Guest Post: Samantha Sullivan
Prologue by Katrina High
With October being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I’ve had a yearning to post about the painful losses that are silently happening to women all around us, but didn’t know where to start. I’ve been through so much with my own infertility journey, but didn’t feel qualified, as a miscarriage is not an experience I’ve had myself. Then, out of the blue, my amazing sister in law decided to document her story and share it with me. When I read it, I sobbed. It’s raw, it’s real, and it deserves to be read. We had both been going through so much in our journeys to become mothers at the same time, and we never really knew what the other person was dealing with. How much better could we have supported each other if the world had given us permission to talk openly about such a topic?
What an honor to be allowed insight to an experience that most women go through alone. Thank you Sam. For being an amazing sister in law, an amazing mother to my niece and nephews, and for having a huge heart and wanting to make a difference in providing support to others going through fertility issues. You are a prime example of taking the light you have found in your darkness and shining it brightly to help all of those around you. I’m so proud of this journey leading you to go back to school so that you can work in an industry where you can provide more support to other women who feel they need to grieve in silence.
For those of you who have lost babies before they were able to join this world, know that your child is not a “trigger warning”. Whether your loss was at 6 weeks or 36 weeks, it is still a loss. That child deserves to be remembered in a beautiful way. You may not have been able to hold them in your arms, but you did hold them in your body. That act made you a mother and made them your child.
I’ve been wanting to share this story for some time, but finding the words has been a journey. I have stored away all of the thoughts and feelings, carefully placed them in perfectly labeled and matching bins, organized and lined up perfectly on the walls of my heart. Whenever I try to write about it, the bins all try to open at once and then scatter everywhere as if caught in winds of a cyclone. How do I slow them down and how do I know which box to choose first? How much background do I share? How much detail do I give? And will I be able to put them back when I’m done? I don’t know. But I’m going to try.
Remember when you were 15 and you fell in love with a boy who you knew was out of your league, and then one day, he realized he was too. Remember how your heart broke and you couldn’t eat or sleep and you thought you would never breathe a breath again that wasn’t painful. But you did. You fell in and out of love a few more times and learned how to dull the pain. Remember thinking that it was the worst feeling in the world to lose love like that? Until the day that your heart actually broke. The day that changed you forever.
We had been married only a few months and I went to the doctor for annual exam. She found something abnormal so I went back a week later for a colposcopy, a procedure I had had before. After I left the office, the doctor called back almost immediately and informed me that they had forgotten to give me a pregnancy test.. twice. They did one after the procedure and discovered that I was in fact, pregnant. I was SO excited, and I couldn’t wait to tell Robert.. and everyone. So excited that I broke the golden rule of pregnancy and told several people right away. I was absolutely bursting with joy. Robert was excited too, we went to a prenatal visit and stayed an extra two hours just to be able to have an ultrasound THAT DAY. She put the jelly on my tummy and moved the wand around until we heard the most amazing sound. The swift beating of a heart. It felt a little foreign to me, like an alien invader that somehow made a home in my belly. She said it sounded perfect. I was a bit nauseated as can be excepted, so we jokingly called the baby Ralph. We went to Tucson for a wedding that weekend and couldn’t help but tell a few more people. I started spotting on the trip up. I thought it was pretty common and I assured myself that it would be fine. How could it not be?
Over the next few days the bleeding became more intense, it was impossible to ignore. I googled and googled and googled clinging to some strand of hope that it would in fact, be fine. I called the on-call nurse at the doctor and all she would say is that they couldn’t see me, and go to the Emergency room if I thought it was bad enough. I called my mom for reassurance, but she was already asleep. I was up the whole night, the pain from the cramps was excruciating, and I was losing more blood than a pad would hold. Robert took me to the emergency room. He dropped me out front while he parked the car and I crashed through the doors up to the front desk. Somehow, through hysterical sobs I managed to get the intake team to understand that I was having a miscarriage. I couldn’t calm down, I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t wake up, because it wasn’t a nightmare, it was real. They only had a male doctor available at the time and I was not pleased, but i didn’t care enough to wait. I was just hoping someone would tell me that I wasn’t in fact, losing this dream. That it was all just a crazy fluke. They were amazed at the amount of blood and I was shaking from the pain. They set me up with an ultrasound and I alternated holding my breath and bawling uncontrollably the entire time. I was in so much pain, physically and emotionally. I don’t think silence has ever been so loud before. Laying there crying and trying to be tough and clinging to Robert’s hand and begging the universe to let me hear that amazing sound again. But there was nothing, I was floating out into space. No sound. No Alien invader. Just the vast nothingness of the universe. My heart had never endured a break that devastating before. I’m still not sure that I have recovered from the blow that was delivered that morning. My heart is healed some, but I don’t think the pieces are perfectly fit. Like a broken plate that has been glued together not quite right.
For a week, or maybe two the pregnancy slowly leaked out of me, in a constant flow. I went to the doctor for a check up, and she told me that I should not still be losing so much blood and tissue. She told me I could have a D&C to help speed things up, and bring it all to a close. I thought about it a lot, it felt odd to make that kind of choice about something that really wasn’t a choice at all. Ultimately, I chose to have the procedure. I couldn’t continue to feel this all day every day, I wanted to figure out how to move forward.
I lost 4 more pregnancies in later years, but as they say “ the first cut is the deepest”. It’s something that can never fully be escaped or forgotten, every time a doctor asks about my medical history and how many pregnancies I’ve had, it comes up. I have had seven pregnancies, but only two births. Every time I am asked about surgeries that I have had, I have to tell them that I had two D&C’s. In the back of my head, I am wondering if they are judging me, not knowing my story. Do they think I wanted this? Should I tell them the whole story? Is that too much information? Does it matter what they think? I get very anxious during these questions. I have to answer them with every new doctor, every single time. Every questionnaire. I handle it differently each time. There is still a tiny sting in every experience, an internal wince.
So I’m writing this story for me, and I’m writing this story for Ralph, but mostly, I’m writing this story for you, so you don’t have to feel alone. I suffered in silence for a long time, so as not to be an attention seeker, a whiner. It happens to many women, and we just try to hide. We feel ashamed of being so broken by something we never really had. We feel like we failed at motherhood before getting a real shot at it. I am lucky because I got my babies, not everyone does. I still feel the weight of that loss sometimes. Every now and then I peek into one of those bins and let the files cut me open again, just for a minute. I bought special stuffed animals for each loss and they hang in a net over my bed. I like to think they are with me in some way. I haven’t told my kids about them yet. I haven’t decided if I will. I have started a new journey to make sense of this, I’m going back to school to work in the medical field and hopefully be there for women like me. Women like us.