Saturday, May 5, 2012

Unspeakable Loss


     The day of my first wedding, and yes I’ve had two, I found out that I was pregnant.  My period was late, but I attributed its absence to pre-wedding jitters.  It was bad timing on my part to take a pregnancy test on an already emotionally weighted day.  When I showed Guy the stick with the two blue lines, the color drained from his face.  He tried to keep it together for my sake, but his eyes revealed an inner horror, like he was in a tiny canoe heading towards Niagra Falls.  
     I wasn’t too thrilled either.  The pictures from our wedding show a lot of fear.  Our bodies look like mannequins, stiff and uncomfortable with frozen strained smiles on our faces.  During the champagne toast, I felt guilty for even holding a glass of alcohol.  While I did my best to hold back tears, Guy looked like he had a corncob firmly wedged up his butt.  We waited a couple of weeks after the wedding to share the news with our family.  They weren’t exactly thrilled, as we were young and not particularly settled into secure corporate jobs with insurance and a 401k.
    
     In my tenth week of pregnancy, I was in the dressing room of a maternity store trying on waist expanding pants.  I removed my too tight Levis and found that my underwear was spotted with bright red blood. I grabbed some tissue from the dressing room and left in a panic.  I called Guy from a phone at the mall and we met at the hospital.  Since UCSF was a teaching hospital, several pre-med students stood around and watched as the doctor performed an internal ultra sound, which was like a gynecological exam times ten on the embarrassment scale.
     The room was silent and tense as the head physician stared at a screen near my head looking for something, anything.
     “I’m afraid the fetus has died,” he said, his eyes still fixated on the monitor.  I turned towards Guy, the only friendly, caring face in the room.  I don't know if it was nerves or what, but my husband of two months looked more relieved than concerned.  As the nurse lowered the stirrups and helped me sit up, the medical students left the room. 
     “It’s for the best,” said Guy patting my arm.
      I was in shock, not fully aware of the implications of this dismissive comment.
     “I can order a D&C right now, or you can let it happen naturally,” the doctor said.
     The last thing I wanted was to break down and cry in front of that steely-faced doctor, so I chose option number two and fled from the hospital as fast as my unstable legs could carry me.
    The next few days were weird and tense, as I waited for the fetus to expel itself from my body.  

    “It will be like a heavy period,” the doctor offered as some sort of reassurance as we left the hospital.  At the first sign of cramps, I swallowed one of the pain pills I’d been given. Within an hour, I was writhing in pain in the bathtub, hoping the heat from the water would help to soothe my aching body.  But it was unbearable.  I was alone and I wanted nothing more than someone to walk me through this, give me comfort, or just hold my hand and say they were sorry.  As I exited the tub, a spasm of pain overtook me and I fell onto the tile floor.
     Guy rushed me to the nearest emergency room, which was located in a Catholic hospital, just a few blocks from our apartment.  Contractions surged through my body as I approached the receptionist.
     “Can I help you?” the receptionist asked coldly.
     My body twisted and contorted like Joe Cocker in the throes of a song. 
     “She’s having a miscarriage."
     “Oh,” she replied and called a nurse, who quickly shuffled the two of us into a room.  I was instructed by the nurse to remove my underwear and to change into a gown.  She then led me to a scale.  Blood streamed down my legs and onto the green tile floor.  I was mortified, but as usual, I kept my thoughts to myself.  The nurse threw a large cotton pad onto the examination table, asked me to sit down and then proceeded to stick me about four times with a needle.  Her unskilled intrusion popped one of my veins, resulting in deep blue bruising up and down the length of my arm making me look like a track-marked junkie.
     After thirty minutes of waiting and wondering why I wasn’t an emergency, the frazzled ER doctor wandered into the room.  While examining me, he asked the nurse for a pan. 
     “No wonder this was so painful,” he said and removed the placenta, which was the size of a calf’s liver.  Like an oddly excited kid in a science lab, he pointed out the fetus to Guy, who relayed to me later that it looked like a tiny slug.  
      That night, and for many nights after, I went home; cried, slept, chain smoked, and ate a lot of ice cream.  I never went back to my job. I wanted to start over and pretend that it didn’t happen. There was no funeral or public grieving over this thing, this slug.  Everyone was complicit in maintaining the silence.  It wasn’t until I saw my father at a family gathering that I was cruelly reminded of the potential of my loss. Holding my cousin’s newborn baby, he said, “See what you missed out on?”


