This has been a difficult year. In November of last year, a week before my birthday and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I had a miscarriage at just shy of thirteen weeks of pregnancy. Three days after losing the baby, after coming home from the hospital and being ordered to rest and recuperate from what happened, I picked up my laptop and wrote this:
One out of every four pregnancies ends in miscarriage.
That’s the statistic they gave me as I laid on a stretcher in the emergency room, after they’d changed the sheets and various bed-sized pads for the second and third times, the previous sets sitting on the floor in sodden piles, amid smears of blood and so much worse.
I was nearly twelve weeks pregnant, almost to the end of the first trimester and that point when it’s supposedly safe to proclaim to the world that you’re pregnant. But on a Saturday morning, six days before my thirty-fourth birthday, I woke up and realized I had started to bleed.
It was my fourth pregnancy, the first three all having culminated in bouncing, screaming, healthy babies being delivered into this world. I knew what was normal for my body and what would trigger a call to the doctor. Blood was bad. I knew this. So I picked up the phone and dialed the number.
I wasn’t having any cramps or pain. The bleeding wasn’t heavy. I was told to stay home, to rest, and see if it stopped. At lunchtime, it nearly did. But by dinnertime, the bleeding picked up in strength, and by bedtime, I was having contractions.
I called the doctor again. They told me to go to the emergency room.
My mom came down to watch the kids, who were all slumbering peacefully in their beds, and my husband and I braved the cold for the fifteen-minute drive to the hospital.
As we waited to be admitted, and as we were asked the same questions over and over about when the bleeding began and how many pregnancies I’d had and whether I smoked or drank or took my prenatal vitamins, the contractions grew in strength. When we’d arrived, I would’ve put them on a 4 or 5 on the pain scale. By the time they led us back into the ER, they’d leapt up to an 8.
The nurses tried to remain positive and optimistic at first. Bleeding didn’t necessarily mean a miscarriage. Even the contractions could be a symptom of something else, something not connected with me losing my child. But then a particularly strong contraction swept over me, and a particularly large amount of blood came out of me. The nurse rushed in to check on me and change the pads and the sheets beneath me. She glanced down at the soiled pads. Her expression changed. She announced that it no longer looked positive.
At that point, I knew I was in labor for a child that would not live, that probably was no longer even alive. I had never been in that position before. Me, the one who had gone through three complication-free pregnancies and complication-free deliveries. Had I started to think too highly of my fertile body? Or was this merely a fluke, my turn to add to the statistic stated to me by the doctor who came in to assure me that I had done nothing to bring on this miscarriage?
As the night wore on, my husband dozed as much as he could and I flipped through the cable channels, settling on Phineas and Ferb and hideously awful purses on one of a half-dozen shop-at-home channels. And as I laid there, dizzy from morphine and exhausted from everything else, I continued to bleed, and I watched as my belly slowly shrank down, as if there had never been a baby in there in the first place.
What I don’t want is for this fourth pregnancy, the first of mine not to make it to full-term, to become nothing more than a statistic. I was pregnant. I went through morning sickness, just like the others. I had already started experiencing weird food cravings and a constant need to pee, just like the others. I had looked forward to feeling the baby kick, to finding out if it was a boy or a girl, to holding that messy little newborn as it blinked through the goo on its eyes and took its first breaths of stale, hospital air.
But because those things didn’t happen does not make it any less than the others, relegating it to a lower status. I have been pregnant four times. I am a mother four times over. Should I become pregnant again, it will be my fifth pregnancy and my fifth child.
I didn’t write any further than that. I’m not sure I needed to. By the time I tapped out that last paragraph, I was spent. Some of the pain and the grief had drained out of me, leaving me feeling numb.
I went through a difficult time after that. A hard winter with bitter cold and a tremendous amount of snow and ice didn’t help matters. I was probably depressed, though I hadn’t experienced anything like it before and didn’t understand until afterwards what was going on. But I felt very little, simply moving forward through each day, thankful for making it to the end of it, and going to sleep at night, hoping not to dream.
My father’s health took a downturn at the same time. The winter was even harder on him. By spring, we knew it was going to be his last year with us, perhaps his last summer. But he didn’t even make it to summer.
And the pain is different now. With losing the baby, it was immediate and sharp, leaving a grey void in its wake that slowly faded into nothing. With my father, perhaps because there was such a build up towards the end with his chronic health problems, it doesn’t feel the same at all. I feel it constantly, but only if I allow myself to. After the baby, there was the cold emptiness. With my father, the sorrow is a living thing, always alert, waiting to pounce on me the moment I let down my guard.
My urge to write, then, is different, too. After the miscarriage, it was like pushing poison out of a wound. Putting my chin to my chest and writing as many words as I could, as quickly as I could, without a thought as to typos or mistakes. Just going, going, going until I was too tired and I could finally close my eyes and sleep. Now, I’m distracted. Wanting to take on a bajillion projects at once, unable to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.
Because pain and grief are these strange, intangible things. There’s no right or wrong way to approach them, because they are never the same animal. One might be strong enough to always hold you in its grip, while the other might release you with nothing more than a sigh.
And here I sit, the words still pouring out of me, not even sure if I have a particular point to this post or any kind of message I wish to impart to the world. Beginning, middle, and end is how these things are supposed to go. But our lives, and the pain left behind when a life leaves us, don’t always seem to follow that arc.
Beginning… middle… end.
And still it hurts. And still I write.