April 28, 2011

The sound was primal, loud, a wailing really. At first I didn’t know it was coming from me. I lay on the table in the darkened room at St Vincent’s Hospital, the glow of the sonogram machine casting a silvery blue haze on us  – the technician, my four-year-old and me. Moments before I had commented how cute my baby’s feet looked – I had not noticed that they were lifeless.

Rob showed up moments later. We had wanted for this baby. We were well into the second trimester. I was showing. Everyone knew I was pregnant. Since I had come from the Birthing Center I had to meet their back-up ob-gyn, Dr. Mattheson. Everyone said he was nice. He was polite. In his office I sat in the exam room in a strange chair.  He politely pushed a button and my head tilted back and my legs and bottom half extended up – clearly a man had invented this device.

This was not your typical miscarriage. The baby had died inside of me and would have to be taken out to avoid infection or mummification. We needed to schedule a D & C but a hurricane was heading up the coast so we would have to wait until next week.

The next day as I made my way home from dropping off Phoebe at her Nursery school I ran into Bonnie, one of my mom friends. “How are you?” she smiled at me staring at my belly – the reaction I had been getting regularly on the playground in the last few weeks. Tears filled my eyes “I’m not pregnant anymore” I told her. Bonnie cried with me. I got used to telling my friends.

For a week I went about my life with a dead baby inside me. The day before the D & C I had an appointment to preregister and draw blood at the hospital. On my way I stopped at Ann Taylor and bought myself a pink cashmere sweater – a consolation prize. At St Vincent’s a physician’s assistant, wearing white scrubs with a closely shaved head named Romeo interviewed me.

“Are you pregnant?” he asked me.

“Do you know why I am here?” I asked.

“It is a standard question, I have to ask.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Well, I have to write something.”

With tears rolling down my cheeks I said “ I don’t know, maybe you can write down that I am pregnant with a dead baby.”

Romeo looked at me pitifully.

Then it was time for a nurse to draw blood. “Are you pregnant?” She asked me.

“ Do you know why I am here?” I asked her.

“Yes, I am sorry, it is a standard question we have to ask,” she replied.

“I am pregnant with a dead baby,” was my answer.

I have good veins. Drawing blood had never been a problem until that moment. This nurse could not get my vein.When I left St Vincent’s that afternoon, humiliated and bruised, any guilt I had for spending $100 dollars on a pullover was erased.

The next morning Rob took me to St Vincent’s. I felt strange, sad and afraid. There was a large room with about 10 partitioned areas for patients waiting for various procedures. In these stations we put on gowns and paper shower caps. We were interviewed.

“Are you pregnant?”

“I won’t be when I leave here today.” The interviewer looked baffled.

When I awoke from the anesthesia I felt nauseas. A nice blonde nurse gave me ant-nausea medication. She was sweet and sensitive to my situation – she had a 9-month-old at home.  She brought Rob in to see me and let him stay longer than allowed.

Dr. Matheson came and talked to us. He told us all had gone well. I asked if I would get milk in my breasts. He waved his hand and said not at 17 weeks.

The days that followed were filled with tears and a big fog. Phoebe would just know to come and hug me and cuddle with me. It took a long time for this baby to come. Many of my friends had already had another baby and some were pregnant with a third.

A few days after the D &  C I stood in the shower and my breasts felt tender, fuller and I touched them and milk streamed down my body, down the drain. I cried because I had milk for a baby who was not there.I passed blood clots for days and I developed a raging yeast infection.

And then came all of the stories of all of the miscarriages that I had never heard. It was as if I joined a silent club. I felt sad for these women who kept this grief to themselves.  Early in  this pregnancy I had joyfully called out to one of my neighbors:

“Guess what? I am pregnant!” She hugged me.

“How far along are you?” she asked.

“Eight weeks,” I chirped.

A darkness grew over her face.

“Aren’tyou afraid to tell anyone so early? What if something happens?”

“If anything happens then I will have a support system,” I forshadowed.

Sixteen months later Chloe was born – at St. Vincent’s.

And two and half years later I was once again pregnant. This time I was going to have a home birth.

One July afternoon I lay on my couch, Phoebe and Chloe sat on the back up against the wall to have a good view as Cara listened for the heartbeat. Her stethoscope crisscrossed my 17 week swollen belly. She moved it around. She pressed on my belly. “You are measuring about 15 weeks,” a serious expression on her face.

