Thursday, September 22, 2011
The Aftermath of Miscarriage
Yesterday, as I lay on the chair for the ultrasound, I noticed that the technician kept the screen turned away from me. Tom was sitting next to me, holding my hand, and I could see him craning his neck to look at the screen. I don't think the fear fully hit me until the moment when the technician put the wand to my belly, and started trying to find something. I just stared at her face the whole time. I was watching her so intently - trying to discern the tiniest flicker of recognition in her eyes. Something that would give me hope that my baby was alive. But there was nothing at all in her expression. And I knew.
"I'm so so sorry," she finally said, "but there's no heartbeat." I sucked in my breath, inaudibly, to hold back the tears that were threatening to well up. I would not cry in front of strangers. I didn't want to have to walk out of the building with everyone looking at me, knowing.
After another minute of capturing some images, she handed me a towel to wipe off the gel. She went to call the midwife, who she said we'd get to talk to after, and left the two of us alone. Tom was gently rubbing my arm, and he said something to me - I can't even remember what. I turned my face away and refused to answer. I knew I might break at any second, and I didn't want to be a blubbering mess on the phone with the midwife.
Tom pulled me into a hug. I was glad for it, but I wouldn't have initiated it. Not yet. I felt too raw. Tears were in my eyes then, but I wouldn't let them fall. The technician came back to let us know the midwife was ready for me on the phone.
The midwife told me how sorry she was, and started to share with me what the technician had told her about the ultrasound. Based on the size of my baby, it had died at nine weeks. At that point, I was fifteen weeks pregnant. My baby's been dead for six weeks and I didn't even know it.
There are no signs of my body starting to naturally expel the baby, she said. Our options are either to keep waiting, or to get a D&C (I had to look it up online. Not very pretty).
This morning, I looked back at a calendar to get an idea of roughly when it happened. It was probably in the very week that I found out I was pregnant. How I wish I could've known this sooner.
When I had gone to my first appointment with the midwife, where she assured me that all was well and there was no reason to get an ultrasound yet...the baby was already dead. I should've listened to my gut. I had wanted an ultrasound, and she convinced me out of it.
Shortly after that, when we were happily announcing the news to family and friends, the baby was already dead.
If we had only known.
It's not that I wouldn't have told anyone what had happened. I don't really believe that keeping miscarriage a secret is helpful. But I think some things would be easier for us now. We wouldn't have had all that time to anticipate our new child. To plan things out, to imagine how it would be. That's possibly what hurts the most right now. The disappointment and disillusionment of trying to understand that none of those things are going to happen anymore. I don't need the winter maternity clothes like I thought. We won't be a happy family of four in a new home this Spring. I won't be using our new double jogging stroller to take the kids on runs next Summer.
And it wasn't just Tom and me who had already imagined a future with this baby. I think all four grandparents cried when we told them the news. Even my dad, who if you remember didn't act completely thrilled when we announced the pregnancy. He said, "you know...I didn't realize how much I was looking forward to this baby, until you told me the news."
Friends have been really supportive. It's interesting how many people have "come out of the woodwork" to share their own experiences with miscarriage, and offer me any help I might need. I appreciate all the e-mails and phone calls. I might print them out to save.
I think right now, I'm handling things much better than I would have expected. When a close friend experienced a miscarriage last month, I really empathized with her situation, and couldn't get it out of my mind for days. I think in some ways that was a blessing for me. I had already gone through some of the grief, in a way, before I knew it had happened to us as well.
There's still the fact, though, that this isn't all over yet. It's a weird feeling to know that the baby is still inside of me, but not alive anymore. We met with the midwives again to discuss our options. We've decided for now to wait a little longer, and see if it will happen naturally. There's always an appeal to me in using the least intervention necessary. And the D&C carries a risk, albeit a very small one, of impairing your future ability to have children. We made another appointment with them for two weeks for now, when we can reconsider what we want to do.
But I've just realized...if things haven't happened by then, it will have been two months since the baby died. I really don't know if I could handle that.
I feel like there may be some physical and emotional pain still in store.