Miscarriage – The Silent Empty Box


To be filled with life is something.  To be pregnant with a growing little miracle of science and nature in your belly is beautiful.  To lose a pregnancy is sad.  The feeling is surrounded with so many emotions.  Guilt, loss, nothing, emptiness, aching, breaking, bending into shadows dark.  I had to take a break today and submerge myself in some creative work.  I wanted to shake this feeling of empty.  Shake it loose from the empty box it resides in now.  Like a box with nothing inside.  Just invisible strings connecting back to my heart.  I don’t know how to put it in words so I am not going to worry about using dazzling adverbs or catchy phrases, but they may just happen to come out that way.  I just want to write a post about it. 

There are so many women out there feeling this same feeling today, yesterday, tomorrow.  It covers me like a vine nobody can see.  Much like a bean pole vine grasping to anything its tendril can reach. 

Photo by memomuse - "Bean Pole Vines in My Garden"

Something sturdy, mounted in dirt, standing upright.  This vine of sadness can’t grasp onto nothing.  So I grasp and curl around words.  Around people I trust.  Around acknowledgement that it happened. That’s its over. That I need to grieve. 

As my mind curls and bends in thoughts of what may have been, what was just yesterday, before the bleeding started, before the sadness erupted.  Before yesterday, I was cocooning into a ball of beauty, growing inside, feelings of joy and elation surrounded me.  Flowers and fruits of joy rippled in the sun.

"Layers of Life and Light" - Photo by memomuse

Layers of light echoed over me.  Now there is nothing.  Just this box of invisible sadness nobody can see with the naked eye.

Long story short – I went to visit my dying mother in Colorado three weeks ago.  The night before I left, my husband and I made love.  I went home to Wyoming and Colorado where I feel the most alive and vibrant, for it is home and my place on this earth.  I have been transplanted to North Carolina and I am trying to make the most of it.  But back home, where I come from, just as the Kenny Chesney songs sings, I love it there.  On this journey where I thought I was going to say goodbye to my mother, I was surrounded by a land that knows me.  That I know.  That I love.  This journey home, this journey to say goodbye, something magical happened.  We conceived a baby.  A miracle.  A seed that sprouted into life.  I found out last week I was pregnant.  I took three home pregnancy tests and was more surprised with each positive test, as I have struggled with infertility in the past.  My son is just thirteen months old.  We were not actively trying to get pregnant.  So it was a surprise to find out we were pregnant without even a blink of the eye, without a blink of the heart.   

I took a home pregnancy test on Monday, then Wednesday, and then Saturday.  All positive.  The faint blue line got thicker with each test.  I took a urine test at the doctor on Monday and they told me to come back in a week because it was, not without a doubt, positive, but there was a shadow line.  So I took two more home tests that week, Wednesday and Saturday.  And sure enough, positive.  I started to feel the pregnancy symptoms, fatigue and drop to the floor tired.

I went in to take another urine test at the doctor yesterday,  feeling it wasn’t needed, feeling pregnant, feeling sure a life was growing and thriving inside me.  I didn’t need a doctor or lab technician to tell me I was pregnant.  Something bigger happened – a life bloomed from my journey to say goodbye to my mother.  How serendipitous.  How miraculous.  How joyous. It made the fact that my mother is dying a soft sleeve to rest on.  To rejoice on.  I was sure this baby was a girl and I was going to name her Eleanor Elizabeth and call her Ellie Elizabeth. 

My mom, Elizabeth, and me as a baby

Elizabeth, named after my mother. I had visions of her soft curls, her big blue eyes, her big heart.

When I took the test at the doctor just yesterday, I noticed some blood.  Frightened, I told the nurse.  Then the results from the lab technician came in.  The test was negative.   I fumbled with my paperwork to hand to the check out clerk at the doctors.  She gave me a silent nod and a sweet abbreviation of sugar, “You’re all set, Sug.”   I wanted so badly to walk out the back door, nobody to see my sadness or my tears, as they began to gush. I walked past all the ripe bellies, round and plump with life.

