Gathering Memories While Waiting for the Miscarriage to Begin

This post is not what I thought it would be when I began writing it.  I started out with the intention of summarizing all of the research data I’ve gathered since Thursday when I found out this pregnancy was not viable and I was to wait for a natural miscarriage to begin.  It was meant to be helpful to other women who have not only suffered recurrent pregnancy loss – including recurrent secondary pregancy loss (losses after having a live birth) – but women who continue on that trajectory even after opting to use oocytes (eggs) from a proven donor.  This is not that post.

Instead, this post is written from my heart, my memories and a pool of grief I’ve been drawing on for as long as I can remember (a pool I wish would start waning instead of swelling).  This will be a long post and filled with sad facts that have been ruminating inside me for some time.  Feel free to disengage, skip it or come back later if you wish.  I wrote this for me, for the spirit baby I was once so certain was going to come home to us, for my mother and her family and for the one living child I have successfully birthed.  I will not be offended if you need or choose to tune out.

Since finding out on Thursday (May 29th) that our first donor egg pregnancy was not viable, I have been waiting for the natural miscarriage to begin.  One never hopes for these things but in the past when I knew a pregnancy was not going to succeed, I just wanted it all to be over.  The waiting for that to happen – so we could move on to another attempt at having a first or, later, a second child – was agonizing and a painful daily reminder of yet another failure.

Somehow, this time was different.  I have been hoping that my body would recognize the loss of this baby on her own, without further medical intervention.  But I don’t really want this pregnancy to be over, either, because the ending means so much more than the past endings – when, each time, I felt underneath all of the grief a certainty that I was meant to try one more time.  I was certain that baby was just around the next corner.  I no longer know if that is true.

I do know that I don’t want a third surgery and I am even more reluctant to undergo a second treatment with misoprostyl (cytotec) to end pregnancy number 9.  Even those words – pregnancy number 9 – rip a new hole or pour salt into the existing holes in my heart every time I think, hear, feel them.  And so, as the miscarriage is finally beginning, I can breathe a sigh of grieving relief.  My body has found her way to bring this to a natural end after all.

Out of my 9 pregnancies, we have been blessed with one living, amazing, change-my-life-forever child.  I should be grateful, I’m told.  But I don’t need to be told.  And when I am, I find it deeply offensive.  When someone responds to my suffering by saying something stupid, insensitive and offensive like this, it takes all I have not to lash out and rip them a new one or die a little more inside.

The truth is, I am unspeakably grateful for the one living child I have the privilege of raising.  My heart bursts with love and exploded in my chest this morning when I awoke (from one of my worst sleeps ever despite the melatonin I took so I could maybe have a good one for the first time in a week) to a nightmare of our child’s weekday caregiver opening a tearful telephone call to me with “Listen, I am so sorry…”  I have had two of those phone calls before, both leading to emergency medical attention, both thankfully ending with our Miracle Toddler being given an all-clear and me thanking God and the Guardian Angel who saved me from my worst nightmare.

That leads me to a recurring thought I have had over the past few days.  Far worse than losing the 8 babies my body has expelled (or had to have removed because my body insisted she was still pregnant despite our babies’ deaths) would be for us to lose the Miracle Toddler.  I am not dramatizing when I acknowledge that I could not go on if that happened. In my heart, I know I would be done.  There would be no point for me in carrying on.

This is a difficult thing for me to say, knowing that this is exactly what happened to my own mother.  She lost her first-born child at the age of 8.  He drowned in a tragic accident and it took some time for police to find his body after the friend he was with denied having seen anything, denied the boys had even been together (despite clear evidence to the contrary).  It’s a long story, one I heard when I interviewed my mother for a university course I took almost two decades ago.  I knew her son had drowned – I did not know the painful additional details until I was an adult myself.

Nor did I know about the terrible depression that ensued – the first time my Mom was medicated for depression.  The second was after she was cut down to one-tenth of the woman she was by a joint diagnosis of stage four cancer and congestive heart failure (suspected to have been brought on by the failure into which her body entered when the cancer had gone undiagnosed and untreated for as long as it had).  There was another time when my mother should probably have been treated for depression – if not with medication then at least with therapy but preferably both – and that was when my “uncle” died.

Although not really our biological uncle, that man was the man my brother and I grew up relating to as a father.  Until he died when I was 9, my brother 10.  I watched him dying.  I mopped his forehead as his enlarged heart struggled to keep him alive a few more days.  I did not fully understand death then, though it had been a presence in my life from a very early age and I had suffered tremendously over animals who had died before that time.  But I understood when he was gone that he would never come back.  And over the years that followed, I came to realize that part of my mother died with him and the history they shared.

