My wife was 12-weeks pregnant and had a miscarriage Saturday, five days ago.
Today, suddenly, it has hit me hard and I need to put some things down in writing to try to make sense of all of this. My wife is out of town on a business trip. Yes, she’s out of town and has been for three days, despite the fact that the miscarriage took place only five days ago. We both agreed that the trip was a horrible idea, the worst timing ever, but it was one of those things where she really did need to go, and I understand that; we both have jobs that are like that sometimes. She was supposed to be home tonight but her flight was cancelled. I guess that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I wasn’t doing great before, but I was holding things together in a she’ll-be-home-in-two-days, she’ll-be-home-in-one-day, she’ll-be-home-later-today countdown that kept things going. As soon as I found out she was not coming home tonight, I lost it. We got into a fight on the phone, culminating in her hanging up on me and me having a wave of emotions finally hit that has left me reeling.
OK, there’s no way to shortcut this; some background is in order. The most important thing to note is that we have a two year old who is the most wonderful thing in the world. Being his dad has been the best thing that has ever happened to me in life. We had some vague plans that it was maybe getting close to the time when we wanted to start thinking about having another child. Of course, life doesn’t work like that, so the actual beginning of Pregnancy No. 2 was sort-of a surprise. My wife didn’t give me any hints that she thought she was pregnant; she just sprung the completed test with two bright-pink lines on me. I’m ashamed to admit I blew it: the first words out of my mouth were something to the effect of, “Oh my god, we’re never going to have a relaxing weekend again!” quickly followed by something about finances. Despite my acute stress-induced reaction, I was happy. The more time that passed, even after having just a few minutes to absorb this life-changing news, the more exciting it got. There’s lots to worry about (where does a second baby go in our house? where does a second baby go in the car? how do we afford a new car that fits the second baby? but how would we even manage to go anywhere, anyway, with a second baby? and daycare? we can’t afford two babies at daycare, so what are we doing about that?) but having our son around erased those concerns because we saw how good it was to have the actual kid rather than the abstract notion of massive responsibility. The actual kid was so good that it erased those other worries, or at least helped you find a way to work through them, because the good of the kid was more than worth whatever problems came with it. We went from shell-shocked to excited pretty fast.
So, we embarked on the pregnancy. By my calculation, we had roughly 68,000 minutes between pregnancy notification and pregnancy termination. A lot happened in there that I have to leave out but, looking back, it was all so good. There was a lot of greatness in all of that time: telling my parents that they were going to have a second grandchild, daydreaming about how our son would react to his new brother or sister, planning out the new baby’s room and furniture needs, laying in bed at night and figuring out how far apart they would be in school, imagining all the excitement to come in the next few months. Life became about this and everything was good.
Everything came to an end over the weekend. My wife had had a little spotting of blood for a few days. We had paged the doctor when it first started, the previous Wednesday. The doctor reassured us that chances were things were fine. We were 11-and-a-half weeks along and the chances of a miscarriage were very small. Some bleeding was common. Don’t worry.
We still worried, of course, but we felt better. Except it didn’t stop. It didn’t get better. It may have even gotten a tiny bit worse, but it still wasn’t bad. But Saturday morning it really started worrying my wife, which really worried me. She hadn’t even wanted to bother the doctor on Wednesday; that only happened at my insistence. On Saturday, she paged the doctor herself, which really freaked me out. Why is she so worried?
We went to the emergency room. We were worried and scared, but I also felt like things were in perspective: even if the worst happens, we still have each other, we still have our son, and we can try again. This wasn’t even in our master plan for THIS month. It’s probably fine, but even if it isn’t, it still is.
So, we waited. We finally were sent to the ultrasound department. The technician was looking at the grainy screen, marking things. We were looking too, but we didn’t know what we were seeing. Finally, my wife said, “So, what are you seeing, or not seeing?” He non-chalantly broke the news: “This is the yolk sac. But there’s nothing in it. At twelve weeks, we should definitely see something in there, but it’s empty.”
