Saturday, March 7, 2009

Quiet Scars

March 7, 2006 was the due date of my third child. I don't speak of her much (I decided it was a she, nobody will ever really know). Some of my family members never even knew she existed.

When I was 9 weeks pregnant I had a scan to check that everything was alright. I had been bleeding lightly, not even enough to be alarming, but as a diligent follower of "What to Expect When You're Expecting," I was a good girl and notified the doctor. I just figured it would be exciting to get an extra early ultrasound. I dropped Jamie and Sabrina at my Mother's and went by myself, with nobody there to support me. Because it never even entered my mind that I would need support.

As she waved the magic wand over my belly she couldn't locate anything visibly. She assured me this wasn't unusual and proceeded to the INTERNAL magic wand. She asked if I wanted to do the inserting or if I preferred she do it. I laughed and made an inappropriate joke like I usually do when I'm extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable and said "Neither?" She ignored me and went about her business.

She moved and prodded and poked and twirled. I had met with this tech before and she's not a Chatty Cathy under the best of circumstances. But after several moments of silence and noticing she still hadn't moved the screen so I could see it, a creeping unease began to wash over me.

And then the words.

"I'm sorry. I should be seeing a heartbeat by now, and I'm not."

It was as if someone had shot my entire body, brain, and heart full of Novocaine. I wasn't sad, I didn't cry. She handed me a handful of Kleenex and I sat and wadded it in my fist, twisting it and passing it from hand to hand, uncertain exactly why she had given it to me. I was confused as she told me I could get dressed and speak to the doctor. I think I knew somewhere inside what her words meant, but all I could think was, "Why isn't she still looking if she can't find the heartbeat?"

When the young doctor who had delivered my son walked in, the one who looked closer to 12 years old than someone who should be catching babies, he also said, "I'm sorry."

Through the buzzing noise in my ears I caught phrases such as "genetic defect," "ceased to develop," and "D & C."

I said I wanted to think about how to proceed and managed to walk out of the office and waiting room looking completely normal. As if I was actually capable of thinking rationally about my options when my brain was so distracted by that buzzing sound. Were there bees in here?

Inside I was just..........nothing. To say I felt numb would be to say I was aware of the absence of feeling. And I wasn't. I was shut down and on auto pilot. The lights were on but nobody was home. The body performed it's locomotive duties without any apparent direction from the brain.

I refused to talk about it. I collected my kids and went home. I have no recollection of driving there.

I decided later that afternoon I wanted the D & C so I could be done with it. So I wouldn't have to think about it. So I wouldn't have to feel anything. I was almost frantic with the need to have it scheduled right away. I pleaded with the nurse to get it scheduled for the next day, and being the efficient soul that she was, she made it happen.

The procedure itself was painless. Some minor cramping afterward, nothing a little ibuprofen wouldn't handle. I got home and thought "How nice, people sent me flowers," not entirely sure I deserved them. I called those kind people and thanked them but again thwarted all efforts to talk about it.

The next day the psychic glue and mania that were keeping me tightly wound let loose their bonds, and like a Waterford vase dropped on a ceramic tile floor, I shattered into a million tiny cold bright pieces.

I had nowhere to pour my grief. She was never born so I was not supposed to miss her or mourn her or acknowledge her existence. I had no casket to weep over or headstone to visit. My child was carried away in a metal pan to be examined in a pathology lab like a cancer and disposed of as medical waste. It was as if a baby never existed.

I began a rabid pursuit of copies of the sonogram pictures. You know the happy little strip of thermal paper you're given as a badge of completion of a successful sonogram? I wasn't so successful but I wanted my badge anyway dammit. The same competent nurse said she would do what she could but wouldn't promise anything. Everyone told me there would be another baby, but I didn't want another baby, I wanted THAT one.

I needed proof. Something tangible to mourn. A picture to prove she was real.

Six weeks later I would be oddly comforted by the lab report that declared the findings "products of conception" and "necrotized tissue". Somewhere in the recesses of my mind lived a niggling thought, "What if they were wrong and that baby could have lived?" It was a relief to know definitively she had died quietly some time earlier with no knowledge or pain.

I remembered the due date that first year, and even by then the grief had muted, less a blistering wound and already fading into the scar it would become. The next two years I'm not sure I even noted that day's passing. Of course I did go on to have another baby. A beautiful baby girl. And while one baby can never replace another, new babies have a way of distracting us from our sorrow.