Cara called St Vincent’s to alert them that I would be in for a sonogram. I could not find anyone to watch the girls so the three of us boarded the M14 and headed west on 14th Street to Seventh Avenue. Rob was enroute.

Dr. Margono, not a technician, drew the sonogram wand across my belly to confirm what I already knew. I heard the wailing again  – I knew right away it was  coming from inside me.

“I want this taken care of as soon as possible.” I declared.

Margono brought me in to see a jolly Eastern European doctor who was fond of Cara.

“Ve can do zis tomorrow,”  said Milosevich.

Dr. Margono drew my blood, there was no pre-op interview. Nobody asked me if I was pregnant. The next morning at St Vincent’s a tall elegant anesthesiologist kept her arm around me as we walked the long halls to the operating room. She gave me a dark liquid to drink so I would not feel nauseas.

I didn’t have to worry about milk in my breasts – Chloe was my nursing toddler at the time.

Miscarriage is hard. I am happy that the people around me knew I was pregnant and allowed me to mourn openly. It makes me sad that women keep the sadness of loss and the joy of early pregnancy to themselves.  Every pregnancy is the possibility of a new life. There is a real person there for whom we can have hopes and dreams.

I carry the memories of those pregnancies, those babies, those losses with me as I carry the memories of my children who are here with me.

10 Responses to “Miscarriages”

  1. Maria Richter Says:

    Really powerful writing, Leigh Anne! I know this is an experience that you’ve “carried” and wanted to get out, and you tell it wonderfully. I was quite moved. What you had to go through carrying the baby for a week after you knew it was dead and then answering the same “routine question” boggles the mind. The description of Romeo made me feel that I was in the room with you. Also, your mention of the “silent club” seems so true (I thought of friends who had miscarried/had their baby die–one of whom was in the same situation as yourself–and my own mother, who had a miscarriage that I found out about just last year, seven years after she passed away!). And, to imagine that you had to take your kids with you to St. Vincent’s the second time around, compounding the hellishness of the experience. Last, I love this: “It makes me sad that women keep the sadness of loss and the joy of early pregnancy to themselves. Every pregnancy is the possibility of a new life. There is a real person there for whom we can have hopes and dreams.” That’s beautiful–all of your strength and optimism show through here. Keep writing–you’re an inspiration.

  2. Rachel Says:

    Thanks for this, Leigh Anne. You speak the truth–all the secret lost babies that I heard about after I lost mine. You never forget that pain, those screams, or those babies. I wish more people shared their stories. It makes you realize what a miracle a healthy full-term newborn really is.

  3. Lisa Says:

    Thank you Leigh Anne for sharing something so deeply personal. It goes to show how one never knows the path or pain another person has endured.

  4. Kerri Says:

    Thank-you for sharing this Leigh Ann. I have seven living biological children and miscarried at least 4. I am currently also fostering another 4 children. It is very sad that it is a “silent club” :(. You have made it less silent…

  5. SJI Says:

    Leigh Anne, thanks for sharing this in such detail.

    This part really made me think: “Miscarriage is hard. I am happy that the people around me knew I was pregnant and allowed me to mourn openly. It makes me sad that women keep the sadness of loss and the joy of early pregnancy to themselves.”

    I learned that lesson firsthand, and yet recently I felt fear for a friend’s early pregnancy news because I forgot what I had learned. Thank you for the reminder and for being a wonderful, valuable, and loved part of my support system.

    • Katie Says:

      Thank you, Leigh Anne, for sharing that deeply moving piece. When I miscarried my first pregnancy my doctor gave me the best advice. For some reason I asked who I could tell about it and she said, “Anyone who you would have told you were pregnant.” It’s really hard to experience that much happiness and that much sadness in such a short time.

  6. meandbabyi Says:

    This is beautiful. I am so happy you made me aware of your post. I can’t believe you had to wait a week to schedule your D&C. And the “standard” question is disgusting when they are already aware of the situation. There are times when protocal is not correct. I especially found your ending moving. I agree that it helps for those around you to know about your miscarriage regardless of how far along you are. I especially love this line, “Every pregnancy is the possibility of a new life.” Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Suzanne Says:

    I knew, but I never KNEW, you know? My heart is sobbing for your loss — but rejoicing in knowing your family …

  8. Dad Says:

    I remember. Your Mother was very distraught. Now there is the big little brother. Love to all.

  9. Mallory Says:

    Hi thankks for posting this

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