Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Might Want to Sit Down for This One....


This January, I somehow managed to get pregnant again, at forty-seven years old. I “felt” it, even as I went about my travels to Arizona, to Texas….but convinced myself it couldn’t be so. Surely I had missed my period because I was at that certain age. Just to assure myself, when I returned home from Texas I took a pregnancy test, and that’s when the rollercoaster ride began. Yes, as crazy as it may be, I was pregnant. Troy and I couldn’t believe it, so he went and bought another test. Still pregnant. I looked it up online. At forty-seven, a woman has a .07% of becoming pregnant naturally, and a 50% chance of carrying the pregnancy to term. Leave it to me and my crazy life to beat the odds, I thought.

At first I cried. I wasn’t ready for this. I was afraid of all the things that could go wrong at my age. I would never, ever, ever have a moment alone with my husband. I already had two grown children, a five-year old, and even a grandchild living in my house! This was insane!

But then I looked at it from a different angle. Hadn’t God just put us through one of the worst years of our lives? For all the loss and grief we had gone through, here was a little sparkle of hope and possibility. I mean, I was just as frightened when I became pregnant with Evan, and look what a miracle he turned out to be. Maybe this was a gift, a sign that our luck was turning. Troy looked at me with such warmth in his eyes. He took to calling me “Little Mama”, patting my baby bump affectionately. My husband was smiling again, and that was miracle enough for me.

I was six weeks along.

Sunday morning I woke up bleeding.

My heart sank, but I knew nature was taking care of it’s own. I got up and went to the bathroom, and that’s where everything took a turn. I was suddenly overcome with intense nausea and ringing in my ears as I began to lose consciousness. Troy ran in and held me up as I collapsed. I was dripping in sweat, soaked through. Even my socks were wet. I could feel a pushing sensation in my lower back as everything went blank. A minute or two later, when I started to come back to awareness, I knew I had passed the baby. It was over, just like that.

All I wanted was to curl up quietly in my bed to cry and let this pass. But my doctor was concerned about internal bleeding, so I was told to go to the ER. I resisted but Troy didn’t want to take any chances with my health, so we went, and that is my greatest regret.

After sitting an hour in the waiting room, my name was finally called. Just then Brahm’s Lullaby was played on the overhead speaker.

The nurse smiled at me, “Hear that? It means a baby was just born upstairs!” I was ushered into a room, “What are we seeing you for?”

I looked at the floor, tears in my eyes. “I’m having a miscarriage.”

“Oh. I’ll need you to pee in this cup.”

In the bathroom, I slumped against the door and cried. I couldn’t believe the irony of the moment I was living. Upstairs a young woman was crying tears of joy, holding her newborn baby. Downstairs a middle-aged woman was weeping in the ER bathroom after losing her baby in a toilet.

Ten minutes later a young doctor with a blonde bouncy ponytail burst into our room. She grabbed my limp hand and shook it vigorously.

“Congratulations!” she said, smiling.

I was shocked, speechless.

“Your urine test just came back. You’re going to have a baby!”

I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

“I’m losing my baby...” I barely squeaked out.

She pulled her hand back. “Oh.” She fumbled with my chart, mumbled something about hormone levels, and cheerily insisted I could still be pregnant, you never know.

They sent me for ultrasound in another department where the technician called me “Dude” repeatedly while poking and prodding my tender, bleeding insides with an ultrasound wand and asking me what I thought of American Idol this season. Troy held his head close to mine, squeezed my hand and wiped the tears away that were now soaking my hair.

They sent me into another room to have five vials of blood drawn. Then to another room to have yet another pelvic violation by an obstetrician with a stunning lack of bedside manner. For five hours I was passed from doctor to technician to specialist, as my body emptied itself of the life that was thriving only hours before.

What all these people had in common was complete lack of empathy for what I was experiencing, treating me as someone with a routine “condition” that had to be handled.

