Saturday, November 24, 2012

The wind in the trees

Her voice was so garbled with fear that I didn't recognize it at first. When her tears finally formed themselves into words, I responded instantly, my voice calm and steady. Then I hung up the phone, collapsed on the bed and sobbed until all my memories and selfishness had drained out, and I was ready to face her.

The doorbell rang and my husband let them in, asking her husband if he wanted to watch the game together while she went upstairs with me. They perched on the edge of the sofa staring unseeing at the TV screen as we walked away. I took out the little machine and the gel and turned it on to silence. No batteries. I hadn't needed to use it for awhile. We sat quietly on my bed watching my husband's truck race up the street to the corner store and back. Her face was blotchy and bewildered, as if someone had slapped her violently with no warning or provocation.

"It should sound like this," I told her, pressing the transducer against my swollen stomach. "It won't be as loud and clear, but it'll be fast like this, like a horse galloping. That whooshing sound like a wind storm is the placenta." I tried to hand the machine to her, but she shook her head and asked me to do it. I didn't know how to say no.

Lying on the bed, she watched me slowly cover every inch of her torso, erasing hope as I went, the room filling with the empty howl of a whirlwind. Suddenly a faint rhythm pulsed through the static. The slow beat grew stronger and stronger and I felt her muscles relax beneath me. "That's yours," I said gently, not looking at her, not wanting to see the light die out of her eyes. Reapplying the gel, I started at the bottom of her abdomen again, searching for the hoofbeats in the wind. I didn't stop until she told me to.

After the ultrasound, the hemorrhage, the hospital admission and the surgery, she called me to thank me. I told her any time she wanted to talk I was there to listen.

"Oh, I'm fine. It's just the physical recovery now," she said confidently. "I cried all day Saturday and Sunday, but I have lots of support and I'm OK now. All that emotional stuff is out of the way."

"That's good," I said and looked at the calendar. As I hung up the phone, I wrote a reminder to myself to call her in two months. I knew she would need me then, when her body had healed, everyone else had moved on and the baby was still dead. And she did.

59 comments:

  1. Grieft revisited when you least expect it and your family and friends have moved on and expect that you have moved on with them is the loneliest time. . .she is lucky you were her still there and willing to talk.

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    1. I wondered if she really was fine and I was just projecting my experience onto her, but unfortunately it did hit her later like I thought it would.

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    2. Other friends might have been quick to accept her assurances that everything was fine. I admire that you were able to comfort her when she needed it despite your own experience.

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  2. This is such a painful, moving post. You evoke with such beauty the pain of what is lost and will not ever be found. I'm so sorry you are in a position to be able to empathize with this woman, but so glad for her sake that you were there for her - then and afterwards.

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    1. She told me later that she felt like no one else could understand what she was going through, so I'm glad she had at least one person to relate to.

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  3. Good for you for being such a friend to her - it's needed.

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    1. I'm glad I could be there for her.

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  4. How moving. It is so good that something good was able to come from your experience. How lucky that she has a friend.

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    1. If nothing else, the one thing you can take from your grief is an ability to really support others going through the same thing.

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  5. Good friends are invaluable. You can never have too many of them.

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    1. Yes, they are rare and to be treasured.

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  6. Oh my. This is the saddest story I've read in a long time. I cannot imagine having to go through this. You remind me of my friend who has been through so much with me. Good friends like you are invaluable, to borrow Jack's word above. Riveting and chilling story.

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    1. What's awful is that many women have this experience more than once and are still waiting for their take-home baby. Life can be so cruel.

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  7. Woo, that's devastating. That you could be there for her, when you knew that pain, was a priceless gift to her. So sad for both of you.

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    1. It was hard, but I'm so glad I could be there for her when she needed it.

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  8. It is a sad, sad thing that so many know this pain. My losses were before my first and fourth pregnancies. It is strange how the sadness seeps in at the most inopportune times. Beautifully written. And many hugs for both you and her.

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    1. Even though I would say I'm "over" it, I still find tears come if I think about it too much. Not sure that will ever go away. And in the months afterward, I found myself crying unexpectedly while doing the groceries or some mundane thing that had nothing to do with pregnancy or babies. Grief is a funny thing.

      I'm sorry for your losses. There are so many people in the sisterhood no one wants to join; it surprised me how many stories came out when I lost my twins

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  9. Oh so sad. She was lucky to have a friend like you.

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    1. I'm glad I was able to pull myself together enough to support her.

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    1. Yes, it is. Common, but heartbreaking all the same.

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  11. So beautifully written and hearbreaking. Between my two kids, I miscarried at 13 weeks. I had heard the heartbeat several times. It's really so painful. I hope you and your friend are doing better. Time definitely helps.

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    1. I'm sorry for your loss. Especially after 12 weeks when you're starting to think the risk has gone down - what a horrible shock.

      I'm as OK with it now as I'm going to be, meaning I don't think about it all the time anymore and can talk about it without getting weepy. My friend has further to go but is getting better.

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  12. This is so heartbreaking, and so well-written. I was attached to every single word as I read. It's a sad ache that too many women have to know. My heart goes out to both of you, but no hugs. I remember you're not big on those hugs. :)

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    1. LOL! I'm never going to live that hugging rant down, am I? This was a hugging occasion for sure - even I would have hugged me and my friend. Was that the most confusing sentence you've ever read? My bad ;)

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  13. So sad. You tell it well and I'm so sorry you and your friend had these experiences.

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  14. That's a great story about friendship.

