M has been a busy bee lately. As soon as he gets home from work, he’s doing things around the house, cleaning, organizing, fixing things. His current project is re-staining the back deck. We did it last summer, but only did one coat and it’s faded and scratched from the two dogs always running around back there. I am too big and tired and hot to help, so he’s doing it on his own. Watching the progress, I can’t help but think back to last year when I was right in there with my paintbrush, breathing in those fumes when I was only a few weeks pregnant with the baby that we would eventually lose.
Did I cause my miscarriage by painting????
The truth is, I’ll never know. And I can’t blame myself for the loss of our baby. I knew I was pregnant at the time, but I didn’t think it would be a problem to paint because we were outside, not in an enclosed space. Partway through it, I thought maybe I should check online to see if painting was advised against while pregnant. What I read told me that the reason they used to say pregnant women should avoid painting was because paint used to include lead. However, household paints are no-longer lead based, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Most sites also advised to not paint for long periods of time and make sure you took fresh air breaks.
Back when I first miscarried, my doctor told me that there is usually nothing the mother did to cause a miscarriage. Miscarriages just happen if things aren’t coming together properly, and that in the long run that means that the embryo wasn’t going to develop correctly. She said that 90% of the time, women will have a successful pregnancy after they have a miscarriage, and that miscarriages are unfortunately very common the first time. That was of little comfort at the time.
Awhile ago, I wrote a post on what would have been my due date if I had not miscarried. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what that meant. Instead of being 33 weeks along, I would have had a month and half old baby right now. It’s hard to imagine!! Right now, baby is still inside of me, kicking away as I type this, and getting bigger and stronger each day. I have to just hold firm to the belief that this is what was meant to be, that I can’t regret anything that happened or that I did in the past.
Today is an important milestone for a couple of reasons. Firstly, at 27 weeks, I am now in my third trimester! And secondly, on a much more somber note – if I had not miscarried in October, my baby would have been due today.
In the dark days and weeks after my miscarriage, I often thought of this day: June 3rd. How would I feel? Would I still be sad so long after my miscarriage? Would I be pregnant again by then? What if we still hadn’t been able to conceive? I remember feeling like it would be an extremely difficult day for me if I was not pregnant. As it turns out, I’ve had a wide range of emotions today and leading up to today.
As the date loomed closer, I was already feeling a bit of anticipation. I can’t recall when it was exactly, but in the last few days there was a morning when I lay in bed alone, with M already up and about, and I cried. I thought about our little blueberry, the baby that we had lost, and that I still mourn. I thought about all of the pain and anger and disappointment, and mostly about that feeling of emptiness. I remember how I used to wake up each morning and sadly put my hand on my then-empty belly, thinking of what we had lost and if I would ever be happy again… I remember dreading June 3rd, and wondering how I would feel knowing that my baby could have been born on that day. Even writing this now is so difficult! I have to stop typing after every sentence to wipe the tears from my eyes!!
M and I talked last night about how today would have been the big day. He knew immediately what I was going for as soon as I started to bring it up. I wonder sometimes if he still thinks about what happened to us last year. He’s such a positive thinker that I don’t believe he does. I think he thinks about the excitement of what’s coming up for us in September.
He caught me off guard this morning. I was at my desk when the receptionist called me and told me I had a package delivery. I assumed it was a sales package, but to my surprise, sitting there was pretty red box with a black and gold ribbon. Instead of flowers, he had sent me Cookies by George! The card simply read – Sweetie, thinking of you today. Love, M. I burst into tears immediately. Luckily, I had the explanation of today being our third trimester milestone, but the double meaning of today hit me hard. I quickly retreated to my office, closed the door, and tried to fight back the tears. We could have been welcoming our baby into the world today, but instead we are counting down these last 3 months.
I’m worried. Not so much worried…nervous. anxious. wary. cautious.
