In March of 2018, I had a miscarriage. This is that story.
Before I tell that story, it is important to first set the stage of what my life looked like prior to getting pregnant. I had been living in a place of bitterness, resentment, and sadness stemming from my sexual assault and overall less-than-ideal college experience years prior. I was in a pattern of entering and exiting dead-end jobs and dead-end relationships. I had lost many friends as a result of abusing Adderall and other stimulants. Days were dark, and though I had always kept a strong sense of hope for my future, I had reached a point where I really had no idea where my life was headed. One day, I sat outside at work, began to cry, and said out loud to God, to the Universe, to myself, “I just want the chance to start over.” I was lost.
After a week or so of getting inexplicably car sick, I took a pregnancy test. I was pregnant, and I was terrified. I was struggling to care for myself let alone having to care for another human, especially a tiny defenseless and helpless baby human. I sat with the reality for a couple days and decided to call to schedule a medical abortion. I figured this way I could take the pills discreetly and pretend I had suffered a miscarriage. Only a few people at this point knew about my pregnancy, but after the initial shock subsided, they were excited, and I couldn’t bear to tell them that I was choosing to end it. In the days leading up to my appointment, I had continued to think about my life and my future and what that may look like with this baby. I was an unplanned pregnancy myself, my family loves me, and I knew this baby would be surrounded by the same love and support that I have. The day of my appointment, I called and canceled. Despite how scared I was, I knew that I would be able to pull myself together and raise this baby.
My pregnancy from that moment on was a rollercoaster of emotions. I am not here to pretend that it was pure joy and excitement, where I was counting down the days until the bundle of joy arrived. I learned that the textbook response to announcing an unplanned pregnancy is shock and a little bit of horror, followed by excitement. So yes, I was happy and excited, I was happy and excited that my loved ones were happy and excited, but there were parts of me that were still scared and sad and questioning everything. This simply isn’t how I had pictured my first pregnancy. In fact, nothing in my life up to this point was how I had pictured it. It seemed my entire adult life had been a dark comedy about a girl making plans for her future, and those plans going to hell in a variety of ways.
On the days not spent in hormone-amplified existential crises, I would be doing what any other mom-to-be was doing: browsing Pinterest for nursery ideas, listening to pregnancy podcasts, adding and deleting names from my name list, checking in on an app that tells you what fruit or vegetable your baby is this week, etc. Before I learned that I was having a boy, I named him Little Peanut Baby. After I learned I was having a boy, I still called him Little Peanut Baby, but decided to also give him an official and more socially-acceptable name: Emmett. I bought Emmett a Pink Floyd onesie, filled a registry with everything he’d need other than a Pink Floyd onesie, planned his elephant-and-peanut themed baby shower, and ordered all of the furniture for his nursery.
On March 27, 2018, I woke up and got ready for my 20-week ultrasound appointment. For those who don’t know, the 20-week ultrasound is known as the “anatomy scan” and has the reputation of being the “fun” ultrasound. You’re well into your second trimester, your chance of miscarriage has dropped significantly, and it’s time to count the “10 fingers and 10 toes.” The sonographer takes all sorts of measurements as you watch your baby do its baby thing on the screen. All of my ultrasounds and prenatal appointments had been normal and healthy up to this point, so I expected nothing less this time around. I arrived at my appointment, got on the table, and the sonographer applied the ice-cold ultrasound gel to my belly. The ultrasound started and I looked up at the screen as she quickly sequenced through a couple of different views. This was lightning quick, but I remember sort of seeing it all in slow motion. The images I was seeing were stagnant. I saw one screen of a flatline before it quickly changed to something else. She took a quick measurement of something and then quietly stated, “At this point, I’m going to call the doctor in, because I am not detecting a heartbeat.” That bodily implosion sensation when you hear bad news came over me, and my eyes welled with tears. I looked up at the screen and saw the frozen image of his little lifeless body—peaceful, but alone. I couldn’t help but look at him and feel that I had failed him.
It had been determined that he had stopped developing around 15 weeks, just shortly after my previous ultrasound where nothing abnormal was detected. My doctor, who was an amazing pillar of support, explained that I had two options: I could go to the hospital now, where labor would be induced and I would give birth to my dead son, or I could set up an appointment for a dilation and curettage under anesthesia. My mind couldn’t even begin to imagine the first scenario, and it still hurts to even write those words, so I chose the D&C procedure. The catch, though, was that the closest hospital where this was performed was an hour away, and it would have to be scheduled. So I went home in the meantime. I spent the rest of the day crying, sleeping, and in a daze from crying and sleeping. I clutched Emmet’s stuffed elephant as I lay in bed thinking how strange it was that I was still pregnant, but with a baby who was no longer alive.
