Writer Jennifer Cameron Klein shares her experience of pregnancy loss and the raw emotions a mom and a family can feel.
Jennifer Cameron Klein

Time heals all wounds?
People tell me it will take time. That with time comes perspective and healing.

I don't have perspective. I have an empty uterus and sanitary pads to change.

I don't want perspective. I want it to be two weeks ago when I had hope and optimism and nausea and a baby growing in my belly. I want to be able to change history.

It's been 24, 48, 72, 120 hours since we lost it. Him? Her? Five days, six days. Days blurred together by blood and tears and cramping and flowers sent by my brother-in-law's mother-in-law (got that?).

My mind is muddled with what ifs. My doctor tells me I did nothing wrong. But what if? What if I hadn't been picking up my two year old? What if I hadn't boarded a plane when I was five weeks pregnant to go on a vacation? What if I'd eaten better? What if I had not missed that one prenatal vitamin, even if it did make the nausea worse? What if, well, everything? Would I still be pregnant? Would my baby be growing inside me instead of passed into a bedpan?

What if I had called my doctor immediately when I passed the mucous plug? That was days before the bleeding began. I was in a long inane meeting when I felt something in my underwear. I went to the women's room and there was the smallest mucous plug I could imagine. Less than a dime in diameter, and barely a skim coat of something. The words "mucous plug" entered my head but I pushed them back down deep inside me. No, that's not going to happen. Stop being a pessimist, I told myself. You're going to have a baby in seven months; this is just a hormonal surge or something.

The reality
What if I had called my doctor the night before the bleeding started, when a felt a small whoosh of wet in my underwear while out to dinner? I'd had a heavy feeling in my lower abdomen that day. Not cramps or pain, but heaviness. Pressure. I thought it was just from overdoing it cleaning the house for our overnight guests. Again a trip to the women's room revealed some wet underwear.

But by then it was too late. That probably was what little amniotic fluid had developed in the sac. My membranes had ruptured. Labor was imminent.

Yes, labor. In all I had read about early pregnancy and miscarriage, nothing told me my body was going to have labor and childbirth.

At 3:30 in the morning, I wake up. I felt something in my underwear. I debated with myself. Get up? It's probably nothing. Really. You're overreacting. You're fine. Go back to sleep. It's nothing. OK, just to reassure yourself, get up. It's not nothing. I have no pads; just panty liners and they won't last five minutes. I wake up my husband and change his life, too, with two words, "I'm bleeding."

I was having painful cramps now. Every five minutes. In early pregnancy, these were "cramps." Mere weeks later they would have been called "contractions."

We called the hospital. My doctor was on call, thankfully, the same woman who delivered my oldest son. She knows me. Come in she said. We woke our friends, who didn't know I was pregnant, and told them what was happening. We left our older son in their care and took the little one with us. We arrived at the hospital at 4:35 am. It took less than two minutes after arrival to get the first dumb comment.

Me: I'm 10 weeks pregnant and I'm bleeding.

Nurse: Oops.

Oops? OOPS? This is not some silly accident! This is a loved and wanted and long planned for baby and we're losing it. I already knew it then. I knew it on some deep level since at least the night before.

But I had no presence of mind to say anything. I was too scared. It was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other to go to the exam room.

The nurse wanted a urine sample, and a clean catch at that. There was no way. The bleeding was too heavy. In an effort to at least get the urine, I managed to give her a large blood clot. I didn't know clots that big could form and pass.

There was blood pressure to take, an IV to put in (badly), a pelvic exam and ultrasounds (vaginal). There was blood everywhere. My doctor did her best to reassure me, but admitted that it didn't look good. The pelvic indicated my uterus was small for dates. The first ultrasound shows an irregularly shaped sac and a large bleed at the top of my uterus. The second ultrasound found the fetus in the sac, and they try to date it.

I had to make a decision. Wait and see if I pass the remaining tissue on my own or have a D&C. It could be minutes or hours. I decide to wait.

