Fragments, Part Five

Ten weeks.

I had known I was pregnant for approximately ten weeks – ten hopeful, beautiful weeks that tortured me and terrified me and changed my life.

As I had for the last ten weeks, I awoke and thought of the babe in my belly.  As I had for ten weeks, I asked myself if this was too good to be true – could I really be pregnant with our second child?  And today the answer rang in its finality – I was pregnant today, but tomorrow would be different.

I cried.

According to the plan the on-call doctor and I had established on Sunday, I called my doctor’s office when I awoke.  My on-call doctor said they’d attempt to fit me in for surgery on Monday, but that it could be Tuesday or Wednesday before the surgery could take place.  If I had started miscarrying on my own they would have immediately taken me for an emergency D&C, but otherwise they’d do their best.  When I called – full of dread and hopefulness all the same – I felt relieved to learn that not only could my surgery be scheduled for that afternoon, but the doctor who had seen me last week, the one with whom I had “fallen in love,” would be my surgeon.

I think I cried again.

Because my surgery was scheduled for just after lunch and I needed a pre-surgery consult, we rushed to get ready, showering and packing the things I’d need throughout the day.  In the shower, I washed my belly with care, tears mixing with water as surrealism punctuated my every breath.  I couldn’t believe I was preparing to go to the hospital to have my baby surgically removed from my body six months too soon.

I finished my shower and walked into the bedroom to continue getting ready.  Tahd, thick in his own grief, stopped me at the door and rested his hand on my belly, crying.  He hugged me, and the longer we stood the more I felt like his pain was squeezing the air out of my chest.





This couldn’t be happening!  When he finally let go, I struggled to regain my breath, let alone the momentum to continue getting ready.  But it had to be done, so I did it, but only because I was afraid of what might happen if I didn’t.

We were beyond late, but I still paused long enough to take one last photo of my belly.  Fearing we’d become inert if I asked Tahd to take it for me, I quickly set the timer, put the camera on my dresser, and grabbed one shot and then another, just in case the first didn’t turn out.  As it was, neither shot was stellar, but they still mean the world to me.

On our way to the hospital, I took out the sweater I had worked on – the sweater in which I had hoped to bring home the baby.  It wasn’t elaborate and it wasn’t perfect, but it was made from my own hands, delicately and lovingly knit.

Carefully, I disassembled the pieces – the front from the sleeves, and the sleeves from the back.  It seemed wrong to disassemble something in which I had poured so much love, but I pieced it apart, remembering the work that had gone into it, and I put as much love into disassembling it as I did when I knit it in the first place.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, this sweater would become a pivotal part of my healing process, an ebenezer stone, if you will.  It was beautiful, beyond what I ever could have orchestrated or imagined.

I was going to write about the details of my surgery and the rest of the day, but when I went back to read what I had written at the time, I find it to be much more thorough than what I could write six months later.  Rather than repeat myself, I’ll link to it here and will post one final follow-up in this series soon.

Fragments, Part Four

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

We went directly from the hospital to our house – a five minute drive at six o’clock on a Sunday morning – so I know it didn’t last long.  But my emotional memory of our car ride and walk into the house  seemed like when, by sheer force or mind, you will the last dregs of honey from the bottom of the jar and into your measuring cup. It dragged o.. n…. i..n…. s..l..o..w…. m..o..t..i..o..n, and I felt like I stumbled through those moments trying to find some equilibrium.  My parents, living two doors down, had agreed to meet us at our house, but thinking we had gone to a more distant hospital, they had to rush over once we got home.  I remember looking out my entryway window and watching my mother, silhouetted by the rising sun, racing across the sidewalk and up the walk.  My father followed close behind.

I can’t remember the order of the things we discussed.  They quite obviously didn’t know what to ask, and one of the first things I think we discussed was what happened.  Much of this series of blog posts will probably be news to them, because in that moment I could only utter the simplest words.  I couldn’t find the heartbeat.  I tried, but couldn’t find it, so we went to the hospital, and they couldn’t find it, either. My father, a big, powerful, “in control” preacher pressed his forehead into my living room wall and choked up.”Why, God, why?  We don’t understand!”  That image of him bringing his anguish to God is indelibly engraved on my heart and did more to preserve my faith than almost anything else.

