynae ward next to someone having IVF.
Along the way I had 3 miscarriages, but that one was the saddest...and I hate the "how many children do you have?" question even now, 17 years on.
Hugs and loves xxx

Rev Dr Mom said...

(o)

liz said...

Big hugs. Big, big hugs.

EmmaNadine said...

After my first miscarriage, I was surprised how many of the women I knew shared their own stories of pregnancy loss. Hugs to you.

Lisa C. said...

Oh, Jo(e), here's another big cyber hug. I'm so sorry. So very, very sorry.

Writer Chica said...

I'm watching my one-month-old baby girl peacefully sleeping and I cry for you and the pain and grief you went through.

Leslee said...

Oh Jo(e), what pain you've experienced. I was only a few weeks along when I had a miscarriage. I can only imagine the grief I experienced magnified in how you felt, alone, there in the bathroom.

(o)

Be well my friend. February will soon be over.

susan said...

(((o))))

A. Lin said...

As one who has experienced the pain of miscarriage, the grief is always with me--even if it is in the back of my mind somewhere. So many women carry the memory of a loss of pregnancy. Sharing the story helps I have found. Hugs to you.

ScienceWoman said...

(o) through the tears

cheesehead said...

(o)

This sisterhood is much too big...

trillwing said...

I'm so sorry. But thanks so much for sharing the story. This kind of pain is so large and yet so invisible to so many people.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, jo(e)...

(o)

DaniGirl said...

jo(e).... (pause to gather thoughts)

When I blogged about my own miscarriage, you said you too had lost a baby at 13 wks, and I felt a strange bond of loss with you. Now I read this, and the feeling intensifies.

The complexity of experience that hides behind an ordinary face never fails to overwhelm me.

I'm so sorry you had to endure this, but glad that you were surrounded by love.

Teri said...

I'm so sorry.

mendi-la said...

(o)

jo(e) thanks for sharing something so personal - i just can't imagine that i could handle that with the grace and calm you describe

Poor Mad Peter said...

My eldest daughter, having lived a very difficult and dangerous life as the kid of split parents, found herself, got her education; got a responsible, important job, met, and eventually married a wonderful young man. She was soon pregnant. And miscarried along the way.

There aren't any words for this, only the being there--if that is possible; it wasn't, for me, thousands of kilometres away--and the shared pain. It ripples outward, from the epicentre of grief in the mother's body and heart, through the surrounding family.

She became pregnant again, gave birth to a healthy little boy. He'll be baptized, 9 months later, this March.

I say that with care, because as you undoubtedly know, it isn't "just" a matter of getting pregnant again etc etc. But that there is hope in your being 17 years along from that painful time, putting one foot in front of the other, breathing. And writing.

Thank you.

Jessica said...

Beautiful....just beautiful...your writing, your story, your recounting of a painful experience.

Thank you so much for sharing this personal part of your life.

zelda1 said...

I'm so sorry. My daughter, when things were good for her, had a miscarriage. She got into bed with me and told me she was bleeding. I told her she needed to go to the hospital. I held her for a while, like I did when she was a young girl, and then her husband and I took her to the ER. They admitted her to a room and the nurses left us alone and four hours later, she delivered the fetus. It was a boy. WE both cried.

Phantom Scribbler said...

(o)

ccw said...

(o)

Your strength is amazing.

BeachMama said...

Sorry to hear of your experience. I too have been there and prefer the at home as opposed to the hospital. I hope that one day I too don't think of it very often anymore.

Songbird said...

Mine came earlier or later; thank you for your story.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

I'm so sorry Jo(e). You shouldn't have had to be alone on that floor.