Monday, August 25, 2003


Stacey Greenberg

Fifteen weeks pregnant with my second child, I went in for an ultrasound as the midwives requested. I had some hemorrhaging the year before with Satchel and they wanted to rule out an odd shaped uterus or another bilobate placenta. They hadn’t heard the heartbeat at my 12 week appointment but they had heard the baby move and I could feel the baby moving so I had no worries.

The ultrasound showed a cute little head and a rounded spine. My husband and I smiled at each other as we chatted with the technician. She got up to get the doctor and I told Warren I could feel the baby swimming. For the first time, it all felt real.

I had been shy about this pregnancy. Wanting to keep it a secret, I had only recently told family and friends. I had some anxiety about possible tandem nursing and four people in a double bed, but my mind had started working out the details and I planned for a leisurely four month maternity leave from work, an extra fat tax return, a new sling, and many hours spent getting to know a tiny, new human being.

We were completely caught off guard when the doctor came in and told us how sorry he was that there was no heartbeat, no chance of a mistake, and that we weren’t having a baby after all. My sadness was acute and I couldn’t hold back my tears. We were moved into another room to have a “moment.” We hugged and I continued to cry. I pulled myself together enough to explain to Warren that I’d probably have to go in for a D&C (dilation and curettage-basically, the medical term for an abortion). That it shouldn’t take long and that I’d be asleep. It didn’t sound like fun, but I figured I could just float through it in a state of shock.

I thought back to my twin sister’s miscarriage four years ago and knew that I’d somehow get through it. I had heard of women having miscarriages at home, naturally, and I considered it, but now that I knew the baby was dead, I just wanted to move on. It could be weeks before my body expelled the contents of my uterus. I could hemorrhage again. It could be bad. The D&C would be ok. I could be in a hospital for a few hours. It would be ok.

Again, the doctor came in and surprised us. He said it was too late for a D&C. I was too far along. I’d have to deliver the fetus. I immediately panicked. My imagination ran wild. I thought of my previous 36 hour homebirth – the pain, the hours and hours of pain. How could I do that knowing I wasn’t going to end up snuggling with a healthy baby? And how could I labor in a hospital? All of the things I had managed to avoid with Satchel – the drugs, the IV, the monitors, the being strapped in a hospital bed with no food or water – would now be unavoidable. Did anyone ever have a c-section for a miscarriage? I was frantic. The doctor said I could take some medicine to start the labor at home. He said I could come in after I felt crampy and minimize my time in the hospital. He said that once the baby was out, unless I was able to deliver the placenta, which was unlikely, then I’d probably end up having a D&C. I didn’t have much choice. I could do it the next day. Could I?

On the way home, I tearily called my best friend and my mom. I was dramatic. I wanted everyone to know that I was about to suffer the worst injustice I could think of: giving birth to a dead baby. I called my office. I logged on and told a handful of friends and posted on my Synchro Mama message board. I needed people to tell me that it was going to be ok, that I could do it.

I felt stupid. Arrogant. I had a closet full of new maternity clothes and was half way through a prenatal yoga class. How could I have been so...presumptuous? I hadn’t cracked open a single pregnancy book. I had stupidly prided myself on gaining very little weight. I was picking out names and planning for the future. I hated myself.

My sister called. Her words didn’t comfort me, but her suggestion of having a beer made sense. Warren and I went across the street to my favorite restaurant and had a beer and some pizza. Then we went to the movies. Not thinking about the next day was the only way I was going to get through the present one. Warren ran errands, I visited friends. I held Satchel extra tight that night and tried to get some sleep.

I woke up in warrior mode. I would have to be strong. I could break down later, but today I had to do the hardest thing I’d ever done. I packed Satchel extra food and clothes and took him to Katy’s. I came home and packed myself some food and clothes and took my first dose of Misoprostol. Then I waited. I checked my email and message boards. I had old friends and “invisible” mama friends all over the country sending me encouraging words, lighting candles, and praying for me. I felt loved. I went in and sat by Warren and read the latest issue of Brain, Child.

I took a second dose and waited some more. Every few minutes Warren would ask if I felt anything, if anything was happening. Nothing. It started to feel a bit like waiting for Satchel’s birth. My water had broken early and we had waited all afternoon for contractions to start. Warren joked that maybe if he rode his motorcycle again things would get going this time. If it weren’t for the rain, I probably would have let him go.

