Labor Day

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Normally, I will not be able to keep up with all of the awareness days, weeks or months that occur on social media. That’s not to say I’m insensitive to the wonderful causes and initiatives, I just forget easily. But this year, I was keenly aware of my own miscarriage twenty-one years ago that I thought I would include this story here and now.

It was Labor Day weekend 1998 and I had already been to the doctor earlier in the week to learn that our fourth baby no longer had a heart beat in my womb. I was alone in the doctor’s office hearing the news. It was more than a sinking feeling but less than drowning. The drowning feeling would come later.

In bad news or crisis, I actually get very quiet. Before the days of cell phones, I think I called my husband from the front desk of the doctor’s office. My communication was flat and matter of fact—little emotion passed from my lips to his ears. I drove past his work office to process with a compassionate husband but our hug was equally flat. I was already feeling numb and he was already feeling helpless as to what to do or say.

We had just celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. That’s the night I told him. Tucked away at a table at a Chi-Chi’s restaurant with over-sized sombreros perched on our heads while they wished us ‘happy anniversary’ with singing, stomping and clapping, we held up the number 4 in delight that we were expecting another little one. Mr.Barnabas, my husband, smiling from ear to ear.

We always said we wanted four children. Maybe this was a little boy.

Five weeks later, there was no heartbeat. I was twelve weeks along and just shy of my second trimester. On the heels of three healthy pregnancies, it was an unwelcome surprise.

My three very active and alive children were two, four and six years old. Their understanding was minimal. Turns out, many grown ups have a minimal understanding of the loss of miscarriage as well. So, I began the long journey of coping alone. Some people might not feel miscarriage as deeply as others but this was likely the first unraveling of my emotions about many things left unstitched. Grief was the snag that pulled apart all my loose ends. This was when I knew I needed stitched by a professional Healer.

Even though my doctor told me there was no heart beat mid-week, my body did not know that yet. What dread to wait even a few days to deliver the child who would never have three big sisters or sit for family pictures or graduate from high school in 2017. It was a harsh reality for a thirty year old. It was a new road I’d never walked.

Labor Day weekend. The eve of my first year of home education for a first grader and two preschoolers. The eve of a season of grief that can still haunt me.

My body began the process of a spontaneous abortion— which is a tragic name for someone categorically opposed to abortion—a miscarriage, and a horrible labor and delivery story. There are aspects of that day that I can’t shake so I really try not to think of them. Or at least never repeat them. The ordeal ended with an overnight at the local hospital and surgery. My blood pressure was so low. My body not doing what it was supposed to do ‘naturally’. My emotions so raw. My fear so great. My heart so hurt. My numbness, flat lined.

My body was telling me I had delivered a baby. And I had delivered a baby in a crude sort of way. It was nothing like the rendering of life. That little one would not come home with me. I would never count their toes or tousle their hair, call their middle name or give them a proper burial. Their resting place not even as beautiful as an ugly graveyard. It was all happening so fast. I was expecting nine months, not twelve weeks. I was expecting a lifetime, not a single summer.

Silver and Gold, our dear friends who are like family to us, were my only visitors at the hospital besides my dear mother. Our family doctor stopped by as I was being discharged but more as a friend than professional. She said, ‘No woman after a miscarriage should leave the hospital without something to hold.’ And she graciously delivered to me a beautiful afghan to hold in my lap as I was wheeled to our van.

That blanket became an anchor to my healing. As did my two year old. I’d sit tucked under the blanket on the couch. She would curl up beside me, big blue eyes peering up at me and pat my hand when she caught me crying. She just knew. And she still has the gift of empathy. And I still have the gift from a friend, the afghan. No gesture of kindness was too small during this grief. It was such comfort to be noticed and remembered in the smallest of ways or the more significant ones.

It took me a long time to recover from this loss. It was traumatic for me. I hit every stage of grief and stayed too long in some stages like anger and depression.