Originally posted Jan. 8, 2008
The room was pitch black, except for the eerie green glow from
the monitor. On the screen was a sea of black nothingness,
except for a ghostly, jagged semicircle. It looked like an
ark, where our little baby was supposed to be. "Looks empty
to me," I nervously said, hoping I was wrong.
I was instructed to get dressed and emerged from the tiny bathroom to find my husband alone, staring blankly at the monitor. It still projected the image of my uterus and that empty ark, what should have been our baby's amniotic sac, into the otherwise dark examining room. With tears running down my cheeks I said it really did look like an ark, with no passenger aboard. Oddly enough, we'd planned to name this baby Noah if it was a boy. Noah just wasn't ready for his journey, I figured.
I'd arrived at the hospital pregnant, and left not. Still hidden in my purse was the cigar I'd snuck off to buy for my husband, to celebrate his impending fatherhood, along with the new videotape I'd hoped would, by now, carry images of our developing baby. So much changed for us in the space of the hour after I bought them. We learned that the baby we'd grown to love and cherish for the last twelve weeks had never materialized -- a "blighted ovum," they'd called it -- and that the following morning I'd have to have a D&C to have my uterus literally scraped clean of the "products of conception," including the now shrinking, unemployed amnion. My husband and I emerged from the antiseptic cave of the hospital into that clear, crisp March Pittsburgh day in a daze.
I still remember, nearly eleven years later, that Todd found it difficult to see well enough to drive through his tears and the blinding sunlight reflecting like so many diamond crystals off the surface of the
Monongahela River. As we drove over the bridge, I numbly tortured myself with the "what ifs" swirling around in my head, which throbbed with a headache and a deep well of tears that wouldn't finish pouring out for weeks to come.
I was consumed with worries about what I might have done to cause the miscarriage. No matter what the doctors said, or how well-meaning friends tried to reassure me, I struggled with needing to know precisely what went wrong. I was told that often there is no apparent cause for miscarriages, which occur at a staggering rate. Until then, I hadn't heard that an astounding 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriages, many with no definable explanation, often before pregnancy is even detected.
Learning this did nothing to ease my grief. Hearing rationalizations that "It wasn't meant to be," or "Now you know you can get pregnant!", or, my personal favorite, "God has other plans," made me nuts. They were ill-fitting platitudes. During this crazy time I also experienced how differently different people handle loss. Though usually it helped for me to talk to other women who'd had miscarriages, because they really 'knew' my feelings, occasionally someone would say "Yeah, I had a few. Just buck up and try again." And from one who'd not been there, who became anxious at the mere mention of my heartbreak, I heard "You need to get over this. You need help."
Sure, I hadn't been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or lost my husband tragically. But in our hearts we'd lost our baby, and the sterling innocence we'd felt in the magic, mystery and promise of new life. Luckily, we kept our wits about us and realized that there is no statute of limitations on grief.
We got our little Noah a year and a half later. He was worth the wait. He just took a later boat.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.