Monday, May 23, 2011

Part 2: No shame!

It took me a while to just come out with it here. I tried last post, but I couldn't do it yet. Ah well, I am finally ready to say that in 4 weeks, I heard both "Congratulations" and "Well, humans are terrible breeders."

Yes, the weekend I was to run my first 5K as an adult was the weekend that I miscarried my first pregnancy. A goal and dream deferred.

That is how I describe it, or perhaps I should say, how my friend R stated it. With such a resounding "Uh-huh" in fact, that I came to realize it was the dream that I was mourning. We had tried before to no avail and then it happened, and then, it didn't. It is like when you listen to a song and you think, "Here. Here it is going to break open and split my head and heart in half," but instead it just keeps building until you dance by the radio and accidentally unplug it as you trip forward on the chord. No resolve to the crescendo! Or... maybe it is more like sitting in the front car of a roller coaster and after the long climb up the massive peak, just as you reach the top, the cars roll backwards and you never fall into the oblivion of recklessly abandoned screams and the rush of what is one hell of a drop into the unknown! Yeah, more like that, I think.

At first, I was just so fucking disappointed and sad. I spent days feeling the life run out of me. I cried when I talked about it and was, for the first time in my life, leery to actually speak about something personal. It felt like a secret I had to keep. I stayed inside, drank a lot of fluids, mostly tea and water and then I got a pain in my side.

I called the doctor who had done my ultrasounds and told me that I would likely miscarry when I showed up for a weekly check with spotting. She suspected not only because of the spotting but also because upon looking, the gestational sac was small for what should have been 7 weeks and there was no heartbeat. The latter was so sad to not see flicker on the screen. I had been counting down, asking friends, keeping track of its development on the umteen websites with 3D images and descriptions of what was happening inside me.

I'll pause here, like I often did in the few weeks that I knew, to say that I knew there was a chance it wouldn't go to term. I kept telling myself not to get too excited. But I guess that is like telling a 5 year old kid not to get too excited about Disney World for Spring Break. A very difficult sale.

Doctor T told me to go to the hospital. I went and my new Doc, a woman from China, said she would do a DNC the next morning because she suspected that I had an infection. We went home. I took some antibiotics with some soup and went to bed. The next thing I knew it was 2 a.m. and I was vomiting. We called the hospital and went in.

As soon as we got there I tossed my cookies but also instantly felt better. They put me in a bed and I went to sleep for a little bit. Around 6 a.m. they put a crazy old woman in the bed next to me. They they gave her a "kancho" (supository) with such vividly descriptive commentary at massive volume because of the woman's craziness and age, that all I could do was wince and laugh quietly. What a way to wake up!

Hours past as I slept and listened to things around me. The crazy lady had been moved soon after whatever they put in her bum came out. She called the nurses repeatedly after only 3 minutes of being in her bed, finally she admitted she was lonely and so they put her in a more lively section. In her place came a Chinese woman in labor, accompanied by her mother. I had no clue what they were saying, but listening to a mother and daughter talk is universal and it made me warm. I wished I had my Mom.

Between her contractions my procedure was done, and when I woke, she was in lots of pain and asking them to just cut her open. The nurses just kept saying it would be far worse pain after a cesarian delivery and to just do her best to bare it. It would all be over soon. I was discharged before she started pushing, but I think she was nearly there. I thought of her often in the days following, wondering how she was getting on as a new mom. I wondered how I was going to get on as a new me, who had nothing to show for the inner change she went through. I started doing inventory.

One of the things that really helped me were the messages and gestures of love from those around me. I felt so loved, that I was overflowing and wondered how I could think something had been lost. And yet, I also felt like the biggest god damned failure! I had failed at something I was supposedly biologically hardwired to do! Not only that, but I failed, something I just don't do well. Bring on the shame.

Entering the shame cycle is like walking into traffic with a blindfold. You have no clue where anything is coming from, though you kind of hear it coming, as the voice gets a bit louder in your head and then BOOM! What made it worse is that the more people knew, the more people knew. I felt completely out of control. Until I owned it.