Gabe, now delirious from lack of sleep, tooled about in the way only a confused, overtired five-year-old can.  “Grandma!” He exclaimed with a smile on his face.  “We can take back those shirts!  We don’t need them anymore!  The baby died so we can take them back and get our money!”  Having heard it once before at the hospital I was prepared, but it was clear his frankness caught my parents by surprise, and I wished I could have gotten to them first to prepare them for his state of mind.

We talked about Gabe and arranged for him to go to my parents’ house with my mother so Tahd and I could (attempt to) sleep.  Dad said he’d go to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription, and we asked them to call my sisters.  Dad, scheduled to preach in three short hours, asked us if we wanted him to tell people, and my unequivocal answer was yes.  I told him the more people he told the fewer people we’d have to tell, and that prospect sounded extremely helpful to me.  Dad wasn’t sure, however, whether he should preach at all, and when he left my house I wasn’t sure if he’d be at church or not.

Once they left, Tahd and I surveyed our surroundings.  I looked at the doppler on the coffee table and felt numb as I realized how everything had started only a few hours earlier.  Tahd tried to convince me to go to bed, but I couldn’t do it.  I was not only overwhelmed, but terrified of having the miscarriage actually happen in my bedroom.  So we set up shop in the living room, and I tuned into Kelle Hampton’s blog to listen to her funky, inspiring playlist while I began to process.

It quickly became apparent to me that I needed to write.  I needed to put some context around my story, to “pretty up” its bones with some skin.  It came quickly – the words through my fingers – and it felt like the story had always been written and was just waiting for its opportunity to come out.  As I wrote, my cousin – hours away in Canada –  had written this message on my Facebook wall:

I want you to know that we feel the pain, all the way across the miles…speechless, tearful, heart in throat. We love you so much. I hope you feel our embrace today, and in the days to come…..All our love…xoxo

I appreciated the message, both for its sentiment, but also because it started the process of getting the word out and encouraged me to start seeking support by sharing.  I posted this on my Facebook wall:

We are heartbroken & shocked to have learned that at 12.5 weeks our baby went to be with Jesus. We’re blessed to have had those weeks, the ultrasound peeks, the many chances to hear a strong, beautiful heartbeat & the chance to imagine & celebrate the growth of our family. But mostly, we are just sad. Thank you a thousand times over for your loves & prayers, which we have already gratefully received from so many.

All the while I wrote on my blog, sweet messages of love poured in, and we soon became aware of the many people who surrounded us, offering their shoulders to share our burdens.  It was truly extraordinary, and when I think about it now it takes my breath away.  Eventually the exhaustion gave way to sleep, and upon awakening the only light in my eyes came when I reviewed the cares and concerns of others that had been sent while we slept.  Never before had I so fully understood the gravity of love and how profoundly it changes things.  I’ve always been fortunate enough to experience life on a pillow of love, a pillow that cushions me from the inevitable falls and disappointments of living the human existence.  But in this instance, when I felt everything had been cruelly stripped away and I couldn’t find anything certain underneath my feet, the love of those around me rushed in to fill the voids and we were literally carried on their backs through those most dark hours.

Throughout the day sleep found me intermittently.  Each time I awoke I reminded myself of my new reality and wished I could be asleep again, away from my nightmares.  Getting back to sleep, however, was difficult because I harbored so many fears about how the physical process of loss would begin.  I alternated between Xanax and tylenol, alternately attempting to quell the rising panic and rising cramps.

I remember very few details from the daylight hours.  At one point, I called the on-call doctor with my ob/gyn clinic.  Obviously at home with his family on Mother’s Day, I could hear his little girl in the background.  He listened to my story and listened even more closely to my fears and helped me formulate a plan so I knew what to do.   A dear friend came over bearing a beautiful card and a charming apple tree.  I don’t remember if we talked or just sat; knowing us, we talked about something.  🙂  I do know she prayed with me – precious, comforting words I didn’t imagine possible in those moments.  While she was there, an acquaintance of ours whose wife had recently experienced several miscarriages and who had lost their 8-week-old baby to SIDS several years earlier called to speak with Tahd.  I had been so concerned about Tahd that I asked my mother to get in touch with this friend to see if there was any possibility he might reach out to Tahd.  As much as his phone call ministered to Tahd, it ministered to me equally knowing there was someone who would invest in my grieving husband when I couldn’t.

