Six years ago, on a November day not so different from today, I sat shivering on a park bench in Minneapolis waiting to have a miscarriage.
I knew the miscarriage was coming because a nearly three weeks earlier, I’d had an ultrasound and the technician hadn’t been able to find my baby’s heartbeat. Actually, there was no baby. There was nothing except for an empty sac residing in my uterus. What was supposed to be a happy day turned into one of the worst days of my life.
I was supposed to be about seven weeks pregnant.
Instead, I was in limbo. My body thought it was pregnant but it wasn’t. Well, it sort of was but it also wasn’t. This being and not being pregnant was almost impossible for both my body and my mind to comprehend.
I was given three choices: take medication to try to get my body to expel the pregnancy, have a d and c, or wait and see if it came out on its own. The other two choices scared me too much, so I chose the last one. I chose to wait.
Also, I was in denial. I thought somehow my pregnancy would end up being okay. Maybe there had been some mistake.
Nine weeks earlier, I had become pregnant right after my husband and I got married. It was awesome. We were so in love and then we found out I was pregnant and everything seemed beyond perfect. We were so excited. We never figured that anything could go wrong. But then, we went to that ultrasound and all those dreams were just shattered.
Everything about me felt completely shattered.
Instead of trying to continue with our regular lives of college and work, we decided to leave town. We packed up my car and drove to Minnesota. We both had family there and friends. We just needed to get away from everything. I couldn’t imagine being around our house, going through the motions of day to day life and just waiting waiting waiting for this terrible thing to happen. I decided a long road trip would be better. We would get away and get our minds off of this terrible inevitable thing.
Now it had been over two weeks since I got the bad news. It was my birthday, November 1st. I was just leaving a grocery store when my phone rang but it wasn’t anyone to wish me a happy birthday. It was one of the midwives from the hospital. I sat down on a park bench to take the call.
The midwife wanted to know if I’d made any progress yet. I hadn’t.
I was still holding out hope that the ultrasound was just a really big mistake. Maybe the date I got pregnant was just extremely off. Maybe they had missed something. Maybe…
“No,” she said, “I don’t think so. You know, a few decades ago, we didn’t even have these early pregnancy tests. If this were happening back then, you would be just wondering now if you were missing another period and if you might be pregnant. Then soon you would have gotten a heavy period and you just would never have known.”
Traffic rushed past the park bench where I was sitting. I clutched my phone and tried not to cry. I wanted to throw my cell phone into the passing cars. This was one of the most heartless things that the midwife could have said. My feelings don’t matter because thirty years ago, I wouldn’t have known this was happening to me? Thanks, but I did know and my feelings were valid.
Six years, two children (and another miscarriage) later, it still hurts.
I was nine weeks pregnant or not pregnant but it was ‘something’. I was nine weeks ‘something’. And it was real and it did matter.
I hung up the phone promising to call back in a few days to have another awesome conversation and hopefully to speak with a different midwife in the practice.
A few hours later, on the afternoon of my twenty-seventh birthday, I started cramping. I waited all day, but not much happened. The next day, November 2nd, it more of the same. Then the cramping started to intensify. I took some strong painkillers and a few hours later, the pregnancy passed.
The friends who we were staying with had no idea that I was having a miscarriage. If they were paying attention, they might have noticed that at one point, I went into the bathroom for a long time. For some reason it was easier for me this way. I only wanted to tell a few people. I’m a private person. I mean, I guess I’m not so private anymore, not when I’m writing this story for the world to see.
In the last few years, people have started being a lot more open about miscarriages. But six years ago, when I was going through this, I only knew of one person who had experienced a miscarriage. It seemed so strange. Now, I know that I actually knew a lot more people who had gone through it but they just didn’t talk about it either. And I understand their silence because at that time, I didn’t want to share my pain with anyone.
Flash forward one year:
Exactly one year after my first miscarriage, I gave birth to my first baby, a boy who is turning five on November 2nd. It’s the same day that marks my first miscarriage but it’s also my son’s birthday now.
Sometimes, I think, ‘Wow, what a coincidence!’ Isn’t it strange and amazing I had my baby on exactly the same day that I lost my first pregnancy! But then I think, ‘No, it is too much of a coincidence. It has to be more than that.’ But I don’t pretend to understand what the ‘more’ is. I just know that it’s there.
Having a miscarriage changed me. It changed my attitude toward pregnancy. It changed who I am as a mother. In a lot of ways it made me more worried and anxious. I will never look on a positive pregnancy test with the same blind enthusiasm and joy that I felt when I took that first test a few weeks after my wedding. Both of my pregnancies were blighted with fear and uneasiness about the health of my unborn child.
But more than anything having a miscarriage made me appreciate things more. It made me appreciate my son because to me he was and still is a miracle. Every year now, on November 2nd, I remember two Novembers. The miraculous November of my son’s birth and that other November, the shadowy one of ‘something’. They are both always with me and they both matter.