In retrospect, that’s pretty clear. No baby. But the mind works in funny ways in situations like this. My mind immediately came up with fifteen ways that those words did not necessarily mean that this thing was over. (OK, so there’s no baby in this “yolk sac,” but is it somewhere else? We can’t see it, but does that mean it doesn’t exist? Who are you, anyway? I don’t trust you. I want someone else to look.) My wife started to cry, but I was too busy having this irrational discussion in my head to let much sink in. This was not over.
I was totally prepared for the following to occur: The doctor comes in and says that she had reviewed the ultrasound and that things were probably fine. She had heard that the technician gave us the impression that there might be a problem but that was just his lack of training. Sometimes babies are hard to see at twelve weeks but she had seen it and it was fine.
That didn’t happen, though. I was totally unprepared for what actually happened: The doctor comes in and says, “I’m so sorry.” Isn’t that ridiculous? If the most unbeliveable, far-fetched fairy tale of an outcome had occurred after I had been told point-blank that the pregnancy was over, whereby space and time was altered to change things, I would not have batted an eyelash. But the doctor walking into the room and seeming to accept as true that we were no longer pregnant still stuns me when I think about it. That was the instant it became real.
The doctor was wonderful, though. She was very caring and said a lot of good things. My wife had the D&C right then, to get it over with. She did great and her physical recovery has been as good as it could be.
So the last five days have been OK. We spent our time together until she had to go out of town. We both took Monday off, took our son to daycare, and went shopping and to a movie to just relax. It was fun. We’re were both sad. But it seemed like things were still in perspective. We had each other, we had our son, and we could try again. It was OK.
There were numerous horrible moments in the last five days, of course, but they were all fairly short-lived. Telling people has been even worse than the miserable experience I had imagined. We had made it to twelve weeks so we had told virtually everyone, of course. There’s a never-ending source of people to relive this with over the next year.
So why did I lose it today? The best I can figure is this: I’m tired of being OK with it. I’m tired of having things in perspective. I’m tired of telling myself that we have each other, we have our son, and we can try again. I DON’T WANT TO TRY AGAIN! I WANT THINGS TO BE THE WAY THEY WERE! I was happy.
It’s a loss. We’ve all had them. They seem impossible to accept but we do. I know that. It takes time. I know that.
I read some things about pregnancy loss and miscarriages today that probably started my emotions on their journey out of the lock-box I have had them in. They were stories of other parents who had experienced loss, almost without exception in much worse circumstances than my own. Anyway, I’m feeling very upset, I’m on my third day of being a single parent of a two-year-old which, despite my immense love for him, can be very trying, and then my wife’s flight gets cancelled. So, yes, I understand from her perspective that it may have seemed irrational to act upset at this. It’s not her fault. She’s done everything she can to get home after a very trying day, and a very trying week (to say the least), and she doesn’t need me mad at her too. I feel horrible that this is what it looked like to her. She doesn’t understand that I NEEDED her here tonight and that I wasn’t mad at her, I was mad at the world.
So, we both felt like the other was being irrational, she hung up, I destroyed the cordless phone I was holding, and then I finally cried. Really cried, like I have never, ever cried before. I was somewhere, deep within myself listening to the noise coming out of my body and I was amazed. I couldn’t breathe I cried so hard. I finally felt it.
Our doctor said something on Saturday that has stuck with me. She asked if we had any other kids. We told her about our son. She told us that we were lucky to have him and that he would be a wonderful distraction but then, with a note of sadness in her voice, she said, “It’s the people who have another child at home who really realize what they lost in a situation like this.”
That’s it. That’s why I can’t feel like I am starting to accept this. Everything thing about my son reminds me what we lost. The more wonderful he is in the things he does, the more devestating it is to relalize what could have been.
I still have the wind knocked out of me.