“There’s five kids in my family. We used to ask my mom if my youngest brother was an accident and she’d tell us we were all accidents,” she laughed as she told me the story. Then my nurse paused to write something on my chart before adding, “Oh my mom, she was something else.” She smiled and looked up to the ceiling seemingly lost in the past for a minute.
She went on to tell me how her mother was the youngest of 16—3 of them are still alive. Her Aunt Evie is 95, just stopped driving last year, watches her great-grandchildren once a week and doesn’t back down from beer drinking challenges at family weddings. “My Aunt Evie, she’s a card. And a survivor. She has lived a lot of life. Boy, the stories she tells,” she said looking lost again for a moment in her Aunt’s stories. “Okay, you’re all set, your IV is in and the doctor will be here in about a half hour,” she said, adding a “good luck honey” before she slid the curtain closed.
As I waited for my doctor to show up to perform my second D&C in six months, for my second miscarriage in six months, I couldn’t help but think about Aunt Evie. This was a woman I had never met, the aunt of a nurse I had only met 15 minutes earlier, but was now my spirit-mother-icon-goddess-of-strength. I prayed to the spirit of Aunt Evie to help me get through. To hold on. To move on. To be a survivor and have stories to tell.
This time was supposed to be different. After I had a surprise pregnancy last summer, followed by a shocking miscarriage, something broke open inside of me. I felt more vulnerable than ever before. It wasn’t all bad. It was just raw. I felt more compassion for people who were grieving, hurting or feeling misunderstood. At the same time, I felt less tolerant of ignorance, pettiness and judgment.
The magnitude of my sadness and confusion was epic. I was lost, yet in some ways found. My heart had made room for a baby and I needed to fill it. So after getting the okay from my doctor, my husband Tim and I made the decision to actually try to have a planned pregnancy. Just like the surprise pregnancy, it made no sense financially or logistically. But it was our meant-to-be baby number five.
That’s how it is supposed to go right? Something doesn’t work—you try again. I’m no quitter. And this was meant to be.
When I saw the two lines on the pregnancy test this time, I felt like everything was as it should be. We went in for an early ultrasound and heard the heartbeat. We sighed with relief, letting out the breath we had been holding. This time was different.
And it was. This time I felt peace, excitement and happiness right away. This time I didn’t care if anyone thought I was too old or that we were too poor, too crazy or too selfish.
The same week, my family got a horrible stomach flu and I started spotting. It was the tenth week of my second pregnancy and I knew, just like with the first one, that I was having a miscarriage. I also knew that this wasn’t supposed to be happening, that this was supposed to be different.
And it was. Instead of sitting in a state of shock, I showered and shaved my legs because I knew I was going to be admitted to the hospital. I cried in the shower while my kids watched cartoons. I waited for Tim to get home from work and then I drove myself to the hospital.
This time we didn’t tell anyone. This time we didn’t ask for babysitters because the kids were still contagious with the stomach flu. This time I sat in the ultrasound room without Tim.
This time I knew how it would go. “I know you can’t really tell me, but I know the heartbeat is gone, right?” I asked the kind ultrasound tech.
“Well, I’m not supposed to tell you, but if there had been a heartbeat I would’ve let you hear it,” she said and handed me a box of tissues. “I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, it’s okay, I knew it,” I said smiling, trying to make her feel better because it felt like the right thing to do.
“I’ll give you a minute,” she said and left.
I sat in the ultrasound room alone with the image of my meant-to-be baby with no heartbeat still on the screen. This time there was no waiting for confirmation. It was over.
This time was different. I got right back into life. No one knew—not our families, not our kids, not our friends. I felt like being quiet about it. But at the same time I felt like screaming why? What the hell? Come on! What now? Are you serious? Really? For the best? What if? This was supposed to be different!
Sometimes I try to picture what Aunt Evie would tell me. “Oh hell, you think you’re something special? I had five miscarriages sweetie,” she’d tell me. “I held my babies that lived, raised my babies and watched my babies grow up. I died a little when my Adam was killed in a car crash. And again when my Sara lost her battle with cancer. I’ve had three husbands, two that I hated and one that I loved madly and he broke my heart. I have lived a life, I have stories to tell.”
And then I picture her taking me in her arms and holding me and telling me “honey, it hurts, but I promise you will be okay. You are a survivor, this is part of the story you will tell.”