Friday, July 24, 2009

Bye, bye baby: lost on a dark blue sea

On Wednesday evening I awoke from the deepest sleep I'd ever been in. I'd had my first general anaesthetic. It was like I'd been slapped awake and my eyelids ripped open. I was in the midst of a swirling sea of blue, nurses in blue uniforms and blue hats with only their faces discernible against the background of the blue curtains pulled around me in the recovery cubicle. It was as if they were a flock of disembodied heads, floating like gulls around me, circling and zooming in and out, occasionally obscuring the one bright ceiling bulb, making the faces appear dark and sinister in the shadow against the cloud of light behind them. I felt like a baby in a pram, unable to move or communicate to the faces above me, but so wanting to be able to do so. I felt one year old, a hundred years old, no age, yet every age. I felt all the years of womankind upon me all at once.

And I cried. Uncontrollably. All-consuming sobs from deep inside, crying from my heart and my soul. I couldn't stop, my body was possessed by a mournful banshee and overrun by a ferral emotion, which had such a grip it was shaking the air from my lungs and wouldn't let me loose, lurching its pain and sorrow up through me, like the pounding of an earthquake which only I could feel and couldn't ignore.

For I had gone to sleep like I'd turned to stone and was jolted awake what seemed only moments later, but I knew it had been more like an hour and I knew that me being awake again meant that my baby had gone. Those first few shocking seconds I wished I'd never woken up again, but I had done and now I had to deal with reality. In this cold sea of dark blue and unfamiliar faces I marked the death of my baby, my whole body venting the pain. This was the most significant moment in my life so far. And I felt more alone than I have ever felt.

He? She? I'm not sure. I think I'll opt for a male (no sense of direction you see) - he got stuck in a fallopian tube and never found the womb, content to latch on where he could, merrily growing away, unaware of his fatal error. They call it an ectopic pregnancy and it can never survive. It had to be removed, along with the damaged tube. It couldn't be transplanted into the right place, despite all the wonders of modern medicine and all my fervent wishing. I don't believe in God, but I tried to make a connection when I was wheeled down to the operating room, tried to feel him and tried to tune into Mother Nature to ask her for a miracle too. I imagined waking up to the buzz of an amazing event, an ectopic baby which they'd managed to transplant, a blessed child who'd saved himself at the final hour...

The pity in the circling gull faces told me this had just been a fantasy. He had gone. My precious little peanut, who I'd carried around for weeks had become a health risk, a blockage which needed removing. He'd become a challenge to my very life, it was either him or me, and seeing as he would never be "viable" the choice was obvious, there was no contest: he had to go. I was his mother, but I couldn't protect him, I couldn't guide him or help him. All I could do was to sign his life away and hope that he couldn't feel anything. He was just a ball of cells, a thing, an "it", so people kept on saying.

I hadn't known for very long that I was pregnant, not for definite anyway. It only takes a second to feel connected though, motherhood is instinctive and instant. For about three years I've been through the monthly rollercoaster of wondering and waiting, hoping that I was when I felt a bit different to normal. Every moment of sickness and every tired day were possible signs, but I always tended to suppress all hopes as much as I could because it's so painful to be disappointed over and over. I do recall feeling more strange than usual. I got on the wrong train and cried on the conductor, I had moments of abject despair and others of pure elation, all unexplained yet ignored as signs because I didn't dare to hope. I got drunk far too quickly on several occasions, naturally went off smoking, all things which should have been signs, but only if you let yourself see them.

So I'd only known for a few days that I was pregnant, we'd had an appointment at the clinic on the Monday when I'd done a test which came up viciously pregnant. The line virtually jumped out of the little window. But no pregnancy was to be seen in the womb. This was my first scan, and he was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he was just too small to be detected and he was still in the right place. That was a possibility, at least in my head. I suspect that they were just trying to keep things calm by not saying that they clearly thought it was ectopic. I had to have a blood test that day and then come back on the Wednesday for another one and they compared the two to diagnose it. If it was still growing, but not at the expected rate, then it was still a growing pregnancy, but in the wrong place. That was what they were looking for now, that's what they were testing to confirm. It was what I was hoping wasn't going to be true, but it was.

