If I was still pregnant, I would have been 20 weeks along today. We would have found out the gender of our baby yesterday.
The following blog post was originally written as a guest post for Annie over at Letters to Mo. I've edited it a bit before deciding to post it here. It's heavy stuff, but it suits my mood for today as I think back to that moment six weeks ago when we realized something was very, very wrong.
The day before my doctor's appointment, I threw up in the car on my way to work.
It was the morning of Valentine's Day. I had to drive back home with chunks of food hanging off my wrist and bile seeping into my pants. I thought, today can't get worst, right? I thought, damn pregnancy. I'm almost 14 weeks. The nausea should take the hint already. I thought, I gotta call the school and tell them I won't make it. Awesome.
Later, I'd regret most of those thoughts.
The evening of Valentine's Day, my 20 month old son decided to bend over to pick up his sippy and busted his eyelid open on our coffee table. Oh, the jokes! Once stitches were ruled out, anyway. How'd you not see that coming, G? Seeing as how it hit you in the eye. People would sympathize with our toddler, about how he had fallen on the coffee table. Oh, no, we would say. He just bent over. Ha.
This was the day before my doctor's appointment. I still wish I could go back to that day of barf and blood and four hours in the emergency room. That day sucked so hardcore, but I would trade it in an instant with any of the others that have followed. I cursed my pregnant body, thinking nausea was the worst of my woes. I held my toddler close, silently tsking at his random injury that cost us $400.
But that day, my 14 week old second-child, baby #2, my son or daughter, Grayson's brother or sister, was probably still alive. Because by the day after Valentine's Day, second-baby just wasn't.
I have learned a lot about grief in the weeks following my missed miscarriage.
One. There is a lot of silence you'll want to fill up. Your doctor will search search search for that damn sweet little heartbeat you were supposed to hear for the first time that day. The flatlines of your baby's no-heartbeat won't make that low tone of the movies that signals that life doesn't exist - it'll simply show up on the screen, smooth lines where there should be waves. The ultrasound technician will check the baby over and barely speak a word to you. You'll be handed so many tissues, the white wads of paperthin stuff spilling out of your hands, but no one will hand you a "your baby died" or "you miscarried" or "sweet Jesus, life will really suck for you for a long time now."
No one will even want to tell you how far along the baby was before it died, and so you'll have to ask. 14 weeks exactly. The horror of that will never go away. It could have happened only moments ago.
Two. A D&C makes things a little quicker, a little easier, than letting nature take its time. But when you wake up from anesthesia with tears streaming down your face, your hands outstretched even though you don't remember lifting them, mid-sentence of "give me my baby back," no one will look you in the eye. The nurses will ignore you until they decide it's time for you to pee now and get out, thank you very much. The minutes between consciousness and when your husband walks into the room feel longer than they are. He says your doctor heard you say, "the baby waved at me," when you first woke up, but you'll never remember saying those words. Only dream every fuckin' night of a tiny red hand held up in the air.
Oh, by the way, you'll throw up in the car on the way home, just like you did on Valentine's Day three days ago. But this time it's not from pregnancy hormones but from the anesthesia that kept you asleep while they took your dead baby out.
Three. Everyone and their sister has lost a baby just like you. A tiny few are worse, a few were further along or stillborn, and your heart can't even consider that pain. But most came early, way early, and you'll wail inside, I saw my baby at 9 weeks and baby was fine. Baby was healthy. Baby was kicking its miniature feet and tossing that head - oh god, its brain wasn't growing right and we didn't even know - and we should have heard a heartbeat that day, not silence.
You'll learn that people are awesome, even the ones you barely talk to anymore. You'll learn that your boss gets nervous, in a way you've never seen him in the past 12 years, when he brings up that in an effort to be a friend, and you'll be really touched. You'll learn that you can't keep your mouth shut about it, and it's not that you want to broadcast to everyone that you miscarried, but that it's all you can think about.
Four. You'll grasp at any way possible to keep that baby alive in your life. Could I get a tattoo, when I have never considered one before? Could I get a special necklace or ring? Could I print out a picture of the 9 week ultrasound, put it in a pretty frame, and stare at it day after day? Could I get a stuffed lion, second-baby's birth sign would have been Leo, and cry into its fur in the middle of the night?
You'll have nothing but some old ultrasound pics and a hospital bracelet and three extra pounds that won't fit into your old jeans and a $4000 bill. And you can't change that. And you've never felt so helpless.
Instead, you'll cling to your toddler's life, your throat closing up anytime you let yourself pause. Every time he stumbles, somewhere deep inside, you gasp with fright. You'll have nightmares and think he's not breathing until you turn on the light and shout his name and shake his shoulder like a lunatic until you hear his sweet wail because you scared him you freak.
Five. Your toddler has an incredible ability to heal you from the inside out. When you come home from the hospital, he will sit in your lap and not want to leave, touching first the IV bandage on your left wrist and then the hospital band on the other, a furious look of concentration on his chub-chub face. He will hug you tightly and often, sometimes refusing to be parted by your side except for food and sleep. How does he know, you will wonder, that this is exactly what I need because he's not even two and he doesn't even talk yet. Maybe it's because you talked so often about the baby in your tummy and suddenly you didn't. Maybe he just knows in that psychic baby-just-knows-his-mama way.
Last. Eventually, people stop talking about It, and you don't bring It up anymore because you'll sound depressed or obsessed or something else that makes people uncomfortable. Those on the fringes of your life will nod and think everything is okay now. Those with the down-low might know better. Really, it's because you become better at hiding the crack in your armor, the knowledge that perfect life can so quickly become broken life.
Eventually, or maybe instantly, you'll start to obsess about getting pregnant again in 1 or 2 months. Every twinge in your body becomes a sign of ovulation, and you'll count the days until a possible period over and over. And every once in a while, you'll stop and cry and promise second-baby that you're not trying to replace it, that if you had any choice you would still have him or her snugg-a-bug in your belly and dreaming of finding out its gender. Dreaming instead of refusing testing on the body so that you'll selfishly never know because your heart probably couldn't take it.
Eventually, or at least hopefully, you'll get pregnant again and give birth to a healthy baby with a healthy brain, and in the darkness of 2 am, with that baby tugging at your breast, you'll whisper, You had a brother or sister that we lost. Second-baby was so *beautiful*.
And the memories, out they will spill.