Today – February 20th, 2015 – is my due date.
As a birth doula, I know that due dates are not really a reliable standard of time. When I’m hired and given a due date, I consider myself on-call with my bag packed for the whole month surrounding it. Anything could happen.
But I’m here, I made it to February 20th in one piece.
I can just imagine it now, my precious little surprise greeting me and the rest of the world. Gracing us with their innocence and wisdom and poop and neediness. Seeing his or her eyes for the first time, as they realize that they’ve known me their whole life – they just didn’t know it until today.
I can just imagine it.
But only just.
Because today is my due date, and I am not pregnant.
I started bleeding 3 weeks after the tests had confirmed that we were going to be parents, 1 week after we told all of our friends and family.
To lose a baby is very common, I know, as if that eases anything.
Not as common, however, is the way in which we lost our baby.
It wasn’t really a baby to begin with. Hold on, hackles, technically it’s true. My body experienced a “blighted ovum”, which means that the egg and sperm never fully met up properly, although it traveled into my uterus and convinced my hormones that things were clicking along quite nicely. I felt everything a woman feels in the first trimester, all the while an empty sac of tissue was floating around inside of me like a lava lamp, without a care in the world.
My body was so convinced it was pregnant that it would not miscarry. My traitorous, confused body would keep changing and growing unless it was convinced otherwise. And chances were, if I let it continue, I might not be able to get pregnant in the future.
I was forced to choose between a surgery and a drug called Misoprostol. I’ll never forget the doctor who gave us this choice. She was a smaller, older woman – I figure she’s been a doctor for a long time, probably been the bearer of bad news for countless people.
Yet, she had tears in her eyes as she hugged us and tucked the envelope of pills into my hand that she’d smuggled out of the lab because she knew we couldn’t pay for them.
Nothing like the doctor who confirmed my pregnancy at the beginning, whose clipboard-scanning first words were, “And do you want to keep it?”
I chose the drug out of fear and familiarity: I have never had surgery before, and I know how to take pills.
Within half an hour of swallowing them, I vomited them and my sandwich into a bucket in the living room.
I grimaced when I realized the only other option left to me. I took the 4 remaining pills out of the envelope and awkwardly pushed each one inside my cervix, hoping that they wouldn’t get lost somewhere. (I never took Biology, and vaginas are so mysterious.)
Steve held my other hand and kept his red-veined eyes on my face the entire time.
How ironic, I thought, that the way this “pregnancy” started is similar to how it will end.
I didn’t know if or when the pills would start to take affect, so I put a pad on, and we cuddled on the couch watching TV, petting the cat. Anything to ward off the thoughts of Death and the Unknown that were facing us.
We went to bed, and I felt okay. Maybe I’d done it wrong.
Hours later, I was awakened by the greatest pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life. My whole body shook as I made a hunching crawl down the stairs to our bathroom. I felt like an atom that was about to split in half; I had no control.
For the next hour, the bathroom was my home. I kicked Steve out; I wanted to be alone. I didn’t want him to see how I was being melted down in an offering to a cruel god that was only appeased by blood, sweat, tears, shit and vomit.
In a haze, I remembered the other pills. The Tylenol-3’s. I reached out for them like a life raft, barely taking a moment to read the instructions. An eternity of 20 minutes passed, and finally I felt a tinge of sweet relief. I was able to gather the strength to take some toilet paper and reach down between my legs.
The pink tissue of my not-baby had to be collected and taken to the hospital for analysis. Something cold and hard and clinical came over me, and I stopped crying as I stared at the mass that had been propelled from me so violently.
Do what has to be done. And try not to be a crybaby about it, would you, please?
I put the pieces of myself into a pad and a ziploc bag. Took a shower. Stared at my face in the mirror. There was nothing in my eyes. I had just ended my very wanted pregnancy. Shouldn’t I be falling apart?
We’d been assured that the whole “process” would take 24 hours or less. My body continued to shake, rattle, roll and bleed out for 3 weeks.
After going to the same doctor in desperation, she welcomed and treated us even though we weren’t technically her patients. After using a clamp the size of bigger-than-my-pelvis (Steve faithfully holding my hand without even a swoon), she found the source of the problem: the sac had gotten stuck, of all things, inside my cervix – causing my uterus to contract and bleed nonstop in attempts to get it out.
I wish I had chosen the surgery.
I hated my body. I grit curses in my teeth against it daily; first ya can’t hold onto a pregnancy, and now ya can’t get rid of it? Friendship over.
Tylenol Codeine was never not in my system. When I ran out of pills, I tried not to buy more. The following 3 days of fever, aches, shakes and self-loathing persuaded me that maybe I SHOULDN’T buy more.
In the midst of all this, Laurie Works dropped everything in her life to come be with us for a weekend. Work, new boyfriend, long flights – didn’t matter. It was time for poutine, Parks & Recreation, laughing and crying about the shittyness of it all.
When we fell into each other’s arms at the airport, we didn’t let go for a solid 60 seconds. When we came up for air, there was a man and a woman standing near us with their hands raised and fingers spread.
“That’s a 10! 10 out of 10 greeting right there.”
It made me think of that end scene of Love Actually. Airport Arrivals truly are one of humanity’s finer ideas.
What a beautiful weekend. There was no pressure on me to do anything, and the one thing I really wanted to do was have a funeral at the beach.
So we did. We found the perfect balloon, tied some love notes to it, and then waded out into the water to let it go.
I watched and watched and watched that balloon sail away until I could watch no more. Sometimes I feel like I’m still watching, still waiting – but for what, I don’t know.
After Laurie returned home, my life became a series of goodbyes.
Monday: deleting the pregnancy apps and resetting the Period Tracker app on my phone.
Tuesday: calling the the local midwifery clinic and letting them know I would no longer be needing their services.
Wednesday: packing the maternity clothes and newborn onesies away.
Thursday-Sunday: getting lost in Netflix and my bed, trying to forgive ignorant people who said, “Well, you’re young, you can always try again!”
Steve could no longer take any more time off work. His first day back, he came home, laid down on the living room rug and cried into the fibers. I laid next to him, all out of tears for the day. I whispered to him that I’d gotten the call from Starbucks in Smithers; our prayers had been answered, I’d gotten hired, and it was time to move back to my hometown.
And now here we are. Not exactly the way we thought we’d be, but we’re still here. I am so grateful.
Next week, I’m getting a tattoo that commemorates our loss. As always, he’ll be there, holding my hand and watching.
Next month, I’m going to start donating my time and food once a week to a program called Meals For Moms. It will help me to know that I’m helping feed exhausted families with new babies, and in turn, helping those new babies.
Being the village.
A Help Boomerang.