I realized that by thinking I could control who knew and not talking about it like I would normally with something that happened to me, I was digging myself into a hole. A very lonely hole. And once I started to open up, the stories came a floodin' in. Many prefaced with, "I wouldn't normally talk about this, but since you are being so open about it..." And that is when I realize how utterly not alone I was and how shame is self-inflicted when one assumes that others would think of a miscarriage as a failure and not a very human experience. For every woman who experiences a miscarriage, which is 25%, there is a man who experienced it with her. Which means, something like 50% of all people who try to have a baby get it. And yet, it is not something people talk about? Couples suffer the loss all the time. Anyone else wonder WTF?

I think TV shows need to explore miscarriage with their characters more. It's always about having babies and deciding to keep them or not. Or it's about kidnapping. What about dealing with something that happens far more than kidnapping and is such an emotional treasure trove you could write half a seasons about it!? I wouldn't base a show on it, but come on, no one gets over it like they do a cold. Give the process some respect and knock some socks off. Get an Emmy or whatever the TV award is. Seriously! NBC, ABC, whateverBC, make this happen!

To wrap up here, first, and most importantly, I learned how much love I have in my life. I realized just how much of an amazing support network I have. I have owned my experience and will talk about it anytime. I am not a failure nor am I a shameful loser. And to reiterate, I don't need a nose job. Finally, TV writers need to do a better job at handling the topic. They just do. Because too many women suffer shame, not realizing how common and un-alone they are.


  1. Hi Cat
    So sorry to read about your loss. Everything I think to write seems not enough. And what a great piece of sharing. So honest and generous. Sending lots of hugs your way. Hang in there!

  2. Hi Janina. Thanks, love! I am really quite OK about it all now. It was back in February so I have had a lot of time with it. We'll try again after summer! That's the bright side!

  3. yes, as Janina says, honest and generous, but that's really who are you are isn't it.
    You really opened my eyes to things too, I had no idea that anyone would associate shame with this profound loss, that is sad beyond all things. You've done many people a service here, a gift for those who will experience what you went through and for those who want to be there for their friend, it gives a little clue.
    thanks and love.

  4. Hey chiquita, Thanks so much for sharing. So well-written and utterly endearing. We've been there, fortunately only once. To tell the truth, I hardly enjoyed either pregnancy because I knew the statistics and spent the entire time bracing myself for the "worst". I now realize that, though disappointing and undeniably debilitating (especially for the would-be mother), it is absolutely not the "worst" thing that can result from pregnancy. What's more, it is entirely natural and nothing at all to be ashamed of. Not to make too light of this painful episode but Catherine Littlehale-Oki a failure? Seriously? No mammal bats a thousand on the child-bearing front, so go easy on yourself there Mickey Mantle. Give birth to the wrong species and then _maybe_ I'll call you a failure. Just sayin... ;-) Keep smiling and thank you for this brave, honest post, dear. Hugs!

  5. So sorry to hear of your loss Cat but happy that you're now in a place where you can talk about it and no longer feel ashamed for something that was out of your control and that unfortunately affects so many people. Hugs from me too.

  6. Well, supportive bunch, thanks for the nice messages. We are in a great place and I can't complain about anything really. I know it will happen when it is meant to, so for now, just rollin' with things. I don't think life gives you more than you can handle.

    If I give birth to the wrong species, Steve, I know who I will go to for the grand plan. Mr. Visionary will be much needed I am sure. "Here is how this will impact the human race... And this is how we can troubleshoot..."

  7. Hey Cat! I've been way out of the loop, but I'm glad I got reconnected with your blog here. I think part of the healing process is talking about it--thanks so much for sharing.

    About a year or so ago I went through the same thing, and it was just like the mental machinery had shifted enough to accommodate the changes that it would take in my life, when it was over, and everything had to clunk and crack back into a status quo that nobody realized had been readjusted but me and Tim.

    Now (thanks in part to continued carelessnss and progesterone during the first 12 weeks just in case), I'm 20 weeks in, and more nervous than I ever was with Harper, because of how fragile things have proven themselves to be. I wish you all the luck and fortune possible, as well as plenty of enjoyment as you let things happen!!! Many hugs!!!

  8. Ah, Kate. So well said. Congrats on 20 weeks and I get the nerves! After 1 miscarriage I am not sure any couple can fully enjoy a pregnancy in the same way someone who has never had one does. That's what I seem to be hearing from others as well. I sometimes wonder if I will be a crazy lady if/when I get preggo. Ah well, hopefully I will find out before the year's end! Crazy or not, I'll take it! Hugs back and again, a hearty congrats! Can't wait to hear of a safe delivery!