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Every Little Bird (Hollye Dexter)

March 21, 2011

This January, I somehow managed to get pregnant again, at forty-seven years old. I felt it, even as I went about my life, travelling, volunteering in my son’s school….but convinced myself it couldn’t be so. Surely I had missed my period because I was at that certain age. Just to assure myself, I finally took a pregnancy test, and that’s when the rollercoaster ride began. Yes, the impossible had happened, I was pregnant. My husband Troy and I couldn’t believe it, so we bought another test. Still pregnant. I looked it up online. At forty-seven, a woman has a .07% of becoming pregnant naturally, and a 50% chance of carrying the pregnancy to term. Leave it to me and my crazy life to beat the odds, I thought.

At first I cried. I wasn’t ready for this. I was afraid of all the things that could go wrong at my age. I would never, ever, ever have a moment alone with my husband. I already had two grown children, a five-year old, and even a grandchild living in my house! This was insane!

But then I looked at it from a different angle. Hadn’t God just put us through one of the worst years of our lives? For all the loss and grief we had gone through, here was a little sparkle of hope and possibility. I mean, I was just as frightened when I became pregnant at forty-one with my son Evan, and what a miracle he turned out to be. Maybe this was a gift, a sign that our luck was turning. Troy looked at me with such warmth in his eyes. He took to calling me “Little Mama”, patting my baby bump affectionately. My husband was smiling again, and that was miracle enough for me.

I was six weeks along.

Sunday morning I woke up bleeding.

My heart sank, but I knew nature was taking care of it’s own. I got up and went to the bathroom, and that’s where everything took a turn. I was suddenly overcome with intense nausea and ringing in my ears as I began to lose consciousness. Troy ran in and held me up as I collapsed. I was dripping in sweat, soaked through. Even my socks were wet. I could feel a pushing sensation in my lower back as everything went blank. A minute or two later, when I started to come back to awareness, I knew I had passed the baby. It was over, just like that.

All I wanted was to curl up quietly in my bed to cry and let this pass. But my doctor was concerned about internal bleeding, so I was told to go to the ER. I resisted but Troy didn’t want to take any chances with my health, so we went, and that is my greatest regret.

After sitting an hour in the waiting room, my name was finally called. Just then Brahm’s Lullaby was played on the overhead speaker.
The nurse smiled at me, “Hear that? It means a baby was just born upstairs!” I was ushered into a room, “What are we seeing you for?”

I looked at the floor, tears in my eyes. “I’m having a miscarriage.”
“Oh. I’ll need you to pee in this cup.”

In the bathroom, I slumped against the door and cried. I couldn’t believe the irony of the moment I was living. Upstairs a young woman was crying tears of joy, holding her newborn baby. Downstairs a middle-aged woman was weeping in the ER bathroom after losing her baby in a toilet.

Ten minutes later a young doctor with a blonde bouncy ponytail burst into our room. She grabbed my limp hand and shook it vigorously.
“Congratulations!” she said, smiling.
I was shocked, speechless.
“Your urine test just came back. You’re going to have a baby!”
I felt like I had been punched in the gut.
“I’m losing my baby…” I barely squeaked out.
She pulled her hand back. “Oh.” She fumbled with my chart, mumbled something about hormone levels, and cheerily insisted I could still be pregnant, you never know.

They sent me for ultrasound in another department where the technician called me “Dude” repeatedly while poking and prodding my tender, bleeding insides with an ultrasound wand and asking me what I thought of American Idol this season. Troy held his head close to mine, squeezed my hand and wiped the tears away that were now soaking my hair.

They sent me into another room to have five vials of blood drawn. Then to another room to have yet another pelvic violation by an obstetrician with a stunning lack of bedside manner. For five hours I was passed from doctor to technician to specialist, as my body emptied itself of the life that was thriving only hours before.

What all these people had in common was complete lack of empathy for what I was experiencing, treating me as someone with a routine “condition” that had to be handled.

I guess I can consider myself fortunate that this was my first (and only) miscarriage. Although my heart has broken for friends who have been through this kind of loss, I had never felt it myself. Now I’m in the awful club.

You may be wondering why I chose to put such private moments of my life on display for all to read. This is why. Because so many women out there have lost a baby to miscarriage or abortion, and have done so in silence. How many women have hidden their first three months of pregnancy just in case they should suffer a miscarriage? How many have carried that grief and loss all their lives, the pain, the shame, the feelings of failure and guilt, tucked away inside them, and why?