On the Wednesday it was confirmed, I was taken for a scan to show that it was not in the womb, and then all of a sudden the place went mad. Chaos exploded around me as I had to stay perfectly still, being in the midst of a very compromising position in the scanning room. The top consultant turned up, who was male, so he needed a chaperone (even though my husband was there) and then he couldn't work the machine so someone else came to help him. I couldn't see my husband any more. He'd been shoved back somewhere near the door. The one person who I wanted to see, who I needed, desperately. He was there somewhere I know, I could taste his panic filling the air and I could hear him trying to make himself heard to talk to me. No-one else. Just me. But all I could see was people who I didn't know and my little peanut on screen. Some woman, I didn't care to know who she was, patted me on the shoulder and said she was sorry. Why was she allowed to reach me but my husband was so far away? How could a pat on the shoulder from a stranger be any kind of substitute? They forget you are human and that you have emotions and that you have just been given the worst news they could have given you and might need some support. You are seen as the carrier of the problem, the vessel, but otherwise you are not considered and the poor father might as well not be there at all. You are like an exhibit in a museum, delicate and to be preserved but the property of everybody else.

It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done to stay calm during all that, with a rush of excited people flowing around me whilst I stayed motionless, like I was a stone jutting out of a stream. The room seemed full with people who'd never seen an ectopic pregnancy before wanting to look, arguing over how many weeks old it was, whether there was a yolk sack, whether there was a heartbeat... A HEARTBEAT. How could they say it was a ball of cells one minute and then mention a heartbeat? At this point everything else fell away, the people merged into a swirling lump around me and all I could see was that black ball on the screen, inches from my womb. I strained to try to see a yolk sack and a heartbeat. I stared and tried to commit the picture to memory. I don't know now why I even thought I needed to try, it's burnt onto my memory like I'd looked at an eclipse of the sun. That moment the sun was completely blotted out by this tiny black ball of cells. That moment was drawn out, augmented by its own importance, and a whole lifetime of sorrow was lived in one deep sigh, before the world speeded up around me again as the drama of the emergency situation unfolded at a hundred miles an hour.

The people washed away as quickly as they'd flooded in, leaving to set about the next task and I was left to get dressed again, feeling totally numb, looking imploringly at my husband and him at me, neither of us knowing what to do or say. We were eventually fetched to the consultation room and sat down. I stared out of the window to try to see the sky. Something normal, something tangible and unchanging. It was raining and the sky was uniformly grey. No clouds, or maybe it was completely made up of clouds, I couldn't think any more to be able to answer my own question. Big decisions needed to be made, and I couldn't think, not even enough to try to explain that I couldn't think. Even trying to use my head that much was making me feel like lying on the floor and sleeping. I'd lie in the corridor and people could step over me. I didn't care.

I could take some drugs to break the pregnancy down. I asked how long that would take. They said I would have to come back a few times a week for a few weeks to be monitored to check that it was reducing and dissipating. I could see our misery stretching in front of us, how many times would we have to walk past the wall of smiling baby photos, sit in the waiting room with pregnant ladies and how could I keep on asking the question "How dead is my baby this time?" Maybe he'd be a fighter, maybe he'd refuse to go quietly and there would be weeks of being brave and feeling myself die a little bit more each time inside.

Luckily my husband had more wits about him than me and said he wanted it sorting out as soon as possible (he may have even wagged his finger). He's no taller than me, but suddenly next to the towering consultant (a tall and heavily built Italian) he looked like a giant. I've never felt so vulnerable and so protected at the same time. I wanted him to decide, and even though he didn't want to tell me what to do he said enough in the end for me to follow him and let him decide. I was to have the surgery. He had in mind that an ectopic can burst and cause massive internal bleeding and can be fatal. He wasn't thinking about the baby any more, he was just thinking about me. I needed him to do that for me because I just couldn't think straight. We were sent home to pack a bag and return to the hospital, whilst they arranged the admission. We tearfully rang our parents and our work to pass on the news and I packed my bag, including the new pygamas which we'd bought on the way home. It's a small thing to focus on but I refused to go back without something nice to wear in bed. They were dark blue too.