Later that afternoon, I experienced a few cramps. Worried and not knowing what any of this was supposed to feel like or how much time I had, I decided to go to the emergency room. If the birthing process had started, it would be considered an emergency, and I would be taken to the other hospital in an ambulance for the D&C procedure. On my way to the hospital, the cramping subsided. Doesn’t this always seem to happen with ailments? Something hurts, and when your appointment rolls around, it suddenly disappears? What is that? Regardless, I arrived at the hospital where the emergency department doctor was briefed on the situation by my OBGYN. The ER doctor told me he was going to administer morphine for my pain. I was in no physical pain, and I happily accepted the offer. It was maybe the one good thing that happened to me that day, Okay? Let me have it.
Some time passed at the hospital and my doctor came in my room and explained that, because I wasn’t bleeding or showing any signs of being considered an emergency case, I wouldn’t be able to be transported to the other hospital. So I once again had to make the decision to either go upstairs to the birthing suite to be induced or to go home. After talking it through with my doctor and my mother, who was my rock through this entire experience, I decided to be induced for labor. I was terrified by the thought of this, but was even more scared to go home and possibly have to go through it anyway without being in the care of medical professionals. The decision had been made, a nurse gave me my first round of pills, and I waited to be taken upstairs.
After a few minutes, a young man entered my room and said, “Hello. My name is Emmett. I’m here to transport you upstairs. Can you confirm your name and date of birth?” Yeah. You read it correctly. Poor Emmett probably still has no idea what he said to elicit the response he got from me. This was one of those times in life that are beyond coincidence and leave you in utter disbelief. After sobbing for what probably seemed like an eternity for poor Emmett, but was likely 30 seconds or so, I regained my composure enough to state my name and date of birth and we were on our way upstairs. As I was being wheeled through the halls, I was making eye contact with people and wondering what they thought when they looked at me. I was sad and broken and scared and wondered if they knew.
The labor and delivery nurse on duty introduced herself, administered an IV, and took my temperature. “What was your temperature when you first got here?” she asked. It was at this point that I realized they didn’t take my temperature. I told her this and she said, “Hm. Well it’s 102 degrees.” The irony here is that if someone had taken my temperature upon arrival, I likely would have been arriving at the other hospital by now to undergo my D&C. But alas, here I was in my birthing suite, and IV antibiotics were started.
I was in labor for just under 24 hours. I can’t bring you through my experience sequentially because the experience has a staccato-like memory in my brain. I remember receiving drugs and being able to sleep. I remember wanting more so that I could sleep and being told that I have to wait another hour. I remember pain. There is one memory that visually lives so sharply in my brain but is so foggy at the same time. I got up to use the bathroom and on my way I bled all over the floor. I was in a daze and I froze, just watching my blood drip to the floor as I made noises for help— nonverbal noises somewhere between whining and yelling. I believe that was the last time I got up, because an epidural was administered shortly after. I remember feeling the epidural entering my spine and it being positioned just the slightest bit more to the left side. I remember being polite and always saying thank you to my nurses. I remember being positioned on my back and my blood pressure monitor making awful beeping noises because my systolic blood pressure was in the ‘80s. I remember one nurse being very annoyed that other nurses were letting this go and being told I wasn’t allowed to recline all the way on my back anymore. I listened.
I remember Judith, the angel who was my nurse and provided everything I needed on a soul-level, beyond medical attention. I remember the moment Emmett was born. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was different and just sort of “happened”. Because he was so small, in combination with the epidural, my body had just done what it needed to do without any conscious effort from me. I remember being relieved about that. I remember the next moment was an intense procedure where the OBGYN had to take everything else out. I didn’t really feel pain, but I still felt the sensation of tissue being torn from my uterus.
And I remember Judith placing Emmett, wrapped in a blanket, in my arms. We had discussed this prior to this moment. I told her that I was not sure if I wanted to see him, but Judith knew better. I am grateful that I saw him.
When everything was all over, I remember looking out of the window at the blue sky and recounting my life. Things that used to hurt to remember didn’t anymore. When I was pregnant, I had gotten a new job, a new apartment, and a new sense of self and self-worth. I thought about Emmett’s tiny little being and was overwhelmed thinking about everything he had given me. Sometimes everything must burn to the ground in order to start anew. I whole-heartedly believe that Emmett’s purpose was to give me the rebirth that I so desperately needed. I write this today with what seems like an entirely new life, even though it is my past and my experience that got me here. I am regularly astounded and grateful for my life today, the path that I am on, and I owe it to Emmett, Little Peanut Baby.