I also remember that my parents asked me what I wanted to do about Mother’s Day.  Originally, we had planned to gather Sunday evening as a larger family with my sisters and one brother-in-law for a Mother’s Day dinner.  Given the turn of events, no one knew what to do and everyone was ready to follow my lead.  Unsure myself, I begged them to pretend to be happy.  I wanted to spend the evening without crying and without falling apart and smiling at least a little bit.  In spite of the tremendous hole in our hearts, I wanted to find some modicum of happiness on Mother’s Day.  I felt like I needed it; I need to keep a seed of happiness in that day for the sake of future Mother’s Days.

I’m told Gabe slept until 10:30 that morning, but I don’t recall that I saw him until we went to my parents’ house to “celebrate.”  I don’t remember what it was over, but Gabe had gotten very angry with her earlier in the day when she had tried to talk with him about our loss and his experience.  I think it may have been over presents…  As a part of their Kohls shopping trip when he purchased onesies for the baby, he also purchased some presents for me – several things I could enjoy whether or not I was pregnant (one being jelly beans), and a maternity shirt for “me and the baby.”  Mom suggested that he not give it to me because it might upset me, and at that statement he became fairly angry.  I don’t remember when, but at some point I told Mom that she should let him give it to me anyway and that I’d be fine.  He did, and was very proud of his choices.

I don’t have the shirt anymore, but I still have the candy. 🙂

I wish I could describe dinner, but I can’t remember it.  I don’t remember what we ate, but I do remember I ate very little.  I only teared up one time, but I don’t remember why.  I do remember not tearing up when I expected to, however, and it was when I was saying goodbye to Gabe.  My sister from Chicago had offered to take him home with her so he’d have something special and fun to do for the few days while I had surgery and we regained a small amount of equilibrium.  I didn’t want him to go, but I knew I needed – and he needed – to go.  Staying at home during the chaos of my impending surgery would only have complicated matters, and I knew that as good as the diversion would be for him, Tahd and I were in no shape to be in charge of the caregiving.

Tahd had gone home to pick up a few things we had forgotten to pack, and while he was gone I asked Gabe to come talk to me.  We talked about how he’d be having a super fun time with Auntie but that when he came home there probably wouldn’t be a baby in my belly anymore.  He said one last goodbye to the baby, and without any tears from either of us I gave him a big snuggle while I kissed him goodbye.  And still – no tears.  I didn’t even want to cry, really – not due to a lack of feeling, but due to an abundance of feeling for my son, and a fierce desire to somehow assure him that we were going to be okay.

We were going to be okay.

I didn’t realize it while we said goodbye, but the things I said to him were the same things I needed to hear, too.  We had love.  We had each other.  Our baby wasn’t coming back.  But we were going to be okay.

And then it was over, the day that had stretched on for years.  It was over before I was ready for it to end.  Tahd and I went home alone to the living room where we set up a little “camp.” I preferred the floor so he got the couch, at least for most of the night, and CNN blared in the background, reminding me that there was a reality outside of the one in which I was currently stuck.

Fragments, Part Three

Part One
Part Two

Sometimes it’s the subtle things that tell you everything you need to know.  That’s how I felt when I saw the doctor walk into my room.  I knew my worst nightmare was coming true.  I knew I had lost the baby.  Until this point in my ER visit, I hadn’t seen a doctor – only nurses, techs, and PAs. The fact that I hadn’t seen her before stood out to me, too.  My news was “above the pay grade” for the other people who had cared for me, I think.  Who in their right mind voluntarily agrees to tell the infertile-come-pregnant woman that her baby is dead on Mother’s Day?  No, I’m sure the doctor came to tell me because she was the only one not allowed to say no.  But she didn’t even have to tell me.  I knew it when she walked into the room.

She kindly introduced herself and asked me for a little bit of information about why I came in.  I repeated the same story about how I’d heard the heartbeat at noon and couldn’t find it this evening and felt it would be wiser to get checked.  She nodded and told me that unfortunately the baby’s heart didn’t have a heartbeat anymore and I was having what she called a missed miscarriage.  She explained that first trimester* miscarriages are very common and almost always related to genetic issues and that I would need to contact my ob/gyn in the morning for further instructions.  This completely infuriated me; first, regardless of what you call 12.5 weeks, spontaneous miscarriages are not particularly common past eight weeks.  Some aren’t diagnosed until later, but most first trimester miscarriages have taken place by the eight week mark.  The fact that I’d had a clinically excellent ultrasound a few days earlier coupled with having heard the heartbeat Saturday afternoon automatically negated what she told me in my head.

