loss and red tape

earth to earth: we buried the remains in the woods

I was pregnant with a living, growing being for six weeks and one day. it was my first, and so far, my only pregnancy. my fiancé Andy and I hadn’t been “trying,” per se…nor were we doing anything to prevent it. I was not wanting to waste any time, I guess. I’ll be forty-one in May, and the fact that I had never been pregnant before, in spite of some occasional recklessness, had me suspicious that I might actually be infertile. so when I took the pregnancy test and that blue line immediately appeared, at first I was kind of confused. then incredulous: me? pregnant? like…ME me? for real?

yep, for real. I was really pregnant. I took another pregnancy test the very next time I had to pee, just to be sure, though. yes, I was going to have a baby. I was going to be a mom. but because first trimester miscarriages are extremely common, you’re “not supposed to” tell the world you’re pregnant until you have at least seen a heartbeat, usually at an early ultrasound. and maybe not even then. maybe wait until you’re at least twelve weeks pregnant and everything looks good, and then tell everyone.

um…are you fucking kidding me? the most exciting, miraculous thing to ever happen to me, and I’m supposed to keep that shit under wraps–for how many more weeks? come ON.

so I told people. not the whole world or anything; not facebook. but, you know, close people. closest friends. my sister. my parents. the coworkers I had already told my period was weirdly late, and who counseled me to “pee on a stick.” I mean, I kind of had to tell them; I had already been giving them TMI, so they were unwittingly in on it anyway. you know, like that. and I understood the argument for keeping it private: what happens if you miscarry and you have to reel it back in? but it felt to me like not telling people was living in a limbo land of just waiting to see if this “thing” survives. you know, just postpone the excitement. I mean, you wouldn’t want to count your chickens before they hatch or anything.

but that’s not the way I’m wired. I very clearly felt that my choices were these: fully embrace and thus acknowledge, this wonderful thing that was happening to me, or live in a depressed funk for a while. so I chose. but under the surface, I couldn’t entirely shake the feeling that my pregnancy was somehow fraudulent. early one morning, as I was getting up for the third or fourth time since falling asleep the night before (women who have been pregnant will understand) I had the tiniest, barely conscious trace of a thought:

I’m not pregnant anymore.

I probably figured–if it registered at all–that it was just one of those weird, random thought forms that basically amount to a brain talking to itself; practicing saying words. it wasn’t until after Andy and I had been to our first appointment with the obstetrician and the “baby” measured two weeks too small on the ultrasound, with no apparent heartbeat, that I even remembered the incident.

the doctor suggested it was possible we could have miscalculated the conception date, and if the embryo was really only six weeks old (instead of eight), its heartbeat would be more difficult to detect. she said that the yolk sac did not appear collapsed, as is sometimes apparent in a miscarriage situation, so there may yet be reason for hope. she scheduled me for a follow-up ultrasound at the specialty clinic the following week, mentioning that she would contact me with the results as soon as she got them. I remember thinking that seemed odd–would I not be privy to the results at the time of the procedure? but I was upset at the moment and I didn’t think to ask for clarification.

the week between those two ultrasounds was a very emotional one for me. talk about being in limbo. my thoughts and emotions ran the gamut over that period, from confusion to despair to hope…and back again. hello, Baby? do you read me? are you still transmitting? and the thing that made it hardest to have hope was that I was pretty confident of the date of my last period. I have been tracking my periods since about 2012, and though they had become somewhat more irregular as I have aged, I don’t think they’ve ever been as much as two weeks off.

the day before the follow-up radiology appointment, I texted with a friend in Seattle who had had a couple of miscarriages and now has two children. she told me how an early ultrasound with her younger child looked to the doctor like she had a tumor, so they scheduled a D&C (dilation and curettage, the procedure by which the uterus is surgically emptied of its contents), and would send the tissue to oncology for analysis. Fortunately for everyone, they did another ultrasound before performing the procedure. turned out that “tumor” was a baby! this gave me hope–anything’s possible.

but when Andy and I went to the appointment, the radiology tech was not allowed to say anything to us one way or another. at one point I asked her, “do you like your job?” she said, “well, I’ve been doing it for about 20 years, so…” neither Andy nor I saw anything on the screen which gave us much hope, but then, neither of us really knew what we were looking at. after quite a few images were taken, the technician said she had to show them to the radiology doc, who would let her know if any more would be necessary. when she returned, she said they had all the information they needed, and that my OB would contact me with the results “later today or maybe tomorrow.”