Time passed and blood and clots continued with the contractions. The clots were the size of baseballs and softballs. Shifts changed, and a new nurse came in. I ask if she could please cut the IV because I need to pee too often and it hurts badly in my arm. The room was out of bedpans and chux pads. She asks how far along I am. Then corrects herself -- "How far along were you?"

She brought me a bedpan and promised to be back in one minute. My husband takes our son for a walk. It's just after 8 am Sunday, March 24, 2002.

I pass the tissue.

Tissue? Fetus.

Fetus? Baby.

Time passes. One minute. Two. Three. The room isn't set up well. I can't reach the call button and the sliding door is closed on the other side of the curtain. If I yell, they can't hear me. I sit in a pool of blood staring at a bedpan full of urine and blood and clots and...my baby.

I don't know how long I sat and stared at it. Too long? Not long enough? I can't remember if I really said goodbye.

She finally comes back and takes the bedpan away. Then they tell us to go home. Some prescriptions. Take it easy. Call my doctor's office for a follow up in a couple of weeks. And that's it. It?

Home to tell our boys what had happened. To rest. To cry. To bleed. To try to get cleaned up and remember where I was before the thoughts were interrupted. To pick up somehow, someway.

I tell myself I am lucky. I got pregnant. I did not have to take shots to try to induce ovulation, nor did I require other fertility measures. I did not learn the baby had no heartbeat from an ultrasound during an appointment during which I was expecting to hear the heartbeat -- then have to wait three days for the D&C to be scheduled. I did not lose the baby at 20 weeks when I could give her a name and see her perfect little body. I did not lose him to an umbilical cord accident at 36 weeks and have to bury him on the day of my baby shower.

Whatever happened with this baby, he/she was not going to be healthy. My body did what it was supposed to do. At least that's what I tell myself before the what ifs start again.

Starting over
I have to relearn how to be around small babies and pregnant women. My next door neighbor pregnant with twins, sister-in-law and best friend all due in the next three months. Playgroup mom with a six week old. The little one ahead of me in the checkout at the grocery store. I have to remember how to be a good mother to my boys, to not burden them with my sadness. I have to remember how to be a good partner to my husband, too, because all I feel right now is need and shadow, but it's not just my loss. It's his, too. This was his baby, too.

Four days after the miscarriage, I go back to the hospital to have my blood count checked, another ultrasound and another pelvic to make sure there is no obvious additional tissue. The simplest tasks exhaust me and my doctor is concerned. Waiting for that ultrasound I have to sit among 10 glowing pregnant women and fill out a form asking for my due date and information about baby's father. I mention the cruelty of this to the ultrasound tech and she replies that they don't do enough ultrasounds of women in my "situation" for a separate waiting area. Even just a bench?

The radiologist that afternoon was the same one who saw me in the ER. She was kind. She saw how pale I was and clearly wanted to help. She commented that I looked as if the life had been sucked out of me. It had, I told her. It had. This baby was very wanted and loved and now it is gone.

I try to go back to normal. Or what I think appears as normal. Exactly one week later we go to a gathering at a cousin's home. Things seem to be OK. I manage to make small talk without saying, "we lost the baby," every other sentence. No one there knows our pain. But then I start to feel dizzy and the voices in the room suddenly seem far away. I retreat to the stairwell and put my head in my hands. I don't close my eyes. When I do I see the blood. We make our retreat. My head is spinning and my legs don't want to work. Hasty good-byes; they look at me funny.

For all the months that we tried to get pregnant, and the short weeks that I was, I wondered if I was asking too much. Too much of life, of fate, of God, of everything. We have two beautiful, healthy children. A home, food, friends. Love. I know this and I am thankful for it. But I do want one more child. Am I asking too much?

We'll try again, my husband tries to reassure me. He says we'll have that hope again. We'll have that feeling of excitement. But we won't, really. We've lost the innocence and even if we are able to conceive again, it won't be the same. There will be fear mixed in.PregnancyAndBaby.com


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