Miscarriage and the postpartum period…
Editors Note: What happens when the baby needs to be aborted because it is no longer a healthy baby. Thousands of mothers all over the world make the often difficult decision to have an abortion, for some it is because the baby has died in the womb, for others it can be because the baby has Down’s Syndrome, or because the baby will die shortly after birth. This can be incredibly difficult and challenging.
It is a complicated grieving process, where the parent grieves the loss of the baby, and the mother grieves of the loss of the baby she was carrying. The hormones do a signature wave that can feel like the baby blues but worse.
This is a beautiful autobiographical memory by the writer and lactation consultant Leigh. Her baby died in the middle of the second trimester and she needed to have the body aborted.
The sound was primal, loud, a wailing really.
At first I didn’t know it was coming from me. I lay on the table in the darkened room at St Vincent’s Hospital, the glow of the sonogram machine casting a silvery blue haze on us – the technician, my four-year-old and me. Moments before I had commented how cute my baby’s feet looked – I had not noticed that they were lifeless.
Rob showed up moments later. We had wanted for this baby. We were well into the second trimester. I was showing. Everyone knew I was pregnant. Since I had come from the Birthing Center I had to meet their back-up ob-gyn, Dr. Mattheson. Everyone said he was nice. He was polite. In his office I sat in the exam room in a strange chair.
This was not your typical miscarriage. The baby had died inside of me and would have to be taken out to avoid infection or mummification.
We needed to schedule a D & C but a hurricane was heading up the coast so we would have to wait until next week.
The next day as I made my way home from dropping off my daughter at her nursery school I ran into Bonnie, one of my mom friends. “How are you?” she smiled at me staring at my belly – the reaction I had been getting regularly on the playground in the last few weeks. Tears filled my eyes “I’m not pregnant anymore” I told her. Together, Bonnie and I cried.
For a week I went about my life with a dead baby inside me. The day before the D & C I had an appointment to preregister and draw blood at the hospital. On my way I stopped at Ann Taylor and bought myself a pink cashmere sweater – a consolation prize. At the hospital a physician’s assistant, wearing white scrubs with a closely shaved head named Romeo interviewed me.
“Are you pregnant?” he asked me.
“Do you know why I am here?” I asked.
“It is a standard question, I have to ask.”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Well, I have to write something.”
With tears rolling down my cheeks I said “ I don’t know, maybe you can write down that I am pregnant with a dead baby.”
Romeo looked at me pitifully.
Then it was time for a nurse to draw blood. “Are you pregnant?” She asked me.
“ Do you know why I am here?” I asked her.
“Yes, I am sorry, it is a standard question we have to ask,” she replied.
“I am pregnant with a dead baby,” I answered flatly.
I have good veins. Drawing blood had never been a problem until that moment. This nurse could not get my vein.When I left St Vincent’s that afternoon, humiliated and bruised, any guilt I had for spending $100 dollars on a pullover was erased.
The next morning Rob took me to St Vincent’s. I felt strange, sad and afraid. There was a large room with about 10 partitioned areas for patients waiting for various procedures. In these stations we put on gowns and paper shower caps. We were interviewed.
“Are you pregnant?”
“I won’t be when I leave here today.” The interviewer looked baffled.
When I awoke from the anesthesia I felt nauseas. A nice blonde nurse gave me ant-nausea medication. She was sweet and sensitive to my situation – she had a 9-month-old at home. She brought Rob in to see me and let him stay longer than allowed.
Dr. Matheson came and talked to us. He told us all had gone well. I asked if I would get milk in my breasts. He waved his hand and said “no.”
The days that followed were filled with tears and a big fog.
Phoebe would just know to come and hug me and cuddle with me. It took a long time for this baby to come. Many of my friends had already had another baby and some were pregnant with a third.
A few days after the D & C I stood in the shower and my breasts felt tender, fuller and I touched them and milk streamed down my body, down the drain. I cried because I had milk for a baby who was not there. I passed blood clots for days and I developed a raging yeast infection.
And then came all of the stories of all of the miscarriages that I had never heard.
It was as if I joined a silent club. I felt sad for these women who kept this grief to themselves. Early in this pregnancy I had joyfully called out to one of my neighbors:
“Guess what? I am pregnant!” She hugged me.
“How far along are you?” she asked.
“Eight weeks,” I chirped.
A darkness grew over her face.
“Aren’t you afraid to tell anyone so early? What if something happens?”
“If anything happens then I will have a support system,” I foreshadowed.
Sixteen months later Chloe was born – at St. Vincent’s.
And two and half years later I was once again pregnant. This time I was going to have a home birth.
One July afternoon I lay on my couch, Phoebe and Chloe sat on it’s back up against the wall to have a good view as Cara listened for the heartbeat. Her stethoscope crisscrossed my 17 week swollen belly. She moved it around. She pressed on my belly. “You are measuring about 15 weeks,” a serious expression on her face.
Cara called St Vincent’s to alert them that I would be in for a sonogram. I could not find anyone to watch the girls so the three of us boarded the M14 and headed west on 14thStreet to Seventh Avenue. Rob was enroute.
Dr. Margono, not a technician, drew the sonogram wand across my belly to confirm what I already knew. I heard the wailing again – I knew right away it was coming from inside me.
“I want this taken care of as soon as possible.” I declared.
Margono brought me in to see a jolly Eastern European doctor who was fond of Cara.
“Ve can do zis tomorrow,” said Milosevich.
Dr. Margono drew my blood, there was no pre-op interview. Nobody asked me if I was pregnant. The next morning at St Vincent’s a tall elegant anesthesiologist kept her arm around me as we walked the long halls to the operating room. She gave me a dark liquid to drink so I would not feel nauseas.
I didn’t have to worry about milk in my breasts – Chloe was my nursing toddler at the time.
Miscarriage is hard. I am happy that the people around me knew I was pregnant and allowed me to mourn openly. It makes me sad that women keep the sadness of loss and the joy of early pregnancy to themselves. Every pregnancy is the possibility of a new life. There is a real person there for whom we can have hopes and dreams.
I carry the memories of those pregnancies, those babies, those losses with me as I carry the memories of my children who are here with me.
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