     I met Susan Oloier in Bayfield, CO when we both showed up for a new writer's group at the public library.  That night, she read an essay about suffering a miscarriage and we bonded over our shared experience.  I don't know about you, but I find it incredibly refreshing when someone speaks about something that no one ever really talks about. Miscarriage is one of those things.  It's important to share our stories.  Just because we don't have a physical body to bury or a picture to remember that being, that life was real the minute the two lines appeared.  
     If it were up to me, I'd wear a shirt that said "Ask me about my miscarriage," as a social experiment.  And I bet you I'd get approached by a lot of women--women who had no one to commiserate with, or who were embarrassed that they'd failed at doing something "natural", or shamed that is was their fault.  Our stories are important.  They define us.  The help us make sense of things.  They let us heal.
     Susan has written a novel called "Fractured" about a couple who experiences a miscarriage.  It is available as an E book at Amazon and Smashwords.
     I'm so proud of Susan for writing this story and getting it published!  She's doing a blog book tour, so check it out!

     Have you experienced a death in your life?  Would you be willing to be interviewed on this blog about it? I'm looking for people to talk with on my "Monday Mourning" posts. 


     
     

47 comments:

  1. I had three miscarriages before my son was born and your story brings it all back. There are a lot of us out there.

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  2. Preferably not for publication.
    Yes, I'll be interviewed if you like. Apart from the miscarriages, I've lost both parents and two dear friends.

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    1. First of all, I'm sorry for your losses. Since you are the first to post, you will be my first interview subject. This will be my Monday post, but I'm not starting tomorrow. I'll contact you with questions this week and I'll post next week.
      Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Thanks for sharing, Pam. Your story is gripping and emotional. I will be checking out Susan's book. And I'm willing to be a guinea pig...I mean guest, for your Monday Mourning posts.

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    1. Okay, you're interview number 2.
      I'll contact you sometime this next week with a list of questions.
      Thanks!

      Delete
  4. Thank you for sharing. Your experience with miscarriage was deeply moving, and bought back a lot of memories of my own experience. You're right, not enough people talk about it. I think it would do a lot of good if people did. Knowing someone else has been through something similar really helps.

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    1. Yep, people keep kind of mum about it, but I'm hoping to change that in my little corner of the blogosphere. As always, thanks for commenting.

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  5. Replies
    1. You're welcome, Mr. Copeland. I'd be interested in hearing how miscarriage affected you if you'd be willing to talk about it.

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    2. I original had four different versions of that comment before ultimately deciding on "Thank you for sharing. :)"

      I really struggled to know what to say? I wanted to cause harm to Guy for his comments and your dad reminded me of my father-in-law's comment of "Oh, your mom had one of those..."

      Anything I wrote didn't sound right though.

      There's no words that I know of that can make up for losing a baby.

      "You can try again!"
      "It's for the best!"
      "It wasn't meant to be!"
      "Cool story bro!"

      None of these run of the mill comments resonate with me as this is the right thing to say.

      My thoughts ever since ours, which is now around four years ago, have been indescribeable. There's no words that can make it easier to deal with.

      At the time, I remember people saying how sorry they were. If truth be told their words were empty. I wanted my baby back and no amount generic responses would make up for our loss.

      I remember going for a scan and being told "Sorry there's nothing there."

      People joke about being confused, but that one single momeent redefined the word. I had no idea whatsoever what I was being told. It didn't register when the midwife repeated the same sentance. It was kind of like when we talk to foreigners and when they don't understand our language, we say the exact same thing again, only slower.

