“Where have I come from, where did you pick me up?” the baby asked its mother.
She answered, half crying, half laughing, and clasping the baby to her breast, –
“You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling.
You were in the dolls of my childhood’s games; and when with clay I made the image of my god every morning, I made and unmade you then.
You were enshrined with our household deity, in his worship I worshiped you.
In all my hopes and my loves, in my life, in the life of my mother you have lived….”
Excerpt from The Beginning
People used to say things to me when I had only one child that they never say now that I have two. My two children are 7.5 years apart, so that still garners some questions, “Accidental pregnancy?” OR “Wow, you sure waited a while.” While most of the time these are innocent and naïve sentiments, the resulting answer is usually discomfiting for most. I wanted a second child from the time my first was two, mostly because he was so wonderful that I wanted another jewel like him. But for a long time it just didn’t work – until it did.
I have a friend who remembers her miscarriage each year. I can’t really do that, mainly because there were so many. The first time I lost a baby I was 17 weeks pregnant – it was my first pregnancy. Far from the time that I thought a miscarriage could happen to me. “Wait 12 weeks and you are golden,” everyone and every book said. I was showing, I had told everyone. And we had just come back from a trip to Hawaii. Sun kissed and tired, I went to the bathroom that morning and some water came out. “Something is wrong.” I told my husband. “No, I’m sure it’s fine,” was his response. “I want to see the Doctor.” So that day, July 1, 2005, we went to the doctor. I told him what happened and he said, “let’s just do an ultrasound to see what is going on.” As I lay on the table I saw the baby, “whew, there is the baby.” But then the doctor continued to feel around slowly and then with a slight frantic edge. Suddenly I realized. “Where is the heartbeat?” “Where is the heart beat…?”
That was when I screamed and cried and asked for my Mother. My doctor, one of the most caring individuals I have ever met, looked at my husband and asked for my Mother’s number. He called her himself, told her what had happened and asked if she might try to come. Meanwhile he held me and then said that I had two options. Let the baby expel itself on its own, or have a procedure to remove the baby.
“Should we bury it?” we asked.
“There probably won’t be much to bury,” he said, “the bones are not complete.”
That was when I told him to get it out of me – it was no longer my baby.
He had plans to go on vacation that afternoon. But he changed his ticket so that he could do the procedure for me. As my husband and I walked out of the office, on our way to the hospital, we ran smack into a set of our best friends. They were 10 months pregnant. She was in labor at that moment. And they were on their way to the hospital too.
While I went in to have my dead baby removed. Their beautiful daughter was born.
I cried for days. And then something happened. Women started coming over and telling me their stories. Horrible, difficult, hard stories, that brought me so much comfort. This type of tragedy had happened to so many people I knew. And they lived to tell about it. Their hearts mended. Most of them had babies afterward and those that didn’t adopted lovely children who completed their families. Why hadn’t I heard of these stories before?
Because they are uncomfortable. They are not happy endings. They are painful.
My husband and I went to Big Sur and floated a stick out on the river for our son. My parents went to the temple and prayed for us.
Then I jumped back on the horse, so to speak. I was pregnant in two months and my beautiful boy was born 9 months later. But this pregnancy was fraught with fear. For the first 20 weeks I went to the doctor’s office EVERY WEEK to hear his heartbeat. And the minute I heard it I would break down into sobs. I talked with the baby every day, and asked him to live and be safe inside me. I was SO careful, just in case the other time it was my fault for traveling, or painting, or something.
Because I am a geneticist.
I knew that the first baby did not survive because he wasn’t OK. There was something wrong, and nature took its course. But that did not stop the fear.
The fear that maybe genetically I couldn’t have kids.
Or maybe my husband and I together were not matched for a surviving child.
Or Or Or.
But in the end a gorgeous baby emerged.
And I was SO happy.
After that pregnancy I thought we would just be a family of three. However, when my son was 2, I looked into the back where he was quietly sitting in his carseat and thought, “I want another face back there.” Also, my son did not have any first cousins, so he was always with grown ups. “It would be nice to have another child around to take the constant focus off him,” I thought. So we tried again, and again, and again, and again.
I became pregnant four times and lost the babies each time at around 9-12 weeks. After each miscarriage I told myself, “this is the last time.” Then I tried again. I guess I didn’t really try, I just didn’t use any birth control.
My scary age went from 39 to 40 to 41… Then between 40-42 I did not become pregnant at all. “Maybe that is it for me,” I thought. I looked into adoption from India. But at that time it had become more difficult and very expensive. “So one child it will be,” we decided.
Then at 42 I became pregnant with my daughter. My Mother did not tell anyone I was pregnant because of my age, and because she did not want anyone to say things like, “Goodness isn’t she concerned about xy or z?” I got all of the genetic testing done. Happily, I did not need to have an amniocentesis, because a new blood test had been designed based on the premise that a certain amount of the fetus’ blood sloughs off into the mother during pregnancy (http://www.ariosadx.com/expecting-parents/faqs/). Therefore, sequencing the blood allows for an accurate determination about Down Syndrome and other chromosomal issues. When I received the results, the genetic counselor told me that the risk of having a spontaneous abortion with an amnio was much higher than that of me having a child with a chromosomal issue based on the data. And she told me that the baby was a girl.
That girl was meant to be. When I see the joy she brings my son who adores his baby sister, and the way she completes our family I know that she was just waiting in there, a little egg, until her time came. I tell her that she and her brother were probably two eggs next to each other in my ovaries from the time I was born, and when he left her, she told him she would meet him again, as his sister. They love to hear that story, and giggle thinking they were bumping into each other in me for so many years. I’m glad that I persisted. Though I know that not everyone can. And I know how LUCKY I am to have my two kids.
That is my story. Miscarriages happen. They happen often. They are a part of many women’s lives. Often we don’t know the reason for them, but they are not a shameful or embarrassing event. They are just a part of the story. It’s important to know that if it happens to you, that you are not alone, there are people to lean on.
And as Rabindranath Tagore writes, “On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.”