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…
~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.