(* Although my emergency room doctor told me I was having a first trimester miscarriage, others weren’t so clear.  Some called it a second trimester miscarriage.  For some reason, thinking of it as a second-trimester loss made me feel better, and since there’s some disagreement about when the second trimester begins, I choose to think of it as such.)

Also, I burned when she implied that the baby was genetically abnormal.  How dare she say such a thing?  How did she know that?  How could she feel comfortable passing along that “diagnosis” even though she had no evidence?  The truth was she didn’t know.  She had no way to know that a structurally-normal-on-ultrasound fetus was genetically abnormal just because it died.  Especially when I had so many complicating factors.  In fact, further research told me that babies miscarried later in the first trimester and early in the second trimester are more often related to uterine abnormalities, umbilical cord abnormalities, placental issues, and cervical problems.  Although she could rule out the cervical problems, each of the other potential issues could still have contributed and were just as likely – if not more likely – to have created caused our loss.

I struggled to maintain my composure with her.  Partly I was angry with her lack of knowledge and willingness to treat my loss in such a “glossy” way.  Partly, I was angry at the situation, not sure which end was up.  Mostly, however, I struggled to maintain my composure because Gabe was still in the room and I didn’t want to traumatize him.

The doctor talked with me about my options.  The idea of miscarrying on my own at home had always tormented me, and given the stage of my pregnancy and the delicate instability of my emotions, I didn’t feel strong enough to deal with that possibility.  She explained that the hospital wouldn’t do a D&C on a Sunday and that I needed to involve my OB since it wasn’t an emergency situation (i.e. since I wasn’t hemorrhaging).  Realizing that I was headed home with instructions to call my doctor’s office in a few hours, I summoned up my remaining amount of courage and asked her to give me something to help me sleep.  What I really meant was that I wanted something to help me hold on emotionally, but I’m not sure there’s a pill that takes away heartache and brings back dead babies.  She kindly obliged, ordering a stronger version of Xanax than I normally take.

The doctor also spent some time talking with me about trying again.  I don’t remember all the details of this conversation; it wasn’t an inappropriate conversation and didn’t anger me. She had experienced something similar – the birth of a child followed by unexplained infertility and a later miscarriage, only to go on and successfully birth another child.  I insisted that we were done – that this was it and we wouldn’t be having any other children.  She encouraged me not to make that decision immediately and that my mind might change over time.  In spite of the fact that I “knew” she was wrong, I’m glad she encouraged me to keep an open mind.

And then she left.

And it was over.

Except it had only just begun.

Because I could see only one thing before my eyes – Gabe.

With hardly a moment to center myself, I looked up at Gabe, sweet and confused, still playing on his Leapster.  When he woke up in the car on the way to the hospital he had become quite insistent in his requests to know what was going on.  Eventually, I told him that when I used the special heartbeat tool I couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat and we were going to the hospital because we wanted them to check on the baby to make sure it was okay.  We repeated this explanation several times throughout the night, adding specifics when necessary, and always following it up with something to the effect that it was possible that the baby was not okay or it was possible that the baby was fine.  I’m thankful for that foresight on our parts.  I incredibly grateful that we had the courage to speak honestly to him without glossing over the situation.

Tahd lifted Gabe from the hospital chair onto the bed, snuggling him between my left arm and the bed rail.  I wrapped my arms around him and with surprising composure explained that something had happened and our baby’s heart had stopped beating.  Simple.  Truthful. I just said it.  Some people would think those words might take courage, but they didn’t.  They were what needed to be said, and I was his mother – the one who should say them to him.  This – my parenting amidst shared heartache – was the first inkling I had that I was stronger than I thought.  I needed that.  I needed to know there were untapped reservoirs of strength available within me, ready to help me survive, recover, and reclaim.

I told Gabe that the baby’s body was still in my belly but its soul was in Heaven with Jesus and that He was taking care of our baby there.  I assured him that our baby was happy and safe and that we would see our baby again someday.  I talked about the ultrasound we saw together and how lucky we were to get to see our baby and how special it was that he got to talk to our baby and “tell it” what to do.  At some point I believe we prayed, too.  I wish I could remember more of the specifics – questions he asked or other things we discussed.  I know he didn’t cry, and I also recall that my mother had recently taken him to Kohls so he could buy an outfit for the baby.  Not knowing the gender of the baby, he bought two, a blue onesie and a pink onesie, just in case.  He excitedly exclaimed that now we wouldn’t be needing those anymore so we could take them back!