It was on this night in my first pregnancy that I was curled up in a ball with pain. I was crouched on the floor of my bedroom, and later in my bathroom, with incredible cramping that turned out to be the start of my miscarriage. At the time, I had thought that maybe it was the salmon that I had for dinner that was not sitting well. After all, I had eaten salmon a couple of weeks before and also ended up having a stomach ache. But this was different. The next day I found spotting. It was bright red. Then more on the following day, and yet more spotting again the day after that. Finally, I went to the doctor’s office where she sent me for an ultrasound. And on Day 1 of Week 8 of my pregnancy, an ultrasound found that there was no heartbeat. The yolk sac was present, but they didn’t see what they should have been able to see at 8 weeks. My baby was already dead. Within a day, my miscarriage was in full force and I was passing huge clots of blood. It was the most devastating thing I have ever gone through in my entire life.
Today, I am 7 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I had lamb and rice for dinner. I’ve felt sick a few times today, as usual, but there’s an additional queasiness that has nothing to do with my hormones today.
Since I found out I was pregnant again on Christmas Day, I have cut out all alcohol. I’ve cut way way back on coffee and any kind of caffeine. I’ve been eating well, taking my prenatal vitamins and drinking lots of water. I haven’t played a single game of hockey or gone to hot yoga. I’ve barely even gone out, except maybe for dinner. I didn’t even go to watch M’s hockey game last Friday night, opting instead to sit on the couch with our dogs and watch a movie. In a way, I’ve put myself on a modified bedrest, trying as much as possible to let my body rest and concentrate on what’s more important than anything else in the world right now – building a baby.
I knew that when this week came, I would be extremely nervous. It’s part of the reason I didn’t schedule my ultrasound for this Thursday even though my doctor said that I could have. I would have been way too terrified to go for another ultrasound at the 8 week mark. I felt as if I would have been tempting fate, daring it to repeat what it had done to me in the past.
I have to believe that this time is different and that I won’t have another miscarriage. I have to believe that this time, we are going to have a beautiful, happy, healthy baby.
In dealing with my miscarriage, I went over every possible reason I could have lost my baby. Some were scientific, but many were not. One of the things I blamed myself for was for being too smug, too proud to have conceived so easily, especially since my sister in law had been off birth control for nearly a year. I thought I was in better shape, took better care of myself and was more capable of carrying a baby. I thought perhaps the miscarriage was a way for God to humble me. Maybe I held on to too much rage, honking at other drivers when they weren’t driving the way I thought they should drive. I thought that perhaps my heart rate was elevated to such a level in my anger when my puppy was attacked at the dog park that it wasn’t good for my baby, and that I had killed it by not being calm and happy and forgiving enough.
I know all of these things are unlikely and unproven, and that the vast majority of miscarriages are caused to a genetic abnormality that is decided at the moment of conception. However, that did not stop me from wondering if I hadn’t done enough to earn my baby.
With this pregnancy, as new as it is, I think that always in the back of my mind is a tiny voice reminding me of karma. There have been a few times in recent weeks when I’ve done a good deed, not with the intention of buying my baby by acting as a good samaritan, but because I’ve felt like it would be good for my soul. With all the heartache and agony that I’ve been dealing with, it’s as if I need some other kind of nourishment. A pregnancy after miscarriage is ever more cherished than one that has never had to deal with this kind of loss.
On the Sunday after Christmas, I went with M to visit my dad’s grave. I admit that it has been far too long since I’ve gone. Even though it has been nearly 20 years since his death, I still can’t visit him without tears. Even now, as I type, my eyes are welling up. I loved him so much and I still miss him. (It probably doesn’t help that I have the nostalgic sounding Gran Torino song playing on my laptop.) As we stood over my dad’s grave, I read the inscription silently in my head, as I always do. I wrote it for him as my farewell when I was fourteen:
you’re here in my heart
and though we must part
we will meet again
in a land far away
a land without pain
we will be together
just good memories
until we meet again
I asked my dad to look out for me this time, to look after the tiny baby growing in my belly. I told him I was sorry that I didn’t come here last time. I asked him for his blessing, and to be our guardian angel. I have always believed that my dad is with me and looks out for me. On very rare occasions, he has visited me in my dreams. Sometimes, mostly when I was younger, I truly felt him with me. And on that day, as M and I stood there with our arms wrapped around each other, I hoped that he was with us again, all three of us: M, me, and the little blueberry growing inside of me.
