On October 3rd, I wear my trauma
I remember the weather that day, it was warm and overcast and drizzling. The sky was a muddy shade of gray from the time the sun came up. My stomach felt hollow and I had to remind myself to take deep breaths all day to keep myself from passing out. I wandered around the house aimlessly, convinced I was going to lose my fucking mind before I had to leave for this appointment. Mike was going to meet me there. The last time we heard the heartbeat was 2 weeks ago, and although the baby was measuring a tiny bit smaller than they would have wanted, there was a heartbeat and we were hopeful. This was our first baby and we still couldn’t believe how lucky we were to get pregnant so quickly. A week earlier I had started to spot and I was terrified; but it wasn’t enough for the doctors to bring me in, and I already had another ultrasound scheduled in a week. So we just waited, and everyday felt like a month. I remember standing in the shower before that appointment, feeling the water wash down my back, and sobbing. Out loud, I said goodbye to my baby, while I gently touched my belly. I didn’t need an ultrasound to tell me that there wasn’t a heartbeat; my broken heart told me. I didn’t tell Mike I said goodbye. I felt awful taking away any shred of hope he had, and to say it out loud again, with the eyes of my father’s child staring at me, rather than the shower wall, it would have made my fear way too real. So I kept it to myself. I remember getting a text from my sister after I finished getting dressed that morning, and her saying that the reason I was so nervous was because of how much I already loved my baby, and she was right, but so was I. I remember how sweaty my palms were in the waiting room and how strange it felt to be sitting next to Mike. It was like we were on a terrible blind date. We sat in a sterile waiting room, where you felt like you had to whisper to each other, and all I wanted to do was scream and demand to have this over with, and for someone to make this better, and beg absolutely beg someone to tell me that I was wrong so that I could get rid of this awful feeling in my chest. But I couldn’t do that. So we just waited, and I watched Mikes knee bounce nervously and his work boot bend where the steel toe ended, and I stared at the outdates magazines, and I’m pretty sure we were there for 6 months, or maybe 20 minutes, I’m not sure, this is where it starts to get fuzzy.
We were called back to the room. The nurse asked me my date of birth on the walk back, she weighed me in the hallway, asked me to pee in a cup in the bathroom and write my name on it with a sharpie, and then showed us to the room. She handed me a gown, asked me to undress and told us the doctor would be in soon. We sat in silence. We held hands but we were silent. My throat was so tight that I wouldn’t have been able to speak anyway. The doctor came in, we faked smiles, and quickly exchanged pleasantries and so began the ultrasound. I know in my rational mind it took all of two minutes to complete, but it felt like hours. Feeling that internal ultrasound poke and prod my insides, searching frantically for signs of life. He never reached for the speaker button on the machine like he had two weeks ago, because there was nothing to listen to. He just said he was so sorry, and slid the wand out of me and the machine away from me, and slowly he removed his gloves while I sobbed on the table and Mike squeezed my hand with his face beat red, trying as hard as he could to hold it together for the both of us. Everything after that feels like it was a movie. I was completely out of my body.
I know the doctor said a lot of really compassionate and rational things after that but it’s like someone muted the movie at that point, I can see his lips moving in my memory but I cannot hear a word. The next thing I do remember is when I slid off of that impossibly loud paper on the table, and I fell into Mikes arms and just kept saying “I’m sorry”. I didn’t know what else to say; and I was sorry, and I wanted to comfort him, but I could barely keep myself upright, so all I could do was cry and pray that he knew that my heart was hurting just as much for him. Mike collected my clothes from the floor and handed them to me and I guess I got dressed on my own, I don’t remember any of that part. The next thing I remember is sitting next to the office manager’s desk. I don’t remember how we got there, if someone knocked on the door and escorted us or if somehow mike was told and he just guided me. But there we sat, in a dark office with a big box of tissues. ‘This is where all of the unlucky ones find themselves’ I remember thinking. In these very seats hundreds of Moms and Dads have that title ripped from them and they are handed back their first names, along with an appointment card for your D&C appointment. I’m assuming Mike told them what days worked for us to go into the hospital and have the procedure done, because again I have no memory of even speaking in that office. But I know I was there.
I have no memory of leaving the office, until I get into my car. I remember sitting in the driver’s seat and holding my phone, and I knew that my sister was waiting to hear how the appointment went since she was one of the only people who knew that we were pregnant. But I couldn’t bring myself to call her yet, so I did what I always do what I want to numb myself, and I opened Facebook. The first and only thing I remember seeing was a meme. It was a Mean Girls reference about October 3rd. I had never seen the movie so I didn’t get it, but I knew that days date was October 3rd, 2014, so I figured it was relevant. I closed the app and turned on my car and began driving home. I called my sister from the highway and told her as quickly as possible that it wasn’t good and tried to choke back tears and got off the phone as quickly as I could because I was afraid I was going to get into an accident, since my glasses had fogged up from crying so much.
