I remember when it happened. I was looking for someone to hold on to. Someone who had been through it to understand my pain. No one in my family had ever experienced this before.
Initially, I had no idea that women experience this often. I looked to friends and family for support but nothing seemed to help.
Although they would attempt to ease my pain, inevitably they would say things that hurt me. I recall scouring the Internet for inspiration. I basically came up empty handed, and that led to feelings of loneliness.
I share my story because my goal is to enable my loss to help others with their pain.
The memory will never go away: We sat anxiously, waiting in the doctor’s office for the ultrasound to begin.
“Uhh…Is everything ok?” we asked.
Still more silence. I was exploding inside from the suspense.
“I don’t see a heartbeat,” the doctor said very slowly.
My heart stopped. Tears flooded my face. I was having trouble breathing. “Bring it back, bring it back,” I desperately thought to myself.
Maybe this is a mistake, I hoped. I actually waited a few weeks to make sure. But at a later appointment it was confirmed.
With a cracking voice the doctor said, “No…I’m sorry, but it’s just not going to happen. You’re just not going to get a baby out of this one.”
My head started to spin. How could my body have betrayed me? I took sterling care of myself, I exercised, ate right, got enough rest, never drank coffee or alcohol. I began to wonder if it was the non-organic shampoo and body wash. I badly needed an explanation.
Shock, disbelief, denial, anger, sadness. Shock, disbelief, denial, anger, sadness. Over and over in a never-ending cycle.
The pain of the D&C procedure was much worse than labor. The doctors worried about the excessive bleeding, which was trumped by my excessive sadness. The physical recovery was hard, the emotional recovery harder.
For many weeks I would hold back my weeping at friends’ Shabbos tables, at the supermarket, at my son’s school – only to let go at night, with my pillow serving as my trusted and drenched tear catcher.
My husband and family were as supportive as possible. But they could not take away my pain or feel it for me.
There were a few things that got me through this difficult time. The first was something my doctor said to me: “You wouldn’t have wanted whatever this pregnancy was.” These words stung at the time but later brought me comfort.
And comments such as “I love you and I’m sorry” or “I don’t know what to say but I am here for you” also comforted me.
And there were small gestures from friends and family that gave me strength. They brought over hot drinks and talked, or gave small gifts with a card or note. Of particular impact was Mary Stevenson’s well-known poem “Footprints in the Sand” that my brother’s wife sent me:
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
ever, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
Although we are never truly alone, there is something positive about having to travel a path no one you know has traveled. You have an opportunity to pave the way for the next person, and subsequently his or her road can be smoother.
A close friend of mine who knew I had a miscarriage confided in me that she was experiencing the same thing. I printed out the poem and brought it to her doorstep with flowers. I sent her dinner. Paying it forward, an expression that describes the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor, helped as I recalled and cried about my own ordeal the entire car ride to her house. I gave to her, but really she gave to me.
I still don’t know why this happened, and I am not sure I ever will, but the lesson I learned was that paying it forward heals.