What great news.

At some point in the process, Tahd completely dissolved, kneeling on the floor beside my bed and crying loudly.  Bewildered, I tried to make him stop, both because I was nervous about Gabe’s response and also because I felt like I was in no position to “care” for him.  He left the room to go to the lobby and use his phone to call my parents, and when he stumbled back his spirits were no better. “You have got to pull it together,” I told him, angrily, an emotion I wasn’t sure how to handle in the moment.  I wanted to fall apart.  I wanted to cry inconsolably.  I wanted to get lost in my head and stop thinking about the outside world.  But I couldn’t, and I felt a strange mixture of anger, confusion and relief – anger at the obvious, confusion because I had never seen Tahd fall apart, and relief because he actually did.  His grief, however infuriating for me, made me feel like my grief was legitimate, too.

Of course, my grief was legitimate, even if Tahd had faced our loss with logic and stoicism.  But the fact that I looked at him as a gauge for my own emotional response betrayed how overwhelmed I felt.  My worst nightmare was playing out before my eyes, and everywhere I looked there was no way out.  I don’t know how I functioned in those moments, getting myself from the hospital room to the exit to the car and then into the house in one piece and on my own two feet.  The sun had just begun to rise – the beginning of a new day but the end of a coveted era for us, and the entire world seemed to stand still as we left the hospital and returned to our little sanctuary of a home.  It was all so, so surreal, and the only thing that provided me with any sense of normalcy was Gabe and knowing that he needed to be cared for and parented through this situation.

Fragments, Part Two

Part One

Tahd came home the day after the ultrasound.  I use the term “came home” loosely, though, because if the airline had anything to do with it he wouldn’t have arrived.  On his way home from Montana, he discovered at his layover in Denver that his flight was canceled and he was unable to get home va his original route until the next day.  Keep in mind it was May with beautiful weather, so it wasn’t like the airline was desperate and traumatized by events beyond their control.  Luckily, we live relatively near to several airports, and after much coercion he was able to convince the airline to reroute him into O’Hare.  Gabe and I puttered down to the airport to get Tahd, and although it took them something like an hour to allow him to deplane due to an inept jetway driver and a broken exit door, the three of us eventually left the airport and stopped at a TGIFridays to pick up some dinner.

I don’t remember much about about the next day or two.  There was nothing outstanding, a testimony to the fact that our life had finally begun to pick and and move forward from the shock we initially felt at getting pregnant and dealing with the spotting.  We were beginning to exhale, to enjoy life as it came, to start adjusting our plans to include another child in six months.  Life was becoming regular and mundane, in a very welcome way.  A daily constant in my life was the “thump-thump-thump” of my doppler ritual as I dug out my fetal doppler several times a day to check the heartbeat.  Galloping steadily, I could pick it up quite easily in the lower right quadrant of my abdomen, almost always within the first sixty seconds.  It was one of Gabe’s favorite things to do, listening to the baby’s heartbeat, and it was one of my favorites, too.  I intended to figure out how to hook up the recording feature so I’d have some audio of the heartbeat, but I never seemed to get around to it.

We spent Saturday readying the house for a party.  At Christmas, I had given Tahd a certificate for a pay-per-view UFC fight, and he had decided to cash it in for the Machita vs. Rua fight that evening.  I paused around lunch to use the doppler and found the heartbeat instantly. I recall Tahd walking by the bedroom door and smiling in at me while we listened to the rhythm.  It was a good sound, a sweet sound – a sound that gave us much hope and relief.

In typical fashion, we just couldn’t get it all together, however, before it was time to leave for church.  So I dropped the boys off at church and ran to the store to pick up a few last minute things.  At the gas station, I grabbed two cases of soda, paid, and took them to the car, rushing to get back to church before the message began.  As I tossed the soda into the front seat I felt a strange “hot” sensation in my abdomen – not painful, but noticeable.  I resolved to move a little bit slower and take it a little bit easier since the fight was by no means more important to me than my pregnancy.  I arrived back at the church just as the sermon began, but the burning sensation continued – albeit weaker and less constant – during the message.

Back at our house after church, my family joined us for some pizza – leftovers of which ended up sitting out on our counter for three days.  My sister and I did a little crafting and talked about my pregnancy.  I joked that some little feng shui things I had done had been responsible for getting me pregnant, even though I knew my feng shui tips had really just served to irritate Tahd.  Meanwhile, I snuck out a time or two to attempt to use the doppler and attempt to listen for the heartbeat.


