My Sister Stole My Baby

That’s one of the many irrational thoughts that come to mind almost daily.  She didn’t really steal my baby of course, but because she announced she was pregnant less than a month after my miscarriage, it feels that way.

She was conceiving while my baby was dying.  I love my sister dearly, and I wish her all the best, but it pains me to hear others congratulating her – and expecting me to join in – knowing that they would have congratulated me the same way.  I told her I was happy for her, and deep down, way deep down where my pre-miscarriage self still lives, I am happy for her.  I told her not to worry about me, that it “isn’t like you think it would be”, and at the time I meant it.  But the moment she walked away, heaviness fell on my heart & over a month later, that heaviness still makes it hard to breathe when I’m around her.

My husband & I did not announce this pregnancy.  Only a couple of very close friends and my husband’s grandmother knew.  We wanted to surprise everyone by announcing it at our daughter’s second birthday party.  It was nice keeping such a happy secret.  I was surprised how easy it was, since I’m not generally very good at keeping secrets like that.

We had an early ultrasound to date the baby. From a customer service perspective, it was a disaster. It was such a bad experience that I told the practice manager we would be looking for another healthcare provider. Aside from all that, I knew from the ultrasound that something was wrong.  They told me everything looked fine & I was six weeks along, but from my estimates I should have been closer to ten weeks.  My cycles are a bit irregular (hence the ultrasound), so I was expecting it to show anywhere from eight to ten weeks.  Heck, seven weeks even, but not six.  No way.  When I saw that tiny spec on the screen, I knew something was wrong.  When they told me the due date, my first thought was “that’s not my baby”.

Naturally I pushed those thoughts away.  Three days later I started cramping & bleeding.  It seriously felt like something clicked in my body, like a switch had been turned on.  Suddenly there was pain & blood.  My husband and I rushed to see my midwife.  Because I had caused a bit of fuss by complaining, we had an ultrasound within the hour.  The tech gave us pictures & said she saw the heart beat – we could see it too.  My husband & I were comforted until we spoke to the midwife.  She told us the heartbeat was low enough to cause concern, but there was no way to know exactly what was happening.  I will always appreciate the way she walked in the room, threw her hands up in the air & said “Well, I don’t know.” I think she did know though, because she scheduled us for a follow up ultrasound the next day, and even though she said she wouldn’t be there, she was.

My midwife stayed late so she could come with us to the ultrasound.  My husband & I had spent so much time thinking the best, hoping for the best, that we were unprepared to see our dead baby on that screen.  I could tell immediately that it looked different, and the tech kept saying she was looking at my cervix.  I knew that babies aren’t supposed to be hanging out near the cervix.  Then she said it looked impending, and my midwife immediately spoke up.  “She’s saying the baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.”  My husband & I cried and cried.  I don’t know how long we stayed in that ultrasound room.  They told us to take our time, no hurry, and told us which way to go so we wouldn’t have to walk back through a waiting room filled with happily pregnant women.

My midwife explained how a natural miscarriage works & we went home.  I didn’t want the D&C, but I had no idea how hard it would be to wait for a natural miscarriage.  I didn’t know it could take weeks; I thought that ‘impending’ meant within a few hours, maybe a day at most.  I was lucky that it only took about 48 hours, but those 48 hours were the longest & most difficult of my life.

I am thankful that I know (more or less) when my baby died.  I was with my family & friends the night before that last ultrasound, and it comforts me that my baby was surrounded by those who would have loved her, if they’d known she was there.  I’m grateful that I caught my baby before she slipped into the toilet (my midwife was right; I knew the moment my baby was passing from me).  My midwife told us there are no laws about disposing of ‘the remains of conception’, so we had the opportunity to bury our baby.  It may sound strange, but I am glad we did.  I would have hated to flush it down the toilet or to know it had been disposed of with other medical waste, if I’d had the D&C.

I am comforted by husband, whose grief is as great as mine.  We share our thoughts & feelings daily, even the ugly ones, and it’s good to know we’re going through this together.  I’m glad that we hadn’t announced our pregnancy, although it makes the grief extremely lonely.  We told my mother & sister because we see them almost every day, and they knew something was wrong.  They offered to be there for me, but I didn’t want to be there, for them to be there for me.  My grandparents sent a card & flowers, saying they were sorry we’d experienced a ‘disappointment’.  Unless there’s been gossiping (which there probably has been), no one else in the family knows, nor do our coworkers.

The aftermath of this loss is so great.  I’ve read that recovering from a death is similar to recovering from a broken bone, which takes about six weeks.  I think whoever wrote that had not lost a child.  It’s been two months since we buried our baby, and the grief is still so heavy that I can’t speak about it, even when I want to speak about it. Somehow I was able to call my midwives’ office & explain to two different people why I needed to cancel my appointments & didn’t need to be billed anymore, but I can’t look my mother (who had two miscarriages of her own) in the eye & tell her how I’m feeling.

I hate crying in front of people, so that means I can’t talk about it. Sometimes I want to shout it from the rooftops. Most often I want to say something when people are talking about my sister’s pregnancy, just to shut everyone up.  My husband, my sister & I all work together, so the pregnancy talk is constant.  When people tell me I must be so happy that my daughter will have a playmate, I wish I had the guts to say, “She would have had a sibling, if we hadn’t lost our baby.” I want to say it to stop the conversation, to silence the room, just because I know it would.  I haven’t done it yet, and I doubt I ever will. The rational side of me knows there is no point in hurting other people. I do not wish to spoil my sister’s joy. She has every right to flaunt her happiness, and I have every right to remind people of my grief – but I don’t.  It wouldn’t be polite.  It wouldn’t be considerate of my sister. Only my husband seems to think that all her pregnancy talk is inconsiderate of me. Even if everyone knew, they would be moving on by now, like those who do know have done.  I understand; I don’t think my baby was real to them yet.

We all grieved terribly when my niece was born prematurely & died a few days later. I tell myself that this miscarriage is different, that I have no right to expect others to grieve like I do.  Yet I did lose a child. I did give birth, just so very early that it’s not considered giving birth.  I hope my sister gets to hold more than a bit of blood & tissue in her hands. I hate that my body started rejecting my baby while it was still alive. It haunts me that the only ultrasound pictures we have are of our baby dying.  In time, I know this madness of miscarriage will pass.  One day I will stop feeling so angry & jealous.  One day I will smile & actually mean it.  In the meantime, I am glad my rational side wins almost all of the time.  I’m glad only my husband catches glimpses of what my inner monologue is really like.

 — Jennifer

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