Tag Archives: miscarriage

Lifelines

HoldingHands

I read this post recently from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy about being a lifeline to someone who may not know how to ask for help, and conversely, getting a lifeline when you may not be able to ask for it. It tied in with something I’ve been thinking about lately, about where I’ve been in the past year. And this is not as much an existential “where” as a literal “where.” I’ve been MIA.

When I called Sarah, my closest friend from college, to tell her I was pregnant, finally (she knew I’d been trying for years), I gave her the whole shpiel–IVF treatments in the winter, pregnancy and then miscarriage in the spring, recovery in the early summer, back at the IVF by July, finishing my first trimester in September. As I finished my recitation, I realized, I had barely talked to her this year. I hadn’t mentioned any of this in the few phone calls (at her initiation) we’d shared. And suddenly, I felt self-conscious.

“So, um…so that’s why I guess I’ve been quiet,” I said. It sounded so lame. “I mean, I know I’ve been sort of underground this year. I just felt like I couldn’t talk about what was happening.”

There was a pause. Sarah’s not much of a bullshitter. But she let me have my excuse and said, “I’m glad you told me why. I’ve been wondering. But now I know.”

After our phone call, I realized how much regret I felt at not having included her in what I was going through. I don’t think it’s self-absorbed to say…people want to be involved in your misery. Seriously. If they love you, they want to know. The previous six months I’d been operating under the illusion that I was saving people from my sadness, preventing them from having to deal with my loss when everyone has enough loss of their own. But really I denied Sarah, and everyone else I avoided, the opportunity to be a lifeline. The opportunity to share this with me, and come to understand me better, and come to find new strength in our friendship. I denied myself the opportunity to pay it back to her later. And I lost a year of knowing what was going on in her life.

I think about this last year and the fog I’ve been walking through. I think about my sister’s wedding, which took place in the middle of all of it, right before the 4th of July, how I felt unmoored during what should have been a happy time. I spent her wedding week and weekend on Cape Cod, mainly crying. I cried when I saw my family gathered at a restaurant for lunch and my cousins gathered around me, bewildered and trying to play it off with jokes. I sobbed through the end of the rehearsal dinner when my sister gave me my maid of honor gift. I wept the entire day of her wedding. When I woke up on our last morning in Massachusetts my eyelids were swollen and chapped from the salt of my tears. They peeled and flaked for 7 days after.

Certainly, some of this was from my joy at my sister’s happiness, but I believe most of it was my reaction to being simply lost, to having experienced something deep and shattering, and having tried to hide it away. I’ve spent a lot of time fearing vulnerability and the messiness of disclosure. What I failed to recognize is that life is messy, always, and it comes out one way or another. Instead of being a mess to friends after I lost my pregnancy, I became a mess during my family’s reunion. We can’t avoid the defining characteristics of human experience–loss, for one. The best we can hope for is that those around us will comfort us, and that we will in turn comfort those around us. But we have to be given those opportunities. We have to be, and accept, lifelines.

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Trusting the Mothers

My mother and mother-in-law are both optimistic about this pregnancy. This one, my mother comforts me on the phone, will stick around. My mother-in-law puts her hand on my belly. This one feels lucky.

I have to trust them. I no longer trust myself.

***

In the first year of trying to get pregnant, I looked for signs and saw them. A moment of revulsion at what I’d fixed for dinner, a twinge of pain in my left breast. I think I’m pregnant, I told my husband, again and again, and we shared a smile each time, thinking this was it. It never was.

A year later, and I’m a week late, and this time my breasts really hurt. I take a pregnancy test and I see the blue control line, proof that it’s working, but also a very faint line next to it, which is supposed to signal pregnancy. It’s not dark, it’s not bold, and I can only see it when I tilt the test in specific lighting, but I take it as a positive, and spend the rest of the day humming. Finally, finally. I phone my husband at work and ask him to pick up a digital pregnancy test on his way home. I want something that says PREGNANT; I don’t want to leave it up to my interpretation of a shadow within a white oval. As we wait for the result that night, we laugh and tease each other, talk about how we’ll hide my pregnancy from our fun-loving, booze-hound friends during the first trimester. When three minutes is up, I tell my husband he should look first. He flips over the test, full of anticipation. His face falls.

“Oh no,” he says quietly.

“What? No, that can’t be right,” I take the test from him. It says NOT PREGNANT. I hate the manufacturers of this test.

“It’s okay, honey,” he says.

“No it’s not….I’m sorry I got you excited for nothing.”

“No, don’t apologize, it’s fine….next month, right?” he looks hopeful.

“Right.”

It doesn’t happen next month or the one after that. I begin distrust myself, my body, my intuition. It is the most terrible betrayal. Many of my friends are crunchy, granola types who have natural childbirths, who labor in a tub in their living rooms, who meditate to prepare for birth, and bury their placentas in the backyard under a mulberry tree. They tell me to trust my body, to trust the process, to trust that eventually I’ll become pregnant. I don’t and I don’t and I don’t. I don’t ever become pregnant naturally, and the betrayal is so great, that I want this so badly, that my body can do so many other things well, but not this, the thing I want the most.

Filling out forms at the doctors’ offices (we’ll end up at many), I have trouble answering the questions. How painful are my periods? Well they feel very painful, but…I’m not sure. Maybe they aren’t. Can I tell when I’m ovulating? I thought I could, I thought I recognized the signs, but maybe I can’t. Maybe what I feel, what I intuit, isn’t reality. Maybe it isn’t anything but the desperate imagination of a desperate woman.

***

Four months after I miscarry, four years after we first began, I’m pregnant again, and this is the pregnancy the mothers believe in. In the early weeks, between the doctor appointments which are my only proof that the pregnancy is still viable, I don’t trust the nausea I experience. Maybe I want to be sickened by the smell of garlic. I don’t trust the exhaustion that has me in bed by 8 every night. Maybe I’m making myself tired. At a dinner with my husband’s co-workers, they ask me how I feel, and again, I have trouble answering.

“Sick…I think I feel sick,” I say, looking at their beaming faces. “But the next ultrasound is on Monday…so we’ll see then, you know, how things are going.”

“What do you mean?” says one woman who has two children of her own.

“I…I’m afraid I’m making it up…I’m afraid I want to feel signs of pregnancy that aren’t there,” I stutter. The woman looks at me with sympathy–she knows about last spring’s miscarriage–but not exactly with understanding.

I’m now past the iffy first trimester, my stomach growing each week with the proof that the baby exists. The relationship I have with my body is still damaged. The days pass in a wild, swirling mix of sweet belief that my body can do it if I only have faith, and dark despair that we’ll never get there, that my body has lost its way. I’m working to see its strengths, its resilience in the face of so much messiness, instead of seeing only how it has failed me.

In the meantime…I’m going to trust the mothers, who believe my body can do it, who tell me this time will be lucky.