My sweet boy. You were my beacon of hope in the midst of a broken marriage. You symbolized a fresh start, a real commitment. You symbolized unconditional love. I already had visions of your nursery being the guest bedroom under the oak tree in the front of the house. There, you could get shade during the hot Florida days and be able to see the birds dance around your window. My sweet boy you were kept in the dark for far too long. You were hidden under my mourning, under my shame. Shame that my body refused to make a safe home for you. Shame that I was not excited when I first heard you were on your way. It did not take long for that despair to turn into love and excitement. To hope for your future, what you would look like, who you would become, what kind of difference you would make in the world just simply by being you. You, my boy, were special. You were mine. You were loved. Even if for only a few short weeks.
August 4th 2018
The blood. So. Much. Blood. I started sobbing. I cleaned up and went into the vault to talk to my manager, Beth. Through the sobbing and shaking, I managed to blurt out, “I think I’m having a miscarriage.” Just the day before, I told her I was expecting, and she was so happy for me. Now, all she could do was stare at me. Could I blame her? I turned around and went to get my things to drive myself to the hospital. She watched as I fumbled through my purse, searching for my phone. She offered to call an ambulance to take me to the hospital, but a civilian ambulance cannot go on a military base, so I drove myself. I was alone in a new city. I had no friends. No family. Nobody. Jacksonville is the largest land mass city in the states. From where I was, it took me almost 45 minutes to drive to NAS Jax. I called my husband when I got in my car and bawled “I think I’m having a miscarriage.” He was half asleep on the other side of the country, trying to rack his brain with understanding what was happening. I felt ashamed to say those words. Driving 90mph down the highway, full sob, my heart sinking in my chest, telling my husband I was a failure. He calmly and passively said, “I’m sorry, baby.”
After getting lost a few times, I finally found the main gate. The guard could see there was something wrong and signaled for help. I said, “I think I’m having a miscarriage” to which he replied with silence and a look of compassion. I pulled over in the guard parking and an ambulance came to retrieve me. The Petty Officer was incredibly empathetic. During the 10-minute ride across base, she regaled me with her intimate stories of miscarriages and the statistics surrounding it. She most importantly reassured me that none of this was my fault. The other EMT made small talk after he saw I was wearing a Navy Federal polo – how much he loved us, and we were always there for him. Trying to lighten the mood and keep me distracted. I get placed into a room where a female Lieutenant comes in and introduces herself. She explains to me the process I would go through and set expectations of what it would mean depending on my cervix. Once the PA came in and completed my exam, he said the cervix was closed. The first glimmer of hope in the past two terrifying hours.
I was wheeled down to the ultrasound room of this cold war era hospital. The air was frigid. The fluorescent lighting only added to the sterility of the environment. I stepped into my paper gown and laid on the table in this dimly lit room. I looked up and taped to the tile ceiling is a picture of a hammock placed between two palm trees on a gorgeous summer day. Who the fuck were they kidding? As if the environment could not become any less hospitable, they placed a copy print of a vacation destination on the ceiling. Had I known a magazine cutout could make me believe I wasn’t about to get told there is no heartbeat, I would have had it taped to my face. How did I miss that memo? They were living up to their three-star google review that day. The tech actively avoided eye contact the entire procedure. She kept moving the probe and clicking. Moving and clicking. If the invasive probe wasn’t enough to bring me out of vacation mode, the towel she handed me to ‘clean up’ with, was. I walked over to the barracks style bathroom (that had a peep hole the size of a ship’s porthole mind you) and shamefully put my clothes back on. She ended the exam by stating she could not say the results until the doctor looked them over. That could not have meant good news. I was placed into the hallway to wait for a Seaman to wheel me back up to my room.
After what felt like an eternity, the PA came back into the room with the results. He stated, “I don’t know how you’ll take this, but we didn’t find a heartbeat.” I was in complete shock. I just looked at him, waiting on every word he said. After I did not respond and stared blankly at him – he replied with, “you’re making it really easy on me to tell you this.” Followed by, “are you sure you were even pregnant to begin with?” The earth shattered around me. Time stopped. I could not process anything after that point, my body refused. That moment of this doctor caring more about his personal comfort than an empathetic experience for a patient left years of trauma in his path. He opened the door to doubt. Doubt that this little miracle may not have been anything but a fabrication. To this day I need to actively tell myself my blood test was positive. The statistics of how it was nearly impossible for this to be a fluke. That the changes my body went through were valid. The experience I had that resulted in extreme PTSD – to the point I had to change offices and could never wear the same outfit again – was valid.
Beth called multiple times that afternoon to check in. It took a few hours, but I got the courage to pick up the phone and call her back. I explained what happened and she replied with, “He’s coming home soon, you can make another.” I know this was an honest attempt to console me, but what isn’t as widely understood, is that one blessing, does not make your loss and grief any less. It just doesn’t. It doesn’t repair the hollowness you feel. It doesn’t replace the room you made for that baby in not just your heart, but your home. It doesn’t erase the visions you created of rocking that baby to sleep in the nursery you imagined. It doesn’t change the fact that every Mother’s Day you will feel loss. Every anniversary of your miscarriage you will feel failure – even with as much logic as you can muster in your head screaming you were not at fault. Let me repeat that again: one blessing does not replace a baby lost.
On my healing journey, I stumbled across a poem on Pinterest one day and quickly attached it to a secret board labeled “hope.” It’s written by Gabrielle Rose and it reads:
“Do I count as a mother
When my body never gave birth
When my child never drew a breath
On this beautiful Earth
Do I count as a mother
When my belly never grew
When I never heard your heartbeat
Or your cries the whole night through
Do I count as a mother
When you don’t even have a name
Never knowing if you were a boy or girl
No one understands this pain
Please let me count as your mother
You are my baby for as long as I live
I have been robbed of so many moments
You were my baby, and too much to give”
Sweet boy, you had value. You had worth. Your name will be said and remembered by me. It’s time to lift the veil of secrecy and introduce you to the world. It’s time to bring the pain of miscarriage into the light, time to tell the stories of babies lost and time to share hidden heart break.