There’s Nothing to See Here…

Warning: this post contains depressing talk about a stillbirth. You can skip it, I won’t be offended.

On Friday, August 15, 2008 I was just over 19 weeks pregnant and was in an ultrasound lab having what I assumed would be a routine scan wherein we may be able to determine the gender of our second baby. Instead, what I had was an hour-and-a-half scan (mostly spent with my heart in my throat because I knew the news before it was broken to me) while my husband and then-23-month-old daughter waited patiently in the other room.

The technicians are instructed to give no news at all to the patients. And sometimes silence is the loudest proclamation. Before the midwife told me, I knew.

There is no heartbeat, your baby has passed away.”

And the world stopped. At this point my husband was in the room. I shook my head. Tears came, words fell from the telephone held to my ear, my daughter chattered, my life shattered.

Mine’s not a unique story, sadly. But until you’re in the position, you have no idea what an impact the loss of a baby has on a life. On a family.

Maybe one day I’ll blog about the complete ineptitude of the midwives under whose care I was for the pregnancy. Or how, at 17 weeks the back-up midwife could not find a heartbeat but brushed off my concerns. Or how my primary care midwife passed my husband in the hall while I was being induced to birth a dead baby and said, “How’s Alexandria?” as though they were old friends, but didn’t even bother to come see me personally. Maybe.

It was a torturous 10.5 hour process before that baby was born. My husband and daughter stayed near by, and went for a walk when The Time came. I delivered with the strangers by my side.

I didn’t look at my baby.
I sputtered a wet, “Thankyouthankyouthankyou” to the attending OB who hugged me and held me for what felt like eternity.
They couldn’t identify the sex.
Fingerprints hadn’t developed. (Oh, oh, oh god this meant I had carried a dead baby for weeks? WEEKS? My body shuddered and heaved.)

When I thought the very worst was over, it wasn’t. I had retained a piece of placenta and wasn’t allowed to go home for fear of hemmorhaging. I waited. Waited more. Waited some more. Shift change happened and the next OB on duty told me I could wait another 5.5 hours for the ER or I could trust him.

I trusted.

They jabbed my leg with morphine and I had a D&C right there in the delivery room.

Agony.

Inside. Outside. From every inch and every part of my being: pure, sheer, unadulterated agony.

And it was over. I painted a brave face and left the hospital emptier than I had ever felt possible.

Over the following months I cowered inside myself. I retreated so far into myself that I’m not sure I’ll ever fully emerge. My family didn’t really understand what was happening in my head. My parents didn’t want to talk to me about the baby. I felt like my husband had heard it enough. My daughter needed me. I reached out to a support group but my calls and emails were sadly overlooked.

And one day it seemed like maybe, just maybe we could try again. And we did. And 2.5 years later I look at my 15-month-old every day and wonder who that other child would have been. It is not with regret. It is not anything I could ever explain. When he was born, I shook with sobs and everyone thought it was joy for his birth. It was joy for having birthed a live baby who would come home with me. It was joy in knowing I’d never, ever have to live through a fear-ridden pregnancy like the last nine months. It was joy knowing I wasn’t completely broken. At least physically. And everyone thought I would move on, that I was healed.

I’m not.

I still try to cover the anguish with humour. When the going gets rough I throw out uncomfortable lines like, “Hey, I birthed a dead baby, I can deal with ANYTHING”. But the reality is that no, no I cannot. I’m still broken, but really… it’s been 2.5 years, isn’t it time I let it go? Even I don’t know anymore. I don’t talk about it. And no matter how much time goes by, I’ll never forget that baby, the experience, the shock and horror of it all.

Sometimes time doesn’t heal.

(inspiration for finally having the guts to write this post courtesy this ridiculous study: http://www.thestar.com/mobile/article/living/948942)


  • Courtney Lee

    >Oh Alexandria, I can't even begin to imagine how hard this was to go through and even harder to put into words like you have done so well. I'm at a loss for what else to comment – hugs to you for sharing.
    Courtney.

  • Lindsey

    >The good thing, according to the article, is that PPD is "very treatable", right?
    Sort of misses the point.