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  15. Wow, terrible story about loss, and wonderful story about friendship. Well told. She's fortunate to have you in her life. My mother suffered through this. I was a toddler at the time it happened, but she told us about it many times over the years. I have 5 sisters and I would have had one brother. It stays with you forever.

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    1. It's interesting that your mother talked about it. Of course it's not something you usually bring up in casual conversation, but our mothers' generation really kept pregnancy loss to themselves. It's good that people are being more open about it because your friends can't support you if they don't know.

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  16. Your friend is lucky to have someone like you in her life. I am so sorry that you both had to go through something so awful.

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    1. And I've been lucky to have her in mine.

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  17. Oh, your post made me cry. I had one of those gizmos too, and since I was so worried last year when I was pregnant at 40, I would take it out almost every night to reassure myself that the baby was still in there and still okay. I remember the fear that I wouldn't hear anything and then the surge of relief every time I heard his heart beating.

    So your post was basically my worst fear, realized. I'm so sorry for both of your losses.

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    1. I was terrified every second of my pregnancy following the miscarriages (I lost twins a month apart). In my first trimester I bled every single day, all day for 2 weeks straight and the doctors couldn't tell me why. It was too early to use the doppler and so every day when I woke up I thought "is this the day the baby's going to die and come out?" It was so horrible. Once I could use the doppler, I checked every day, my heart in my throat every time. But he made it and is now a cuddly 3 month old. Sometimes the story does have a happy ending.

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  18. oh dear this hit home with me. :(

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  19. Such a sad story, but such a wonderful friend you were and are. I was 8 months pregnant when my best friend lost her baby at 20 weeks. It was really, really painful. We are still best friends. :)

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    1. It was hard to be around her afterward because I knew my simple physical presence as a visibly pregnant woman must be so painful to her. On the other hand, maybe it gave her hope since I had had the same experience of loss before being able to take home my second baby.

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  20. Azara, I can hardly believe how strong you were to be there for your friend - in that way specifically. That "empty howl of a whirlwind" gave me chills (I've heard it too). It's so hard how many times you have to re-realize that your baby who died will always be dead.

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    1. The re-realizing was the worst part. It really didn't sink it initially. I kind of went into a state of shock immediately after the actual miscarriage. I distinctly remember thinking, "That did not just happen. This isn't happening," even though I already knew the baby was gone (I had a missed miscarriage and found out by ultrasound).

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  21. When I had my first miscarriage, which was also a missed miscarriage, I absolutely needed an extra ultrasound. I was so afraid that something had been missed and I was about to make a big mistake in having a D&C.

    That was a lovely thing you did for your friend.

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    1. I'm sorry for your loss. I opted to wait for the miscarriage to happen on its own, but it took 3 weeks to start and the whole time I felt like there must have been some kind of mistake and of course the baby was fine in there. It might have been better to have the surgery right away and start to gain some closure. But you do what you think is best at the time.

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  22. Oh wow. What a traumatic event. I'm glad you were able to be strong for your friend when she needed you.

    (I was wondering why you had an ultrasound in your home, but reading through the comments it looks like you can get them easily enough when pregnant?)

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    1. Yeah, you can buy the handheld doppler ones (where you just hear the heartbeat) on ebay and other places. The actual machine with the picture is beyond a non-celebrity price point (Tom Cruise apparently bought one for Katie when she was pregnant with Suri). It's just as well - I would have had trouble restraining myself from looking at it every day if I'd had the actual machine.

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  23. That's so hard. You are a great friend and that was such a wonderful act of kindness for her.

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    1. Thank you - it was hard but it was the least I could do for her.

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  24. Argh!! I cane barely see the comment box here through my tears. You are a wonderful friend and she was lucky to have you at such a difficult moment - and then again when people forget you're still hurting. Simply beautifully written.

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    1. Thanks so much! It's the time a few months (or years) after a loss that's the loneliest, because you're expected to have moved on.

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  25. Wow, powerful! How difficult that must have been and how expertly you have captured that moment. You are a good friend.

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    1. Thank you. It was very difficult, but necessary.

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  26. Beautiful and heart breaking. Before the last few parts of your story I was wondering if it would hit her too. I'm glad you were there for her

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    1. I was surprised at how the grief intensified after the miscarriage itself and I'm so glad I could be a support for my friend when she had her loss.

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  27. For me pregnancies 2-5 resulted in miscarriage, and the last one a second trimester loss which was particularly devastating. I'm in that awful purgatory again with pregnancy #6 - on bedrest from a subchorionic hemmorhage waiting to either miscarry or live another day and wonder if that'll be the day I lose the baby. It's hearbreaking and so hard to keep going through, and this is the same thing as happened last time. Glad you were there for your friend - I honestly believe that until you've been through miscarriage you don't fully understand how devastating it is. Hope you and your friend are both healing ok. (and I think I'm too afraid to rent a doppler if I don't lose the baby before then... it'd probably cause more panic than it saves?)

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    1. I'm sorry for your losses. I believe a subchorionic hemorrhage that I found out about too late (so I kept on doing aerobics, etc) is what killed my second twin. I'll always wonder if he or she would be alive today if I'd been put on bedrest right away.

      There are really mixed feelings on the doppler. I know many people who've had a late loss in particular feel that it gives a false sense of security, because the heart is the last thing to stop and the baby can be in significant distress and the heart rate still sounds fine to you on the doppler. For me it was a sanity saver in the first and second trimester.

      I so hope for you that this will be your rainbow baby!

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Lend me some sugar!