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.