I see. there are two people with the chops to interpret these images–close by and already involved–but I have to wait to hear it from my OB. because why? can I sign a waiver or something? I do not care who gives me the definitive result; I promise not to press charges or whatever else this official policy is in place to prevent. just tell me what I need to know so that I can move forward with my process. fuckers.

what a long day of waiting that turned out to be. I kept my phone close by, even as I did some work in the yard to cope with my anxiety and imminent grief. though the secondary ultrasound had taken place around 9 that morning, and by 4 in the afternoon I had still heard nothing, Andy encouraged me to call the OB’s office for information. when I did, the receptionist I spoke to affirmed that the results had recently come in, and that she would message my doctor; possibly the nurse would call me with the results. wow. can the receptionist see my results? and the nurse? why do I still have to wait? and what the fuck is up with this policy?

when, by 7PM, I had not received a call, whatever dread I had been feeling was usurped by deep frustration and ANGER. truly, I was more distressed at the fact that I couldn’t get access to what was rightfully my medical information than the probable miscarriage. this was the very definition of bureaucratic bullshit. 

Andy, too, was frustrated. we even had a minor squabble via text message because we were both so annoyed. though the OB’s office was now closed, he convinced me that I could call back and ask the answering service to contact the on-call doc for me. I was told s/he would get back to me within thirty minutes. in actual fact it may have been more like five. and she gave me the news I was expecting: yes, it looks like a miscarriage. by this point I was just relieved to know, and didn’t even feel very sad. she listed my options:

  • no medical intervention/expectant management: wait for my body to expel the products of conception (POC) on its own
  • take a pill that causes uterine contractions, forcing the miscarriage to complete
  • undergo a D & C, with moderate to full sedation

I thanked her for the information and told her I would consider the options. I felt pretty sure that I would opt for the D & C; I wanted to get it over with. I had no interest in an extended limbo experience.

the next afternoon my OB called me. she apologized for not calling the day before, but said she had been out of the office, then had several patients back to back, etc. she also apologized for my loss, and we reviewed the post-miscarriage options the on-call doc shared with me the night before. I decided to schedule a D & C with mild sedation (“twilight“) for the following week.

the only thing that bothered me about that choice was that the remains would automatically be sent to pathology for testing, and it was unclear whether I could get them afterwards. as I explained to her, “if I took my cat to the vet and he had to be put down, I wouldn’t want to leave his body there; I’d want to give him a proper burial.” granted, a cat and a 6-week-old embryo are not the same thing, but the principle is.

by this point, and for the first time since getting pregnant, some light spotting had begun. three days later, my body carried out what I had just scheduled a procedure to achieve. it was a drawn-out, uncomfortable, messy process–worse than any menstrual cramps I’d had. over-the-counter pain reliever couldn’t touch it. heating pads helped some–when in bed, I had one under my back and one over my abdomen. but the most memorable and intense stretch was spent in the bathroom–moaning and wailing–with Andy by my side. he rubbed my back, gave me a cool wash cloth, held my hand; anything I asked of him, he did.

though largely unpleasant from within, it was the kind of experience after which I felt an immediate sense of gratitude, even something like satisfaction. after all, a couple very good and valuable things came from it: physical remains that we could bury, and a deepening of the emotional bond between Andy and me. I don’t mean to gloss over this part, but I can’t yet find words adequate to describe it. I just know that he’s been here for me throughout this whole experience (it’s his experience too), and that he will continue to be here for me, no matter what comes next. a younger me might’ve been freaked out by such constancy, but almost-forty-one-me finds it deeply reassuring.

I took the next day off from work to rest and recover, as well as spend more time with Andy. we shared an apple fritter and a custard-filled “long john” at the Donut Cutter before heading out to Brighton with the remains. sometimes sugar and fat are medicinal. when we got to my parents’ house, we took the small glass jar that held Baby’s remains to the wooded area behind their house and dug a hole in the dirt. we each said a few words (mine felt lame), then emptied the jar into the hole. earth to earth. after Andy left that day, I washed the jar and turned it into a tiny terrarium, including some tiny stones I had collected near the burial site. it now lives on the window sill in my shower.

the jar that held the remains became a little terrarium

 there is so much more that I could say, but I think I’ve probably said enough. I suspect I will revisit and continue to revisit the subject. I do know that I’m starting to feel better, and I’m thankful for all the support I’ve received from Andy, friends, and family. I’ve been surprised to find out how many women I know have had miscarriages. it doesn’t change the outcome, of course, but it does help to talk to other women who have been through it too.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. lypscratch says:

    Oh Faith! Sending so much love to you and Andy on this loss. ♥️


  2. Jessi says:

    💓 love you 💓


  3. Jeane says:

    Thank you for sharing this Faith. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. ❤ reading this is helpful for me to know I’m not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

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