The baby we lost

Our miscarriage story


(Photo was taken from our maternity photoshoot, 2018)


It was around 9:00 pm when the first dose of Cytotec went into my mouth. "Keep it under your tongue until it dissolves. Thirty minutes later, take the second tablet."


Simple instructions, right?


Except that this was no regular oral medication routine. I was having an abortion. At home.


Around 10:00 pm, the pain paralyzed my body. The groans. Swaying my body back and forth, gripping the throw pillows on the couch and anything else in sight. My husband rubbed my lower back and watched helplessly as his wife was undergoing some kind of weird exorcism to expel life from her body. The weight of this moment was mine to bear.


Earlier in the day, we sent our son over to my parent's home. We were that petrified and didn't want him to see us in this state. We laid sheets on our bed to absorb any blood. The throbbing pain throughout the night made me cry a lifetime of tears.


It was just before 7:00 am the next morning. My sleep-deprived body was awakened by a mass forcing its way down my abdomen. I screamed out for my husband. He lifted my semi-bloodied body and took me into the bathroom, where it all happened in the most unceremonious way.


***


July 2017. My husband, two-year-old and I had just returned from yet another adventure-laden trip; this time to San Francisco. We drove across the magnificent red dame of the US west coast, toured Alcatraz to satisfy my husband's thriller movie palate, and walked the soul-cleansing trails of Muir Woods. We then hopped across to Seattle to visit my husband's aunt. Again, yet another memorable trip.


When we returned, the adrenaline was still pumping through our veins. We love the lingering memories of vacations- it's one of the reasons why we save diligently. We were so happy (and still are). We were ready for our second baby.


Fast-forward to a few months later. I was probably at the 8-week mark for my first antenatal visit. I remembered one evening sitting on the couch, feeling the gentle flutters in my lower abdomen. A sign of life. Every expecting mother knows how priceless and important those moments are. And for every mother who has lost her little one, she craves those feelings...


Our family of three confidently marched into the doctor's office that Saturday morning. The doctor had delivered our firstborn, so she was happy to see the progress of 'her baby.' The ultrasound then began. The baby's measurements showed a gestational age of 8 weeks.


But I saw the growing frown lines appear on my doctor's face. The veins on her hand were bulging even more as she tightened her grip on the probe. She shifted its position several times. She tried. And tried. And tried.


Something was wrong.


"Amrita. I may have some bad news for you. You may have suffered a missed miscarriage. I am not hearing a heartbeat."


("What? A missed miscarriage? What does the heck does the 'missed' even mean?")


"Doctor, what do you mean by that?"


"It's when your body has not recognized that a miscarriage has occurred, and you continue to experience pregnancy symptoms. I am so, so sorry."


I sensed how she struggled to deliver the news. She's human after all. With deafening silence across the room, I could not swallow the enlarging lump in my throat.


("What the hell is wrong with you Amrita! You couldn't keep a baby living inside of you?!")

"This has happened to one patient before. When she returned after a few days, we were able to detect a heartbeat. Let's have some faith. Please come back and see me."


My husband tried to find pacifying words. In his usual, authoritative voice, he said " Well there was really nothing else we could have done differently. It's better that we find out now than later on. We'll pull through this."


As we left her office, I felt a piece of my soul ripped from my body in the most violent way. Guilt and embarrassment had hijacked my senses. I was a skeletal frame trying to string together coherent sentences. I wanted a vortex to appear and swallow my entire being. I didn't care about my husband nor son.


The next day we attended a birthday party. Parties celebrate life. I struggled to hold it together that day, and for every other day in the coming weeks. I remembered friends interacting with me and I was just in a daze. The colourful balloons, cheerful screams from children, extravagant cake- nothing was potent enough to spark an ounce of happiness in me.


A week passed and I returned to the Doctor's office alone. All the while, I was walking around with death inside of me (literally). She confirmed what we all suspected.


"I am sorry, Amrita."


For a moment, I just saw moving lips as her voice was muted. I had drifted away from this world. I had suffered a miscarriage.


We discussed options for treatment, and since I had delivered my son via c-section, we were concerned about scarring. So on that Friday afternoon, I was going to start my weekend with an abortion. Oh joy.


I remembered walking to the adjacent pharmacy. The pharmacist looked at the prescription then awkwardly glanced at me. He walked behind the counter, found the labour-inducing drug, and walked back to me.


"So... you know how to use this, right?"


I nodded.


I paid for the tablets, and upon leaving he said "Take care." A pharmacist had never said those words to me before.


***

I returned to work the Monday after the 'incident.' I didn't have it in me to ask for sick Ieave -that may raise suspicions. I wore the brightest of fake smiles. Everyone annoyed me. I gave a piss-poor effort on the job. I just couldn't wait for 4:15 pm to walk out of that place. But as the day progressed, my abdominal cramps returned. They intensified at night, accompanied by bleeding.


I was back at it on Tuesday, but the bleeding had worsened. It was not even 9:30 am when I called my doctor. We agreed to meet at the hospital. I quietly walked over to the next-door pharmacy for more pads. On the way my boss asked me if everything was OK, noticing my glassy eyes. I just said to her "I have to go. I have an emergency."


My husband picked up my son, came for me afterwards, and we all headed to the same hospital where we delivered my son.


We did an ultrasound and realized that large masses of tissue were still lodged inside of me. I was immediately prepped for a Dilate and Curettage (D+C) procedure. You know, where they extract the remaining 'contents' of your pregnancy and discard much of it as medical waste.


"Why did I choose to have an abortion? Why did I allow myself to go through the horrors of labour pain?" I angrily asked myself as a doctor injected me with the anaesthesia on the operating table.


Days after, my husband bought cheesecake, ice-cream and other calorie-rich snacks from his supermarket run. I was so caught up with a female-centric, selfish reflection on what had happened, that I didn't realise that this miscarriage was his loss too. He's not usually one to open up about emotional events, but his gesture had reawakened something in me. It reminded me that we were both on this journey together. That men suffer too, but society does not allow them to grieve the way women do.


With that, we moved on. Painfully, slowly, but eventually. Less than a year later, we welcomed our stunningly beautiful daughter. She completed our little family.


Wherever you are in this universe, we love you little one.

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© 2020 by Amrita Maharaj-Dube