  • Corrie

    >Wow! Thank you for writing this! I wish nobody would have to go through that. I unfortunately went through something similar…however it has been numerous years since my experience and I still think about it. I hope you heal from the experience soon!

  • Tinkertines

    >Thank you for bravely sharing something that you are still dealing with every day. I am so sorry for all that you went through and all the "brush offs" you experienced through-out. Too many women are putting on a brave face be it through miscarriage, still birth, post-partum depression, or raising children with disabilities. Women need to feel comfortable to open up and be able to support each other, this is a great way to start. Thank You xo

  • Stéphanie Montreuil

    >Dear Alexandria,
    What a courageous post. Hard to find words that would seem remotely appropriate.

    I know sometimes time doesn't heal, but I hope you make peace with this while ordeal.

    xo

  • Cate

    >What a brave post! I went through a very different, but somewhat similar experience and still have not "recovered." As you know, it is a long and difficult road…thank you so much for sharing your story.

  • Tricia Mumby

    >Oh, I read this with such a knot in my gut. Bless you. And time won't heal. Just one of those things only other women who've been through it can relate to. Just a nightmare. I'm sorry this happened to you.

  • MamaRobinJ

    >I know this story, of course, but it still breaks my heart. Sometimes I see how you are – lighthearted or generous or silly – and I think, "It seems like she's feeling better." But I know that's not how it works.

    2.5 years is really not a long time to heal from something like this. Do I think someday you'll be "healed"? I don't know. I know you'll be all right. But given my experience, which is very, very different from yours, I know sometimes you just don't "get over" something that has happened that affects you on such a profound level.

    But I think the fact that you are open about your feelings about this – even if it's only occasionally in spaces like this – shows immense strength. And remember that we're always here to listen if you don't want to turn to others.

  • Loukia

    >Oh, Alex. I am so, so sorry. My heart is breaking for you, and I can understand how you feel you'll never really be okay, or 100%, again. When dealt with a life changing experience like the one you went through, I don't believe you necessarily become stronger. Anyway, thanks for this well written, emotional and honest post. You're a wonderful mom. xo

  • Readily A Parent

    >You've shared your experience so powerfully. It's not medecine or pharmaceuticals that will help women who have suffered loss, but other women, like you, who are willing to brave their tears and share their stories.
    I have never understood how a woman who loses her child post-birth is allowed to mourn for the rest of her life, but a woman who loses her child before it's full-term should just "get over it." A child is a child, no matter how old.
    My mother had a late-term miscarraige approximately 2 years before I was born. I'm 34. She still grieves that child, though she never talks about. The loss profoundly affected her life and even my brothers sometimes say they're sorry I didn't know her before, like they did. As the follow-up child, I can tell you that talking about is the best thing you can do for your children, too.

  • Jenn

    >I have no words…I can't even imagine. Brave of you to post, I hope it helps you heal.

  • PD

    >Read with tears streaming down my cheeks. I feel that too. Having not gone through things myself not once but twice, I was still early on too.
    It's hard, no denying that, but everyday like you said, we relish in those little faces we DO have here with us. We never forget,however we can cherish, love and grow with our children. THEY are what make us stronger. THEY are what WE are all about. xx

  • Caroline W

    >I'm so sorry that you went through this. I read this with tears in my eyes. Thank you for being brave enough to share this very personal part of your life. Hugs to you.

  • Lexi

    >The heart breaks. I can't imagine – hugs to you Mama.

  • Amanda

    >That is a pain I can't imagine. I miscarried at 9 weeks and it took my a long time to get past that, this would have broken me. I'm horrified that you were ignored when you reached out. I hope this post brings you some peace and the support you need. You are amazingly strong.

    @caffeinated_mom

  • MIchele

    >My heart breaks for you and your story, and that you even have one to tell. You give a voice for people who have experienced something like this :(

  • Tamara

    >CRIPES. Really nice job of writing this. It must have been hard.

  • Karen

    >It's been almost 8 years since I lost my first baby and I still can't understand why people treat the loss of a baby in utero different than any other loss of a child. I am so glad you shared your story and I hope you continue to heal. I know that your courage in sharing this will help others.

