Monday, November 4, 2013

if at once you don't succeed

the first time i got pregnant it was an accident. though not the i'm-16-and-my-boyfriend-is-a-loser-and-my-parents-are-going-to-kill-me kind of accident. more of the huh-we-thought-modern-birth-control-was-a-little-more-reliable kind of accident. so, maybe it's better to say that the first time i got pregnant it was a surprise.

and not an unwelcome one either, but certainly not a planned one (is there even such a thing as a planned surprise?) so we definitely had to process the shock. there were lots of things we had been planning to talk about "at some point" that we suddenly needed to figure out right now.

did we need to move into a bigger house? buy a house? what would i do about work? what kind of budget were we looking at? did we need to cancel travel plans?

then there were the larger issues. what kind of care and birth experience did we want? doctor or midwife? hospital or something else? and what kind of parents did we want to be? spanking or no spanking? strict bedtimes or not? pay for college or help our kids support themselves? sports or music lessons or all of the above?

and finally there was a suddenly expedited process of mentally and emotionally accepting and preparing for something that came before we had expected it. it was irreversible. our lives would never be the same first there was shock. then terror. then a lot of nausea and misery and panic. i felt so incredibly unprepared for what was coming, but i also felt like there wasn't much i could do to prepare for it anyway. i felt like i should be doing-- or should have done-- something, but i had no idea what that something was.

but next came total excitement. we told our families and they were thrilled. we made a list of names. we started looking at baby furniture online and following our baby's development week by week. the thought of a little human coming to join our family made us happy, and it brought us closer. it was our biggest, most exciting partnership yet and we were so looking forward to all the things ahead.

it was with all that hope and excitement and the thrill of the first-ness of it all that we went in for my first ultrasound, around nine weeks. i am sure time has shaded my memory a little bit, but in my memory we were almost giddy. AWD took a picture of me lying on the exam table. we could not wait to see our baby.

if we had known more, we would have known right away that something was wrong. the ultrasound tech didn't turn the screen around to show us the image of our healthy, happy baby. i had to ask to see anything. we didn't know that the image on the screen should be moving, that if everything was all right the tech would be pointing things out and printing out pictures. when i asked if we could get pictures-- our baby's first picture!-- she handed me a piece of paper with a number to call. then she told me to get dressed and asked us to wait in the lobby.

in the lobby, i started to feel like something wasn't right. we were waiting for a phone call from our doctor. but why would we need to talk to our doctor if everything was as it should be? AWD said he was sure everything was fine. this just must be the way they do things. how were we to know any better?

someone came out and told us to go ahead to my doctor's office, just a few floors up in the same building. that seemed like a certain bad sign. but, i am always looking for bad signs, always expecting the worst and i made a conscious effort in that moment to trust that nothing was wrong. that everything was fine.

up we went. to the waiting room. then the exam room. then there was the doctor asking questions like, did i have any bleeding? had i felt any cramps? and then the words "abnormal results" and "no heartbeat."

no heartbeat.

no heartbeat.

i cried. and cried.

i knew it, i sobbed. i was afraid something would go wrong and i was right.

no heartbeat.

i knew it.

we were shocked all over.


it seemed impossible to know what to do next.

we had two options. wait for my body to take care of itself, or go in for a surgical procedure. i am terrified of needles and i had never had a surgery in a hospital before, but just waiting around for my pregnancy to end on its own seemed way too scary and sad and lonely. so i opted for a d&c and we scheduled it for the end of that week.

we checked into the hospital in the morning, we were home by that afternoon and just like that it was over. it felt like it was over before it even began.

what i remember about waking up from the surgery is that i was hysterical and i wanted AWD.  i felt disoriented and a little empty. there is something depressingly final about a miscarriage. when i woke up in the morning i was pregnant and by the time the day was over i wasn't.

to put it simply, i was so so sad.

the ultrasound image of our lifeless, heartbeat-less baby haunted me. i found myself wishing i had never looked at that screen in the first place, frustrated that i had been so naive, angry that i had forced myself to believe that everything was fine even though it felt wrong.

i also had the feeling that i had started something that i didn't get to finish and it left me feeling disorganized and a little bereft. there was nothing to do but file away the list of baby names and pack up the blanket and onesie my mom had already sent. nothing to do but go back to work, go out with friends, and get back to our routine and stop talking about what exciting thing was going to come next.

almost as soon as we had managed to wrap our heads around the idea of having a baby, the baby was gone. that might have been the hardest part.

the first baby shower i went to after my miscarriage was a nightmare. every time i heard someone was having a baby i felt so happy for them and so sad for myself. sometimes i would go to the grocery store and see a pregnant woman and i'd have to leave my cart right where it was and run out to my car and sit there and cry.

i did a lot of crying.

but here is something amazing. everything was fine. even when it didn't feel like it-- even when i didn't feel fine-- it was. i was.

for one thing, we quickly learned we were not the only ones. we had friends and family all come forward to share their own stories and grieve with us. though i didn't-- and still don't-- understand why heavenly father would give us a baby we weren't planning for only to take that baby away, i did have a distinct impression that the loss of that pregnancy was not my fault and there was nothing we could have, or i suppose should have, done to change the outcome. this kind of thing can make you feel like a failure, but i was blessed to put those thoughts quickly and permanently out of my mind. i also never felt like that was our one chance and now we would never have children. i never worried about getting pregnant again, which i know so many people do. that was another blessing i do not take for granted.

and gradually, i came to understand that we hadn't even lost a person. that the lifeless, motionless shell i saw on the ultrasound screen was just that. not a spirit, not a person. not alive at all. we had never heard a heartbeat, we didn't know if it was a boy or a girl. it was over before it started and that was a comfort as well as a disappointment. our slate was clean and we still had all the same things to look forward to. just later. as my mom described it, we were back to plan a. and i felt like we were moving forward with a new strength and empathy to our marriage, a new understanding and vision of each other, a shared loss and shared experience of overcoming it that added new depth to our relationship and a new gratitude for each other and the blessing of enduring together instead of alone.

i've written before about the big lesson i took away from this experience, but i'll say it again with even more time and perspective under the bridge. bad and hard things are nothing to be afraid of. they will come, we will survive them and worrying about them before they happen or dwelling on them afterwards only robs us of whatever joy we could be experiencing in that moment. even if that moment is hard.

i feel like there's a lot of talk about whether or not our experiences should define us, and i guess i am not totally sure where i come down on that issue. but i do believe we are made up of the collection of our experiences and our reactions to them and this experience will always be a part of me and how i see myself and the world.

and i think now, on this day at this time, i can say with all honesty that i wouldn't give it back even if i could.


AJ Candrian said...

You truly have a gift for expressing such deep, profound emotion. Well said. And wonderful lesson learned. I love reading your blog.

SRA said...

And that is the greatest blessing of all.

Evan and Holly said...

I read this today and thought of what you wrote just a few short days ago......

I thought you might like it.