The Wrenching Loss That Woke Me Up

The process of recovering from my miscarriage has necessitated looking at a lot of the places in my life where I wasn’t telling the truth, where I wasn’t being courageous, where I was trying to play it safe but creating anything but comfort, safety, and happiness.

  • I wasn’t feeling as close to my husband as I wanted, and I was being whiny and demanding, but simultaneously collapsed and hopeless about it.  So, so attractive.
  • I was hating the work Sara and I were doing in our business and hating our plan for getting more work, but trying to be brave and psych myself up to do it… and like it.
  • I was yearning to get back to the work with business owners, where I helped them make the most of their business by deepening the spiritual practices and perspectives they brought to it, but I was scared to tell Sara or to put it back out there, since I’d dropped that work like a hot potato five years ago when Sara and I started working together.
  • I had gained 60 pounds over the past 10 years and kept muttering (between bites of almond-poppyseed muffin) that I wanted to take it off, but felt overwhelmed and petrified at the size of the project and the sacrifices I perceived it would require.

Oh, I was a sad puppy.  In the context, of course, of a beautiful life.  That husband is a six foot-tall hottie with russet hair and cinnamon eyes and he’s the best coach I know.  Sara and I have created such amazing things together that neither of us needs to lead them for the company we’ve built to prosper and continue to serve deeply.  I have career freedom.  I get to reclaim my old work or create new work that serves people from where I am today.  We all get second chances.  I’m still beautiful and sexy, even in my big-girl jeans with my double chin.  The details of my challenges and the self-abandonment that have precipitated them are horrifying to my perfectionist side – the side that’s convinced I’m not good enough to be loved or wanted or to serve well, so I have to puff up and fake something beyond what’s here to garner any connection, approval, or money.  But that side lost its footing when I miscarried.  Its capacity to control my life, to protect me from harm, to keep everything tidy was revealed to be an illusion.

I had planned to have two children about two years apart.  The PLAN was to get pregnant between August and December of 2009.  So when, on December 22, I got a positive pregnancy test, you could almost hear the click as the last piece clicked into place in my wonderful life.  Two adorable children.  Soulful AND hot husband. Handcrafted house we designed and built together.  Career that uses my gifts and gives me time with my kids.  Did I mention the nanny who feels like family and has dinner ready for us?  Oh, my many blessings.  I felt so lucky, so complete, so tidy, so in control.

Until February 16, that is.  Kurt and I had rescheduled our 13-week ultrasound from 730 am to noon.  We went in and the technician put the gel on my belly and moved the ultrasound thingy across until she pulled up an image of our little hammock-dweller.  Ultrasounds always look to me like the baby is in a hammock.  I guess that’s the only time adults are as curved around, but on their backs, as fetuses.

The technician was intent on measuring my ovaries, and I was wondering why I couldn’t see the flashing of the little heart that I remembered from ultrasound images of Cooper, but I figured she hadn’t zoomed in on that part just yet.  And the way she said, “the thing is, I’m not seeing a heartbeat” sounded so curious and uncertain – and so far from what we expected or wanted to hear – that I asked, “how definitive is that?”  Like:  “well, if you’re that incompetent, then get the radiologist in here pronto so he can find the flippin’ heartbeat!”  I couldn’t look at her.  I kept my eyes fixed on the screen where I could see my little baby, resting in my belly.  So I didn’t see it on her face, but I could hear the torture in her voice as she said, “it’s pretty definitive.  I’m so sorry.”

I let out a howl.  The first thoughts were wondering, “how could my baby die inside me without my knowing?”  and then, “Oh my God!  My baby is still inside me, but dead!”  I was horrified and revolted.  If he or she was gone, I wanted to be gone, too. I wanted to leave my body and abandon my carcass right there in that dark room with the dead baby projected onto the wall.  The next thoughts were that I HAD known.  About a week before, I’d stopped feeling the near-constant nausea that had marked weeks seven through eleven of my pregnancy and started to feel…. Well, not pregnant.  But obviously, I was still pregnant.  And I hadn’t seen a drop of blood or felt a single cramp.  The baby departed so quietly, I couldn’t have known definitively.

Over the next weeks, I also realized that, on other levels, I had never really felt that baby’s presence the way I had felt Cooper’s.  And Kurt had never felt him, either, and had told me so.  It was a strange pregnancy, by contrast to our first, where Cooper introduced himself to his dad as we conceived him, and I could feel his future personality and spiritual essence throughout the pregnancy, growing stronger as his body grew.