I guess I can consider myself fortunate that this was my first (and only) miscarriage. Although my heart has broken for friends who have been through this kind of loss, I had never felt it myself. Now I’m in the awful club.

You may be wondering why I chose to put such private moments of my life on display for all to read. This is why. Because so many women out there have lost a baby to miscarriage or abortion, and have done so in silence. How many women have hidden their first three months of pregnancy just in case they should suffer a miscarriage? How many have carried that grief and loss all their lives, the pain, the shame, the feelings of failure and guilt, tucked away inside them, and why?

We aren’t private about losing a parent, a friend or a spouse. In times of grief, our community of friends and neighbors surround us with support and love. They make the phone calls for us, notifying every person in our phone books. They show up with meals, help take care of our kids. So why do women go underground with the loss of a baby?

Having gone through the myriad of emotions I think I know why.

I sobbed for two days. I felt like a failure. I lost the baby. It was something I did, or didn’t do. Something I ate, or didn’t eat, or something I thought. I didn’t pray enough. I’m too old, I’m defective, I am the reason the baby died…I felt shame, guilt, worthlessness. The hormonal storm brewing inside didn’t help either.

Part of the reason I wanted to stay private with this is because I didn’t want to hear comments like these:

“It’s for the best.”

“You’re lucky you already have three other children.”

“It’s nature’s way.”

“Did you really want a baby at forty-seven anyway?”

Yes, all the above are true, but I still lost a baby and I need my time to grieve. I don’t want my loss minimized or judged, and as a society we tend to do just that. What I’m left trying to figure out is why? Why is there such a lack of support for the women who are going through this? Why are there ten thousand websites telling you how to eat, sleep, exercise when you’re pregnant, but not ONE telling you how to take care of yourself when you’re going through a miscarriage or post-abortion? Should I stay off my feet? Eat more protein? Should I exercise? Silence….It’s up to you to figure out how to care for yourself physically in the throes of baby loss.

This is a very real part of life for women. It has happened to more of your friends and family members than you know. This really needs to change. We need to be able to talk about it, and to support each other through this.

On Monday, I stripped the bed, I washed everything, I threw things away. I lit candles everywhere. I took all the bloody remnants of the day before and burned them in my yard, letting the smoke wash over me. I put the ashes in a silver box, along with the EPT which had once said “Pregnant” but now was strangely blank, and buried it under my orange tree, placing a heavy concrete angel statue on top. I sat there on my knees under the orange tree, and in that moment I realized how lucky I was that nature decided this for me. This pregnancy was defective, and by the grace of God I was not forced to decide whether I could handle carrying that pregnancy to term. My dog Stitch nestled against me as I cried and said a prayer of gratitude. Just then I heard a hummingbird above me. It flew down in front of me, hovering, closer, then closer again, until it was inches in front of my face and I could see it’s tiny black bead eyes staring at me. We stayed like that, still, for a few seconds. Even my dog didn’t move. And then just as quickly it flew away, and somehow I knew…everything was as it should be.

I hope that in going public with our personal story, someone else’s burden became a little bit lighter today. If you have lost a baby, no matter what the reason, please don’t carry it in silence any longer. Your grief deserves recognition, and none of us should ever suffer alone. I’m holding you all in my circle of healing, sharing your pain, honoring your loss.

In memory of every little bird that flew away…

29 comments:

  1. Hollye, you are brave and wonderful beyond words. How I love and admire you. To share this pain so others might find relief is so ... you. And I think so incredibly necessary. Miscarriage warrants grief and deserves mourning. Thanks for throwing your mantle of understanding and comfort around all those who need it.