There was Nothing.

At first I thought my surreptitiousness in keeping the volume low had caused my difficulty, but after three failed attempts my mind started racing.  Where was the heartbeat?  Why couldn’t I hear it?  Tahd’s UFC fight ended around 11:00 and my sister and her husband left.  As Tahd closed the door behind them and turned to look at me, panic filled the distance between us when I told him I couldn’t find the heartbeat.

Ever unflappable, Tahd assured me that I should relax and suggested we try one more time.  Settling myself onto the couch, he sat beside me with his hand on my leg while I squeezed the cold jelly onto my stomach and spread it around with the wand.




I looked at Tahd for reassurance, but nervousness filled his heart and I could feel the fear behind his eyes.  We discussed our options.  Did I want to wait and have a good sleep that night and check again in the morning?  Or did I want to go to the emergency room immediately to make sure things were okay?  Although I didn’t want to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night, I also knew I wouldn’t sleep at all if I had to wait until morning.  Not wanting to spoil my Mother’s Day, we eventually decided to go to the emergency room immediately since we were “sure” everything would be okay and we’d be able to move on and have a wonderful Sunday.

It was 11:30 when we left our house, and because we figured we were probably overreacting, we decided to bundle Gabe up and bring him with us under the assumption that he’d continue to sleep.  How wrong we were!  He woke up in the car and didn’t go back to sleep until 6:30 the next morning.  Knowing what we know now I’m certain we would have done something different in his regard that evening, but knowing how rare later miscarriages are, we expected a quick, embarrassing trip in which we were told we were crazy anxious parents, and we didn’t want to disturb my parents in the middle of the night to watch Gabe for what would certainly turn out to be a false alarm.

I don’t know how to start the next part. I want to make it “pretty,” but it wasn’t.  It felt like the day I was 11 and was thrust into a new school mid-year with kids who looked at me strangely and thought I was weird.  It felt fragile.  Embarrassing.  Long.  Heartbreaking.  I felt insecure and hoped that the doctors and nurses wouldn’t be dismissive of me.  The intake personnel did look at me a little bit curiously.  I mean, who hears a heartbeat at noon and freaks out by midnight even though there’s no bleeding?  I couldn’t blame them, really, but I appreciated that they were friendly and never rolled their eyes.  The nurse assigned to my care was more than kind, constantly reassuring me that with my history of infertility and early losses I did the right thing.  She listened for the heartbeat with her own doppler, attempting to reassure me that ER staff wasn’t highly familiar with the use of a doppler and I shouldn’t panic over that.  A physician’s assistant joined us and did a pelvic exam.  My cervix was closed and they confirmed – I as already knew – that there was no bleeding.  Eventually, the ultrasound tech – called in from his cozy, warm bed – arrived to give me what amounted to the most lengthy, thorough ultrasound of my life.

By the time of his arrival we had been there for hours, which felt like days. While it was nice to be taken serious initially, laying in the hospital bed I couldn’t help but wish they had laughed me all the way out the door and back to my home.  To say we were exhausted was an understatement, but our fear had only grown and the adrenaline continued to surge.  Before the ultrasound began,I prepped Tahd by telling him that I needed him to give his full attention to the ultrasound screen because I was quite certain the tech would tell us nothing.  I needed him to look for movement, even the tiniest flicker.  Before the tech began the ultrasound Tahd ran to the car to get Gabe’s Leapster and headphones so he’d have a distraction and we’d have a modicum of privacy.  Throughout the entire ultrasound Gabe stared intently at the action on his Leapster screen, and Tahd and I stared intently at the lack of action on the ultrasound screen.

It’s funny that even though I’d had an ultrasound just a few days earlier I could hardly remember what I had seen.  How obvious had the heartbeat been?  How fast was it beating?  When this tech placed the wand on my belly, we saw a perfectly formed, perfectly still baby.  Maybe it’s just sleeping, I thought.  Occasionally, Tahd and I both thought we might have seen a flicker in the chest cavity.  But nothing was sustained, and I tried to convince myself that there was probably just some difference in the ultrasound machines or the baby’s position.  My worst fears couldn’t be coming true.  When the tech eventually left (after about 30 minutes, I think), Tahd and I talked.  “Did you see anything?” I asked.