Morning became afternoon and there was only the slightest rumbling in my stomach. I called the doctor and he said I should take a double dose when it was time again. I suggested getting out of the house. Maybe getting a milk shake, going to the bookstore, and then out to my mom’s house. (She lives less than five minutes from the hospital.) We left just as the sun was peeking out of the clouds. I tried not to stare at the other mothers in the bookstore or pick up the book, Your Second Pregnancy: What to Expect This Time, that seemed to be calling out to me from the shelves, even though I had purposely avoided the baby section. I thought about when the bookstore was still a movie theater and my highschool friends and I used to drink wine coolers and go to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on Saturday nights. “Let’s do the time warp again....”

I was sexually active in high school. I ended up pregnant my Senior year. My boyfriend at the time and I would have welcomed a miscarriage. We would have considered ourselves lucky. Lesson learned. Be more careful next time. End of story. In highschool, I had no interest in being a mother. Or a wife. Or even a girlfriend. I wanted to go to college and be on my own. I had an abortion and felt a deep sense of relief. I never questioned my decision, but have been harboring shame ever since. Before I became a mother, I always viewed my abortion in terms of what I had gained, rather than lost. Was this payback time? Was I being punished? Is this what they meant by, “Everything happens for a reason?”

It was getting close to time to take my third dose of Miso, so we headed to my mom’s house. When I got out of the car, my water broke. I was stunned. I ran inside to the bathroom and saw a bunch of mucous and the remnants of the second dose of Miso. (I had taken it vaginally.) A minute later, I felt another gush and looked between my legs to see the tiniest, pinkest, ball of flesh ever. A mix between a newborn kitten and an alien. It was the baby. I could see it’s head, it’s eyes, it’s arms and legs. I was in shock. I told Warren to call the doctor. I was fully expecting to start hemorrhaging. I told Warren to get some towels and I carefully put the baby (still attached by the thinnest umbilical cord ever) in my underwear and rushed to the car. I called my best friend and my mom and told them what had happened.

As we pulled into the hospital fear took over. Warren rushed in and got a wheelchair. He wheeled me to the Maternity Ward and I first calmly, then crazily, explained that I had a dead baby in my underwear and that I needed a room immediately. I wasn’t going to sit there and fill out any fucking papers. That got their attention. I knew I wasn’t off to a good start but I was completely freaking out.

The whole ordeal turned out to be rather anti-climactic. I didn’t hemorrhage. I didn’t respond to the Pitocin. I never felt any discomfort. I walked the halls of the Maternity Ward as if I were in labor. I looked at the other women who had just given birth to live babies and felt like a freak. No one wanted to see a woman in the midst of a miscarriage walking around the halls. I decided to pace in my room instead. I squatted. I pumped my breasts. I tried everything. After five and a half hours of hoping I’d deliver my placenta, I was given a quick and painless D&C and sent home with a “grief box.” I felt disappointed and tired, but ok. I really thought the worst was over. I told people I was fine and they believed me. I believed me.

The next day we decided to do a burial ceremony. We opened the grief box. It contained the book, Miscarriage: A Shattered Dream; an unbelievably small baby hat; a bib; a sympathy card; and a smaller, deep purple, satiny, heart-shaped box with, as requested, our baby’s fetus and placenta packaged separately in little, plastic bags. I took out the plastic bags and threw everything else in the garbage. Warren filled a small cardboard box with flower petals from the garden and the bouquets that had been accumulating on the kitchen table, and carefully placed the fetus and placenta inside. We said a silent but tearful prayer, wrapped the box with cord, and wrote, “Yoshi. June 18, 2003.” (Yoshi is a Japanese name that means, “Good, respectful,” and can be used for a boy or a girl.) When Satchel woke up from his nap, we all went to the Old Forest and buried Yoshi in a secret spot. We marked it with a rock we picked up in California the week before, burned some incense, and said good-bye. Closure, right? Wrong.

I want the phone to stop ringing. I want people to stop feeling sorry for me. I want people to stop telling me their theories, especially the ones that involve me doing something differently and preventing the miscarriage altogether. I want to stop crying when I think about my best friend’s 14 day old baby. I want to not want to drive my car into traffic, beat my head against a wall, or stab myself repeatedly with scissors. I want to find some way to get all the pain I feel inside, outside. I want to forgive myself.

I have experienced death before. After my father died four years ago, I lost faith in my naive hope that nothing bad would ever happen to me. I knew that from then on, I couldn’t count on things always working out. I was a wreck. I panicked every time Warren got in his car to go to work. I was filled with dread whenever Warren was late coming home, even if it was only five minutes. But I rode it out, and each day the pain was a little duller. Eventually, death wasn’t the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning. I was able to share my pain with my family and friends and I did find peace. I can think of my dad now without always tearing up.

I know that I will get through this, but that it will take time. Just getting it down on paper feels like a small victory.

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