For nearly two months now, pretty much all I’ve been doing is trying to deal with my miscarriage. I’ve experienced a huge range of emotions from guilt to anger to jealousy, and of course the all-encompassing sadness. For weeks, the very first thought in my mind when I woke up each morning was: I had a miscarriage. My pregnancy is over. Our baby is dead.
With the passing days, then passing weeks and now passing months, I’ve started to be able to answer my own question: Is there life after miscarriage? I can now answer yes, but not without adding that life will never be the same. I don’t know if I think about my miscarriage every day anymore, but it is still a prevailing thought. I can’t look at my pregnant (and now showing) co-worker without pangs of regret, feelings of loss and more than a twinge of jealousy. After all, today would have marked 16 weeks for me. I might have been starting to grow a little tummy.
Last night, I burst into tears when reading another blog. The author’s beautiful post was a letter to her unborn child at 7 weeks. She called it her “little blueberry.” If you’ve read my very first posts, you would know that this is what I used to call my baby. Each week, I would read the week-by-week guides that walked me through the baby’s development, explaining how big the embryo would be by comparing it to fruit. I made it all the way from an orange seed to a large raspberry before I miscarried at 8 weeks.
Today I had an experience that really put things into perspective for me. I’ve been very focused on myself lately, just trying to deal with the miscarriage. My workplace had arranged for a group of staff to do some volunteer work at a local charity, packing up Christmas hampers for families in need. I was thrilled to be able to take part in this, and decided to also sponsor a particular family by raising money to pay for a hamper full of food, school supplies and warm clothing, plus hopefully get them a few extra gifts. Because of a connection I had made with a wonderful woman via Twitter, we were able to have the opportunity to deliver the hamper and gifts in person directly to the single mother and her two kids.
We packed up food, jackets, scarves, mittens, notebooks and other supplies, as well as a crock pot. With the money we raised, we also bought each of the kids $150 worth of gift certificates to stores that they would like to shop at, and got mom a certificate to treat herself to a spa treatment, plus some bubble bath to enjoy at home. We met the family at their co-op apartment, and upon seeing all the packages we had brought, the mother burst into tears. Her little boy was so happy to see all the gifts. It melted my heart to see him excitedly packing up the bags and boxes into a cart to take upstairs to their home.
I feel like we changed their life a little bit today by giving them Christmas. This was an experience that was good for my soul – something I think I really needed to help put things back into perspective. For the first time since October, I felt lucky.
Just as hope was finally beginning to eclipse the hurt and anger and disappointment, I received a cutting reminder of the harsh reality of my miscarriage.
The last day and a half have been the brightest days I’ve had in weeks. That heavy weight felt as if it had been lifted off of my heart and I allowed myself to feel hopeful again. I just felt different, like I could breathe again without aching. I felt like I could probably look at a pregnant woman and feel anticipation instead of disgust.
My phone rang this morning and I expected to pick it up and have my friend, V, on the line. Instead, as I picked up the phone, I realized it was the prenatal care clinic.
Hello, may I speak to Tasha?
I’m just calling to confirm your appointment for next Friday, December 4th.
I had a miscarriage. They were supposed to call you and cancel this appointment.
They didn’t. I’m sorry.
Not as sorry as I was to be reminded that if this hadn’t happened, I would be finished my first trimester, going in for my first ultrasound and getting to hear my baby’s heartbeat for the first time.