I feel sad today.
It's the background low level kind of sad that is just loud enough to be
distracting. And it's not even my sad. Someone I care about is
having a rough time and I want to hug her and tell her that I have been there and that it's not ok, but that one day it will be. And I can't do all that because she hasn't told me directly about what is going on - I heard it through a third party. I don't want to violate the trust of the other party nor do I want this person who I care about to think that her personal business is out there for others to know before she is ready to share it. But the fact is, I do know, and it sucks really really big time. The truth is that there is nothing I could say to her right now that would make her feel better anyway, so my desire to engage with her on this topic is entirely to make myself feel better. Because even five (and four) years later, talking about it is part of my healing. Totally selfish, but there it is.
The first time I got pregnant I was 27. It had taken seven months after going off the pill and we were excited and felt indestructible. I knew women had miscarriages - knew friends who had had them - knew they were quite common but somehow felt it wouldn't happen to us because, what?, we were young and healthy and as if that has anything to do with anything. At five weeks we had told our parents, at seven weeks we had told our friends and work colleagues. It was a bit naive. At eight weeks I had an ultrasound (because I had access to that sort of thing at work) and discovered that it was a blighted ovum, an empty sac. And everything I thought about myself as a woman collapsed. And I still had to carry on and finish my work day. One of my jobs was as a sexual assault nurse examiner and I was on call - and didn't I get a call that afternoon. I cried the whole way to the hospital then pulled myself together long enough to focus on and care for another woman after her trauma. (It was a welcome distraction, because surely this woman had had a worse day than I had). Then I cried all the way home again. I had a D&C the next day.
In the early days - the days of "untelling" our prematurely shared wonderful news - people asked how I was doing and listened intently while I did my best to verbalize the emptiness and disappointment I was experiencing. But after a short while I felt like I was supposed to get over it, move on. I worried that even my close friends would grow tired of my lamenting, so I didn't talk about it anymore. But it was right there with me everyday. That loss. That grieving. That longing for the potential that had once existed inside of me.
I was sad for months, even though I pretended not to be. My heart broke every time a friend announced that she was expecting. I would congratulate her as genuinely as I could through my aching jealousy, then I would cry privately.
We became somewhat consumed with trying to get pregnant again. And we did. I was now 28 and it had taken another seven months. But there was none of the joy and anticipation of the first time. I didn't even want to calculate my "due date" because I was so terrified of being crushed again. And we were. The first ulatrasound at eight weeks showed a small sac with an embryo that measured a week behind my dates. There was a heartbeat, but I just knew. Three days later I started to bleed. The next ultrasound showed the same embryo with no interval growth and no heartbeat. I waited it out for another week but continued to bleed with no completion of the miscarriage so I had another D&C.
This time we had told no one, not even our parents, and it was worse because now we had no one to talk about it with but each other. I worried that I would exhaust David with my emotional needs. The sadness was different the second time, too. When I got that positive test, I had convinced myself that I was "prepared" for whatever outcome, but I started hating my body for failing at what I felt it was designed to do. Doubt that I could ever carry to term crept into my psyche and I pleaded with my doctor to refer me to the recurrent loss clinic before we tried again.
The wait list was about 6 months, during which time we took a break from "trying" and focused on life and hobbies and sex for fun rather than procreation. Once into the clinic we were well taken care of - they really are lovely - and they ran the gamut of tests from non- to very invasive. All results were normal and by the time we went for our final follow up appt I was pregnant for the third time. The best thing about the RPL clinic is that when you do get pregnant again they bring you in for early ultrasounds every two weeks in the first trimester. We got to see Sam's tiny little flickering heart at just shy of 6 weeks. And I just knew.
So, to my friend who is possibly having the worst day of her life so far, my heart aches for you. I want to tell you that it is ok to feel sad for as long as you need to. It is ok to grieve because this is a real loss, and don't feel pressured to "get over it" . . . you never truly will. Talk about it. Ask the women in your life about their experiences - you are not alone. And as a friend told me once: Trust that you will have the babies you are meant to have.
It's not ok today, but one day it will be.