"If you have a daughter, she’ll be in the middle."
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2013
Traffic is crawling on the 5 freeway, in direct conflict with how I want and need to move as I head to the emergency room. At a wedding over Labor Day weekend, I experienced some light bleeding. Today, though, in the bathroom at work, it was bright red. Tears sting and blur my vision as I continue driving. The insides of my stomach are wrapped tight in a knot mirroring my hands tightly wound around the steering wheel. I have a terrible feeling that everything isn’t going to be alright. The bright red blood is not a good sign. Just over an hour later, when I finally arrive at Huntington Hospital, Dave is already there waiting. We check-in and are called in quickly.
There isn’t much I remember about our time in that room. The only thing I remember clearly is how time painfully slowed down after the Nurse Practitioner entered. As she began talking, I started to feel like I was having an out of body experience. Everything moved in slow motion as she continued to speak. Sound became muffled as if my head was underwater. Then she delivered the devastating news. I was stunned into silence trying to process the words coming out of her mouth. Blood work. Urinalysis. hCG levels. Empty ultrasound. No baby, no baby, no baby, no baby was repeatedly running through my head, the only thing I could focus on. The NP continued to speak but I didn’t hear her. She described next steps, the aftercare and what I should expect. I was handed a stack of paper summarizing it all. I was incapable of processing any of it. Nothing made sense to me. The only thing I knew for certain was that we had lost our baby. We had a miscarriage.
When we got home, I crawled into bed and wept like I never had before. I cried deep, heavy, painful cries for the hopes and dreams that were squashed. It had been a mere 4 weeks since I found out that we were pregnant but I had already planned the next chapter of our lives. Dave was away at a bachelor party the Friday I found out I was pregnant. On Sunday when he returned, I filled the house with pink and blue balloons and left a card next to our laptop. Dave would open up the card to find a confusing housewarming card and play a thirty-second video delivering the news. We were going to need more space for the baby!
My heart hurt in a way that I had never experienced before, but beyond the sadness, I felt shame. Shame that I had somehow caused this, that something was wrong with me. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, as someone who delivers when challenged, as someone who doesn’t see failure as an option, this out of my control event set off a torrent of emotions. I would later find out how common miscarriage is and, sadly, how few women talk about it. The facts did nothing to relieve the pressure of what I felt was my failure. I was so ill-prepared for this scenario that I had never bothered to educate myself about what would happen next. Over the next week, I would be subject to extremely painful cramping and bleeding. And, every day, the passing of dead tissue was a shitty reminder of the life you lost.
Foolishly, I only allowed myself the day to deal with it. I woke up the next morning and asked Dave, “Did that really happen?” Everything that transpired the day before had a haze around it, making it feel like a terrible, sick dream. But it wasn’t. The next day I went into work like I hadn’t suffered a significant, calculating loss. At the time, I didn’t think lying in bed and crying would be to my benefit. I mistakenly thought keeping a normal schedule would help direct my focus elsewhere. Maybe I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had to grieve. It was a huge misstep on my part. I did not properly manage or acknowledge the sadness that was about to creep into my life, plummeting me into a depth of darkness I naively wasn’t prepared for.
When Mom summarized the fortune-telling all those years ago, she said, “If you have a girl, she’ll be in the middle.” I never stopped to explore this any further, taking it at face value understanding that if he were accurate, I’d have two or three children. At the time, nothing about the statement indicated a loss. When Dad and I went through the translation last November, though, there was a clear, direct mention. The man behind the cherry wood desk said, “Once you get married, wait a couple of years to have kids. When you start trying, you’ll have to be careful. You will have at least one miscarriage, three pregnancies.” Goosebumps formed on my arms while a tingle ran down my spine. I stopped Dad, asking and re-asking for confirmation. Did he really say that? I can still feel the tingle across my body when I think about it. I was twenty-one when I sat in that San Marino office. The man behind the cherry wood desk foretold an event that wouldn’t happen for another nine years. Even more spine-chilling is that he referenced a death that would occur when I was thirty.
The aftermath of the miscarriage took me on a path that not all women succumb to. A 2015 study cited that nearly 20% of women become symptomatic for anxiety and/or depression after a miscarriage. A 2017 study found that 10 to 15% of women who experience a miscarriage attain the clinical threshold for a major depressive disorder in the months following the event. I was one of those women. It was in the middle of December that I found myself in a dark place. Three months after the miscarriage, I had not emotionally recovered. I cried plenty, felt as though I was grieving. But I was lethargic, exhausted and had trouble focusing. I kept trying to push through even though I knew the only thing that would make me feel better was to be pregnant. I became so fixated on this. The absence was tormenting, especially since Dave and I were actively trying. Another month without two solid lines on a stick was like a rough punch to the gut. All I felt was an insurmountable block in my path to happiness. So I stopped fighting for myself. I let the darkness sweep over me. I climbed into bed with it, turned out the lights and pulled the covers over my head. I internally and visibly became a shell of the person I was and could be. There were dizzy spells and a haze that would not clear from my thoughts. I was unable to make decisions and I was crying all the time.
It was not a straight path to recovery, but that's a story for another time. None of this was foretold by the man behind the cherry wood desk. What he did say, though, was the year after the death, my luck would start to turn. Just a little over a year after the miscarriage, we were pregnant again. I went through all the anxiety you have after having a miscarriage, the worry that lightning will strike in the same place twice. We sat in a sterile room having made it fifteen weeks with this pregnancy. The ultrasound technician turned to us and asked, “Would you like to know the gender?” My eyes watered and I felt I could finally breathe easier when he said it was a girl. She was our daughter that would be in the middle.