I Thought I Was Going to Become a Mom This Month

Monday, August 17, 2020


I was at a work conference in Chicago when I began to suspect I was pregnant. The day I returned home, I verified it with literally six at-home pregnancy tests, all of which told the same story: baby on board – or embryo on board, at least.

I was ecstatic & panicked & in a total "now what?!" tailspin. I told Mike the week before Christmas, announcing it with a Harry Potter onesie ("Mischief Managed") & a handwritten snowflake ornament that read "Baby Kaput, Gryffindor, Coming August 2020." 

We knew it was too soon to tell people, according to societal norms, but we told a few loved ones anyway. We couldn't help ourselves; we were thrilled.

***

My doctor wanted me to come for an ultrasound at eight or nine weeks, but I'd booked a long weekend in Florida with my best friend, so instead, my first appointment was scheduled for the day after MLK Day, when I should've hit the 10-week mark. We had an evening appointment, 5:00 p.m., with a midwife we'd never met.

"Because you seem to be pretty far along," she said, "we're going to do an ultrasound today." The ultrasound machine was an old, clunky one, she told us, not the sleek, modern, transvaginal kind that gives a much better view. That one was used only by one of the other midwives, she said, but this should do for now, for finding the heartbeat.

But she didn't find a heartbeat. Everything looked blurry & fuzzy, as she'd told us it would – but it was also silent, which we knew wasn't supposed to be the case.

We could see it there, this tiny, hopeful eventual human we had created, sitting inside me, small & full of possibility, & before I had grasped what was going on, I cried quiet tears of joy at seeing it. We had made a baby. We were having a baby!

But we weren't, were we? The midwife was not straightforward with us: "I need you to come back in early tomorrow," she said, "to do a transvaginal ultrasound with the other midwife."

"What does this mean?" Mike asked her. "What are the different possibilities here?" He had to force the truth out of her; she didn't seem prepared or qualified to break the news to us, which was almost as traumatic as the news itself.

There were three possibilities, she eventually conceded: The first was a problem with the machinery, that the old ultrasound machine was having issues; the second was that I wasn't as far along as I thought I was, that maybe the embryo was too small to have a heartbeat yet; the third option was that there was no heartbeat because the embryo had stopped growing.

I knew it was the third option; I just knew. I started to weep, quietly, as Mike made an appointment to come in the next morning, for their the first appointment of the day.

Back home, sitting in the silence of my locked car, I called my boss & told her I needed to cancel my flight to New York, which was to take place the following afternoon. When I explained what had happened, she was beyond sympathetic, fully supportive. Somehow, hearing the empathy in her voice made it feel all the more real: I had had a miscarriage.

When we hung up, alone in my car, I howled with the pain of a loss I hadn't imagined would feel like so much of one. 

***

The rest doesn't feel like it matters right now – the two-hour shopping trip I took, wandering through a WalMart buying sweatpants & underwear & overnight pads & all the things I'd read that I might need to pass my pregnancy at home.

The two rounds of pills I took, the pills that didn't work. The spotting & bleeding that never came. The procedure I had to schedule with an OB I'd never met in a hospital I'd never been to. The way I cried before they put me under, the way I felt when I woke up, the way it didn't even freaking work. The second procedure, less than a week later.

The finality of not being pregnant anymore, the realization that no baby was coming, that I had gone from mom-to-be to mom-that-wouldn't-be. The baby registries I had to opt out of, the tracking alerts I had to turn off, the tiny shoes I packed away into a box, the planner pages I shredded so I didn't have to see the weekly milestones I'd already written in pen, complete with stickers.

The friends I told & the friends I couldn't, the way that some of them shared the news for me so I didn't have to. The people I needed but couldn't bear to reach out to. The things they sent, the cards & the care packages & the tiny succulent that threw me into a panic because what if I couldn't keep it alive, just like I hadn't been able to keep my baby alive? And the text the morning of my second procedure from a lovely, kind, well-intentioned friend who didn't know the details of what I was going through, who only knew that I was sad & who thought news of her pregnancy might buoy me; the sobs that followed. 

The way I cried, the way Mike cried, the way we tried to be there for each other without knowing how to be there for ourselves.

***
Right now, at least, there's nothing in particular that I want to say. This post isn't going anywhere. These are just words, memories, feelings; this is just a place to put them.

The start of the pandemic, which began just about a month after my miscarriage, impacted the way I was able to think, to feel, to heal. When my friend Shoshana died of coronavirus at the end of March, my grief for a life that never came into being was swallowed whole, co-mingled with grief for a full & vibrant life cut short. But it came back this month with a vengeance, a new round of grief all its own, as I watch the calendar & try not to countdown the days to the one I'd circled in my planner – the page I shredded with the most force, the most anger, the most sadness. 

My due date was August 19, but I will not become a mother this week. Not this month. Not this year. Maybe not ever, who can say? The pandemic has put so many plans on hold, including ours, but I'm not getting any younger, any more fertile. For 10 weeks, I was somebody's mother, the mother of hopes & dreams & plans for the future. But bones sometimes break; appendixes sometimes burst; tumors sometimes grow; & embryos sometimes do not become the babies we’d already grown to love. Maybe we don't get a chance to try again.

We move forward because we have to. We find new ways of being. We learn who we are & what we want & whether we will be OK without it.

We will be. But it hurts like hell in the meantime. 

4 comments:

Jaclyn Musselman said...

I am so sorry Kate. Unless you have experienced a loss of a baby, it is hard to put into words the pain that you feel. Thank you for sharing your story.

Alice said...

Oh Kate. I'm so sorry. There is nothing that anyone can say that will truly help. I lost my first pregnancy at 10 weeks as well. It's not fair and it just really, really sucks.

(NOT ADVICE, just "hey this is a thing I did and it's not for everyone"): Several months after my miscarriage when I wasn't getting pregnant again (and after trying for quite some time before pregnancy #1) I went and got All The Tests, just to see if there was something making things more challenging. There wasn't - I mean, they didn't find anything obvious - but I ended up doing IVF at that point just because Hey, You're Not 20 and Would You Like Science To Help? So you know, not that it's for you or that you want to, or that you need to consider it or ANYTHING, just I had been sort of under the assumption that "if you can get pregnant" it meant you didn't need to explore other options because the hard part was GETTING pregnant right? ANYWAY. Maybe not helpful to hear at all, but if you do ever want to chat about Various (And All Valid) Paths to Pregnancy, I'm here ;-)

Amanda @ Our Capital Life said...

Sending love, friend

Another Day said...

Kate, I'm so sorry to read this. I love your blog (am subscribed on Feedly) but don't follow Instagram so I didn't hear this news until now. Losing a pregnancy is really hard. Having it happen during Covid times must compound the confusing and disorienting and disappointing nature of the experience. From what I could tell from your blog, you would have been an amazing mother and I really hope you get the chance to become one before too long. Sending you a big virtual hug.

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