I didn't really know what the surgery entailed, I didn't really know what they were going to do, but I pretended I did. It needed to happen, so I didn't see what difference it made. I was now floating along on the tide, not even attempting to swim along, just letting everyone else keep me afloat. I'd have plenty of time afterwards to get acquainted with my scars. I was going to stay as upbeat as possible and just go along with whatever I was required to do. I dutifully thought of questions to ask each different nurse and doctor who came to see me, to stick that tube in, to give me this pill, this injection, tell me whatever they thought I needed to know. I tried to be as brave as I could, although apparently I was still in the "nervous" category and given extra medication, despite me being as upbeat as I could muster.

When I woke up after the surgery I couldn't stay upbeat any longer. I had lost all my strength and I couldn't pretend any more. I was devastated and heartbroken. The doctor was lovely, he eventually swirled into view amongst the circling gull faces when I woke up and explained to me that the surgery had been successful - not the wild fantasy dream version of successful when they'd managed to transplant the pregnancy into the right place, but the kind of successful that they'd been aiming for in that the pregnancy and tube were removed. He smiled at me as he carefully said the next sentence, that the other fallopian tube looked healthy and that the womb looked perfectly fine as well. I clasped his hand and thanked him with as strong a voice as I could muster, between shuddering sobs. I will never forget his face, the bringer of hope in such a desolate time. I will picture his kindly smile and the corona of the ceiling light round the top of his head like a halo as he leaned over to speak to me. My guardian angel. He was the only doctor to have treated me as a human being with emotions and deep fears which needed comforting, to have acted like he had all the time in the world to speak to me, and he had told me to think nice thoughts before I went to sleep so I would wake up in the middle of those thoughts. It was a nice gesture, although I wasn't able to do it!

I didn't stay in hospital for long, they keep you until you can stand without falling over and then send you on your way. That suited me fine. I'd not got very much sleep. I'd spent hours staring out of the window at angry dark blue clouds drifting quickly overhead. The wind was howling around the building, screaming my pain for me as I silently cried to myself.

The night was dark blue and in those hours which seemed like weeks in the middle of that first night I pictured myself floating in a midnight sea, cold, alone, but alive. Motionless and expectant, knowing eventually I was going to float back to shore and to the people who would look after me, to whom I wasn't a name on a clipboard and to the one who thought he'd nearly lost me and had nearly gone wild with despair. How ironic that only a week before, in the midst of a pregancy-fuelled depression I'd wondered if there would ever be someone who couldn't live without me. Well now I know he was there all along. I thank my blessed little peanut for this gift which he has given to me.

For any of you who've actually read this far, I thought I'd re-post this poem, which seems rather prophetic now. It was written at a time when I was upset that I'd not managed to fall pregnant and I'd just spent the day with my godchildren and was upset having to leave them and still feeling the weight of the baby in my arms.


The earth mother awakes and
Snuffles in the dirt for her baby.
She can feel his weight in her arms,
She can smell his honey hair
Touched to her face as she whispered
Her soothing love into his crown.
She remembers staring into him,
Seeing his need mirroring her own
in his wide eyes, rarely blinking.
But he is gone. And she is desperate.
The forest echoes with her cries
Guttural sobs rising from empty womb
Refracting through trunks and branches
Converging into one mournful wail.
With swollen eyes raised to the canopy
She pleads to her god with rasping implore
To return her to her whole again, for
He is gone. And she would go too.



  1. I feel for you, my friend, but thank goodness the falopian tube didn't get to the point of rupturing before you were diganosed. Another friend of mind went through the same thing, but had a further two healthy children after the trauma. May you be similarly blessed.

  2. Oh Jinksy I hope so, it will be so much easier to bear if it just turns out to be a set back!

  3. Pinkerbell, I am so, so, very sorry... ((hugs))...Our first born was stillborn...we buried him about 40 miles from where we now live...15 1/2 years ago...I was in my mid-thirties...Even these many years later, it still hurts....but I had another son 1 1/2 years later...I pray this will be true for are in my thoughts and prayers especially tonight and the days to come as you grieve...Sending much love, Janine XOXO

    P.S. I almost forgot why I came...Your writing is so powerful, and your life events tear at my heart...but thanks so much for stopping by while I'm on break!!! You are too kind...I hope to return sometime in the Fall...I begin to miss my blog...and have missed my blogging friends--and that includes YOU-- all along!!!! Hugs~J.

  4. my heart bleeds for you. i cannot image your loss. hugs and love is all i can give...