We aren’t private about losing a parent, a friend or a spouse. In times of grief, our community of friends and neighbors surround us with support and love. They make the phone calls for us, notifying every person in our phone books. They show up with meals, help take care of our kids. So why do women go underground with the loss of a baby?
Having gone through the myriad of emotions I think I know why.

I sobbed for two days. I felt like a failure. I lost the baby. It was something I did, or didn’t do. Something I ate, or didn’t eat, or something I thought. I didn’t pray enough. I’m too old, I’m defective, I am the reason the baby died…I felt shame, guilt, worthlessness. The hormonal storm brewing inside didn’t help either.

Part of the reason I wanted to stay private with this is because I didn’t want to hear comments like these:
“It’s for the best.”
“You’re lucky you already have three other children.”
“It’s nature’s way.”
“Did you really want a baby at forty-seven anyway?”

Yes, all the above are true, but I still lost a baby and I need my time to grieve. I don’t want my loss minimized or judged, and as a society we tend to do just that. What I’m left trying to figure out is why? Why is there such a lack of support for the women who are going through this? Why are there ten thousand websites telling you how to eat, sleep, exercise when you’re pregnant, but not ONE telling you how to take care of yourself when you’re going through a miscarriage or post-abortion? Should I stay off my feet? Eat more protein? Should I exercise? Silence….It’s up to you to figure out how to care for yourself physically in the throes of baby loss.

This is a very real part of life for women. It has happened to more of your friends and family members that you know. This really needs to change. We need to be able to talk about it, and to support each other through this.

On Monday, I stripped the bed, I washed everything, I threw things away. I lit candles everywhere. I took all the bloody remnants of the day before and burned them in my yard, letting the smoke wash over me. I put the ashes in a silver box, along with the EPT which had once said “Pregnant” but now was strangely blank, and buried it under my orange tree, placing a heavy concrete angel statue on top. I sat there on my knees under the orange tree, and in that moment I realized how lucky I was that nature decided this for me. This pregnancy was defective, and by the grace of God I was not forced to decide whether I could handle carrying that pregnancy to term. My dog Stitch nestled against me as I cried and said a prayer of gratitude. Just then I heard a hummingbird above me. It flew down in front of me, hovering, closer, then closer again, until it was inches in front of my face and I could see it’s tiny black bead eyes staring at me. We stayed like that, still, for a few seconds. Even my dog didn’t move. And then just as quickly it flew away, and somehow I knew…everything was going to be okay.

I hope that in going public with our personal story, someone else’s burden became a little bit lighter today. If you have lost a baby, no matter what the reason, please don’t carry it in silence any longer. Your grief deserves recognition, and none of us should ever suffer alone. I’m holding you all in my circle of healing, sharing your pain, honoring your loss.

In memory of every little bird that flew away…

~Age: 47
~Number of pregnancies and births: 4 pregnancies, 3 live births
~The age of your children, or how far postpartum you are: My children are 25, 20 and 5, and my grandson is 9 months.

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32 Responses to “Every Little Bird (Hollye Dexter)”

  1. salinza33 Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I am so sorry for the loss that you have experienced. I hope healing and hope find you right where you are standing.

  2. Sara Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I am speechless. Beautiful. Just beautiful. Thank you for being so brave and opening up about a very really experience for so many women. A miscarriage should never a be a shameful experience.

  3. Corinne Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, it is written beautifully and shows so much courage. I believe you are right that we shouldn’t hide the loss of a baby, because no matter how early in the pregnancy it is, it feels like a baby and have imagined him or her and what they will become. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a baby and think the only way we can learn to help our friends through is by being open about it.

  4. amber Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I love your story, im sorry you had to go through it. God loves you. Your amazing.

  5. Mary V Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 10:40 am

    This is such a beautiful post. That said, I am sorry for your experience and with the treatment you recieved at the hospital. My sister lost her baby about 2 years ago, she was in her late twenties and a healthy ready mommy. You never know what the “plans” are, but there is still grief when a child is lost. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Luukia Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Thank you so much for sharing. So beautifully written, it brought tears to my eyes.

  7. Jeannie Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry for your loss.

  8. Catherine S Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 10:53 am

    What you have written is sad and beautiful. Thank you for sharing what you felt throughout your loss. My heart feels so heavy and sad everytime I hear of a mother’s loss. Heal well and take care of yourself.