Sometimes I wish there was sign women going through the grief of miscarriage could wear on their back.  “Please treat with kindness – grieving heart – may slumber slowly today and tomorrow and certainly the day after next.”  But it is invisible.  Our eyes are swollen, sad, and watered with tears only time can heal.  There is no clock for this time passage.  It is not an hour, a week, a month, or a year.  It is a hole in our heart.  We go on.  And on. And hopefully you can give a hug to someone in need.  Perhaps, you just don’t know.  And what do you say? There are no words.  Just invisible tendrils trying to clutch at something strong, sturdy.  For it may be the hope of another chance at conceiving. 

Toddler in my arms

Perhaps it is the smile from a toddler in your arms.  Perhaps it is the earthy soil in your hands as you plant a memorial garden.  Perhaps, the box is still empty when you shake it, although you are sure something is inside.  Something thick. Something heavy.  Because something like a life just doesn’t vanish when you bleed.

I’m Not Alone


 

Painting by J Gray

Benjamin’s in my arms right now.  Quiet, sleeping, calm.  I’m watching him like an oil painting in a museum.  My tiny giant one year old.  I study his face and body. His ears have grown; they are now the size of apricots.  His hair curls with the humidity.   I study his sounds.  His tiny snores zigzag under his breath.  When he is asleep I am Wonder Mom.  When he is overdue for a nap and I am overdue for a nap, I am Awful Mom.

The fight to go down for this nap lasted 30 minutes, seemingly like hours through toddler twists and mounts, crying screams that only escalated in decibels, cocooning into a curved ball on my shoulder, head butts to establish prime shoulder rest real estate, and a tenacious one year old desire to stay awake.

I tried the breast first.  It used to be my go to sleep inducer.  Doesn’t really work anymore;  he filled up –recharged and energized, hips spinning from back to belly to knees to movement, pointing to things with toddler immediacy and curious craft.  Saying “Dis, Dis,” and trying to unravel the mystery of each object.  The air purifier: white like a Storm Trooper, sleek and tall, shiny, huffing out Darth Vader voices of puffs and curled noise with electric royal blue lights humming back and forth like an elevator.    The light on the side table to the left of the mattress on the wooden floor — its cord now tucked secretly behind its back.  The light, a montage of balls and gloves – football, basketball, soccer ball, and a baseball, all equally interesting to him.  “Dat Dat.” He points again looking back at me with the inquiry of a class of eager freshman. 

This nap is going nowhere.  I start to think about moms who sleep train. I begin to envy scheduled nap time where babies know to nap and agree with baby coos and smiles, snuggling lovies that offer comfort.  Teddy bears, baby blankets, little toddler hippos, grey and blue with fuzzy soft down material – some kind of something that will fill in my mom blank.  Something he wants more than me right now when I am not soft and snuggly on the inside.  In fact, I am dry as the desert and in need of an oasis of patience.  I imagine one flowing full with clear streams of mother love.  I begin to drool from the thirst.

 This patience I barely have is wearing thin, like dough rolled out in transparent flakes.  I suddenly am desperate for him to go to sleep.  Desperate.  My plans on peacefully napping with him to catch up on much needed rest and sleep passes.  Quickly, like lightening bug flashes.  I suddenly want wine, sugar, donuts, cupcakes, beer, coffee, carbs, and lots of it.  Out.  An escape hatch.  Where’s the nanny?  Where’s the hatch? Oh, I am a Stay At Home Mom. There is no hatch.  I even have an acronym: SAHM.  I’m the damn nanny.  There is no damn escape hatch.

He is smiling, grinning with giggles that echo through the room and bounce off the high ceilings of his blue bedroom.  I get a cup of oasis patience water and smile back at him.  I can’t resist the song of his giggles so gorgeous.  I’ve sang him Over the Rainbow over and over the best I could.  Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high da da da da da da da to dream aloud. Once upon a da da da da da da da. Way up high on chimney tops and lemon drops you’ll find me, waiting…

Where does the patience come from?  Where does it end? 

Layered Hands

It is quick like lightening when that long braided rope runs out, slipping quickly through my layered hands, my layered thoughts, my layered mind.  Layered with questions, insecurities, doubts, fields of emotions, floors of frustration, conundrums, lists of things I’ll never do, wishes put on hold, way up top next to the creamed corn, on the shelf I can barely reach. 