      "I'm...sorry...there's...nothing...there..."

      What can you say to that?

      "Ah, okay, best go home now."

      When I realised what she meant, I broke. The best I could manage to help explain what she meant or how it happened was a pittiful "Wha?"

      I'll admit, my vocabulary wasn't what it is today, but "wha?" seemed like the best word for the situation.

      If I wanted to stop smoking, I could get a patch. If I had cancer, there's the hope of chemo. If you find out your babies died, there's nothing. ALthough the midwife did explain that it wasn't either of our faults.

      Phew! Problem solved...!

      How if affects me varies. I still have times when I think about it and it rips me apart. I still to this day, can't get my head round any of it. There are no answers that I've found that explain any of this.

      Four years on I can say that the pain gets easier. We've since had another baby who, like our eldest, is a blessing.

      You have days where you don't think about it. Days turn into months and before you know it, you've gone ages before remembering. Sometimes you can think fondly of a baby up in heaven playing with toys happily, and other times you want to rip people's heads off until you feel retribution.

      /Wes

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    3. Wes:
      I am so happy that you contribute to this blog. The reason I asked is that I think there is a misconception that a miscarriage doesn't affect men as much as women. I don't think that's true, so I'm glad you shared your perspective.
      I know this sounds kind of "woo-woo" out there, but when I interviewed a medium for the book, I ended up getting a reading myself. She mentioned the two children I lost, she told me their sex and said that the first one was a boy and the second was a girl. I've been told by a couple of people about the book "Heaven is for Real." I guess in the book the little boy goes to Heaven and meets his sibling. He says the sibling didn't have a name.
      In defense of Guy, my first husband, I think he was just shocked and didn't know what else to say. It was such an awkward moment.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for hosting me today, Pam. I am always moved by your writing.
    I'd be willing to participate in your Monday Mournings. Especially after what happened last year with Sara.
    I would totally wear that t-shirt as a social experiment. Too bad you're still not in CO. We could shake this town up :-)

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    1. You are welcome, Susan. It was my pleasure. You can be my third interview subject.

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  7. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA - I just wrote a long post in response but it got lost when I went o check on a link I wanted to send you - S#*%#T
    Oh well, first I commented on your poignant post - very thoughtful - and yes, miscarriage is finally getting the attention it deserves. The loss there is painful in all the promise that was lost.
    Secondly - a comment about the two most significant deaths in my life - both out of the blue, completely unexpected - and both stopped my life momentarily. My father died at age 72 - with no warning - and that was soul shaking. The other death was of one of the most important people in my life. We were, at one time, lovers and realized that our goals in life were different. We remained best of friends and, in fact, it was through Frank that I met the man I married. Frank's death was a shock - we had just talked on the phone a couple of days before and I am still having a hard time with it (two years later). His smiling face shines in the photo that lives in my kitchen.
    I could respond to anything you might want to know for your Morning Mourning - I like that.
    Would it be possible for you to send me your email? I can't seem to find it on your profile page and I have a question for you. I am at jamm@sonic.net
    Thanks --
    JT

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    1. I sent you my email address and if you want to be my fourth interview subject, I'll send you some questions in the next week or two.
      thanks for commenting!

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  8. Hi, Pam!

    I've had a miscarriage. We also lost our firstborn child, a daughter named Julia, to congestive heart failure. I would be willing to be interviewed for your Monday Mourning segment.

    And I would wear the shirt, too. Susan and I could shake up this town together.

    Liz vonTauffkirchen

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    1. I think you two should do that and see what happens. I'm sorry about both your losses. How old was your daughter?

      And yes, I'd love to interview you.

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    2. Julia was eight and a half months old at the time of her death in February of 2005. It was tough for my husband, myself, and our extended family. We love her very much. I guess I should say loved but the love doesn't die just because the person does.

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    3. My oldest brother died at 3 months and my mom said it was the only time she ever saw my dad cry. The death of a child has to be the most difficult experience a person can go through, and no, the love doesn't go away.
      I don't know if you know Dan and Heather Miller, but I wrote about them and their son Tommy in my book.

