By Jill Goldberg
When I finally felt well enough to venture outside, after many months of self-induced seclusion, I took a short walk to the drugstore around the corner. I was hoping I wouldn’t see anyone, but Carla was there. I didn’t know her very well. She was older than me, with grown children close to my age. She knew I had been ill for a long time, and when she saw me she put her arm around my shoulders in a way that should have been comforting. Carla then pulled me aside and asked with great condescension, “So really, what was the big deal? I mean, a miscarriage is just a miscarriage.” Suddenly it was hard to breathe. I felt as though I’d been hit. I reached out for the wall to steady myself and mumbled to her that there were complications. Then I walked home and cried. I didn’t go out in public again for several more weeks.
My first miscarriage nearly killed me. I bled for weeks, not realizing how dangerous that was and how much blood I was really losing. My doctor kept telling me that some women bleed for a while after miscarrying, and I didn’t understand that she meant light spotting, not passing large clots that looked like small placentas and soaked the sheets every night. I had planned to have an intervention-free birth, and now I wanted an intervention-free miscarriage. My doctor honored my wishes and trusted me. She didn’t have me come in to see her, we only spoke on the phone. Then finally, nearly a month after it began, I fainted in the shower. I’d lost too much blood from weeks and weeks of continuous heavy bleeding. I remember being so cold in the shower, so, so cold, and I was dizzy, and crying, and confused. I reached back to turn the water hotter, though I knew it was already so hot that I should have felt it burning me.
Then time stopped. There was nothing for a while.
Slowly I began to feel that that I was in a big bed, an incredibly soft, wonderful bed with many warm, white, fluffy blankets and the most comfortable pillow I had ever experienced. It was perfect. I was so warm, so happy, so relaxed, and I wasn’t in pain. I felt cradled, comforted, and cherished. It was better than a dream, I was floating and weightless, yet it was also so real, I could feel it physically and emotionally. For the first time in nearly a month, I wasn’t in any pain, I felt pure joy, complete peace, and love.
“She’s on the floor in the shower and she’s not breathing.” I heard my husband on the phone with 911. Suddenly I wasn’t in a soft, wonderful bed, I was on the cold, hard shower floor where I had fallen and hit my head after I fainted. I didn’t want to be there, I wanted to go back to where I’d been. I knew I was dying. At the hospital, I kept moving in and out of consciousness. The bleeding was not stopping. I pulled my husband close to me after the nurse used smelling salts to rouse me after yet another episode of fainting, and I told him that I knew in the way that only someone dying could know, that I was leaving this earth. I began to tell him things he needed to do to raise our boys alone after I was gone. “Tell them all the time that you love them. Make sure they know that they should be each other’s best friend, they should tell each other how much they love each other. Tell them about me and how much I love them.” My husband pulled a doctor into the hallway and told her that I believed I was dying. The doctor said that she would do everything she could to try to prevent that from happening, that I wasn’t the worst she’d ever seen.
But every time I lost consciousness I was back in that peaceful place of joy and comfort, where there was no more pain. I didn’t believe there was anything that anyone could do to save my life.
It was fairly quickly decided, after watching my blood pressure drop precipitously low, that it was time for the intervention that should have taken place weeks earlier. I was rushed in for a D&C. When I awoke after the surgery and many blood transfusions, the pain was gone. I was still here on this earth in this plane of existence, but free from physical pain. It took me a while to comprehend and name what I was experiencing. I couldn’t remember living without pain.
The doctor told me the next day that when they had me in the operating room, unconscious and ready for surgery, she discovered I was fully dilated and probably had been that way for weeks. My D&C wasn’t actually a dilation and curettage, it was only curettage. She described being fully dilated for such a long period of time as “exquisite pain” and she could not believe that I’d been walking around living my life in that state. With awe in her eyes, she looked at me directly and said, “You are one tough woman.”
I didn’t feel tough, I felt small and weak and alone. I’d lost so much. I’d lost a pregnancy, which meant I lost a child. I wanted that baby, I’d known that life, that soul, inside of me. My body had already begun changing. I’d had dreams, I’d pictured our next family picture with three children. I had already been thinking of names, and I was looking forward to so many of the little happy things that come with having a baby. I lost my health for a very, very long time. After the surgery I was severely anemic for many more months with no energy, no strength at all. I lost my job because I could not work. I lost my ability to care for the two children I already had. My arms were empty, and my heart felt like it had been ripped apart and would never stop bleeding.
I withdrew and secluded myself while I mourned and my body slowly tried to heal. My friend Amy came by one day early on with some food and just started talking to me. She’d been through multiple miscarriages and she told me that if I ever wanted to talk she would be there to listen. Then, she didn’t wait for me to respond, she began telling me about her first miscarriage and how it was so devastating, and how she could recall all the details vividly even though it happened many years ago. I don’t think that I responded, and I doubt if I thanked her. But her words, and her decision to just tell me, mattered. I knew she understood at least some part of what I was going through. By telling me her story, she offered me some of her strength. She offered me a branch, and though I took only a twig, it was much more than what I had.
My miscarriage was not “just a miscarriage.” I am still incensed by those words and what they imply. When, in fact, is a miscarriage ever “just a miscarriage?” Even without a life-threatening situation like mine, what does that actually mean? Does it mean that because a miscarriage is common it doesn’t mean anything? We’re supposed to just shrug our shoulders and move on? Toss away the excitement, the dreams, the love for a growing life just as simply as we would discard a piece of burnt toast? How does one do that? I needed to grieve, to mourn, to feel the pain and the anger, and gradually, softly, gently embrace the loss that had so violently torn me within.
That first miscarriage was thirteen years ago. I lost another pregnancy a year after that first one. Thankfully, there were no complications with the second one, it didn’t derail my life. I didn’t even miss more than a day or two of work after the second miscarriage. But still, it wasn’t “just a miscarriage.” It was another lost baby. Another dream that was gone. Another child I would never get to kiss and hold and love. Thirteen years ago and yet still, there are times, when I learn of another woman’s miscarriage, or even when a fictional character experiences pregnancy loss, I am there, too. I am right there with that woman, experiencing her pain and my pain, alone and together.
I did get pregnant again, and I did, years later, have a third child. I am the eternally grateful mother of three amazing, incredible living children, but I have been pregnant five times. Five souls have lived within me. Those two lost babies are still mine, forever and always. They will never be forgotten, never discarded, never just tossed away. My body, my heart, and my soul will always remember.
Jill Goldberg is an English teacher for elementary students in upstate New York, where she lives with my husband and three sons. This is hertwenty-fourth year of teaching. Jill’s work has appeared in The Manifest-Station.net, Kveller.com, Natural Jewish Parenting, Parenting from the Heart, and Breastfeeding.com. She holds an Ed.M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education, in addition to a B.A. in Psychology and a B.A. in Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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