I’m a research geek about everything.  Kurt once joked that before I do anything I read a book about it.  That’s not true.  ‘Cause now there’s the internet, and you can often find info faster there than you can get to the library or a bookstore.  So.

That night, I went online and researched these mysterious miscarriages that leave the womb both lifeless and full.  When I read about a Chinese woman who’d carried a fetus for over fifty years with no ill health effects after a doctor demanded several years’ income to remove it, I felt better about carrying my own lost child.  For the next few days, his tiny two-inch body was a little souvenir for me of the brief life we’d shared.  Maybe that sounds morbid, but it was comforting to me.  If I’d continued to hold the horror I’d felt at first, I’d have been climbing the walls before the procedure three days later.

My midwife and obstetric nurse had become wonderful friends and partners to me during my pregnancy with Cooper.  Lesley, the nurse-midwife, actually cried with joy when I told her I was pregnant again.  When the radiologist called Lesley at home to tell her about my ultrasound, she called me immediately, although it was her day off.  She shared that she’d been through something similar between the pregnancies that produced her two healthy sons, and that many women have this experience.  She laid out all my options and gave me time to talk and feel and think about the whole procedure.  I felt so held and seen, and that was precious during those dark times, because I didn’t feel like anyone who hadn’t been in my shoes could really understand.  Kurt was wonderful, but his experience was, naturally, very different from mine.

Over the coming weeks, Cooper and I went to our Waldorf Parent-Tot class and I shared with my friends there that I’d miscarried.  Three other mothers told me they’d had the same experience after a successful pregnancy, as well.  Several of my other “mommy friends” were there for me in wonderful ways as well, and several of them had gone through the same loss.

The entire loss showed me how very loved I am and how much support is available to me all the time.  I had taken pride in how LITTLE support I need, usually, before the miscarriage.  Since then, I look for ways I might need more than I’m admitting, and ways I can be more vulnerable, let people in, and share hurts in service to the humanity in all of us.  I also became aware of how much intuitive information I’d stepped over because I was so far into my head and my expectations.  I ignored data that was clear and precise because I didn’t want to see it.

As I realized how much of my knowing I’d skipped over in the course of this pregnancy, I became curious about where else I’d skipped over my inner wisdom because I hadn’t liked the data it was feeding me.  Yipes!  That’s a whole can of worms to open up.

After the procedure to help my body return to its natural rhythms (I won’t share a ton about that with the general public, but if you want to hear more because you or someone close to you is experiencing something similar, please e-mail me), I really nurtured myself… for about 72 hours.  I got acupuncture the same day. I napped a lot and ate really nourishing soups and vegetables.  And ice cream.  I cried when I needed to, during the day and often when I woke at night.  Kurt and I held each other and talked and prayed and talked to the baby and to Cooper (on a spiritual level, not a cognitive one).  And then on Monday I bounded right into work and got back down to business.  Or at least I tried.  As I said to my business partner Sara, “Oh.  I’m realizing now that I’ve been holding this like it’s a vasectomy:  ‘go in on Friday.  Lie on the couch all weekend.  By Monday, you’ll be back in fightin’ form’.”  Um… no.  Not the same.

Dang.  Not only was I, to borrow a term from George W. Bush, “misunderestimating” the grief process for this loss, I was unearthing a colossal propensity for glossing over the emotional content of my life in favor of agenda, of stimulation, of “productivity.”  As if the emotional content is not, in itself, my life.  Zen teacher Cheri Huber says she’ll look at anyone who pushes her buttons and say, “Thank you for showing me that about myself.”  Well, little baby who wasn’t meant to be mine, thank you for showing me those things about myself.  I skip over my physical needs.  I skip over my intuition.  And process?  The takes-as-long-as-it-takes messiness of the human experience?  @#!# process, okay?  I don’t do grief, or unraveling, or any of these other processes that take time and patience and resilience.  I retreat to my head, to my to-do list, to my books.  Way more comfortable.

But this time, sitting at the feet of this teeny tiny teacher who came to me for so brief a time, I am listening. I am looking at those tendencies in myself that were amplified and illustrated in this painful situation.  I am gently but persistently determined to make this wrenching loss mean something to me, to the wonderful child I already have, to the family Kurt and I are building.  And by sharing my story, maybe it can mean something for someone else.