That man had been the father of the boy who drowned.  And the daughter that was stillborn (because the doctors ignored my mother’s desperate pleas when she knew something was going wrong as the little girl’s umbilical cord had tangled around her neck).  Both parents of these lost children became clinically depressed.  How could one not?  And then they divorced.  How could they not?  But they could not sever their lives.  And so they emigrated to the country in which I live now, divorced but friends until death separated them anew.

I never tell this story.  My brother did not know the story until after our mother died.  I did not know he did not know.  He lived with and then near our parents for almost a decade after I left home (young – because I have often leapt before looking and because if I was going to survive at all I had to escape a family history of sexual abuse and the myriad harms it left in its wake).  I assumed he knew everything Mom told me in that interview.  And I suppose there was a part of me – not conscious, but present, I suspect, knowing me as I now do – that assumed that if she did not tell him, it was not my story to tell so long as she remained alive.  In fact, had I realized she had not told my brother, I likely never would have done so.

When I did, he was furious.  Furious that no one told him, furious that we were deceived as children into accepting this man as our uncle when he was so much more than that to our mother and to our two half-siblings we never got to meet.  I was stunned by his anger.  I do not judge that reaction, it was just baffling to me at the time.  I can rationalize it now, as I did then, but I cannot relate.

I had felt none of that when my mother had shared those stories with me.  My heart had broken – repeatedly – and the compassion I felt for my mother grew with each passing year and my own maturation.  And it leaps to the forefront of my mind now, as I contemplate our lost babies and the one living child we have.

What also leaps to mind are thoughts of my Mom’s first son. I have always felt connected to him in a way I cannot explain.  I carried photos of that little boy with me.  I still have those photos. In recent weeks and particularly while I was pregnant with this lost little baby I have felt him and my Mom near me.  I had a startling thought that led me to wonder if the spirit of that little boy who died too soon could be Azulito (the spirit baby with whom I’ve been “communicating” since last year), returning home to the LP and I after he left my mother and my “uncle”.

And now, as I gratefully embrace the one living child that the LP and I are so blessed to have, I think about whether this is the only living child I will ever raise.  I wonder if I have been mistaken in believing Azulito is destined to be a part of our family in this lifetime or if perhaps that fate has changed.  And I think about what is next for us.  Frankly, I do not know.  What I do know is that when the Miracle Toddler finds me crying and asks me “what happened?” and “why” when I say “Mommy is sad”, I am introducing death into the life of my one living child, just as my mother did with me.

I will not lie to the Miracle Toddler about why I am sad.  And it breaks my heart afresh when echoed back are my own explanation for my tears:  “Baby died.”  The toddler even knows what to say in response – “I sorry, Mommy.”  “Me, too” is my recurring response.  So am I.  Deeply sorry.

I wish it were otherwise.  And I wonder about at what point I put an end to the legacy of death and grief that has plagued my family – my mother’s family – before it plagues my own child’s future.  I do not want him to remember his mother as the woman who cried herself to sleep regularly or awoke, night after night, unable to sleep.  At some point, there has to be an end to all of this so I can go back to living and showing my child the mother I want to be.

I do not know when that point will be, but I can feel it circling.  It is drawing close.  And whether it ends with a healthy pregnancy or more loss(es) is not for me to decide.  That much is clearly out of my control.  For although I am becoming resigned to the reality that I may never carry another pregnancy to term and may never birth another living child, I am still not ready to give up while we have two frozen embryos with which to try one or two last times.  If those babies die inside my womb, too, then my journey will be over.  And if one of them survives… well, I cannot go there.  It hurts just thinking about that today.

Eitehr way, perhaps then I can offer our living child, in time, a whole-hearted mother again.  In the meantime, I will keep trying to do the best I can.


12 thoughts on “Gathering Memories While Waiting for the Miscarriage to Begin

  1. What a sad family story, told in the most beautiful way.

    In my own way, I can relate to a lot of the feelings about not knowing what is next. I cannot imagine we will stay on the recurrent pregnancy path as long as you have (we have currently lost 4), but yet, there are days when I think we will do this for as long as it takes. The indecision is hard, but I find it hardest when I am actually waiting for/going through a miscarriage.
    I too can also relate to wanting nothing more then to have the miscarriage over, and I also have a body that refuses to miscarriage in a normal way. This is always the hardest time for me, and I wish you all the best through this unbelievably hard time.