I’ve got to raise this baby.  This boy.  My boy, Benjamin.  Hold those teeth tight.  Lassi whoa, the horses can’t gallop off just yet. I’ve got a family to feed, but the horses patter — their feet below the very ground that is supposed to hold me stable – sturdy – rooted in soil. My curled tendrils attach below this very ground in the garden of motherhood. 

Photo by Lisa Dearing

The horses’ hooves start to become restless—eager to run – to escape – to gallop in a wild childfree shout.  I start thinking about news shows and 20/20 segments about moms that start drinking at noon because of the boredom.  I think about how having a job outside the home holds me in place. Holds my busy mind, scheduled, engaged in adult synapses of activity and thought.   Boredom erupting, flowing over into red pooled lava circles. The containment area – lullabies, swing sets, and gooey gooey baby talk. 

Earlier this morning on our morning walk, I thought about working, how even hanging on the back of a garbage truck would be more active than this.  More exciting, as I listened to the men shout and rumble through the quiet morning streets, banging and pounding, creating a symphony of noise like jazz musicians.  Strolling down the sidewalk, with my beautiful baby boy, who was taking it all in visually.  His mind turning cartwheels and somersaults.  My mind – numb with boredom.  I was suddenly jealous, eager to be hooting and shouting along with the loud garbage men, bustling with activity on this early AM morning.   I thought about interaction.  About space.  About time.  About mind.

 I thought about all the people I used to talk to on a daily basis when I was a teacher and now as a SAHM, I have to check in politely for bi-monthly play dates.  I’m desperate for daily contact.  I used to see my colleagues every day.  A comment – a conversation – a break in the teacher’s longue.  Something – an exchange of ideas, humor, fashion yes nods.  “You look good today.  I like that shirt; it brings out your eye color.”  A question.  An opinion.  A complaint.  A joke.  A dare.  A don’t.  Something.  I don’t get this from Ben, from the swing set at the park, nor does the stroller answer back.  Instead, I look forward to bi-monthly mom meet ups.  My version of lonely staff meetings where we make small talk about sleep schedules, baby food, and recipes and try to get to know each other through questions like, “Where do you live and what does your husband do?”  

I am too open I think, admitting to post-partum depression barely after introductions are made.  I stumble long after the group has assembled and disassembled, breaking down the baby strollers, and driving off to each of our own separate spaces.  I’m still yearning for a 9 – 5 work day; a 9 – 5 play date would work.  I ask myself and roll over the video in my sleep deprived mind – “Why did I say that?  Where is your damn filter for goodness sake?”  But then a mom I have just met clicks like links in a set.  She laughs at my blunt cut Grade A honesty and nods her head.  Yes, I get it.  That’s all I need to hear.  I’m not alone.

Totin’


I was just at CVS and an older man was behind me in line.  I stopped to get some chocolate, specifically, Bliss chocolate Easter eggs. 

“Do you want to go ahead of me?” I asked.                  

“No, I’m in no hurry.  I ain’t been in a hurree since I retired,” he purred out in a deep Southern drawl.

“Oh, alright. It’s nice not to be to be in a hurry,” I said back to him with a soft smile, warmed by the thought, I too, am not in a hurry and have not been since I decided to stay home with Ben.

“Sure is. I just feel real old, since I turned 80.”

“Well, turning 80 is quite a something to be proud of, Sir.”

“I turned 81 last year, in fact.”

“If it makes ya feel any better, I feel old ever since I had a baby.”

I studied his red wrists and purple lined palms.  His old age reminded me of my father.

“Hello there little guy,” he chuckled, as he grinned and held out his finger.  I tried not to cringe thinking of other mom friends who wear plastic circle signs on their purses that say, “Are your hands clean?” and ‘Love, Not Germs.”  I could see the dirt under his yellowed finger nails, dewed with time and wrinkles, invisible like earthquakes holding decades of history.  Those fingers are alright, I thought. I’ll let Ben decide if he wants to touch him.  Ben smiled some more, showing all eight teeth and reached out with his ET pointer finger and fingertip kissed the old man’s yellowed, storied, wrinkled, finger.

