Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My Secret Loss

I knew before he said, "this isn't good" with a condoling look. I knew the morning before when I saw the first spot.  I may have even known twelve weeks earlier.  It was too good to be true.

The initial "I'm not worried yet" and other optimistic comments that day from the doctor, the nurse, my husband, and my mom weren't enough to assuage that feeling.  They were just saying what they are suppose to say. But, I already knew.  

I felt bad for this doctor.  This was the second time with this pregnancy he was telling us we lost the baby.  The second time he had to deliver this news and share our options.  The second time the appointment ended with me in my husband's embrace as tears fell.

Seven weeks earlier, at our first appointment, I laid on the examining table as he performed the first ultrasound.  There was a feeling of “is this really happening” as a excited smirk grew across my face. I watched the machine and waited to see our little blueberry.  

Then, the doctor sat down on the stool and studied it. Never a good sign.  After a pause and silence, my patience gets the best of me.  I ask, “What do you see?”

He says he doesn’t see an eight week baby in there.  Not even the sac that holds the baby.  Tells me in a professional tone what could be happening in my body: miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or the slight chance everything is fine and I’m not as far along as initial thought.  He will know more after some bloodwork.  

We hadn’t told many people.  Instead of telling my mother-in-law I was pregnant, we told her I was having a miscarriage.  This news came exactly one month after she lost her husband.  

After the excruciating long two day wait, the blood work came back with great news.  My hCG levels had doubled; I was still pregnant.  The doc himself called and told me there was a 98 percent chance of a healthy pregnancy.  Repeat the ultrasound in a week.  I jotted down notes of all the test results and took to Google later to understand.  Still cautiously excited, I held my breath as day of the ultrasound approached.  

When I heard the heartbeat, I nearly cried.  

At that moment, I understood what every mother-to-be meant when she said, “as long as our baby is healthy.”  More than anything, that is all I wished.  

I left that appointment with my baby’s first picture and a bounce in my step.  I was six weeks and one day.  I was high on happiness.  Doc asked if I could wait six more weeks for another appointment.  Of course I could, I said without thinking twice.  He just told me everything was great.  

As the weeks passed, I slowly grew more optimistic and started sharing our news.  I signed up to receive weekly updates on the progress of my baby and body.  I bought books for my husband and me to learn what to expect and answer our questions.  I started planning what fall would look like with our little Halloween baby.  Knowing the holidays would be especially rough without my father-in-law, I thought about how blessed we were to be having a little miracle to distract us.   I envisioned what the nursery could look like and how I was thankful to have all summer to decorate.  I began taking notes for sub plans for my maternity leave thinking I would be taking the rest of the semester off and return after the first of the year.  I created a pregnancy journal to share and remember all the milestones for our little nugget.  I even considered asking my parents to babysit for the first time on my thirtieth birthday when our baby would be about a month old.  

Then, the day before my twelve week appointment came.  When I woke up and went to the bathroom, it was the first time I noticed it.  I kept it a secret all day, hoping it wasn’t anything. Knowing if I talked about it, it would be real.  I spent any free moments at work on Google, skipping lunch and eating at my desk to see if Google knew what has happening.  It wasn’t until that night that I hold my husband.  

He did everything he could to reassure me that it will be okay.  I called my mom because I need to hear her voice say it will be okay.  There was nothing I could do but wait.  

When I woke up the next morning, the day of my appointment, it was worse.  I called the doctor the minute they opened.  The nurse called back within minutes and assured me it was nothing to worry about; it was probably from recent intercourse.  Her voice was patient and gentle, but did nothing to calm me.

Sitting through tedious curriculum meetings that morning was the worst.  I did anything I could to keep my mind off of it, knowing those closest to me could see the worry written all over my face. When I returned to my classroom that afternoon, the cramping started.  I struggled to make it through teaching my last class watching every minute tick.   

I text my husband and told him I was leaving the minute I could.  He said he would leave the same time to meet me at the doctor’s office.  

When we are called back, the nurse asks us if we know what hospital we will be using.  I can’t think that far ahead right now.  I tell her, honestly, we haven’t thought about it.  She returns with brochures detailing our options.  I’m barely listening, knowing I won’t need them.  

She takes notes of my vitals and asks about any issues.  Uh, yeah.  One.  She is the fifth person to tell me it’s normal and mostly likely everything is okay.  

The doc rushes in and asks the same questions the nurse did. He must see the look on my face when he asks if we should listen to the heartbeat first or talk first.  Before he starts, he warns the mobile heartbeat doppler may not pick up the heartbeat right away. We may need an ultrasound to confirm it.  

He stops, looks me right in the eye, and says, “I’m not worried.”  Sixth person.

Cold goo on my stomach as he presses the doppler around, searching.  As he stands over me, he mutters something. I hear a noise and, for the first time in two days, exhale.  He immediately follows it with a, that’s you. I clarify, not the baby.  He shakes his head as he continues searching.  When he can’t find the heartbeat, he goes in search of a room with an ultrasound machine.  As he steps out the door, he pauses, looks me in the eye again and restates, I’m not worried yet.

When the ultrasound doesn’t give an answer, he suggests a transvaginal ultrasound and steps out of the room so I can undress.  At this moment, it was confirmed for me.  I look down and repeat over and over to my husband, this isn’t good.  He grabs my arm to comfort me and tries to ease my fears.  
Time slows down a bit.  I know what is coming.  It doesn’t take long for him to find our baby this time.  I see the outline of our little one, head, body, and no heartbeat.  The doc does a few more things with the machine, double checking, triple checking.   I’m sure buying time until he has to tell us.  I couldn’t imagine delivering this news as often as he must.  When he does tell me, it’s like a whisper, a secret he is sharing with me.  I had already resigned myself to this, knowing.  He says our baby stopped growing at nine weeks.  

His tone is more sympathetic than it was seven weeks ago when he told us similar news.  I can hear the pity in his voice as he explains my two options:  I can let nature take its course and miscarry on my own, which could take days.  Or, I can have a D&C.  He has time the next day over his lunch hour.  I already had that Friday off, my first personal day all year.  I planned to do lunch and pedicures with my sister.  Instead, I would be having surgery.  The thought of doing this on my own scared me.  

When I call my mom on the way home, I can’t get the words out.  If I say it out loud, it will be real.  I can’t hold the tears back anymore as they fight to the surface.  

I experienced a loss, but it was a secret one.  Made it feel less real.  Less important.  Though I know something was wrong. Something is missing.  There is a place in my heart that can’t be filled.  

I thought I was alone.  I thought I did something wrong.  Even though it was his loss, too, my husband didn’t quite understand and grasp the reality of it.  Nothing had changed for him yet.

Then, I shared it.

Then, everyone else shared.

I realized I know more women who have had a miscarriage than those who haven’t.  Some of the women closest to me held this secret.  I held on to their stories as they shared their experiences.  

It made it so much better to talk about it and connect with others who had been through the same thing. My emotions became real and justified when others shared similar ones.

It's important to tell.  

It is a loss.