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  9. I've heard about Dan and Heather and my heart breaks for them. I don't think I know them although I am told that Tommy came to my storytime before.

    I have an idea what your parents went through. It was extremely painful. The community really supported us when we lost Julia and it helped somewhat. Nothing really helps, though.

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    1. We're going to talk about this when I interview you, so just think about it or post briefly here, but did you find that people disappeared after her death. The reason I ask is that I know I'm guilty of this. Do you remember when Miss Cindy's (I can't remember her last name, but she was my daughter's preschool teacher)children died in the car accident? I wanted to go to their memorial but I was so freaked out about what to say to her because I knew there was nothing I could say that would erase her pain and I didn't want to make her feel worse. I know I can't be the only person who is guilty of avoiding those who are grieving. Now I wouldn't do it, but back then I did and I feel really bad about it.

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    2. Oh, Pam, I know exactly what you are talking about. I used to do that, too.

      Yes, some friends avoided us when Julia died. I don't fault them for that because I've been there and I understand the fear. In some ways, it's almost as if people think they can "catch" having a dead child from you. Or they are afraid to even contemplate the possibility. I understand that.

      I was so impressed with the friends who did not avoid us. I was overwhelmed with love when my daughter's funeral was so crowded. There are some amazing people in our community.

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    3. I'm so weird, I thought that by exploring death that I would attract it to me. That didn't happen.

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  10. Liz, It would sound so wrong to me if you said "loved". The love never goes away. I love Julia, and I've never even met her.

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    1. Thanks, Susan. You know I love Zane, too. :0)

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  11. I'm very sorry for your loss. It reminded me of some of the miscarriage stories I've read on the My OB Said What? blog, where some doctors seem to forget they're dealing with a real person and not just a patient to be treated and spoken to in a clinical, technical manner.

    I'd be willing to be interviewed for your Monday Mourning series. I lost my uncle when I was 8 years old and my paternal grandpap when I was 25, and both losses affected me very much.

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    1. I had a gynecologist tell me I had really pretty eyes while administering a breast exam. Totally freaked me out.
      I'll add you to the list. I didn't think I'd get any takers on this, so I'm please that a lot of people want to do it.

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  12. I think it's courageous of you to share the story--the reaction of your husband while you experienced the loss--the insensitive comment. I miscarried a similar week to you, and was not expecting it to be like labor. I remember the day clearly even though it was in 2001. For weeks, I'd close my eyes at night and relive it. I'm not as brave as you. I can't go through the details.

    Susan is writing about a subject that has affected so many of us.

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    1. I don't feel particularly courageous. I just think it's important to talk about the things that we try to suppress from our minds, like death.
      You're right. It was totally like labor. With my second miscarriage, I opted for the d&c because I didn't want to go through the physical pain and uncertainty of when it was going to happen. Heavy period, Ha! It was horrible. I don't think I'll ever forget the details of either.

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  13. I've never had a miscarriage. I had no idea it was as you described. Agreed it is one of those topics that people don't like to discuss, but it is a common experience.

    I would be happy to talk about my grandparents' deaths if you need more interview subjects.

    Elizabeth Twist: Writer, Plague Enthusiast

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    1. Well, it's not like a heavy period. I take that back. It might be that way for some women. I only know my what happened to me. It's just weird and heart breaking and there's no instruction manual. Heck, even if there was one, it wouldn't help. It might help if there was more acknowledgement of the loss, instead of the "it's good it happened when it did" or "you'll have another one."
      Let me see where I'm at with the interviews. I want to interview someone about every kind of loss: parent, child, spouse, sibling, boyfriend, girlfriend, aunt, uncle, grandparent.

      Thanks so much for following and commenting. I totally appreciate it.

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  14. Great post...broke my heart. I've never miscarried or lost a child but did lose a husband and the year before, an ex-husband (father of my youngest daughter) - both to cancer.

