The End of the Innocence
“You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence”
— Don Henley, “The End of the Innocence” (1989)
I think the most difficult thing about my first miscarriage, aside from the immediate emotional and then physical pain, was that, to quote Don Henley (and, really, who doesn’t love a good Don Henley quote??) it was the “end of the innocence” in my life.
Even writing this, I feel weird, because my life had not been perfect or simple up to then. True, I have a fantastic marriage, a (usually) challenging and fulfilling job, a supportive (if somewhat nutty) family, and by most accounts I am a very lucky person. I do not want for food, shelter, companionship, or love. I worry about things but I don’t really worry about things. I am very aware of how good I have it.
Yet I also have some major things in my life that are not so good. I have two chronic illnesses, clinical depression and ulcerative colitis, that kind of suck. My depression, thankfully, responds very well to Prozac and, if I am taking the proper dose, is completely under control. The UC is a little more prickly and requires lots of doctor visits, fistfulls of medicine (up to 40+ pills per day), regular colonoscopies, and usually lands me in the hospital every couple of years. The drug that has saved my life many times over, Prednisone, also has unpleasant side effects such as sleeplessness, bloating (doctors refer to it as “moon face”), and dramatic weight gain (which is hard to lose because it also screws up your metabolism for months after you stop taking it). Still, while I am the first to tell you that UC is not fun, I could still honestly say that “it could be worse.” Even when laying in the hospital being pumped full of steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and waiting for an early morning colonoscopy, I still felt that “happily ever after” would not fail me (yes, again a Don quote from the same song).
I can pinpoint the exact date when I found it would: Monday, October 2, 2006. Yom Kippur.
I was, at least I thought I was, 10+ weeks pregnant by this point. I was scheduled to have my first ultrasound. This was my first pregnancy and I was SO happy. I got pregnant after 5 months of trying, called my doctor, and was scheduled for my first prenatal appointment (yes, that fateful day when I willingly gave my demographic information to Enfamil, aka “Satan’s Henchmen.”) My husband went with me and, according to my doctor, everything looked good. I could schedule my first ultrasound at my earliest convenience.
I had a horrible feeling that something was wrong starting a few weeks before this. The books I had stated convincingly that all women fear that something is wrong and that this was “normal” and “to be expected” for a first-time mom. Well, in my case, my instinct was right. There was something wrong: there was no baby.
I started getting really nervous a few days before the sonogram, but I tried not to let it bother me. We told close family friends about the pregnancy; we bought a rocking chair. The morning of the scan, I distinctly remember walking through the parking lot to my doctor’s office repeating my mantra: “75% of pregnancies are fine. 75% of pregnancies are fine.” This is one reason why I was still “innocent” — I still thought that I could be on the winning side of the statistics. Everything would turn out okay, right? Everything (mostly) had before in my life. I would be in the 75%+ percent of women who saw the positive pregnancy test and then had a healthy baby. Why should I think any differently?
This is and was the worst part, for me, of miscarriage. The loss is awful, the physical pain is wrenching, but the hardest, and saddest part, is that it changes your world view. You don’t think “everything is going to work out just fine” again. Your optimism, your naivety, your “innocence” are replaced instead with pessimism, fear, and cynicism. You will never be caught off guard because you have changed and you will forever see the world through different lenses.
I sat in the office, waiting to be called in by the sonographer. My husband had joined me and we held hands, hoping to come out of that room with a pretty black and white picture of our shrimp-like spawn. I remember telling the sonographer how far along I was, having her smile, and tell me that I was far enough along to use the abdominal probe. I smiled. My husband smiled. She put the goo on my stomach and the room got very quiet. I knew. She quietly asked me how far along I was again, and then told me that she needed to switch to the trans-vaginal probe. I started to panic. I kept looking at the screen hoping to see a baby, or anything resembling a baby, but there was nothing. The sonographer was very quiet and just kept taking measurement after measurement. I asked her if there was something wrong. Still looking at the screen, she quietly replied, “there is not baby, only an empty sac.”
I remember that I started to sob and that I kept saying to my husband “I knew something was wrong.” Time seemed to stand still and speed up simultaneously. I literally felt my heart breaking. Somehow I made it into another room, and called my mom, who wasn’t home, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law. I needed to talk to someone who was a mother, someone who could understand how badly my heart was breaking. I was sobbing so much that I could barely talk. My doctor came in at some point and talked to me about a “blighted ovum” or an “anembryonic pregnancy” and about a D&C, but it is all a blur. I walked through the parking lot with my husband still sobbing and gagging (due to hormones and emotions) and somehow made it to the car, made it home, and made it into bed.
This was a Monday and the OR was not open for the D&C until Friday.
I cried until I literally could cry no more. I was sad. I was broken. I was defeated by life. It was indeed the end of my innocence.
The second miscarriage was also difficult, but I approached it, from the second I got a positive pregnancy test, as if something could go wrong. I did not let my guard down, lest I be sucker-punched again. I trust that the physical and emotional pains will heal but I do not believe I will every be the way I was before that day. Perhaps only holding your own healthy baby in your arms can help you believe that life can be filled with “happily ever afters.” I hope so, but that feels a wee bit too optimistic.