“I don’t know.  I think so, but I’m not sure,” he answered.

And that’s how we spent the next hour – quietly wondering and occasionally speaking while we waited for someone to come give us the results.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it was an hour.  Unbeknownst to us, the hospital computer system reboots at about the same time my ultrasound was concluding.  The hospital does not keep a radiologist in the hospital 24 hours a day.  Rather, they have an on-call radiologist who receives the reports via network transmission.  He reviews them and issues his reports from the comfort of his own home, never setting foot into the hospital.  Because of the reboot, it took longer to send the report and have it processed.  Afraid of the results, however, I don’t think we ever once asked for a status update, even though it was clearly taking far longer than normal.  No news must be good news, we hoped.  And hoped.

Fragments, Part One

They wash over me like waves, little memories of Mara and May, and it occurred to me recently that I’ve only ever written down the “big picture” story.  I’ve left a lot of the details unrecorded.  Perhaps because they were too vivid or painful, or instead because they seemed mundane and irrelevant.  But the are, or at least they were, and I don’t want to lose them to the crevasses of my mind.

This will probably be a selfish post, one that’s entirely uninteresting to others.  I’ve hashed and rehashed the major events on this blog ad nauseum.  But for myself – for my own records – I need to see these things in black and white.  I need the lingering evidence of their existence.

I found out I was pregnant on a Saturday.  I was 9 days past ovulation – way too early to test and expect a reasonable result – but I had a spare First Response pregnancy test laying around and figured I might as well give it a go.  It didn’t take long – really, it was visible immediately – but I couldn’t be sure until I watched the seconds tick past on the clock.  Was that I second line I saw?  A real, honest-to-goodness second line?  I made a pregnancy test turn positive?  On my own?

The line only grew in visibility, and by 10 minutes I was certain – in my hands was





Whether or not I was pregnant remained to be seen.  Since I had only that test on hand, there was no way for me to corroborate its message.

Tahd had taken Gabe to a Home Depot Kids Workshop that morning and then onto his office to look at machinery, so I was alone when I took the test, but I didn’t know for how long.  I tried and tried to reach Tahd by phone, but it was to no avail.  When he finally called me back I nonchalantly asked what his plans were, and he said he’d be home in about a half hour.  My heart skipped a beat, and I knew without doubt how I’d be spending my next 30 minutes of that March 6th morning.  I grabbed my keys, locked the house, and took off on a fast walk the few blocks to my nearest Walgreens.

On my way home, a box of digital tests in hand, I quivered with excitement.  What if it was negative?  Could I sustain the precipitous fall from elation to letdown?  How would I feel? Humiliated? Sad? Hopeless? Angry?  But what if it was positive? Could I sustain more elation than I was already feeling, or would my heart simply explode with joy?  Unsure, I walked quickly through the cold, too nervous to slow down and too speed up.

When you take a digital pregnancy test, it begins with a blinking notification so you know it’s processing.


What’s it going to say?


I’m sure it’s going to be positive. Of course it’s going to be positive!


There’s practically no such thing as a false positive.  The first test I took had to be reliable!


But what if it’s not?  What if it’s negative?


Negative! Of course it’s going to be negative! I never get positive pregnancy tests. I’m Heidi, the girl who can’t get pregnant again.


And there is was – solid and clear before my eyes.  No more blinking.


I was really pregnant!

I think I paced the halls for an eternity – back and forth from the bathroom to my bedroom and back to the bathroom again.  Then into Gabe’s room when I needed a change of scenery.  I can’t remember how long it was from the time I got the positive digital to the time Tahd and Gabe got home, but I’m quite sure the loop I walked wore ten years into my carpets.  I didn’t know what to do, how to feel, what to think, or how to be.  Was this really happening?  To me?

A few days earlier a trip to Hobby Lobby had netted me a small nest with some wooden eggs I had painted blue, and I thought they’d be a clever way to share the news with Tahd.  I filled the nest with four aquamarine eggs and topped them with the pregnancy tests and waited with camera in hand for Tahd to find my present.

He did, and the picture – which I’ve shared before – speaks for itself.  I don’t know exactly what was going through his head at that moment, but I suspect bewilderment thoroughly summarized the scope.

Underfoot and oblivious to the gravity of the moment, Gabe bounced around while Tahd hugged me a whispered, “Really?”  I shook my head and Tahd held me tighter and we smiled and trembled while Gabe tried to make his way through our legs.