  9. terri c Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 11:15 am

    I am so very very sorry for your loss. And for the insensitivity in the hospital. Where I work they do that damn Brahms Lullaby thing too. We chaplains are horrified and have objected on behalf of every person who doesn’t need to have pain, but to no avail.

  10. Nicole Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 11:31 am

    This is the first post here to ever make me cry. Thank you for this. Ten years ago this month, I lost twin boys at 16 weeks along. Everyone had a comment to make – that it was for the best, God’s will, blah blah blah. My experience was very similar to yours – I was treated rudely by hospital staff, nurses, etc. Like I had no feelings because I was young (17) when it happened. People spread rumors that I had an abortion when I went back to school and word got around. (Small towns, everyone thinks they know your business.) A teacher even made a very vulgar comment to me, and nothing was done about it. This was a very low time in my life. No one around me seemed to understand, or care for that matter.
    Your story means so much to me. Someone out there does understand. Thank you so much.

  11. marz Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 11:55 am

    this is a beautifully honest story. thank you so much for sharing it

  12. scs Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    thank you. I have suffered 2 miscarriages. and ur right….no one says the right things or even offers much support. even though the baby didn’t make it all the way at least I had them for a breif amount of time but they will be in my heart forever. as u said God has a plan and there is always hope. we woman who have miscarriages shouldn’t have to be silent with our grief

  13. Mina Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. I had a miscarriage between my second and third children, and I felt many of the same emotions (and physical sensations) you described. I’m so very sorry you were treated so insensitively by the hospital staff.
    I’m curious if we felt similarly about one thing…the people who offered me the most comfort were the ones you were able to meet my eyes and tell me they were sorry, without seeming embarrassed. That’s it. Is that how you’ve felt as well?
    I remember feeling insulted by ANY qualifiers (“you’re young and can still have another”, “there was probably something wrong and this is for the best”, “at least you already have two”.).
    I’m so sorry for your loss. I wish you peace, mama.

  14. sarah Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I am so sorry for your pain for your loss. Stories like like yours is the reason I continue to come onto this site.
    Yes I do like to see bodies like mine but every now and again I read I hate my body and the writer looks like a model so thank you for posting your story and keeping me on this site. It hit me in the stomach and brought me to tears reading what you went through.X

  15. Tiffany Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I can not even tell you how much this means to me! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  16. Colleen Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    By sheer chance, I just visted this site earlier today: http://www.iamtheface.org/. A friend of mine who has lost 4 babies (2 stillborn, one shortly after birth, and I’m not sure about the 4th) posted it on her Facebook. Your entry immediately made me think of it.

    I am so very sorry about the loss of your child, but I’m glad he sent you a hummingbird to tell you it was all going to be okay. May you find peace.

  17. nico Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I could tell two of my own that aren’t so different.

    The lack of appropriate facilities and empathy on behalf of many health professionals when it comes to the treatment and care for threatened or actual pregnancy loss, defies belief. I’m so sorry not only for your lost little one, but for the insensitivity you suffered when you were so vulnerable. You and your baby deserved better. xoxo

  18. k Says:
    March 21st, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Its amazing how things happen, when and why.

    I believe everything happens for a reason. As you said, you realized how lucky you were that nature decided for you. I felt the same way when I miscarried 6 years ago. My second pregnancy and I knew from the moment I got pregnant that something was not right. It was heartbreaking as we had gotten to hear the heartbeat the week before. My body decided that it did not want to be pregnant and it literally disposed of the baby, like it was something foreign, right out of my body.

    The single most amazing moment of my life, next to the birth of my children, as when the sac came out it was still intact. When you pushed on it you could see the tiny arm buds, the tail had just started to split and you could see the head of the baby. I thanked God for letting me see such an amazing thing and I prayed to God that I never see such a thing ever again. When I arrived at the hospital I showed the ultrasound tech the baby and she just cried and cried. I did not cry. Not for two weeks when I woke up and realized I was no longer pregnant.

    I am sorry for your loss. I am sorry that no one showed you any remorse. Those that have not been through it can not understand it. Many feel it is not that big of a deal as it is common. I agree, it should be spoken about more. Women should feel like they can talk about it and have a place to do so. Possibly for some it all depends on what they believe. I believe the moment a baby is conceived it is life. A miscarriage is the loss of a child no matter the age. Thank you for sharing your story.

