TW: no physical details. Just emotional trauma. Enough for a lifetime.
If you don’t read this, it’s ok. I understand.
In 2008, we moved back to Charleston. My father was ill, he had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and Baltimore was so far away. I started a new, incredibly stressful job, and we were living paycheck to paycheck. Ben was working at a big box, Boog was in preschool, and we were the Three Amigos.
And then, as if by magic, in June I was pregnant. We were floundering a little, but we had always wanted more than one kid. And who doesn’t flounder about in their first few years of marriage? We got excited. Two couldn’t be that much harder than one, right? Boog was already out of diapers, we still had all of his “baby” stuff. We could make it work.
Time passed. I finally got to a doctor, and got a due date in April. A spring baby, one for Ben’s birthday month this time. Everything was going along swimmingly. I even brought my mom to a doctor appointment, so she could have some “baby” fun. We didn’t get to hear the heartbeat at that appointment but the tech said it wasn’t anything crazy. It was still early.
Fall came, and I started to get excited. I hadn’t told anyone at work yet, because I was nervous. My job was a crazy one: I mixed medications for people in drug studies, and that involved hazardous and chemotherapy drugs. I always used the proper precautions, and as any pharmacy female can tell you- as long as you use proper technique and protective gear, there is not that much potential danger. You just keep working til you go into labor at most places. (But that’s another tale for another time.)
I told my boss, and a few coworkers. One of my coworkers insisted on telling everyone that came into the office, and I felt that was overbearing as fuck. But I was the low person on the ladder, so I sucked it up and smiled my way through it.
About two weeks after I told my coworkers, I had a routine appointment. They drew some blood, took some urine, and sent me on my way. The next morning, I got a phone call from my doctor.
“Your labs are a ‘little off’, and I want you to come in for a second draw. I mean, they’re waaay higher than they should be, but don’t worry. We will do an amino, and have you meet with a genetic counselor, since you’re an older mother.” I was 34. This made me mad, but again, I sucked it up. The appointment she scheduled me for was the first one I could get, a week later.
During that week, I WORRIED. You can’t tell a pregnant woman not to worry, it’s 100% counterintuitive. Every bump on the road felt heavy. My brain kept saying “just hold on, baby. Just hold on.” I knew something was wrong. I feared that it was Down Syndrome. Ben’s aunt has DS, and her mother was “older” when she was born. Ben tried to calm me down, that Grandma had been well into her 40’s when she gave birth.
The day of the appointment, they did a blood draw and urinalysis, then sent us to the genetic counselor. She discussed all the things that were possibilities, and we braced for the “worst”. They asked if we would be ok carrying a child that may have genetic issues, and gave us tons of information and links for support groups and resources.
At that point, I was convinced that the baby had something wrong. They were talking too much. Everything was surreal. I felt like I was made out of plastic. Poor Ben, who has worked with developmentally disabled people most of his life, looked so sad. He said “it’s not going to be easy.” He looked pale and nervous but he smiled and tried to keep me sane.
The next step was an ultrasound and amnio. I was terrified of the amnio; I have an incredible fear of needles. My “bad feelings” were migrating into “oh shit” territory. But we were going to see the baby, and hopefully find out if it was a boy or a girl. The ultrasound tech came in, and we had some light conversation about the fun part of the job. I will never forget- I said “yeah, I bet the only bad part is having to see the bad stuff before everybody else.” I should have kept my mouth shut.
She was finagling around, trying to find the heartbeat. She was cool as a cucumber and so professional; it didn’t hit me til she left the room and I looked at Ben. We both knew. There was no heartbeat. Moments later, the doctor came in and confirmed it. We broke down.
They gave us some time. Then the doctor came in, and asked if we wanted to wait to deliver the baby on its own, or schedule a D/C. I wanted that baby out right then. I wanted to run away, and scream into traffic and stop the entire world. I wanted to hurt people. I wanted to dissolve into nothing. We scheduled a d/c. It was on Halloween, my favorite fucking holiday.
Everyone was kind. I took time off, but I was back at work within a week. It was as if nothing ever happened. Life went on. People told me things like “best to move on, it’s ok.” I didn’t know how to feel, so I stopped feeling. I stopped sleeping. I smoked more. I was a rotten mess for about two years.
The doctor said that the pathology came back as “failure to thrive”, no definite diagnosis. I think she was trying to spare me, which in the end, was the WORST fucking thing. I understand science. I appreciate honesty. That miscarriage was in 2008, but I didn’t find out why the baby died until at the beginning of August this year, when I was reading lab reports on my chart at work. (Things that are in the record viewable to me, not “internal” records.)
That baby, which they did tell me was a girl, had something called cystic hygroma on the base of her skull. The mortality rate for babies diagnosed with this is 60%. Had my doctor told me that, I would have accepted it. Heck, I probably would have actively tried to have another kid sometime after that. But I was just left to wonder. And yes, sometimes that IS the cause of death, but in this case, it wasn’t. It was written right there, in a pathology report from November 2008. In black and white, and relatively explainable terms.
The whole reason I am posting this is because yesterday, Chrissy Tiegen and John Major lost their baby. She posted the most beautiful photos and such a heartfelt tribute to that baby. That baby was loved, and wanted, and is mourned on a way that most people will never know.
And for some reason, the Q people sank their talons in and said that she deserved that grief, that baby deserved to die, because of fake rumors that Chrissy and John were “involved” in sex trafficking.
I want you to know this: if you have something to say supporting this horseshit, I hope you are stricken with a tragic, soul crushing death. I hope someone that means everything in the world to you, someone you hold and trust and love so dearly is ripped from you in the most violent and tragic of manners. I hope that person feels no pain, but I hope you live with a wrenching, gut-stabbing pain for the rest of your days. I hope you wake up every day, and cry in the shower. I hope every single night, you hear their voice in a dream, and it rips you into a nightmare replay of their death every time. I hope it becomes glass shards in your throat, acidic tears in your eyes, and the weight of a hundred albatrosses upon you.
Miscarriage is a taboo subject. People don’t want to talk about it. People feel awkward trying to comfort people. But the best thing we can do is NORMALIZE talking about it. Tell your friend: “I don’t know how you feel. But I love you. And I’m here.” You don’t have to ask questions. They don’t have to talk. I didn’t want to talk for days afterwards. I just wanted to drink, and sit, and cry. But I didn’t. And I wish someone had asked me what I wanted. Poor Ben was trying to mourn on his own, take care of Boog, and me at the same time. I have no idea how he did it.
But again, talk to your friends. Talk to your daughters and sons. Talk to your mothers and fathers, who probably went through it as well. And if someone ever tries to tell you that it’s not an appropriate topic of conversation, ask them why. (I mean, don’t ask at Thanksgiving Dinner, unless you’re the kind of family that approaches topics like that at holiday dinners.) And don’t let your pain become a weapon like I did, because it’s a never ending, bottomless well.