    Both parents gone, grandparents all gone, two uncles and way too many friends.

    I think this is a great idea and look forward to reading your interviews.

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  15. Do you want to be interviewed? I'm going to need someone who has a lost a spouse. Just let me know.

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    1. Sure...glad I remembered to come back and check this. Email at my name [no spaces] @ gmail

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  16. Thanks for sharing your story. I bought Fractured, but can't read it yet. I've lost a spouse and am in revisions of a memoir about the years leading up to his death. I don't mind being interviewed.

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    1. You're welcome. Thanks for commenting. I'll put you down on the list.
      Thanks!

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  17. Hey Pamela,
    I'm so sorry for your loss. I would be willing to be interviewed for your blog if you would like. I have lost many people, my husband, Harold, my Mom, my Dad, my grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and two sons, Jason and Matt.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I would love to talk with you. I can't believe how many people want to talk about loss. It's amazing and refreshing and I hope that for some people it might help them to feel less alone in their grief.
      I'll contact you.

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    2. Dang, I just wrote a response and then it disappeared when I tried to post it. Yes, I would love to talk with you.

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  18. This is an amazing piece of writing. I went through a serious emotional whoa while reading it, it was so simply and honestly written. I wish I could say I was shocked by the uncompassionate responses of the people around you, but since I can't, I guess I'll say I wish I'd known you then and been there to give you a real, solid, loving hug.

    It's also kind of amazing in this piece how you write about those uncompassionate responses without anger or blame - that you don't talk about how other people's thoughtless or cold remarks made you feel beyond a momentary shock or urge to run somehow conveys the depth of your feeling in a really powerful way. I just wanted you to know that the way you talk about it, not just the content of the story itself, is incredibly moving and affective. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Thank you, Jericha. My honesty tends to make some people uncomfortable, so I'm glad someone appreciates it:)
      I learned that less is more when writing about heavy topics. I personally think it's more interesting to see how people act rather than what they think. Often times how we feel is not necessarily how we behave.

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  19. I wonder why it is that miscarriages are treated in such a cavalier and dismissive way in our society? "She had a miscarriage." It's spoken of as though "She had a cavity filled" or "She found those shoes on sale." Absolutely no concern about the effect on the parents. Each time I hear it, I want to scream "This was her son or daughter! Part of her life is gone and can never be gotten back!". Until today, I thought I was just kinda weird... Well, I know I'm weird, but it's nice to know there are other compassionate weirdos out there!

    I'll be happy to be part of your interview if you still need some. I lost my little sister when I was four, a brother when I was sixteen, and among others, my Companion. Death and I are old friends...

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    1. Yes, Jim, I will contact you with questions. I've got to figure out who all I have and who they are talking about.

      I think the cavalier attitude has to do with many things. Probably it has to do with the fact that we don't want people to be sad, so we try to minimize their experience.

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  20. I'm sorry for your loss and for the fact that you had no one there for you. If you still need people, I'd be willing to answer some questions. I lost my mom. (I wrote a blog about it a while ago if you want to check it out. http://www.jessicasalyer.blogspot.com/2011/09/in-memory.html Plus I'm a nurse, so no stranger to it.

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    1. I'll definitely check out your blog post and I'd love to interview someone who works in a profession that deals with death on this blog. I contact you in the next week. I've got a crazy week coming up.

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  21. As a new member of our Tribe on Triberr, your blog name intrigued me, so here I am! Thank you so much for writing about death, a subject which so many people are still reluctant to voice, much less face. Having faced (and hopefully come to terms with) my own mortality, I have also walked through the loss of family, friends and fur companions over the years. Should you run short of folks to interview, I'd be happy to help. Funny, using the words "happy" when talking about death . . . Again, kudos for bringing this subject out into the open.

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    1. thanks for commenting! And yes, if you want to be interviewed, I'll talk to you. I will be posting every Monday.
      Where are you in Texas?

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Comments are welcome and appreciated!