Ben, Fingertip Kisser

It was kind of magical — in the moment’s lack of worry and judgment.  Old and new, youth and wisdom, fresh unwrinkled skin and leathered, layered skin.

“I had a cousin who married a lady who couldn’t have kids, until one day she did.  She toted that baby around just like you.  My cousin had to do all the cookin’, cleanin’, takin’ care of the house.   She just toted that baby around like you is doing.  Didn’t do nothin’, but tote that baby aroun.”

I wondered what his background was.  How did his fingers get so storied?  Would he be a good person to interview? What secrets does he have the key for?  Did he have any idea how hard his own wife worked with their kids?  How hard did he work with his kids?  These questions of parenthood I think about often.  Did he know she may have suffered in silence?  Or did she tell him while they laid in bed how difficult it was to be a mom?  Did he share with her his same thoughts and feelings?  Or was it something people, partners, parents, didn’t talk about back then.  Was his wife bored out of her skull at times playing patty cake?  Did she wonder what career she might a had, if she did in fact, have one at all.  The way he talked, he seemed like he was from a family where the women did “women’s work.”  But I couldn’t really know, because we only shared a few sentences. 

I gazed into his light blue eyes, peppered with kindness, salted with age.  Other spices in his freckles and liver spots: concern, calm, depth. He had a prescription in his hand, in a white crinkly bag, with long layered texts, flapping, stapled loosely to the bag.

“My mama just took us two kids out in the field and let us run around while she cooked, cleaned and took up the laundry.”

I wanted to tell him about my own infertility and how I could relate, but the next customer pushed off and out of line as if leaving the boat dock.

La’tesha, with her big gold hoop earrings and short shaved head, with layers of black hair tapered down, said, “Do you have a CVS card?”

“Yes ma’am, I do. Here it is,” I said as I fumbled with my bags of half price Hershey’s Bliss Easter chocolate eggs, juggling Ben, my purse, and my card.  I laid in on the table, balancing Ben and his eleven month old long legs under my arms.  He was seated in my arms, as if a puppet on a chair.

I wanted to tell that man how I understood how his cousin’s wife did not let go of her youngin’ and toted him around.  She wanted to hold onto that magic, that miracle.  That lovely pasture God let her in, Nature let her in, Luck let her in, Science let her in. 

Pasture under a Big, Blue Wyoming Sky

She was on the outside for so long; she never wanted to feel that longing again. That tap tap tapping at the big floor to heart ceiling windows.  Now complete, a locket no one can see – infertility changes you.  It’s a plus sign in a long algebra equation, others might have a minus, something to subtract out.  Us infertiles gone fertile, we do the math, we hold the numbers.  We graze in that pasture and hold onto it much longer.  That’s what I wanted to say.

“Have a nice day and enjoy your retirement.”

I thought about how I don’t want Ben to grow anymore or how I am kinda sad he is turning one soon because the time has gone by so quick, so thick, and this might be my one shot.  My one bull in the pasture.  I’m ok with it if it is. 

I unstrapped him out of his car seat when we got home, his soft curls wet with sweat from the early April heat.  The humidity in the air from the coming storm.  His head so wobbly from sleep, his head automatic on my shoulder as I lifted him up.  I love toting him around because I carry this huge section of my heart outside myself.  It resting against my own, invisible magnetics mending us together. 

I had a broken heart for a long time when I was without Ben. 

Ben and Me - Photo by Sara Turner

He came to me from the Heavens, from the stars.  Transported from somewhere far away and magical.  I go to the pasture to graze whenever I get the chance.

I wanted to say, “I bet she doesn’t tote him around now.”  Then I thought of holding Ben in my arms, with his long legs angled over my arms at sixteen.  Funny. I looked both ways in the parking lot and then I saw that man again.  Walking to his car, slow and steady, like a bull in a pasture.  I drove home.

memomuse is a writer living in Eastern North Carolina.  She is in graduate school, currently in the Creative Writing program with a concentration in nonfiction at East Carolina University.  She is a stay at home mom who tries to write when her little lovebug, Benjamin, sleeps.  This plan doesn’t always work out.  She lives in an 1880 Victorian home with her husband, her son, and two dogs.