No, not the Nicholas Sparks novel. Rather, a reflection walk sponsored by Allina Health and Mercy Hospital. We received an invitation for this anniversary walk in the mail yesterday and it served as a startling reminder of where we were just one year ago: recovering from the loss of a miscarriage. The invitation dredged up all sorts of memories and sent me combing through old rants I’d written during that horrible time. I came across one from September 6, 2012 that sums it up best, so I’m going to post it here in honor of that time of darkness and also as a testament to the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Please note: I’m posting this exactly as it was written one year ago, so there’s a bit of gore interspersed with the pain. I’m posting this more for my healing process than for your readership…so proceed at your own risk.
September 6, 2012
I am less enthused than ever as I begin another school year as a high school English teacher. I am crabby and uninspired, despite spending the summer at the University as part of an awesome writing institute. I tune out the sound of my own voice as it drones on from the lecture pulpit. My eyes glaze over and fog with the passing traffic in the glare of the sunlight streaming through the classroom windows – I look right past their bored eyes and over their wrinkled foreheads, scrunched in pain and agony. I suck up their contempt for me and let it fill my expanding belly, busting out of the teacher slacks I bought six years ago for the first day of school. My clothes are not the only sign of exhaustion and disrepair this year, though. My attitude sucks, and I’m not sure I would want my own kids to have me as their teacher today – that is, if I had any kids of my own. And I find myself wondering if that’s the problem. Maybe, the only teachers who can last in this career as lifers are the ones who find some sort of redeeming quality in the process of growth and maturation, due to their own experience with their own offspring. Rather, I find myself incredulous at the thought of having to return home to a houseful of more teenagers – even one well-behaved one would be tough. I shiver, as if to shake them off my skin, and return to the comfort of my own solitude. Why then, if I approach a new year with such apparent loathing, have I chosen this profession? Why do I defend this profession? How do I continue – nay, survive?
Maybe it’s not as bad as I make it sound. Maybe I’m just a wreck this year because I’m in the midst of surviving my first miscarriage – a miscarriage that seems to have happened twice, with one embryo, and may not be over yet. I found out in the 8th week that I had lost the babe in the 6th week, but my body did not recognize the pregnancy as a loss just yet, so I continued to feel pregnant – sore breasts, fatigue, frequent urination, etc. In the 8th week, I was prescribed cytotec – a pill – to induce labor, essentially, and expel the pregnancy tissue. Despite one of the most painful nights of memory to date – a night spent writhing in pain on the bathroom floor, on the verge of passing out from nausea and severe cramping – I did not bleed enough of the pregnancy out of my system. Therefore, the tissue began the natural process of expelling itself two weeks later – in what would have been the 10th week of pregnancy. That particular day, this past Sunday morning, just happened to be the day after our annual Labor Day Rum River Paddle – an all-day canoe and cook-out party. We had seven guests staying at our house that weekend, and all were in the home when I awoke the next morning to the sight of more loss. Horrified, I tucked myself into bed and demanded they leave so I could spend the rest of the day in my own little harbor of misery. The tears were equal parts physical strain and humiliation, regret and anger. The loss became most apparent when I returned to school, and realized that a large part of my profession requires me to put on a happy face for the impressionable youth around me. I must be bright and cheery and encouraging and sympathetic. The problem, however, is that I haven’t got much left in me to give this year. Not so soon after my own personal loss, not on the edge of indecision and despair. What do I do next? Do Josh & I try again to have a baby as soon as we can? Do we dare risk enduring another year of failed attempts, followed by a bloody in-your-face badge of failure? How can I maintain my composure in the face of fertility everywhere? Pregnant women at work, in my family, in my friend group, and their pudgy, adorable baby pictures splattered all over Facebook fuel an ugly flame of jealousy deep within that eats away at the façade of calm I strive to present. Or do we say screw it, and change the direction of our lives –forging a life without children?
I’m not sure what to do. I do know, however, that I haven’t cried enough – partly because I can’t (the logical side of me understands that I’m not the first woman to ever miscarry, nor is my loss greater than most hardships in life), and partly because I won’t let myself (it wasn’t even a fetus yet – just the promise of a fetus – just an embryonic sac implanted in the uterine wall – not even a yoke). There are worse things in life. How dare I bemoan my sorry state? I have a loving husband and a beautiful home and two dogs and a fulfilling job. I am well-fed and educated and privileged. I have choice and mobility. I can vote and drink clean water. My problems aren’t real problems.
I do hate the pregnancy apps on cell phones though – especially the one that keeps telling me how many weeks my baby is and what size fruit it is this week and that it’s almost fully developed. I mostly hate it because I signed up for it – I fed into the whole self-indulgent racket – but I also hate it because I’m not smart enough to re-set it or get rid of it. I can’t figure it out, so instead I endure these stupid updates that keep telling me when the baby’s heart is beating and/or which organs are doing what this week.
I’m just crabby, and tired, and I wanted so badly to be looking forward to a new baby in our life…and now I have to really, really learn how to just be present in this moment – not lingering in the past when I was pregnant, and not reaching into the future when I may be pregnant again (despite how many people love to tell me “I just know it will happen for you again soon!”). I have to drop the cynical act and unclench my jaw and let my shoulders drop and just Let. It. Go.
So there it is: where I was (emotionally) last year at this time. It’s hard to believe, really. The funny thing is that I’ve never been very good at following my own advice – the whole let it go yoga perspective. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what the loss of a miscarriage felt like. But maybe that’s ok. Maybe by remembering the loss, I’m more able to appreciate the present. Of course, it certainly helps that my present includes a sleeping baby boy – something every mama can appreciate.