Earlier this week I hemorrhaged into a toilet at my office. Hours later at the emergency room I was told by a doctor that despite the D&C I had had a week earlier, there was still pregnancy tissue in my uterus. My body was trying to expel what remained.
This miscarriage has lasted for weeks, when I think about it. It started soon after I discovered I was pregnant. Bright red blood and the existence of a hematoma in my uterus in week 5. Heavy bleeding and clotting the weekend after. Despite the miracle of a viable fetus, a silent heartbeat in week 9. Spotting. Nearly two weeks later, surgery – a D&C. Cramping and bleeding, fever and fatigue the weekend after. A hemorrhage a week later. Six hours in the emergency room. 4 pills in my cheeks the next morning to get my uterus to contract and push out what was left. Cramping and bleeding. I won’t know if everything is gone until an ultrasound next week. If it’s not, another D&C. Really?
And that’s just what’s been happening to my body.
I’m a reflective person who thinks deeply about how I feel, why I feel, what I feel, yet I was surprised a few days ago when the rush of blood and clots in the bathroom led me to hemorrhage tears too. I was shaken by the blood loss – I looked like a ghost, my head was throbbing, I felt disoriented – and as I sat outside a conference room trying to get a hold of my doctor, several of my colleagues surrounded me. I had told some but not all what had happened. I obviously wasn’t well. “Are you okay? What’s going on, Rachel?” they asked. I looked up from my seat, clutching the phone, waiting for the doctor to call back, suddenly needing to put it all out there. “I had surgery last week. I had a miscarriage.” The tears began. “I just had a massive bleed in the bathroom. I’m waiting for my doctor to call me.”
Their words enveloped me: “What are you doing here?” “You need more time to heal.” “I’m so sorry that you lost a baby.” Soon the sobs began. I said, “I’m so sad. I haven’t cried this much since the day I found out that the baby’s heart stopped beating.” One colleague sat down next to me and wrapped her arms around me. I fell into her right shoulder and breathed in her long blonde hair. “Sometimes I think I shouldn’t be sad because I have my children – I’m lucky.” I pulled myself up and looked around. “I don’t deserve to feel this way.” They all leaned in and touched me and shook their heads. “I’ve already taken time for myself after the surgery – I have so much work to do.”
My eyes were blurry as the tears came down, and my head fell into my hands, but I heard: “You need more time to heal.” “Of course you deserve to feel the way you do.” “The work will always be here; what’s important is taking care of yourself.” “You need time to heal.” “Get her some water.” “We are taking you to the emergency room.” “She needs to eat – go see what you can find in the vending machine.” “You need time to heal.” They rubbed my arms and held my hands and let me fall into their shoulders and cry and bury my wet, red face over and over again. They didn’t go anywhere. They took care of me. A motherless daughter, I felt the nurturing of many mothers all at once when I desperately needed to.
With the release of so much blood from my body came the release of intense emotion. I felt like a dam had broken, and I could hardly control what I said and how it came out. I was like a baby – vulnerable, wailing, afraid of being alone.
I know that I need time to heal but what does that look like? I don’t know how to show myself compassion. In the moments when I have curled up in the fetal position with no desire to move, the voices of my children have startled me. I can’t completely succumb to my grief, can’t go down that long, quiet road of reflection. I have waffles to warm and homework to correct and books to read and lights to turn on and groceries to buy. And I go back to work on Monday. My girls need me, and I look at them – the miracle of their beautiful bodies, their distinct profiles, their probing eyes, their birthmarks and dimples, their long lively hair – and I tell myself that I can’t be down for long. But at times I want to be alone and sad. I need to be alone. I am sad. I am confused. Am I depressed? I haven’t wanted to curl up in the fetal position in a very long time.
This journey is real, and I am lost. One day at a time.