When you're a married woman in your 20s, any time you say you have a big announcement or talk about moving into a two bedroom house or the fact that you want a puppy, people immediately jump to one question —
"Are you pregnant?"
Well, I was.
We had a miscarriage, right after Thanksgiving. We found out a week before Thanksgiving, told our families on Thanksgiving day ("We have one more thing to be thankful for!"), and then miscarried almost exactly a week later.
All of it was unexpected. We were still adjusting to the idea of being parents when we found out it was ending already.
Telling everyone about the new little Stalsbroten was far more emotionally exhausting than I thought it would be. Because we have family members kind of spread out all over the place, we had to have at least eight separate conversations, some in person, and some over the phone. After each one of those eight times, I felt like we had lived our whole wedding day over again. It was that tiring. Weird.
And so when we were certain that this baby wouldn't be coming into this world, I just couldn't make all those phone calls over again. So we sent an email.
Back to "the" question. I used to ask the same thing, and often. It wasn't until November, when I saw those lines on a little plastic stick that I resolved to never ask it again. You just never know where people are in the process. It's all so tenuous — people just need to be allowed to share when they want to share. It's joyful, but also frightening. Or if you're having trouble conceiving, terribly sad. Or if you've just lost a baby, even sadder. It's just never a good question to ask.
There were etiquette things I didn't know about miscarriage. Medical things. Emotional things. Spiritual things. There were many things I learned. It changed my life.
Helpful hint: if you miscarry, it's important to know what your blood type is, so find out now. It's complicated, but if your blood is Rh- (negative), and your partner's blood type is positive, it's possible that your baby could have a positive blood type. In this case, it's also possible that your body will attack that pregnancy, because the pregnancy is an "invader." This makes it harder to conceive and sustain pregnancy in the future. It only works this one way — if your blood type is Rh+ (positive), it's not a problem. If your partner and you both are negative, it's also not a problem.
Lucky me, my blood type is negative, and Dave's is positive, so it was unknown but possible that our baby could have had a positive blood type. But there's a "cure," if you will. It's a shot of treated blood called Rhogam. You get it in the booty (yay), and it has to be administered within 72 hours of miscarriage. I made it in the window, and my oh-so-wonderful, caring midwife ensured that I did. So thankful for her.
Side note, I'm not a medical person, so if you want to read about this for real, check here.
On the subject of midwives... I am going to get a little opinionated here. Forgive me. When I found out I was pregnant, I called my normal OB/GYN office immediately (maybe the next day). I've never been pregnant before — I needed some info! Exactly how much broccoli and kale should I be eating so that my baby will go to Harvard one day? Which books should I be reading? What prenatal vitamins should I take? How many bourbons can I have after dinner tonight? Kidding. But seriously — what do I know?
I called, and they blew me off. "Oh, we won't need to see you until you're at least 8 or 10 weeks along." Right. Okay, when's that? "Here's your appointment three weeks from now — see you then."
Zero instruction about anything at all. No vitamins. No books. No diet. No exercise. No prohibition of alcohol or cigarettes. They should assume I'm a brainless bimbo, right? Shouldn't they warn me about SOMETHING?
I hung up and thought of other options. I have many friends who have seen midwives for their pregnancies, or are midwives themselves. I found a few offices in the area and scheduled my appointments. All the midwives I spoke with were so friendly, and so congratulatory. They agreed to see me as soon as they could — my appointments fell a few weeks later, but only because their schedules were already full, not because they put me off because it was "unnecessary" to come in earlier. Thank God for midwives.
When I suspected I might be miscarrying, I called both midwives back, and both were extremely prompt in their follow up with me. They expressed so much concern and empathy, along with the appropriate medical urgency. I was urged to come in immediately so that I could be examined and we could find out about my blood type.