  5. Janine - nice to hear from you, I hope you are having a good summer. I'm so sorry to hear you suffered a still-born, that's far more devastating than losing a baby in the early stages. Thanks for telling me about it, it's a great comfort. I know it's hard now, but I do hold the hope that we'll look back on this from a much happier place in the future...if only I had a time machine! I'll never forget a quote from Eastenders of all places, some Dot Cotton wisdom, "Scratch the surface of any woman and you'll find a baby story". That's why I decided to tell my story in the hope that others would tell me theirs.

    Maybe you'll think of your little boy a little more than normal because of this and I hope you're ok, but never feel that you should be ok. That sort of hurt never completely leaves us, I know that.

    Shadow - bless you, you really are a feeling person. Just remember this was written in my darkest place, they say it's darkest before the dawn and things are slowly brightening up.

    Thanks both of you x

  6. O Pinkish, so sad, my heart goes out to you. As mentioned above; love is the answer, tho I'm aware how flip that might sound right now, how love might be the question too... but it often does help to explore that trite phrase.

    Courage, mon ami, you will get through this and you'll find that you are richer for it, but what price perspective? How different things might be if we could haggle!

    Thoughtfully, powerfully, beautifully written, how wise of you to express yourself at this time. I see hints of self-blame, which is a natural response, but you'll get over that and realize that sometimes things just happen.

    Scratch many a man too, for baby stories, I have a fair idea of what your husband must be feeling, please pass on my thoughts for him too.

  7. Thanks File, it's much appreciated and I know the men don't get as much looking after as they should. He says he just doesn't see it the same way as me, that it stopped being a baby when it started becoming a health risk and feels guilty that he doesn't feel like me. I don't know if he's having a delayed reaction or if it really is that simple for him.

    Strangely I feel no self-blame. I couldn't have altered this series of events as far as losing the baby is concerned. I needed to write all that though as I had the feelings of helplessness and also needed to express that loss too - the loss of opportunity to act as protector I suppose. It's a very strong urge which gets stirred up very suddenly in these situations and doesn't have any release.

  8. well, expression can be a very positive form of release no? The feelings you're expressing (the helplessness and frustration over not being able to protect) are often hard-wired in us and are perhaps not so different from your husband prioritizing your health and safety.

    Perhaps it's easy to translate those feelings as guilt in his case but they might be reframed as a manageable, practical version of the same? Sometimes men just need to focus on the concrete.

    All that said, I didn't mean to focus on him!, just to acknowledge that he must be going through it too. Feel sure he'd agree that your healing now is the main thing, be patient with yourself P, those beautiful nurturing skills will help you help yourself.

    Myself, I can be a little hard-hearted when it comes to my own problems and Rumi's focus on the bigger picture often helps me...

    "It's dawn Husam ... what else could human beings want?"

    I do hope that doesn't sound precipitous P, not knowing you that well, just mean that it will soon be time to recognize the beauty of your own life again ... and you will

  9. There is loss on so many levels in this amazing post. There is nothing profound I can offer in terms of strength, consolation or understanding, beyond my honest assessment that this is an extremely deep, honest, raw piece of writing.

    God bless .....

  10. Pink, Just checking in to see how you are doing...and wondering if my experience gives you hope...I so HOPE it does!!! David's right...this is an absolutely fantastic piece of've brought forth beauty from extraordinary thoughts and heart are with you today...You can be sure I'll be "haunting" your blog in the coming weeks just because I want to know how you are doing...and I'll be in touch as soon as I return...Love and hugs, Janine

  11. Janine, yes you did give me hope, I'm sorry I didn't say that to you - my brain is still fuzzy! x

  12. David - thanks so much for that amazing vote of support & the much coveted Post of the Day!

  13. I read every last word and so feel for you. Really. Have had many miscarriages, but have never had such a bleak time as you... Thinking of you and hoping that you have good friends to laugh with and a good husband to love. Sounds like you do..all will be well. x (congratulations on post of the day)

  14. My heart goes out to you and to the loss off the baby you had that didn't make it into our world only into our hearts.

    Having had several miscarriages, after years of trying ...I went on to have three beautiful children.

    Your wish, also, will come true.

    In the meantime grieve the loss of the one you had ...say goodbye when you are ready ...