    The hummingbird found its rightful muse.

    xoxo B

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  2. Oh Hollye, I just knew something had happened, to still your voice (on fb) the past several days, and you've been in my thoughts. I am crying, writing this, as I too lost a baby to miscarriage, after Evan and before Ian was born. There is no way to describe to others the grief and sense of loss, but you have come close with your beautiful words. I'm looking forward to seeing you and giving you a big hug, soon.
    Love you,
    ~ Diane

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  3. The words are not there.....just love..and understanding....
    xoxoxoxox

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  4. Oh Hollye, Troy, Baby and Family
    i just read my life 15 years ago while a tear dropped for you, me and our babies then in walked Mojo.
    I send you all my love, hugs yet the words are not forming.

    xo ~❤~ Kath

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  5. Hollye, once again you amaze me with your ability to love, laugh and now mourn. I know from every angle this hurts and I am sure all the questions would have been said to themselves in silence until the pregnancy was far enough along for you to accept the nervousness in all our voices as we thought what if this were me.

    Another another funny silly note:
    I also find it quite enjoyable that you and Troy enjoy your intimacy and have time for it with such a busy life. Maybe birth control is in your future you sexy fertile woman.

    Not something most women have to worry about.
    Love you lots and I hope you allow yourself the time to mourn and reflect. xoxoxooxoxoxxo

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  6. You are just beautiful.
    LOVE. Sending you lots of love.

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  7. I feel so fortunate to know you....so beautifully retold...you are amazing. And so is Troy. Love you guys.

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  8. This post is one of the many reasons why we all love you so very much! Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

    "See how the fearful chandelier
    Trembles above you
    Each time you open your mouth
    To sing. Sing." ~ Donald Hall


    Sing your beautiful heartsong, songbird ... no matter what.

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  9. Hollye....I have been thinking about you lately wondering where you were. Now I know. My God my heart is with you. You are a beautiful brave soul. So much love is sent to you this very minute. So much.

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  10. Hollye, I'm a friend of Melody and I read your very touching story on her FB. We lost our son six years ago, so we share a similar loss. No school or course prepares one to help and relate to others like suffering. Yet through you and your journey, I hope a resource emerges for those who suffer miscarriage. When I see a hummingbird, I'll remember you and say a prayer. Be gentle on yourself. I can see here that you are very loved.

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  11. My very favourite of all entries on blogs are the ones where real, intimate, gut-wrenching life is shared; not just the pretty stories. Thank you for being open and vulnerable about your pain and grief, and god speed you in your healing.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I had miscarriages at 23, 30 and 41. Then I had a beautiful baby boy at 42. Now, two months from my 44th birthday, I am 12.5 weeks pregnant. I held my breath at my last doctor's appointment when the nurse couldn't find the heartbeat with the Doppler. An ultrasound said the baby was fine. Genetics testing earlier this week said the baby is healthy... and a boy. Now I just have to make it through another 28 weeks of worrying that I'm too old, that we got lucky once and it can't happen again, that the worst could happen. Five pregnancies, one healthy baby, one yet to be.

    My sympathies for your loss. It is a grieving process only those who have been through it can even understand. Peace to you.

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  13. Thank you for addressing such a sensitive issue with transparency and dignity. I wish you well in every area of your life.

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  14. I was 18 when I had a miscarriage. I thought I was being punished for freaking out, wondering what I was going to do as a teenager who couldn't even take care of herself. I dropped out of college and everything changed.

    My boyfriend and I decided we were going to get married as soon as we knew I was pregnant, the whole family got together and hastily planned our wedding (my mother was SO against it) and we all hoped I wasn't showing by the wedding date.

    Three weeks before the wedding, I vomited blood, began to heavily bleed, and everything else followed.

    My boyfriend's sister drove us back from the hospital and said..."At least you can have more babies. You're still young."

    Those insensitive comments are like reliving death. Those made everything more difficult to endure.

    After, I went through a deep depression and decided I wanted to have a baby as soon as possible. I still believed my secret fears were what caused me to lose my baby, and I needed to make it up somehow.

    Two months after the wedding, I conceived. My baby was due on the exact day I'd had a miscarriage the previous year, though by some little miracle, she was born a week late. I'm so glad those two moments weren't to share an anniversary.