Taylor, the midwife I ultimately saw, opened her office to me at 8pm on a weeknight — completely outside her normal work hours. I protested this, in consideration for her time, and she reassured me and insisted that I come in right away. She also agreed to waive all the fees if my insurance wouldn't cover the labs she did on my blood draw. She hugged me when I came in, and when I left. She reassured me that this miscarriage wasn't my fault, that I hadn't done anything wrong. She gave me permission to feel sad, even though I was so early on and had only known about this baby for two weeks. She prepared me for what my body would go through in the next week. She gave me all her contact info and said to call her if I needed anything else.
A few days later, I called the OB/GYN to cancel my first prenatal appointment, because I had already planned on sticking with the midwife, and because I had miscarried. They didn't ask why I was canceling my very first prenatal visit, they just told me to call back if I wanted to reschedule.
No thanks. Not ever.
Midwives for life!
Moving on. Why am I writing about this? This is the time we probably would have made news of our pregnancy public. I'd be entering my second trimester, and would be starting to show.
It's obviously really personal, but I wanted to write about it, because I've felt the most support from women who have miscarried themselves. If you've miscarried, I think it's really important to know that you're not alone, and what you're experiencing is far more common than you think.
I cannot say how this experience has changed my life, my heart. My marriage. My faith. My family. My body. My calling. In effect, it has touched every part of me. And I'm thankful.
For the few Crossfit classes I took while I was pregnant, my mantra during the most intense parts of the workouts was, "It's you and me, Baby. You and me." I felt like I had a superpower — there was a little human growing inside me, helping me, preparing me for the hardest physical thing I'll ever be asked to do, nine months from now.
The morning that I started to suspect that I was miscarrying, Dave and I went to Crossfit. Florence and the Machine's "Shake It Out" came on during the most intense part of our workout. And the mantra went through my head one more time. "It's you and me, Baby. You and me." I cried, right in the middle of the WOD.
I can't explain this — there's a bizarre sort of hope and thankfulness that has grown in me since the day I miscarried. It echoed through that song. (It's hard to dance with the devil on your back // So shake it out). The longing to have a baby has increased, and mercifully so. I see babies and pregnant women everywhere (it's kind of weird), which is sad, and hopeful. Like they're all in a secret club that I have to have the right password to get into. But it renews my faith that this joy will be given to us one day.
It makes me think of the word "esperanza." This word was meaningful to me and Dave throughout the long part of our long-distance relationship. In Spanish, it means both "waiting" and "hope." Beautiful. It's what I feel in this season — a two-sided coin. Longing and hope.
A while ago, I was reading Luke 1. The book opens with the story of Zecheriah and Elizabeth, who have waited their whole lives to have a child, and have probably given up hope. But an angel appears to Zecheriah and tells him that his wife will conceive. He's astonished. I'm guessing she is too, although the Bible doesn't say that.
It's a really fantastic story, especially because the story of Mary's immaculate conception comes directly afterwards. I was reminded while reading it how much God loves barren women, and how prominently they are mentioned in the Bible. Sarai. Rebekah. Hannah. Elizabeth. And remembering that, I felt less alone, and so loved.
Miscarrying linked me to my mom in a new way. She's had three miscarriages, each with their own particular weight and complexity. She understood me immediately and completely. How thankful I was for that.
When I was 7, Mom gave me a silver charm bracelet. Every few years, she gives me a charm to represent whatever season in life I'm in. At 7, it was a ballerina and a nutcracker, to remember the first time I danced in The Nutcracker. In 8th grade, it was a dog bowl with "MOLLY" engraved on it, to remember the dog we had to give away when moving overseas. At 24, it was an airplane to remember the years I traveled around the world for my job. At 25, it was a ring, a heart, and a "Just Married" sign, to remember the grand romance with Dave.
And this Christmas, it was a little gift. She gave a charm to each of the girls in our family, and mine was this one.
I was puzzled when it dropped out of my stocking. "Thank you! What's it for?" I asked.
"That's for the baby you lost," my mom said. "To always remember that you have a baby in heaven that you'll get to hold one day."