We went out to dinner that night because I couldn’t sit in the house anymore, but I don’t remember what we ordered, outside of the red wine. I remember running into people we knew but I have no idea what the conversation was about or if we even talked. I don’t know if we got an Uber home or if we drove. I don’t remember a lot of those next couple weeks outside of the agony I felt, the absolute despair that crippled my ability to get off of the couch, or the phone calls and texts I would send to Mike telling him how desperately I wanted to just feel normal again. What I do remember; is how much work it was to put on a happy face the next weekend when I hosted family for a long planned girl’s weekend. I remember how exhausting it was to continue on with everyday conversations and show up at my parents’ house on Sundays for dinner and pretend like everything was ok. I remember not telling my parents that Mike and I lost our child. I remember holding that in for 3 months. That was the darkest and loneliest three months of my life.
I felt like a fraud, and with every passing day it felt harder and harder to break the silence. “How could you possibly tell them now, it’s right before Thanksgiving…Christmas…New Year’s Eve… Mike and Kristin’s birthdays…” my brain convinced me daily that sharing my heartbreak would only cause more heartbreak and that there was never a good time to do that. The guilt that consumed me was unrelenting, but the trauma of having to tell my parents I WAS pregnant, and now I’m not, all in the same sentence, I just didn’t think I could survive it. I was too fragile, too broken. I couldn’t think of telling them without picturing the t-shirts my sister had made for my 2 nieces to wear that said “Big cousins” on the front. That was how they were supposed to find out that they were going to be grandparents again. That was how they were supposed to hear that now both of their daughters were expecting baby’s weeks apart from each other. It was supposed to feel like magic. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. So I chose to stay quiet. I chose to slowly fall apart under the illusion that I was helping everyone else stay whole. I chose this because I didn’t have a blueprint to figure out this trauma, and I was in self-preservation.
I remember finally committing to tell my parents’ about our loss. I remember how terrified I was, how I beat around the bush for hours while they sat on our couch, checking in on Mike after his knee surgery. I almost let them leave, and then I looked at Mike and I knew that I had to let it out. I was met with nothing but love and compassion and empathy. My parents’ hearts broke for us, but they held it together so that we didn’t feel like we had to take care of them. They shared stories of others they knew who had experiences similar tragedy and all of them had a happy ending. The weight that was lifted from me the moment I shut the door behind them that night, was something I had never experienced before. I came face to face with what my brain had told me would kill me, and I survived. I was seen, and heard, and believed, and I lived through it. I was loved through it.
Sadly, we have had to repeat that heartbreak twice since our first miscarriage. Once this past July after carrying our baby for 10 weeks, and again in September after 5 weeks. None of these three miscarriages have been less painful, but the trauma of our first miscarriage was absolutely the most unrelenting. The three babies we lost, all left us in different ways, and at different times. But one thing they all have in common is the fact that the details surrounding the days we learned we were losing our babies, details big and small, are missing from my memory.
It wasn’t until last week, when all of the Mean Girls, October 3rd memes started circulating again, that I was triggered into my trauma and reminded of that life changing and heartbreaking day 4 years ago. Because the truth is, it is only on that day and for maybe a few weeks after, that I remember the anniversary of our first miscarriage. That’s not the case with our second miscarriage because the day we found out was the same day as my nephews birthday, so that one is pretty permanent, but the loss we just had a few weeks ago, I had to look up the date the other day in my phone, when I thought about writing this blog, because I had absolutely no memory of the date. Now if you were to tell me four and a half years ago, “hey Jess, you are going to have three miscarriages, don’t worry you will have one beautiful healthy baby in between, but listen you aren’t going to remember the dates of two of those losses”, I would have thought you were out of your mind! How the hell could I ever forget a date that was so poignant in my life? What kind of woman would I be if I let something so tragically imperative in my life fall away? Well I can say now, that I didn’t let anything fall away. My brain chose what was relevant to keep without consulting me. My brain did what it believes its job is, which is to keep me safe and alive, and so when I ran into those traumatic situations it organized the memories in a way that would keep me as sane and whole as possible.
So why am I telling you this? Well one, I think it’s important to shine a light on miscarriages and loss in general, but this is really about shining a bright ass light on the reality that is trauma. Trauma comes into our lives with no invitation, and zero handbook. There are some forms of trauma, that as humans we will all collectively experience, one being the loss of someone we love deeply. For those of you who have lost a partner, parent, sibling, friend, or a child, I am sure that there are screenshots of the day you lost your loved one, that will forever be etched in your memory, and on the other side of the coin, I am sure that there are details and chunks of time that are missing all together. That is not because you didn’t experience those moments, it’s because that is how the brain works in the midst of trauma. Now if you are anything like me, there is also the compiled shame that comes swooping in when you realize that these moments in time are missing. So now you are dealing with the aftermath of loss and trauma, and low and behold shame and guilt want to join the party. It is no wonder why so many of us stay stuck for so long in the throes of grief and despair.