  19. Maureen (FurtherMo) Says:
    March 22nd, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Thanks so much for your beautiful story.I love to hear that you buried your box under an orange tree that will bloom every year. We have so many hidden blessings, if only we recognize them. Way to share inspiration!

  20. Hollye Dexter Says:
    March 22nd, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Thank you so much- to all of you beautiful women for sharing empathy and kindness. I think my story speaks for so many of us. I’m glad we can create a community here where none of us has to carry this grief alone.

    Love and thanks.

  21. Apryl Says:
    March 22nd, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Thank you.

  22. TsiK Says:
    March 22nd, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Holly, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I am so sorry for your loss. Too many women (myself included) have had to suffer through a miscarriage in near silence, assuring everyone that we’re ‘alright’ and dealing with insensitive comments from people who cannot truly understand the sense of loss and despair we face, unless they too have gone through it. I pray that comfort and healing may come to you in whatever shape or form that best meets your needs, and may you take the time you need to grieve for your lost little one. May God bless you always.

  23. lynn Says:
    March 23rd, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    That was a beautiful story. Thank you so much for writing it and sharing it. You clearly express the emptiness felt when we lose a child and how we bare it in silence. For the few weeks that child is with us, they have connected with us and are forever in our hearts. That loss is never forgotten, no matter the reason. Reading your story is really truly wonderful.

  24. L Says:
    March 25th, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing your bittersweet story. You are strong and brave and im so sorry for your loss. I have not lost a baby but I know women who have my mother in law lost 4 babies all between her 4 live children and its always heartbreaking no matter the age of mom or baby. Your story will really help women.

  25. Austin Says:
    March 28th, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Thank You.

  26. NiceMatters Says:
    March 29th, 2011 at 6:20 am

    I hope that in some small way it helps knowing that a complete stranger to you sits here sobbing and sharing your grief.

  27. Nicholle Says:
    April 2nd, 2011 at 5:55 am

    First off i wana say how brave you are and excuse my french but those assholes in the hospital should be fired!!!!

    You brought tears to my eyes and I recently gave birth to a healthy babyboy i relate to you because for awhile i was considered high risk with a “small: baby he’s only in the 5% but I was tortured with rough doctors and cold nurses who made comments constantly my delivery was hell my water was broken by an angry doctor who called me irresponsible because instead of traveling 20miles to my regular hospital i went to the nearest one i felt like i was taken advantage of as my insides were practically bludgened i was made fun off by nearby nurses as the doctor angrily stated i needed an epidural finally only because iw anted to deliver unmedicated but the pain of being pumped pitocin and havin a rod pierce me had made me anything but ok

    to summarize you are a strong beautiful person and while sadly u have a loss in ur life u have gained the strength to live without blaming yourself and like u we all need support and love and as a woman my sister i love u!

  28. Jessica Says:
    April 3rd, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Hollye, that was beautifully written. I’m so sorry for your loss and I commend your strength and poise in writing this and honoring the child you lost. So many women have been in your shoes and someone needs to give them a voice. I can’t believe how coldly you were treated at the hospital, nobody deserves that, especially in a time of need.

  29. Christie Says:
    April 7th, 2011 at 6:39 am

    <3

  30. cara Says:
    April 9th, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Your story, your bravery and strength really showed in this story. I’m so sorry for your loss and wish you the very best.

  31. Shirley Says:
    April 18th, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I am sorry for your loss. Beautifully written. I held on to my mementos of my lost baby (pregnancy test, sheet from the Dr when I miscarried, the oh so tiny onsies and socks I had purchased). I kept them for 10 years in a little box. It was my “place” to mourn the loss of my baby. Only when I became pregnant with my now 2 year old son did I let go of the items, but definitely not the memories or the loss.
    Thank you for your story.

  32. Jessica Says:
    April 29th, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    I am sitting here crying having just read your beautifully written story. I am 44, 28 weeks pregnant with a healthy third baby, and, of course, I should be over the baby I lost a year and a half ago, my only miscarriage. I knew that, at 42, the risk of miscarriage was high. I didn’t even really think of the embryo I saw struggling at 6 weeks and that was gone by 8 weeks as a baby. I thought it would be easy to get over, yet I remain surprised by how grief endures. When I shared with some friends about my miscarriage, I was amazed at what a common experience it is, something so many of us share and yet don’t talk about. I am so sorry for your loss.

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