Panic over possible miscarriage set in that very same day, and the only thing I could think to do was schedule an acupuncture appointment.  While there’s little conventional medicine can do to prevent miscarriage and encourage healthy implantation, acupuncture boasts some reasonable successes at doing both of these things.  Since my acupuncturist had passed away several months earlier, I had two options – to schedule an appointment with a new acupuncturist I hadn’t seen before but about whom I had read good things, or schedule an appointment with the acupuncturist I had when I first began acupuncture a number of years ago. Because of my unsatisfactory experience there, I opted for the first choice, but when I realized it would take several days to get in, I decided to set my worries aside and return to my original acupuncturist for some pregnancy-stabilizing treatments.

I had two appointments with him, both a little uncomfortable due to the unexplained gap between our last visit and these next visits, but I hoped the treatments were doing some good and were encouraging healthy progress.  I left my second appointment and stopped at the restroom before I went to my car, only to realize I had started spotting during my appointment.  Terror paralyzed me, and I eventually decided to return to his office in hopes that he could do something to help or suggest an herb or could shed some light on the situation.  Instead, he looked at me with confusion and told me I really should talk to my doctor because it was probably nothing.

That was the last time I saw him.  I didn’t like that he took credit when things went well and told me to call my doctor when things began going poorly.

Talk to my doctor was the very next thing on my list, and as a result of both my spotting and my history, my doctor ordered several rounds of blood tests as well as some general activity restrictions. Hormone levels looked wonderful, but the bleeding continued tenaciously and would not stop.  Every trip to the bathroom became an emotional disaster, and I struggled with a scope of of fear and anxiety I had never before known.  As wonderful as my doctor was handling the care of my pregnancy and its complications, he was less wonderful with handling my anxiety, telling me I basically had one option – medication I was already taking and that wasn’t working well for me.  I alluded to the depths of my mental anguish in some of my posts during my pregnancy, but I never fully captured the heaviness it brought. I literally felt like I could not function.  My tremendous excitement at being pregnant was met by at least double the fear, a fear that ate at me from the inside and kept both my body and spirit immobile.

It was due primarily to the lack of help I received with my anxiety that I decided at twelve weeks to switch doctors.  I knew there were more options available to me to treat my anxiety, but I needed to find a doctor who would offer them to me.  At twelve weeks on the dot, I met my new doctor, Dr. D, and instantly fell in love.  He was an older man of Irish descent, and something about his thick accent soothed my spirit.  His assurances that we would be able to effectively address my anxiety didn’t hurt matters, either. Gabe was with me that day, laying on the examining room floor (yuck!) and playing on my iTouch to pass the time, and when the doctor offered an ultrasound I jumped at the chance, excited to show Gabe his new baby brother or sister.

I had two ultrasounds before this one, both picture perfect in which the baby was measuring slightly ahead.  I don’t recall whether this third ultrasound was abdominal or vaginal, but I do know Gabe and I got some wonderful glimpses of the baby!  My only hesitation was that Tahd was unable to be there since he was out of town on business.  What if – by some freak accident – I lose the baby? Shouldn’t I wait until Tahd can be here so we can have this experience together? Am I being selfish for accepting an ultrasound right away just because I don’t want to wait to see the baby again? These thoughts niggled at the back of my mind, but I dismissed them quickly since I was already 12 weeks and the spotting had stopped several weeks earlier.  You’re in the clear, I told myself!  Sit back and enjoy!

Enjoy, we did.  Gabe spent the time transfixed on the screen, eagerly “meeting” his brother or sister. Because this ultrasound included the nuchal screen measurement, the baby had to be in a particular position in order to allow the ultrasound tech access to the skin folds on the neck.  The baby, however, wasn’t positioned properly, so the tech asked Gabe to “tell” the baby to roll over so she could do her job.  As if on cue, the baby’s position adjusted perfectly when Gabe gave his command, and it was in that moment I saw my first baby bond with my second.  He fell completely in love with the idea of being a big brother, and in that moment the baby became very real to him in an almost tangible way.

Only one thing bothered me from the third ultrasound.  Although the tech was thrilled with all her measurements, the first dating measurement showed the baby to be about 11 weeks instead of 12.  This was quickly averaged with measurements from other locations, and I knew that dates can easily be off by several days.  Since the ultrasound tech wasn’t concerned, I resolved to let those fears ride and focus on enjoying the experience.

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