  • Karma & Adam

    >Being able to reach deep inside and share something so dark and personal takes a lot of strength. But it gives you a chance to bring it out of hiding and get support, and others the opportunity to share their own stories. While we did lose our first surrogacy pregnancy (ectopic twin pregnancy), I can most relate to what you wrote as a cancer survivor. I too will never be 100% the person I was before I went through that. There are things lost forever, and insecurities that will be long-lasting. And many people assume once you're "cured" you're fixed. Not so. But I understand it's easier for the people who love you to believe that – and it's certainly more comfortable for everyone. I do believe talking about it, blogging about it, is a cathartic way to deal and heal. So thanks for sharing.

  • Lisa Beraldo

    >Everyone heals differently. What beautiful writing about such a difficult experience. Thank you for sharing.

  • mrsgryphon (Sarah)

    >Thank you so much for sharing – I have not been through this myself, but I so appreciate hearing from someone who has. Everyone's experience is different, everyone heals differently, but I'm sure that if I ever have a friend or loved one in this situation, I will remember this post.

  • Anonymous

    >Thank you so much for sharing. I experienced a similar event, earlier in the pregnancy(14wks) but reading your words brought it all back for me: the evasiveness of technicians, the sterility of the d&c, the avoidance of people around me, the horror of realizing you've been walking around with a dead baby inside… Although it happened nov 2004, the tears streaming down my cheeks makes it all come back like it was yesterday. I've had more children, and life does goes on, but again thank you for writing this. It gives me ( and many more of us out there) a moment's pause, reflection for whomever might of been, and remembrance of how precious life can be.

  • Grace

    >Thank you for sharing your story. Hanging your heart out on your sleeve like this and giving us a glimpse of your grief has helped me in defining and coping with my own loss/es. Thank you. (Excuse me, must wipe away my tears and hug my family extra tight now.)

  • Jane

    >The thing about sticking yourself back together is, like sticking the china duck that got broken back together, the cracks are still there. No matter how carefully you do it.

    Unlike the duck, the strangers don't see the breaks at all: but those closest to you do.

    *hugs*

    I still think of you and the baby, each summer. And I'll continue to do so.

  • Maria

    >How traumatic and terribly sad to have experienced this enormous loss. My deepest sympathies Alex. xoxo

  • RadioRedHead

    >argh just lost my comment. In any case I just wanted to commend you on bravely posting your story both to help those who have experienced a similar loss, & those of us who have not suffered something so tragic understand. My heart ached while readiing this & I was infuriated to read about the negligence in your care providers. I hope the responses you receive to your post help you in a small way. *Hugs*

  • Marci

    >I lost my son at 22 weeks and know the pain of loss you feel.In my case,he was progressing normally,it was me that was sick.Some bizarre illness the doctors couldn't figure out. When they did, they couldn't save us both. I didn't see him when he was born, I was too ill, but the nurses told me he looked just like my older son.I had another little boy 2 years later and both my kids know about the brother they never got to meet but who watches and protects them from Heaven. His name is tattooed on my ankle and his spirit is tattooed on my heart. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • sue1408

    >Thanks for sharing this Alex, it's not something you "get over" and I get so angry at the people that think we should – my fav. quote is "grief is something so big you can't get over, so large you can't go under and too big to go around, it's something you go through"…..and you're right 2.5 years later it still eats away at you…..it does get easier, but I know for me, anniversary dates are the hardest (the date I had to deliver, her actual due date, the day I know I conceived)….but I like to think of it we have an angel watching over us. xo

  • zchamu

    >(((((hugs)))))

  • Lisa

    >Oh Alex. I had no idea. I too deal with many sad or uncomfortable circumstances in my life with humour…it's not always well received mind you. I'm sure you can relate. When you make a joke about a sensitive subject, some people find it offensive or insensitive. I honestly believe that humour diminishes some of the power these sad events hold over us. Hang onto your sharp wit and great attitude lady. You are amazing. xxoo

  • Karina

    >I am so sorry for your loss, I had no idea. Thank you so much for writing this for all of us who have lost babies and still aren't able to write their stories yet.

    I am in awe of how strong you are, hug.

  • Heather

    >Such an honest and open post. May you find your way back outside of yourself again.

