It was sixteen years ago today.
I was younger, of course, and pregnant with my third child. We were having a quiet weekend, building a new bookshelf for our home. I was just beginning the second trimester of pregnancy, and some of my energy was returning. My other two pregnancies had been healthy and normal, and I knew what to expect. Usually I feel really great during the middle part of pregnancy.
I did not expect to see blood. And I knew right away what that meant. I was having a miscarriage. A sonogram confirmed what I already knew: no heartbeat.
I chose to stay home for the miscarriage rather than go to the hospital. I did not want any unnecessary medical procedures. I trusted my body. I knew what to expect from the contractions because I’d had two children already. The midwife told me what danger signs to watch for.
The waiting part was the hardest, waiting to go into labor when I knew that the contractions would not lead to a birth. I just wanted to get it over with.
My mother took my two children home with her. Friends brought food – lasagna, salads, desserts – all the comfort foods they knew I liked best. My sisters and women friends kept calling on the telephone. Red-haired Sister, who lived out of town, sent flowers and gifts. The women in my life knew what to do to be supportive; the men, for the most part, did not. But they tried.
My father did not say anything to me when they came to get the kids. He can be strangely inarticulate. But he brought me my favorite painting, a scene up at camp he had painted, and gave it to me as a present. I still have that painting. It hangs in my living room. My brother drove from Camera City with his girlfriend, and gave me a pot of tulips that he said I could plant in the garden when spring came.
My husband kept himself busy doing tasks – cleaning the house, folding laundry, finishing the bookshelf. He did not know how to talk about his own feelings, or what was going on. I think he was very nervous about my refusal to be admitted to a hospital. He finds doctors and hospitals and medical tests very reassuring, and he does not understand my dislike of all things medical.
The contractions began at night. I sat on the couch with a book, trying to read through them. I did not want to use any of the breathing techniques I had used during my other labors because it made me feel sad. When I am giving birth, I welcome the contractions, knowing that the rhythmic movement is opening me up, getting me close to seeing the baby. But I did not welcome these contractions. I didn’t want them.
I remember sitting on the floor of my bathroom (chosen for the linoleum floor, which could be cleaned easily), breathing through contractions, feeling kind of dizzy, leaning against the bathtub for the coolness of the porcelain. My husband, who can be very supportive in other situations, faints at the sight of blood, so he had to leave the room. I talked to the midwife on the cordless telephone, and she reassured me that it would be over quickly.
And it was. I put the placenta in a plastic container to send to the lab, took a shower, and climbed into bed with my husband. I felt empty and bruised. In the morning I would call my friends and family, talk to them, allow myself to be comforted. But in the dark of the night, I grieved for the child I would not have.
It was sixteen years ago. I don't think of it much any more. Except once each year, on this day.