    After I got pregnant with my oldest daughter and then again with my second, I realized the extreme back pain and nausea that I had dealth with the first time were unnatural. Nature was taking care of a life that wasn't viable. Time showed me it wasn't my fault.

    I still think about that baby, what gender it was, how old he/she would have been, but then look over to Maddie (my oldest) and think about what a blessing she's been.

    All we can do is be grateful for what we have.
    But never feel guilty for mourning what you've lost.

    Deepest sympathies...

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  15. Thank you so much to everyone. I feel held up by all of you, surrounded by love and strong arms.
    I so appreciate the tender stories that have been shared, both public and private, over the last two days. This helps me to know that I made the right choice to go public with my story. So many of us have had this experience, and I'm glad we can empathize with one another and share the burden.
    Jennifer, Im sorry for your pain, and can understand the crazy irrational thoughts of self blame, because I had them too. This baby was due on my brother's birthday, my brother who is my twin soul. I know I'll always think of that each year.
    I'm so glad you have your beautiful daughters now, and yet it doesn't erase the loss of the first baby. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

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  16. When our older son (now 16) was 2, we were thrilled to learn that my wife had gotten pregnant again. At the 8-week ultrasound it was immediately apparent that something was wrong. It didn't take the concerned silence of the technician to tell us; we could see on the monitor that the fetus had not developed.

    A miscarriage soon followed and we were both devastated. My wife sought out a support group but found that all the people who attended had lost babies very, very late or during birth. She felt her loss was something less worthy and never went back.

    On my end, I was just as crushed, but not once did anyone ask me how I was doing. I appreciated the concern people expressed for my wife, but felt isolated and alone. It was as if people assumed it would be no big deal to me because my wife was carrying the baby and not I. I'm not sure I'll ever understand what was going through the mind of the idiot who gave me a hearty pat on the back and said, "Well you'll just have to get back in the saddle and 'shoot' again!" as if it were all a big joke.

    Although I was spared the physical repercussions of losing a baby, I lost one nonetheless and truly empathize with your tragedy. I am truly sorry for your and your husband's loss and *thank you* for sharing this with us and highlighting the need for much better bedside practices of those in healthcare when it comes to these issues.

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  17. I know the emotional and physical feeling of all you described.

    I found myself pregnant at a time that I KNEW I couldn't and shouldn't bring a child into the world. But instead of taking the easy route out. I medically forced my body to miscarry. I wanted my mind and my body to know and realize the grave mistake I made that drunk and stupid night. I was an adult. I was over 30! How could I have let this happen!!!

    I was so early along that a little out-of-office-procedure would have taken care of "it".

    But I didn't want that.

    I took the pills I was prescribed and waited...and waited...and waited for hours for the process to begin. I finally called on some of the women in my life at the time when I knew it was beginning to happen and for 7 hours I felt like my uterus was trying to force itself out. But with the grace and love of my friends and my mother on the phone I went through it and can now actually honor the life I ended so that I could do the work I do today.

    I would not have been able to be where I am today had I continued with the pregnancy...although I believe I would have done something on the same level somehow.

    It took me a year to grieve for terminating a life. My child's life.

    I would not do it now, but then it was the right decision.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Of it all, the scene of the hummingbird hit me the hardest. The same thing happened to me on my Arizona porch after I was able to grieve a year later and I forgave myself.

    I am so glad I saw Kristine's FB post on my wall.

    Love and well wishes to you and your husband and here's to what will be a wonderfully fulfilling year for you!

    Heidi

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  18. Hollye-

    I'm just now reading this and applaud you for your bravery in sharing it publicly. I think people, in their desperate attempts to "make things better," end up making things far far worse.

    So I'm not going to say anything except: I send you my condolences, my hugs, and the expectation that someday... SOMEday, we'll get Ethan and Evan together to take over the world.

