Have you seen the Discovery Health show, “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant”? Well, apparently it happens. And not just to very obese women. Also, not only to women who have never had children. I don’t get it. I knew I was pregnant every time. I’ve been pregnant four times, but only have two living children. Not the best odds.
I was in graduate school at George Fox University when I lost my first baby. Well, it would’ve been my second baby. I was taking birth control pills, but I still just knew I was pregnant. I had that unmistakable feeling about it and I was right. The same week, whether related or not I’ll never know, I threw my back out. It was painful and I went to see my doctor right away. While talking with the doctor about my back pain, I mentioned that I had a feeling I might be pregnant. She seemed skeptical (not likely while taking birth control), but ordered a blood test to put my mind at ease. She also wrote a prescription for a muscle relaxer and prescription-strength ibuprofen. I asked if it was safe to take on the off chance I was pregnant, and she assured me it would probably be fine to take that early in my pregnancy.
I picked up my prescriptions, went home, and took the pills. I remember sitting on my hot pink bedspread and feeling the pills kick in. The relief was immense. The next day I received a call from the doctor’s office: I was pregnant. I should stop taking the medicine immediately. I stopped: my back pain was already better. Being very excited about my pregnancy and life in general, I took my toddler son to the zoo with another mom friend and her daughter. It was a great day, except that I didn’t bring a stroller and my son couldn’t make it around the zoo without being carried a significant amount of the time.
I woke the next morning with severe cramps. A trip to the bathroom confirmed that the baby had passed. I was in shock. I didn’t think this would happen to me. I didn’t even consider it. I had already posted pictures of my son wearing a t-shirt proudly displaying the words: “I’m Going to Be a Big Brother!” I had made arrangements with my advisor to do my student teaching early so I could deliver my baby and still graduate with my class. Everybody knew I was pregnant. I wouldn’t be able to grieve privately. And my doctor ordered daily blood tests to confirm the pregnancy hormones were decreasing. I left every blood test in tears – this was how I learned I was pregnant, now I had to do it to confirm all traces of the pregnancy were out.
I remember driving the next week: it was a gray, raining May evening in Oregon. As my car approached a bridge, I couldn’t help thinking how easy and neat it would be to veer to the right. End the pain. Stop the self-loathing and self-blame about my baby. I should’ve listened to my intuition and not my doctor. I blamed the doctor too, but mostly I blamed myself. If I hadn’t taken those pills… If I hadn’t carried my son around the zoo … would my baby still be growing in my womb? I would never know.
A few months later, still taking the pill, I became pregnant again. It was a second chance. And I did everything differently. I avoided any medicine, even over-the-counter. I stopped drinking coffee. I ate meat at every meal, trying to ensure my body had the iron and nutrients needed to sustain a pregnancy. I didn’t carry my son, no matter how much he whined for it. And then it happened again. I felt numb about the second miscarriage. In a strange way, it proved to me that there was nothing I could do to stop it – in that second case at least. It gave me some peace to think that maybe the first pregnancy ended because it was never meant to be. I will never know.
A year later, I became pregnant for the fourth and last time. Seven weeks into my pregnancy, I found blood. I thought it was over. It wasn’t. I spotted throughout the pregnancy. At twenty-four weeks, my doctor began giving me weekly shots to stop the labor – I spent the last twelve weeks of my pregnancy fighting labor and two centimeters dilated. My perfect baby girl was born on her due date.
When I was going through the dark days after my first miscarriage, I found a poem that brought me comfort. I can’t find the poem now, but the gist of it was that if it weren’t for the baby who didn’t make it, we wouldn’t have the baby we know and love. The daughter who followed the two miscarriages has been such a blessing to our family. She is a sweet and loving child. A friend to all.
As we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, I want to acknowledge the hurt and pain of parents who have lost their babies and children. I experienced the loss of two children I never got to meet – I can only imagine how much harder it would be to lose one (or more) whom I had held, nurtured, and loved.