But she was real, and I loved her. She lived and she died. The scar remains.

I remember.


Hot Belly Mama said...

I am sorry you went through. I miscarried myself last year and my response was unusual too. I didn't actually get (physically, you like a good cry) upset about it until I was pregnant with the next one two month later and that was one threatened. Then the waterworks came and I just thought "no, it hurt too bad the last time! I can't do this again!"

I do write about it in my blog.

Love and hugs to you.

Hot Belly Mama said...

I just realized that my sentence structure is all off in my comment and none of what I said makes sense. Oh well, you know....

Jackie said...

I'm so sorry MaryBeth, I can't imagine how hard that must have been (and still is, I'm sure). Thank-you for sharing your story, I'll be thinking of you and your little Angel today *hugs*

L said...

oh, sweet friend, I am so sorry. your words have hit me yet again. my throat is tight, my eyes sting. i cannot imagine what that/this is like--for you, for any fellow sister. a dear friend of mine experienced a similar situation recently, and she called me at work and said, "it's gone." my heart broke then, as it does now.

i haven't the words, really, but i do have love and friendship for you. if i could wrap my arms around you and hug you today (and any day), i would. i am sending hugs through these words.

thank you for sharing such a personal and painful story with us. you are brave and beautiful.

with love from pittsburgh...

Irishembi said...

Thank you ladies. It's a story I've wanted to put into words for some time now, and found myself thinking about a lot recently now that my "baby" isn't a baby and we've decided there will be no more. Our culture has no accepted ritual for this kind of loss. We all have to muddle through it our own way.

HBMama - you made perfect sense to me. :)

Lisa said...


Beautifully written.

I don't remember the day I was due with my first, but I do remember the day I lost him/her. Definately a scar, faded now, but there.

I find myself mourning the end of babymaking for us now too. Another interesting topic I look forward to reading about on your blog. So many deep moments in a woman's life go uninspected or explored. I am so happy I have you as friend and fellow thinker to do that honour.

Keep it coming!

minyetta2 said...


Colleen said...

Heartbreaking. Truly. I admire your resiliency though. I cannot imagine a sadder day for a mother.

Norkio said...

Mary Beth, what you have said brings me back to the moment when my best friend had her 2nd miscarriage and what you described is exactly what she described. I feel so bad for you, and her, and everyone else who has to go through this. would that I could wrap you in a big hug and let you know in person.

Boo said...

I just wanted to let you know I am here. And reading. I don't seem to be in contact with everyone I love so much these days. But I am always about.

I sort of understand. In a round about way. For the first three weeks of being pregnant with Jaxon he was a "threatened miscarriage" They hadn't found the heart and HCG was not doing what they said it should be doing.

It was an awful time and I am so thankful to have come through it. But I will never forget how it felt to think that the thing I had longed for and hoped for all of my life might not make it to being.

Thank you for sharing your story.
Love you


Anonymous said...

My Heart aches with yours and once again you've brought back a memory I had locked away....but my own loss didn't affect me near as much as my Joni's did to me when she suffered the same tragic loss and she didn't have the kindness of an understanding Dr at all in the emergency room....

Irishembi said...

I have definitely been blessed to have kind and compassionate doctors and nurses. And also the best friends and relatives - online and in real life.

Thank you.

Mary K Brennan said...

Thank you for sharing such a private story. It's always difficult to know what to say or how to act during these chapters in our life. I think a good cry every now and then is the best remedy. My thoughts are with you.

Kim said...

I have come back to this post several times, trying to find the words to shouldn't be so hard, considering I had something similar happen before K. Thanks for sharing your story - it was beautifully written, as always.

Miles said...

MB- this post is heart breaking and lovely at the same time. What a great piece. What a great and sad story. And what a way to remember.

I'm crying at work right now but thankfully I'm also pumping so the door is closed. :) (Get it together Nicole!)

You really should consider publishing something Mary Beth. Your words often paint such a vivid picture for me. Whether it's funny, sad, or happy, I see it. That's a real gift.


*emily* said...

XOXO... we all have our scars, I'm glad you are able to share yours :) I'm sure it helps many-along with you

dynamitt said...

"And while one baby can never replace another, new babies have a way of distracting us from our sorrow.'

I loved that line and it is so true.