One day I was feeling blue. I got in touch with a shrink. We met. So affable, she was. It was refreshing to have her listening and interacting instead of trying the usual shrink tricks like nodding, jotting and staring. We had a real conversation. After our talk, she told me that I needed to grieve, furthermore that I needed to give myself permission to do so. “How?” I asked. She said to write down the experience, the feelings, the loss I felt when I miscarried – two of them. One time twins. The other, a normal pregnancy, a ‘singleton.’ I liked what she had told me. But, I still didn’t do what she said. Instead, I bottled it up, shoved it down, and decided to move on. I cried. I was depressed. It felt like a cosmic punishment. I was afraid to try again. I never did try again. But knowing others had endured far worse, I felt like I wasn’t in a place to indulge the feelings. Our culture is hush hush on miscarriage. Move on.
My husband and I have a beautiful son who can’t miss a life he doesn’t know. In fact, he loves the amped up attention he gets, and the adult conversation that he participates in as his norm. He knows a hell of a lot more at age 7 than I did. Yes, he has at times asked why he doesn’t have brothers and sisters but has never harped on it. I feel guilt that I didn’t provide him with at least one sibling. Maybe that’s shame. In contrast, my mother, who is one of nine children, continues to reaffirm that she always dreamt of being an only child – in order to have had the unadulterated attention from her parents that she, conceivably, couldn’t get. After all, baby boomers filled the population gap following our nation’s losses in WWII. Her family had neighbors with fourteen kids. Another family had eleven.
I told myself I didn’t deserve the other babies and that’s why I didn’t get to have them. If I had deserved them, if I could’ve handled three more, they would be here. I would beat myself up and wondered simply, Why? Then I would stop myself. I was confused with how to process it. At that time, admitting I had lost anything was, to me, the equivalent of being ungrateful for the beautiful, healthy, baby boy, who I had dreamed of. My son. Wasn’t this enough? Wasn’t I grateful?
Of course I’m grateful. I know that I’m lucky to experience motherhood, at all. It’s what I was waiting for all of those other years. For me, it’s the best part of this life.
My husband didn’t feel the loss of those pregnancies like I did.
It’s impossible to relate my experience without considering tribes of women over the course of history who have shared a similar fate or, then, those who fared far worse. Women and our reproductive rights weigh heavy as I give life to this story of mine. Who can ignore what’s unfolding before our eyes with the ‘new administration.’ It fires me up when I think of plutocrat assholes making policies on what to do with my reproductive life, with my body. A woman goes through battle to get pregnant, to end a pregnancy, to miscarry, to carry full term, to give birth. Hell, just to go to the gynecologist is a chore, let alone all of the rest of it that piles up over the years. And we just do it. No complaining. It’s a joy. It’s painful. It’s life. It’s what our sex does. Why on this earth should anyone govern how another conducts their bodies’ business. How is this still an issue in 2017?
But, I digress.
When I was into the second trimester, I was at the ultrasound appointment for genetic testing. The tech started with the cold jelly on the belly with one hand, staring into her monitor and punching keys with the other. It didn’t take her long to find that she couldn’t detect a heartbeat. No. There was no sound of that tiny, rapidly pulsing sign of life for us to hear in that stark room. You could hear her breath. My breath. No other sign of life. She politely, curtly, told me to please wait a moment while she fetched a doctor. She looked stressed out. Upset. She dashed out. I’m sure she saw it often. The doctor came in. And he told me he was sorry. And that he had phoned my OB and that I was scheduled for a D&C asap. I don’t remember what happened next. I was confused. I drove myself home. Then someone drove me to the hospital. Honestly, it’s a blur. The thing that stands out is the nurse, pre-anesthesia, talking to me before the D&C to tell me that this was happening to me because I had old eggs. Yes. ‘Old eggs.’
The next time, I could feel in my body that the pregnancy wasn’t viable. You see, I had already been pregnant. I knew what my body felt like in the early weeks. Painful, tender breasts. Nauseous. Hormonal. An overall feeling of slow, heavy energy grounding me – like my body had downshifted to put all forces toward the tiny life with little left over for the host. And the feeling had gone away. It just wasn’t the same. I felt way too normal for 14 weeks. So I asked the doctor to look. To see. Same jelly on the belly, same story. No heartbeat. Off to the hospital for a surgery. Back home to rest. Ginger ale and tears.
Although I didn’t want to grieve, I did my grieving in my own way. I watched so much Bravo that I could easily guest host “Watch What Happens Live.” Hey, Andy Cohen, if you need a sabbatical, I’m in. Your shows are a mix of punishment and entertainment, a hybrid genre of schadenfreude-inspired entertainment. It was an odd choice to sit on the couch at night and vegetate into the dysfunction, but I think in time, as I look back, I’ll realize that it had its part in my healing.
Women endure. We go on. We nurture. We survive.