  2. Each day we are faced with these decisions. Decisions that we should not have to be. I often wonder why we have been chosen to be the ones to face these things. Not that I want my neighbour, or my friend or a co-worker. But.. Why in the end is it me? Why is it you? I guess we must continue on and perhaps one day before our time is done we will have the answers that we need. Please know that we are thinking of you and know that my heart aches for all that you are having to face. You and your family. Never doubt that you are a wonderful mother. The fact that you have these thoughts, worries and love is what proves it so. Your child knows and will always know that your love is unending.

    • Thank you for your very kind words. I am a loving mother and I know our little one knows that but I’m mindful of how empathic he is and that every time I go through this, so does he in some sense. That’s a whole other layer of grief.

      I feel guilty even saying that to you – you don’t even get to hold Carter and tell him what is making you sad. And that breaks my heart every time I think about it and always will. I’m so sorry, Jo.

      My mother’s lost children shaped my upbringing – it’s inevitable, and not a bad thing per se, but it does impact parenting. How could it not?

  3. Wow, heartbreaking. I feel so sad reading this. I am hoping you find your way through this as smoothly as is possible in these circumstances. I understand the worry of not feeling whole for the child you do have and how you feel when people tell you to be grateful for what you have. Pain on top of already unbearable pain. Sending hugs and healing x

    • Thank you for the hugs, healing and understanding. I am sorry you know secondary infertility intimately, too. There is some interesting research around it I may yet write about. But today my ancestors and my heart needed voice.

  4. Oh hon, my heart just aches for you and all the pain you and your family has endured. It is beyond unreal and unfair. Of course you know how blessed you are to have your miracle child. You know this more any anyone, and I agree that it is incredibly offensive that anyone should tell you that you should just count yourself lucky. There’s nothing lucky about 8 losses in 9 pregnancies. Nothing. I’m just furious that anyone would say that to you. Of course you appreciate every single moment you have with your miracle child and I pray you have many, many more precious moments. The fact is though, your joy over your one surviving child, can never take away or even lessen the pain of all your losses. And don’t be hard on yourself for needing to grieve right now. I am certain you are an amazing mother, and though your child sees you grieving, your child also sees your love. The love you have for your mother and siblings in Heaven, and for all your precious angels is beautiful and your child sees that.

    I am praying so hard for your two frozen embies and still have so much faith that at least one will make it. I hope your phone appt with the Dr. gives you some answers. Thinking about you so much and sending you light and warm hugs.

    • I’m so glad I just read this comment as I’m about to leave to go join the LP for our call with the Dr. and your warmth and support was just what I needed. Thank you so much.

      You’d be surprised how many people say “be thankful” or words to that effect when you’ve moved from primary infertility to secondary. Even people who were there and knew our struggles and losses that preceded our living child! I think people sometimes don’t know how to cope with loss and grief and the fear it will never work again so they speak when the best thing to do might be saying nothing, just offering a hug or a cup of tea or a warm meal. People have trouble staying present in the face of suffering and blather as way to avoid looking it in the face. I’m sure I’ve done that at times, despite best intentions. I bet we all have.

      As for our embies… I’m scared to use them. I’m scared of killing them. I’m scared this is all pointing to my uterus being toxic. We’ll see what the RE has to say and how willing he is to try out alternatives in hopes one might work. The LP does NOT want to risk twins or the high-risk pregnancy that would accompany a twin pregnancy (esp. for me with a history of cholestasis with a singleton pregnancy) so if we try again, it will be one at a time. I am just so scared… I’m sure you know that feeling well!

      Thinking of you this week and hoping for good news at each of your appointments as well.

      • I’m so happy my comment helped hon. I completely understand your fear hon and don’t blame you at all. Praying the Dr. had some answers and offered you a solid plan that eased some of your fears today. Big hug sweetie.

  5. This story is both heartbreaking and lovely. I can imagine your mom and “uncle”. I also understand your fears. I also have a miracle toddler. We have had one baby stillborn at 20w, one confirmed miscarriage, and several suspected. I also hate the “be grateful” line. My losses make me even more aware of how lucky I am to have one living child. And it means I know exactly what I am missing with every child I have lost. And that I’m terrified of losing him too. I don’t know what I would do.

    I also found the part about “introducing death” interesting. We have definitely been through that too.

    • I am so sorry for your losses. Thank you for sharing here.

      You have nailed it exactly – until we had a living child I thought it was the worst pain to lose a baby during pregnancy. Now I know so intimately what we are losing every time my body rejects another pregnancy, it is soul crushing. I am afraid every day of losing our child, too. I’m so sorry you also suffer from that worry. We are forever changed by these experiences. There really are no words to make sense of it all.

      I am very grateful for your comment and the connection – thank you.

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