After a long wait back in our profoundly austere room, the sheet curtain in front of the door moved. The doctor came in and placed his hands on the table at end of the bed. "Unfortunately," he said slowly, "The embryo has died." And that was that. Sixteen weeks prior, an impersonal white stick had told us that I was with child, and now a stranger in a white coat was telling us that I wasn't. Like most journeys though, there was a lot of color and beauty in the middle. That'll be another post.
I was sad, yes, but disappointed more than that, let down. And I didn't feel like processing it right then and there. I mostly wanted to know what was supposed to happen next. The doctor offered a D&C (Dilation and Curettage), a procedure which dilates the cervix and scrapes out the uterus. He didn't push it though, suggesting that my body was readying itself for the miscarriage naturally. Though I'd read nothing about natural choices in miscarriage, everything I'd learned and experienced about live birth told me to go with my body unless it started to fail. What do you readers think about the fact that I'd gone EIGHT WEEKS without miscarrying? Does that seem like forever? If it's unusual to go that long, then I am especially glad we didn't know earlier or I may have been forced to undergo a D&C. (???) Of course, I can say that now, having avoided infection or other complications. I'd love to hear from any of you with experience in this.
We might still be in the E.R. today had we not packed ourselves up and stood at the nurse's station until they got their paperwork done and signed us out. It was endearing to hear one nurse say she was waiting on another and have the other say she was waiting on the first, but after four hours, we were tired and hungry. We stopped by the grocery store, and I stocked up on sanitary napkins. Then we sat in Bob's Big Boy, a chain hamburger joint, and looked across the table at each other, Jason and Zoralee and I, suddenly just "we three" again. I gave in to a random Root Beer craving, something I've done about once a week since then. I don't usually drink sodie pop, so I don't know what this is about. But anyway.
The cramps increased in intensity and frequency just as soon as we got home, home for the moment being Jason's uncle and aunt's house there in Cincinnati. And I wanted those cramps, wanted to get this over with. Again, it occurred to me that my body was progressing toward this new goal in part because I was accepting it. Don't get me wrong; I was scared. I had no idea what a miscarriage would be like, time-wise, size-wise, pain-wise. Clueless. And unlike the birth, this time it was just Jason and I.
So, the way it happened was this. I took three Advil and sat in the living room with the family for a couple of hours, making frequent trips to the toilet when I'd feel a heavy menstrual-like flow. Then, I sat on the toilet for a couple of hours, a position that had also appealed to me during Zoralee's birth. I hear it's a common, though not particularly romantic, laboring place. The cramps were familiar, like menstrual and labor cramps. If labor cramps reached a 10, these reached a 7. Jason leaned over me and pushed on my lower back as I needed. Zoralee took a bath, and once or twice she moaned with me. I couldn't wait for her to be done, because I longed to get into that tub of warm water, same as during birth. Jason took her out, and I nursed her there on the toilet. That was strange. I was giving life to my nursling even while I was letting go of my unborn. There are some experiences you just can't plan for.
Weird thing: while Jason was out of the bathroom, dressing Z and putting her to bed, I noticed I felt stronger, more focused. When he'd come back into the room, I'd feel antsy, like I needed to show him I was making progress. This wasn't because of anything he said or did. I think it was a carry-over feeling from my looooong labor with Zoralee, during which I felt I was letting down those who'd come to see the birth. A sense of obligation does nothing to help a birthing woman, let me tell you. Ha. But this time I was in tune with it. I recognized it. In many ways, I felt more in touch with my body this time. And Jason was just amazing. I wish I could loan him to birthing women who don't have a partner. For a small fee. Okay, just kidding about the fee. (Maybe.)
The shape of the cramps changed all of a sudden; they became localized lower in the pelvis and burned, like when you're exercising a muscle. It was a more comfortable feeling than the previous cramps. At that point, I jumped into the bathtub. What relief! I could still tell when I had contractions, but they were so much lighter. I would let three or four contractions happen, then get into a squatting position and push out whatever contents I could. Then repeat.
I didn't know what I was looking for, so I examined all large clots, thinking maybe it was the placenta surrounded by other material. But I kept contracting, so I knew I wasn't done. After maybe 1/2 hour in the tub, I pushed into my hand the little sac, and I knew right what it was. It was clearish with tiny, veiny webbing over it, the size of a hackey-sac. Through a window in the webbing, I could see a pink thing floating inside that instantly reminded me of those plastic pigs we played with as kids, the ones that were part of toy farm sets. It was about 3/4 of an inch long.
I was in awe. I was holding something that had been sacred, maybe still was sacred, but that was also just plain fascinating. I let out a startling swear phrase and held the placenta carefully for awhile. My cramps quit. I started to tear at the sac with my fingernail. It was very tough. Jason stopped me. He was worried that it would be too strange for us to see, or that it would stink, or that it was against some rule for us to do this. Jason, the Biologist! But I was set on examining this being. And do you want to know what it was like? It was really, really cool. It was attached to the inner placenta by a short umbilical cord. It had two dark spots for eyes. There was the teensiest of red spots, a mouth. It had a spine and tail, and sproutings of arms and legs. It looked like it could have turned into any number of creatures.
But I knew it wasn't set to be any creature. It was set to be my son or daughter. At last I began to sob. Grief was released from my soul and mouth. I sat in a tub of blood, Jason on the floor beside me, and we mourned. How sad it was for a life to be so short. But even this life, I felt, deserved the kiss of a mother. So I kissed it three times, each of my kisses the length of its whole body. It was so very soft.
I didn't want my time with the baby to end so quickly, but we knew I should get out of the water to better monitor my blood loss. I was dizzy. When I laid down on the couch, the dizziness subsided. Jason brought me food, chocolate, water, and Emergen-C for the electrolytes. I was done with it. I felt relief and peace and gratitude toward Jason for his care.
to be continued again . . .
(sorry - I hate to drag this thing out, but I'd like to talk further about my after-thoughts)