In 1999, I was told I was infertile. My grandmother’s sisters had no children. My grandmother was married at 17, but didn’t have children until she was 35. My uncle was married for 30 years and never had children. I was saddened, but not devastated. I wanted children, but I wasn’t a baby person. I didn’t coo over the babies brought to work. I didn’t babysit much. I loved my nephew when he was a baby, and loved taking care of him, but that was it. I was told that when I was ready to have a baby, to come back and fertility drugs would probably do the trick, so I wasn’t too worried.
Then in 2000, I hadn’t had a period in a couple of months, which was normal, so I went to the doctor. There was a medication he would give me if I hadn’t had a period recently to get me to have one, but before I could take it, I had to take a pregnancy test. This was routine. I’d done it before. I called up to get the results the next day so I knew if I could get the prescription or not.
“It’s positive, you’re pregnant.”
I paused. “What?” My mind reeled. She did not just say I was pregnant.
“I can’t be. I’m infertile.”
“No, you’re pregnant.”
I hung up the phone on cloud nine. Pregnant! I was going to have a baby. A tiny little person was growing inside of me. Oh my goodness, my diet is horrible! I have to stop drinking soda, and I need vitamins! I need to call DH! How do I tell him? Creatively?
“I’m pregnant!” so much for telling him creatively
He called his family immediately. I started writing letters to the baby, so it would know how much I loved it from the beginning. I was amazed. I had been pro-choice and believed it wasn’t a baby until 12 weeks, but here I was, barely pregnant, and I loved the little being completely.
It wasn’t long before I felt something was wrong. I was cramping. You’re not supposed to cramp, right? I called Kaiser. They told me cramping was normal. Cramping with spotting was not. I was already scheduled for a introduction to pregnancy class in a month, and was not allowed to see the doctor prior to that class. They said that all my pregnancy questions would be answered at the class.
I had a hard time going for walks in the evening without severe cramping. I’d come home, bent over from the pain, and lay down and call Kaiser. Normal, they said. Then one day, I was cramping with slight spotting. I was in tears. I called Kaiser. Cramping with SOME spotting is normal, they said. Deep down, I knew they were wrong, but I wanted them to be right, so I accepted. I went to the pregnancy class, learned everything about avoiding cleaners and taking vitamins, but mostly, I filled out paperwork. It was really a paperwork class.
I finally was allowed an appointment with the doctor. Well, nurse practioner. Her name was Maggie. DH went with me. I was getting my first ultrasound to see the age of the baby. It was an internal ultrasound, and she put it in and my eyes were on the screen. There it was! I could see it. Perfect little head, perfect little bean shaped body. I was so happy! There’s my little baby! What I didn’t notice was Maggie’s face. My husband did. I was so focused on the screen, how could I notice her?
“There is no heartbeat. I’m sorry, your baby died at just over 9 weeks old.” She showed me where on the screen we should see movement, but there was no movement. That’s why the ultrasound was so clear and perfect. “I’ll be right back.” She left to get the doctor.
My mind whirled. My world had just collapsed on itself like a black hole. How could it be dead? But then, didn’t I already know it deep down?
The doctor came in and confirmed. She gave me my options: to wait for the baby to abort naturally, or to do a D&E. I got dressed in a fog, and they took me to Maggie’s office. Maggie gave me the ultrasound picture, but I didn’t want it. It was too painful. DH took it. I don’t know if he still has it. He packed it away with the letters, but in all of our moves, it’s possible it’s gone now. I haven’t seen it, and the safe it was in had to be drilled open when we lost the keys, so it’s likely they are gone.
I scheduled the D&E because I didn’t like the idea of flushing my baby down the toilet. Also, I thought I had probably been trying to miscarry it for weeks, and it wasn’t happening. I think the baby died right around the time I found out I was pregnant. The missed periods was the pregnancy.
The D&E I had was painful. Immensely painful. It was like I was being turned inside out. DH was not in the room with me. I didn’t want him there. I held onto a stuffed dog tightly. I spent the week sobbing. DH took me to San Francisco and Stinson Beach. He bought me a tiny little RUSS brand tiger beanie, that sits on top of my monitor at work. That tiger symbolizes that lost baby, and it’s very precious to me. I thought that this was my future. To get pregnant only to miscarry again and again. I got on the Pill to avoid getting pregnant. I wasn’t going to go through another miscarriage.
As you probably know from the “about me,” I ended up having four successful pregnancies after that. The lost baby seemed to jumpstart my body, and I have had normal periods (when I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding) since then. I became a baby making machine. I found out I was pregnant with Molly a month before the lost baby’s due date, so his loss led to her birth. In fact, I was pregnant within two weeks of quitting the Pill. I can’t say that I wish he had survived because I wouldn’t have Molly, but I also can’t say I’m glad I lost him, because I’m not.
It’s been nearly ten years, and writing this story out made me cry. Maybe not as hard as I cried when it was fresh, but I still feel the pain of that baby’s loss. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t really a baby, that other people have lost so much more, which is true, but it doesn’t make the hurt lessen. It just makes me hide it more because it seems so silly and selfish to mourn a baby that was never born, that never even made it past 12 weeks. I even remember what day I found out he died: September 10, 2000.
I write this so other women who have miscarriages can know that it’s normal to hurt. You don’t have to be ashamed of hurting. No one else may understand what you’re going through, but some of us out there do.
Thank you for reading.