It has been seven years already since the day I walked into the outpatient clinic at my local hospital for my dilation and curettage, commonly refered to as a D&C. A few days earlier our doctor had delivered the worst news we had ever received as newlyweds; I had miscarried. Known as a blighted ovum back then, now called missed abortion, our baby had not properly developed past week 8 and it had most likely been absorbed by my body after termination. The sonogram looked like an empty sac, the placenta formed and all the hormone levels showing I had in fact been pregnant. It wasn’t made up, just a missed opportunity, a very normal thing that happens when attempting to start a family. About 40% of pregnancies end up in miscarriage or natural abortion. Shouldn’t be a big deal.
It was a huge deal to me. Alone in the pre-op room, I tried to make light of the situation by cracking jokes and chit chatting with the nursing staff. One of them, a kind woman who could have been around my mom’s age, told me how brave I was for keeping my spirits up. In her many years on the job she had not met someone who had such an enlightened grasp of what had occured. God wasn’t punishing me, no reason to take it personal. Being afraid of the anesthesia causing an adverse reaction was more pressing on my mind than the actual procedure going wrong and taking away my ability to have children in the future. I was glad to be alive even though my heart and spirits were broken. We could try again. This too should pass.
What I didn’t realize off the bat was that statistically, and not by design, I had become a part of a very select group of people who had been taught to keep quiet about what happened because they should be ashamed they couldn’t reproduce. I never understood why I should be contrite about something that I couldn’t control nor deserved. Miscarrying isn’t a sin and it isn’t shameful! To be able to get over my pain I needed to share my experience. Staying silent was not an option. I wanted clarity. We could not be the only ones going through it. I felt that this was a good opportunity to educate others about the difficulties and realities of pregnancy; about how women who miscarry haven’t failed as a wife, as a woman or as a human being. There was no need to feel bad about the process. Life had chosen me as the ambassador or a very powerful message.
Boy was I disappointed when people would get all skittish around me and tried to avoid the subject! My peers were taught that a failure of this magnitude should be kept quiet, especially in this area, and didn’t feel they could help me cope. All I needed was a hug, a smile, a joke, any recognition that I was capable of loving and being happy despite my harrowing loss. People didn’t want to listen and many walked away from our discussions. They wanted me to suck it up and move on. They did not want to think it could happen to them. Apparently, I was now a defective product that didn’t have a market share. If it hadn’t been for the friends who had also miscarried and were courageous enough to share their secret pain with me I would have not made it. They too had been shunned at some point because of their misfortune. Expectant moms would come up to me to ask if there was anything they could do avoid ending up like me: childless. My perfect pregnancy results didn’t provide me with answers that would give them any solace. Only those who shared my same fate were able to understand how I had felt and came back years later to gift me with the hugs they had previously withheld.
Truth be told, and in many ways, I saw the experience as a blessing in disguise. My failure made me more relatable, more human and less perfect. The overachiever had bad luck, finally! (Self deprecating humor helped me get through a few years.) In a way I gained a badge and crossed off an item on my bucket list. For 12 weeks we had been proud expecting parents; I had been someone’s mom, my husband had been a dad. Sadly we didn’t have a healthy baby to show for it, just an empty sonogram that my doctor quickly stapled to our file and stashed deep inside a cabinet full of patient records. I was a bit disheartened obviously but I knew it could be possible to get knocked up again. Sure in 4 months we could start trying again once the body had recovered from the surgery. Doctor’s orders. Insert all tales of how so and so got pregnant by the grace of their favorite deity here…we’d get our turn soon enough.
Seven years later I can tell you how hard it all was, how it wasn’t meant to be a quick happy fairy tale ending and how much of a devastating blow this simple normal biological event dealt to my relationships. My husband was the first one to lose his composure. He placed the blame squarely on me and his mental state began to unravel. Where I had retained a positive vew of the events he completely lost control over his anger and emotion. How could that have happened to him? Did he choose his wife correctly? By the end of the first year we had been sent to a fertility specialist to try again but he couldn’t even fathom he could be the issue. It didn’t help the case that we both passed the examinations with flying colors. According to the doctor we were in the 2% of the 2% of couples with fertility issues that will never know why we can’t conceive. Mr Enginerd didn’t like that answer. Then my friends started to hide their pregnancies from me to be sensitive and would innocently break the news on facebook or social media thinking that it wouldn’t affect me. Why wouldn’t I be happy for them? It was hard hearing I hadn’t been invited to an event because I didn’t have children. The bitterness stewed for a couple of years. I started to hate anything related to weddings, babies and happiness.
After all this time September is one of the most mentally challenging months for me. Everyone is posting the pictures of their progeny’s first day of school. I get to live again the events leading up to and following the news and I notice we still dream of what could have been. My son would have been 6 now. Wow! Deep down inside my husband knows no one was at fault but the temptation to make me solely responsible for his grief rears its ugly head every so often. We are all conditioned to want a child of our own, to pass on our knowledge and genetic material. It is a very natural desire to want descendants. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for him to not be able to pass on his name to the next generation. As a man, he has been conditioned to think he has failed. It is a hard notion to overcome and make peace with. I’m sure eventually we will find a new normal.
This is what adulting, and being hitched to someone, is truly about. It is not about the good and the heathy times, it is about the trials and tirbulations, the sickness and the horribly gone wrong. There were reasons why we didn’t try invitro after artificial insemination failed. There were long term effects on both our careers. Having to run to a clinic after peeing on an ovulation stick starts to get to you after a few months let alone after 3 years. Giving up was necessary to keep our sanity. The whole experience taught me to be resilient in ways I would never have imagined I had to learn to bend. I’m more compassionate towards others even when they don’t “deserve” it. Yes, certain things still trigger knee jerk reactions but I am learning to ride those waves and learn the lessons.
In the end, we had to learn to be content with just each other and no other plans but to travel and stay healthy. Many friends won’t understand why we have steered in a new direction that takes us far away from them. The fact that their journeys will take them down a different path than ours is a very real source of discomfort. It opens wounds we need to close permanently before moving on. We are not parents and we may never be, and only people committed 100% to including us in their lives are prepared to make the sacrifices needed to help us heal. It may sound rough but not everyone has the bedside manner to put up with two kids who have such a big chip on their shoulders. Not everyone will want their children to call us aunt and uncle or will allow us to babysit. I’m making my peace with this too. We can only approach this one day at a time.
RIP Little Angel Baby. We will always love the joy you brought into our lives. Until we meet again.