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  19. there are no words to express my sorrow. your tenderness has strengthened each one who reads your amazing TRUTH.
    love you sweet friend...holding you in my heart.

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  20. love to you Hollye, hugs and sorrow too.

    oxoxo
    karen

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  21. Bless you, Hollye
    and thanks to those who channeled this
    thru Facebook. Back to 1969!
    It took sooo many years for me to open up the wound I never consciously remembered ...
    until, in 1980, in a group session in CPE training for chaplains, that the story burst out along with my tears.
    We had been blesed with 6 children, and 10 years later . . surprise . . .
    The painful details concluded with a terrifying
    full-term stillborn birth.
    'Friends' comments and neglet added to the trauma. It has taken so long for our losses to be grieved and mourned and honored. Perhaps, now.
    In sisterhood, Galorya

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  22. Beautiful, sincere piece. Thank you for writing this.

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  23. Oh, Hollye. I'm sorry. I also admire you, appreciate your heart, your generosity, your skill in sharing life in story.

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  24. I'm sorry and I agree with Spring: I admire your ability to so deftly share this story with others. This takes courage to write and I know there will be many who can relate. You and Amy both brilliantly match your words to the power of the experiences.

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  25. I liked the stuff posted here. Wishing you best of luck for next posts. Thanks a lot!

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  26. STING LYRICS
    "The Book Of My Life"

    Let me watch by the fire and remember my days
    And it may be a trick of the firelight
    But the flickering pages that trouble my sight
    Is a book I'm afraid to write

    It's the book of my days, it's the book of my life
    And it's cut like a fruit on the blade of a knife
    And it's all there to see as the section reveals
    There's some sorrow in every life

    If it reads like a puzzle, a wandering maze
    Then I won't understand 'til the end of my days
    I'm still forced to remember,
    Remember the words of my life

    There are promises broken and promises kept
    Angry words that were spoken, when I should have wept
    There's a chapter of secrets, and words to confess
    If I lose everything that I possess
    There's a chapter on loss and a ghost who won't die
    There's a chapter on love where the ink's never dry
    There are sentences served in a prison I built out of lies.


    Though the pages are numbered
    I can't see where they lead
    For the end is a mystery no-one can read
    In the book of my life

    There's a chapter on fathers a chapter on sons
    There are pages of conflicts that nobody won
    And the battles you lost and your bitter defeat,
    There's a page where we fail to meet

    There are tales of good fortune that couldn't be planned
    There's a chapter on god that I don't understand
    There's a promise of Heaven and Hell but I'm damned if I see

    Though the pages are numbered
    I can't see where they lead
    For the end is a mystery no-one can read
    In the book of my life

    Now the daylight's returning
    And if one sentence is true
    All these pages are burning
    And all that's left is you

    Though the pages are numbered
    I can't see where they lead
    For the end is a mystery no-one can read
    In the book of my life

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  27. I came here after seeing this on SOAM. I just love this post, despite the sad topic. Thank you for writing it. I relate to much of it myself, and also I know my husband would relate to Jonathan's comment above, that not a single person asked him how he was doing with the loss.
    I'm sorry for your loss. Also thankful for this important post.
    Peace, Mina

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  28. I just now discovered this post while exploring your blog. So beautifully written and bless you for sharing such a private thing on your blog. I have had four miscarriges (I now have two teenage boys) and all were just as emotional and hear-breaking. The last one, I was older and farther along, as you were, and had to go to the ER, just as you did. Luckily, I had a wonderful and caring nurse who did not put me through any tests, but tucked me into the bed and cared for me as I continued to pass the baby. I will never forget her kindess.

    I have always thought it a shame that women are not really allowed to grieve these miscarriages, as if they were not really babies. and not a big deal. Thank you for bringing this to light.

    http://thinkinginmyheadma.blogspot.com

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I love hearing your point of view- thank you for taking the time to comment and be part of the conversation!
love,
Hollye