Just recounting all of this, reliving the dark details that lead up to my own trauma, it’s heartbreaking. But what breaks my heart on such a deep level is knowing that there are so many people living their lives everyday holding onto trauma, and having nowhere to unpack it. Not because they have no one to talk to, but because what they have to say will not be received the way that my trauma was. They will not have people cozy up next to them and throw their arms around them and share stories that have happy endings. They won’t have messages in their inbox after they share their trauma the way that I have, offering prayers and support, and love. Because their trauma brings with it layers of speculation, and blame, and shame and guilt. So that silence that I experienced for three months; the darkest and loneliest three months of my life, when I walked around feeling like a fraud, when I lived my life veiled with a phony smile and a fresh wound, that is the life that so many feel as though they are forced to live, forever. The thought of that makes me feel like I am drowning.
Placing myself in that scenario, picturing myself telling my parents, or family members, even strangers, that I had a miscarriage, and being met with questions like “well did you drink coffee, or lift anything too heavy?” “Are you sure you were even pregnant? I mean 5 weeks is barely being pregnant” “Did you go to the doctor or report this to anyone who would have documented this? Did your husband actually see you bleeding or did you just tell him that you were? Does your insurance company know? I mean, how am I supposed to believe you if all that I have is your word, don’t you know the proper protocols for this type of thing, as a woman and especially if you ever want to be a mother, you should be responsible enough to do all of those things regardless of how sad you were and how much physical pain you were experiencing.” “Ok, so say you did actually have 3 miscarriages, what were the dates of them? What was the weather like those days? Were you with anyone on the days following? Who else did you tell about these miscarriages? What do you mean you didn’t tell your parents? So of all people, you’re not going to tell your own parents who you saw every week sometimes multiple times a week, and you asked the people who did know to keep this secret for you? Are you seeing how this looks suspicious and how it’s hard for me to now trust anything that you say?”… The thought of having to face a battering ram of questions around the most horrific day of my life, just to validate that it happened, to someone who at this point I know could care less about my recovery, it would be absolutely decimating to the core of my being. I mean, can you imagine? Shit, this is a fake fucking scenario that I just made up and typed myself and I am absolutely livid at my piece of shit brain for thinking it could speak to me that way.
And yet, here we are as a society, wielding our hammers in the air, with fists full of nails, boarding up the windows of homes engulfed in flames, with survivors attempting to flee from the fires that have burned them for far too long. Not because they deserve it, but because we aren’t equipped to help them once they save themselves. We aren’t ready to tend to their wounds and hear the horror that they have lived through, because it may ignite our own smoldered ashes that we built our foundations upon. So rather than help, and risk then feeling helpless, we abandon and we blame it on their not jumping out of the window as soon as the smoke alarms went off.
This is unacceptable, it is inexcusable, and it is reprehensible. We have no idea what anyone else is currently going through, what they have lived through, and the reasons why they dealt with it in the way that they did. But when we do have the sacred honor of being invited into someone’s trauma, and to be shown their scars and told the stories of how they found their path to healing, it is in no way shape or form any of your business to judge that person's choices. Because God knows, you would want and deserve that same human decency in return.
The season of life that we are all witnessing, is turbulent and it is intense. I have to imagine this energy was present around the time that civil rights were ‘instituted’, and when women were given the right to vote, and schools were desegregated, and the list goes on and on. We are riding the winds of change, and they can stir up some shit, and that is exactly what they are supposed to do. Things are being broken down, so that they can be built back up, using a blueprint that everyone can agree on. It is painful, and contentious, and full of emotions, but it is also beautiful and enriching, and exposing the rotting limbs of an otherwise healthy tree, that are long overdue to be trimmed in order to save the whole. I am in no position to tell anyone where they should stand on political or personal issues because truth be told it’s none of my damn business, but what I do feel like I have the right to request, is critical thought and empathy. This isn’t easy and it takes time, which are two things that our current society of ‘easy and immediate’, does not celebrate, but returning these two things to your everyday life, could quite literally save someone else’s. Taking the time conceptualize, analyze, and evaluate the information you are absorbing, so that you can come to a conclusion that is actually rooted in your own beliefs and values and not that of others who are trying to get a reaction out of you, will quite literally change the way you see and interact with the world. From my own experience, the hardest part of this way of being is having to sit in the discomfort of knowing that you didn’t live this way for so long, and because of that you have likely done some damage to others along the way. That, however, is how you get to really offer empathy. Because when you are willing to sit with your own pain and discomfort and offer yourself the grace that you deserve, you can freely offer that to those you come in contact with. May we all be so lucky to experience a world full of grace and love. God knows my baby earth-side deserves such a beautiful world.
I hope this essay finds you well. But if you are in pain, I hope you know that you are worthy of the beauty that is waiting to unfold for you. You are seen, you are heard, you are believed, and you are loved. All of my love, always. <3