  • Johane

    >Alexandria,

    This is a very honest blog. What you went through was traumatic to say the least. Will you eve fully heal? Yes. In time. You will heal. Will things ever be the same? No. Never. You will always have your second child in your heart. As your other children grow and pass certain milestones you will naturally think of this second child.

    I have had 2 miscarriages, mercifully they were early on. Mercifully, I had never heard the heartbeats that allowed me to wrap myself in the dream of the possibility of this child. My other children were too young. They'll never know of these 2 siblings in this lifetime. But I will always remember.

    I, as I'm sure like you, never planned on living a life in memory of children never born, or not born alive. Yet here we both are. There are no words that I can say to offer consolation. There is nothing that I can say that will heal that part of you that is broken. There is nothing that I can do to turn back the clock and change everything that happened to you. The only thing I can do is say that you are not alone. Your child will never be forgotten. Neither will your story. I will keep you in my prayers because I see you and your child.

  • Alexandria

    >Thank you, everyone, for reading and commenting. It means a lot to me that you took the time. It's such a hush-hush thing, you know? Thanks again, all.

  • Carly

    >I remember when this happened. Felt the chill and sadness again reading this. I remember being surprised by how…ok you seemed, but figured it was just a coping mechanism. And I remember feeling so helpless over what to say.

    It takes courage to write about these sorts of things, but I hope it's helped, even a little bit, with the healing process.

    Don't ever feel guilty about or disparage your feelings/emotions. You can't control them. And there's no sense beating yourself up over a way you (or society) think you *should* feel.

    Sending you huge hugs from the Boonies.

  • JackiYo

    >I won't even pretend to know how this must feel, but I can say there is no expiry date on feelings. They are yours and yours alone.

    Just know there are another pair of shoulders here if you ever need them.

    You are an amazing person. I knew that before I read this post. Sharing this heart-wrenching story makes you even more amazinger.

  • 1001petals

    >hugs and best wishes.

  • Anonymous

    >HUGS from San Diego.

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  • http://www.coffeewithjulie.ca Coffee with Julie

    I’m so sorry Alex. I can only imagine how devastating and sad this experience must have been. I do know that a mother never forgets. When I was in grade school, we lost a child in our family to still birth. I still remember, we all still remember. My mother is very sad every year at this time — and it was more than 30 years ago now. I wish that no mother ever had to experience this kind of heart ache.

    • alexandria

      Oh, how terrible for your family, Julie. I can’t even wrap my head around losses like that. Ours was a couple days shy of 20 weeks, and through it I kept telling myself, “At least it wasn’t later.” Loss is horrible, regardless.

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  • MissLoulou

    I’m so sorry, Alex. Much love being sent your way today. xox

  • itslunchtimeca

    Thanks Alex. My wife and I went through this type of loss. I don’t work well with grief and did some shitty things when it happened. I felt so ashamed of my behaviour and felt so defective for a long time. It wasn’t until my dad died and the same behaviour happened (went to a Christmas party the day I found out and didn’t go see my Mom for a few days while they pulled the body from the lake) that I realized it was shock.

    I didn’t face up the shame until recently when we went through marital counselling. The damage has been done. There is very little support out there for either partner during this time. Get help when it happens.

    Once again, thanks for bringing this up and talking about it. Even though we wouldn’t have our youngest, it still hurts 9 years on. I wish I could offer you hope for forgetting or healing but you are right, it is like losing a piece of you. Even if you replace it with a prosthetic or understand your blessings, you still focus on that loss every now and then. The worst is that it was never real enough other than a picture and a feeling on the stomach for me, the husband. My wife went through worse and I can’t imagine.

    • alex durrell

      Oh, how awful, I’m so, so sorry for your loss.

      I think we lack not only the immediate support and care for mothers, but there’s a giant hole when it comes to the fathers’ emotional needs, too. It has been 6 years for us, and this is the first year my husband felt actual sadness over the loss (as opposed to his immense sadness for MY loss, if that makes sense). Healing takes a long, long time, and it’s never final.

      I wish nobody had to experience this.

    • alex durrell

      I am so sorry to hear about your father… that is absolutely awful, my deepest sympathies.