When a Friend has a Miscarriage
I was not sure what to say to her as I sat contemplating the news. What do you say to someone who has lost a child? I surely never had. There was no physical evidence that I could see except a deep emptiness in her face. She was not showing from months of carrying. She was 10 weeks along. She had just recently told close friends and family that they were expecting. The world would continue on as if nothing had happened with only a few people knowing her loss.
I listened as she told her story to us all. They were going in to have their second ultra sound. She was still nauseous most days but so excited to see her child again on this afternoon. As she lay on the table, her husband by her side beaming with pride, the image of their child slowly came into view. She began to smile in awe of its little shape. She still could not believe she was pregnant. She looked up at her husband and they smiled comfortably at one another. As she turned back to look at the screen again, she caught a view of the doctor’s brow which exposed a look of concern. He began asking them a series of questions: “How far along did we say you are?” “When was the first ultra sound and how big was the fetus?” “This does not look good…It is very very small.” A million thoughts ran through her head in those 15 seconds. “Is he saying there is something wrong with my child?” “Is he saying they will have a disability?” “Why is he asking us these questions?”
“I’m calling it” he said. “There is no heartbeat. I am so sorry to have to tell you this today”. She still didn’t know what was going on. Her husband slowly took her hand and firmly held it to her chest. The nurse preparing all of the tests they were scheduled for that day slowly put everything down and walked out of the room. Then she knew. “We still want to get some blood work from you” the doctor said. “ Once you are dressed, go to the lab. I will meet you in my office to discuss what is next”.
He walked out. She lay there staring at the ceiling. She couldn’t move. Her husband slowly sat down beside her. When she finally sat up she was not sure what to do next. Her mind flooded with emotion: Get dressed he said? Blood work? My child is dead. My child is dead. What did I do wrong? I can’t look at my husband or I will lose it. Stay strong. What did he say? WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!! All of her plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas to go shopping for this child with her family. To celebrate this life. All of the plans they had made for the next few months… all of the things she was not going to be able to do since she was pregnant. The weight of the emptiness she felt at the loss of anticipating this new life. Why had she been so naive to get attached? Why did they tell friends and family? What.Did.She.Do.Wrong.
She dressed and walked to the lab together with her husband. Neither said a word. They asked her name and date of birth as she sat down. The technician had no clue what had just transpired in the room down the hall. She watched the needle go into her arm but felt nothing. Blood quickly filled up the vile as she felt the life go out of her with it. She wanted to die. Right there. To disappear. But she couldn’t. The doctor was waiting down the hall in his office to discuss what was next. What was next? She had not even gotten that far. She had no signs of having miscarried. She had all the symptoms of a healthy pregnancy. She had felt her child’s burden daily with the nausea and the pain of her uterus as it made room for this precious life. What was next?
As the doctor began telling her it was not her fault, rattling off stats, reassuring her that, unfortunately, this is normal, she slowly felt his voice fade in and out. The next decision was whether to pass the fetus naturally or have a procedure. She did not realize at that moment that the pain was just beginning. Everything was a haze as they slowly walked out of the office to their car and drove home. She held it together the entire time. She had always been “strong” in these situations. I knew that about her. When they walked in the door she turned slowly and released all of the tension into his loving arms. She did not weep loudly or fall to the ground in a heap. She simple cried. Quietly. He held her and kissed her head letting the tears roll silently from his eyes as well. There was nothing to say.
As they began the process of telling their loved ones what had happened, the weight began to sink in. She began to feel shame and embarrassment. She felt like a broken pot that needed to be thrown out…not suitable to house even a tiny seedling let alone one would grow into a beautiful blooming flower. She felt exposed by her inability to carry a child like all of her friends had. She felt shame that she could not keep her husband’s child alive. He harbored no resentment towards her and reassured her at every step that he loved her and was so sorry for their loss. He knew this was no one’s fault, but she could not help but see it as hers.
She stayed home from work for a week…waiting…watching…feeling anything that would enforce that, yes, this child was gone. But nothing happened. She felt pregnant. She felt nauseous and tired. There was no blood. Each day that passed the panic within her rose. “There is a dead child in me. Get it out. Get it out. GET IT OUT!!!” It was like someone had thrown a dead carcass on her lap and tied her hands behind her back. She could do nothing. Each time her heart rate rose as she begged God to make this happen quickly, she became overwhelmed with guilt that she wanted the baby gone. The child was gone, but the baby was not. They scheduled the procedure.
It was as quick and painless as the doctors, nurses, and blogs had said. The staff was incredible. Each consoled them for their loss. When she woke up she felt some pain, but the meds quickly disseminated any further physical suffering. But something felt wrong, because it was. Her child was gone. She wished immediately to have it there again. On her medical records when she arrived the prognosis read “Abortion/Missed”. She had just had the same procedure as a woman who would abort their child. She felt furious and broken at the thought all at once. She would give anything to have her child again. As images crept into her head about what they had just done to the child’s remains during this procedure, she fought back the tears. She wept inside for all of the woman who had to make that choice. Did they fell empty inside too once it was complete?
The next few days at home were like having a period, but more emotional. There was blood and hormone changes. No one told her about those. Like a woman who has just given birth, the body begins to rid itself of the unnecessary hormones. Hot flashes, mood swings, nausea, headaches, cramps. She would have to take a pregnancy test continually until all of the hormones had diminished before they could try again. It was a reminder each time she looked at those 2 pink lines that her life would never be the same. It mocked her as if to say “I am the only proof that this was all real”.
Her body eventually went back to normal. Life continued as it had before. Family and friends slowly stopped texting and calling. I watched her slowly become irrelevant again.
When I see her I still do not know what to say. She looks older and wiser but behind her eyes, she is broken and scared like a child. I take her out for coffee, go on a run, put on a funny movie so she does not have to think about it for at least a few hours. I reminder her to treat herself and to find meaning in the life unfolding before her. My understanding of who she is and who she wishes to become has altered. She is raw and real. I have a unique perspective with her. We greet one another every morning as she stares back at me in the bathroom mirror. Our eyes seem to agree that we need to try and pick up the pieces of this nightmare. Sometimes I still feel as though I have floated above myself looking down as this girl…this woman…I hear her say “I am ok. We will get through this” but I know she is not. You do not get through the loss of a child. You simply choose to keep living, knowing that the world around you is filled with others in pain just like you. They still find joy and peace. They still have dreams to fulfill. They will still be mothers and fathers eventually, or maybe not. No matter what, I continue to push her forward. I push her to laugh, to cry, to love, to live. This life is beautiful and disastrous, like the ocean. The sooner I began to understand this, the more at peace I began to feel. It is ok to laugh. It is ok to cry. It is ok to ask questions. It is ok. It is ok.