Last year we (the collective world touched by Prince’s music) lost a celebrity, and my post about grief at that time feels so naive and superficial to me right now.
On Wednesday I went in for a nuchal translucency exam on my twins. Immediately the tech asked about my due date because they were measuring small. As he checked different things, I thought they were still because they were sleeping. He looked for what should have been a heartbeat, and I watched the screen, not seeing what we were looking for. Not imagining any kind of connection. He said to relax as he checked numbers outside and came in with my doctor who wanted to see me early. I told her it didn’t sound good and she admitted we needed a conversation.
In her exam room, she looked from different angles and took a deep breath before explaining that their hearts stopped about a week ago. The phrase “genetic abnormality” is supposed to assure me there was nothing I did or could have done, but my children were gone. I still looked round, but in the week where I had lost them, my breasts weren’t as sensitive and I was really clingy. I felt like an emotional vacuum and no touch was too much. I began imagining I felt a kick or a nudge, knowing it was too early for that. My body knew but refused to accept they were gone.
I left and went to my son’s school for a meeting I knew I had to attend . . . A meeting that was pushed back for my appointment. I saw my eldest son laughing with his friends, and couldn’t control my sobbing. I talked with one of the school counselors because I knew my kids would need his support after I told them their siblings were gone. I sat through the meeting, present and asking questions, assuring the team I was okay and would be okay. I got through it.
The next day and every time I’ve woken up my hands were already searching for my children, and I knew they were gone. Today was the first time that realization didn’t cause tears to fall before I opened my eyes.
I grew up in a church family and I’m familiar enough with pro-life propaganda to know what “gentle suctioning” would do to my children. I begged to let them pass as they would have eventually but the evidence and concern for my safety meant I had to walk into a hospital so they could rip my children out of me. Words like “infection” from the death in my womb and “bleeding” out from blood thinners meant the risk to my own life and the children I still have to raise meant I had to do the impossibly painful.
I cried as my boyfriend drove us there. I cried as he held my hand and walked me in. At this point it had been day 3 of crying together and in shifts, relying on each other for strength and solace. I tried to hold it together and when I told my nurse the abortion was because they had died, she held me as we cried together. She took my last positive pregnancy test, and then let me keep it. I cried in pre-op, waiting for the doctors to talk to me and cried while they did. I was numb as they wheeled me into the operating room for my last glance at the ultrasound. When I realized they were gone and there was no turning back, I sobbed as I let them move me and work around me to put me to sleep. I woke up reaching for my children, knowing they weren’t there anymore and sobbing that they were gone. My nurse drugged me into silence with both dilaudid and percocet and a prescription for 800 milligrams of ibuprofen for when I was out of hearing range. Her relief began when I was too drugged to cry for a pain she couldn’t soothe. Even through my pain and the opiates, her relief was such a contrast from what I felt.
It’s been a haze of tears. I’m seeing the stages of grief, but they’re not really stages. They overlap because feelings rarely take turns. The stages like to reappear at random times too. And it comes in waves. Sometimes you can see it coming. Sometimes it hits you without warning.
Acceptance came first. The first call I made was to my sister and the moment I heard her cheery voice I couldn’t talk. The words finally came with a flood of tears and the depression that is never far from me. It’s fresh when I get new emails from Destination Maternity, or when I got home today to see the maternity clothes I bought, but didn’t wear. I knew it was a high risk pregnancy and I might not see them born. Denial hit right before the abortion. They might call it a dilation and curettage because that name gives it clinical space, but I had to walk in and let them do it, hoping they would still be alive. I bargained that they could stop growing and give their heart a break for a few days and start up again. Life doesn’t work that way though. Anger hit when I was looking at their last ultrasound and the resident assumed the pictures were bringing me pain and not the fact that my hope had died in that moment. The overlap of emotions means I sobbed when all I wanted to tell her was to stop talking. Sometimes silent presence is all that’s required of you.
There’s a plan.
I found out Wednesday and we’ve received a stream of love and support from our families since then. In spite of not being able to talk to many people. I have one sister that gets the majority of my meltdowns and raging tears. My parents calls are never ignored, nor are my children’s. I can’t handle talking to most other people, and they are kind enough to text me.
Today I told my kids (by phone) without fully breaking down, knowing their Dad will support a pain they will keep from me.
I’m alone at home right now. I’m putting away the maternity clothes with the ultrasounds and Easter plush baby sheep I gave the baby’s Dad for Easter. I will have to get laundry done to finish putting it all away. I’m putting away pregnancy books and prenatal vitamins and all evidence that their short lives have made in our home before everyone comes home. As I’m feeling the cramps from the procedure that remind me they’re gone, the stretch and mourning echoes in soft sobs throughout the quiet of my home as I prepare for the noises of tomorrow when my home is too full of life for the hollow space I feel inside of me.
We’ll celebrate the lives we were able to witness. They will always be our children. We’ve given them names.
I’m looking for a necklace that will remind me of them because I don’t even get a lock of hair. Honestly, that may be too hard right now. We’ll plant a couple of trees around the house for them.
I’ll find ways to be active and outdoors because working through it actively is where I will find my healing. I keep hearing time heals everything, but I call bullshit on that. You heal when you take what life has given you, pull it apart and put it together in a way that helps and heals, rather than festers and closes you off. It’s messy and unkind. I have to write. As much as this blog post feels like a journal entry, it’s about healing, and I have to hope it brings someone else comfort as I’m digging through the details to find my own. It’s raw. It’s real. Maybe it’ll get proofread in a few days.
I keep hearing that there is no loss as painful as that of a child, and we lost two, but I’m not sure that’s true. I’ve been a granddaughter, an aunt, a niece, and friend . . . and this is my first time as a parent. It’s the most pain I’ve ever felt. There’s no way to downplay or minimize it, but I’m sure there are other losses greater than my own. I can’t see this as the bottom because so many have risen from it.
Through the pain I’ve found compassion for others. Compassion has been extended to me. In spite everything that has passed between us, my ex has been the Dad our kids need in supporting me to support them. He is a great Dad.
Through the sadness, there has been laughter.
Through their loss, I’ve grown in ways that I was stubborn against just last week. The short time we have shared as parents has pushed us into better people than we were to the world and each other. At 11-12 weeks gestation, they’re frequently called “fetus” and “tissue” but they were our babies. We had plans for their lives. We wanted to watch them grow and do great things.
You have to work through the pain and get used to the tears. You can’t numb yourself away because grief will make itself known in other areas of your life. I’m sticking to Yoga pants for now, but my belly is already smaller than it was. I can see my feet again when I look directly down when just a few days ago it was just my belly, full of life and hope. I’m just not feeling as round as I was.
There have been similar losses in our families throughout our lives. It’s given us compassion and understanding for our loved ones. It’s given us an opportunity to help others work through their own delayed grief. It’s given us ways to work out issues that used to feel so big to us, but are completely insignificant now.