    And life will begin again, as it does.

  15. Losing a child is one of the hardest things for any mother. There are many of us out here who can weep along with you and say, don't worry baby we know we know...and we do.
    Over from David's place...
    warm hugs and deepest sympathy

  16. File - you are right to ask about my husband, he is just as much a part of this as me and it's good to get some idea of male perspective. I think you're right that his gut instinct kicked in to protect me. I needed it, I felt so overwhelmed by the people in the clinic. With hindsight we weren't treated well, as humans I mean. The medical care was fine. I do try to see the good things in life and try to see beauty, also thinking of nature around me has helped gain perspective. We have wide views along the valley which we live up the side of, and I've been watching the rain sweep along the valley this morning, feeling comfort inthe fact it keeps going regardless.

    Thanks Ladybird and Sarah, you having been through it too makes me feel more normal, it's so good of you to share this with me - it does bring hope.

  17. Pinkerbell, it's so good to talk about these things. When I miscarried my first baby (a boy) at three months, so many people said things like "it wasn't viable" which I knew was right but sounded so MEDICAL and heartless. My baby! And then someone told me something so beautiful:

    "Sometimes, there's a soul who has had such a terrible life, so much pain and hunger and trauma, that they cannot move on to heaven or their next life or whatever. This soul needs some time here, just being held and loved. They need to feel warmth, unconditional love, and comfort. And you, the parent, do this willingly as an act of absolute love and giving. Then, once they are stronger they give you thanks and bless you and move on. They choose to be an "imperfect" pregnancy, one which must end too soon, because they have tasks to complete in other, harder lives."

    I like this much better than "not medically viable", don't you?

    And yes, I went on to have THREE healthy sons. They are wonderful, and I still think of my own "Peanut".

  18. Sandi -you were writing here as I was writing - hello and many thanks, I feel the warmth from everyone's good wishes.

  19. Nan - thanks so very very much. That quote has made me fill with tears but it's so beautiful that I'm glad I've read it and I will treasure it.

    A couple of years ago a friend lost her daughter and I so wanted to help but knew it was beyond my expertise, so I bought a book called "when your friend's child dies" by Juliane Grant. I read it so many times that I was able to apply it to myself. It's been such a help and I notice it has a section on men & miscarriages - how apt. She said that she felt so lonely because everyone gave her space and she presumed friends would tell other friends but people didn't like to. I remember telling her she needed to ask for support and help, that people didn't know what to do. I'm now trying to remember all these things in reverse. The best thing we can do for each other is to share our experiences.

  20. Oh, what a terrible ordeal for you - and it doesn't sound as though the hospital staff made it any easier. How unfeeling it all sounds, with students and medical staff so eagerly interested in what was, for you, a momentous and gut-wrenching, hugely personal event.

    I'm glad your husband was there to assert himself and make you feel loved and protected.

  21. Hi Jay,

    It's difficult to get perspective on it as I was so bewildered by it all, maybe they thought clinical was best and sort out the emotions afterwards, but in my heart I felt they were wrong in the way they treated us. In calmer moment I might give them some feedback!

  22. Pink, don't worry about any of us...we're fine!!!! Please, just take care of YOU!!!! We love you so very much!!!! Congrats!!!!~Janine XO

    I'm hiding in the shadows...but will continue to keep you in my thoughts...

  23. That image. The one on the screen. I miscarried at 12 weeks and I can remember the image on the screen, magnified. And the faces, the faces of the people all around me.

    There will be good news soon.

  24. I carried a (non viable) baby for six and a half months. I kept telling the OB/GYN that something was wrong but she didn't listen. Finally she sent me to a specialist and by then the baby had died. I was severely infected and had to undergo two surgeries.

    You write about such a tragic subject matter so well. Congrats on the POTD, that's how I found your post.

  25. Pinkerbell,
    Congrats on post of the day. This was great on so many levels.

  26. First of all Congratulations on POTD. That's where I came from, and am glad I did. I would like to cheer you up, coz I know what you have gone through, my friend. I bet that having shared it with us here at blogsphere, would have made you feel a bit peaceful as you are not the only one. many many of us go through miscarriages, still born, and the likes. But it is as painful to each one of us. The unborn child lives in our hearts and our lives, though not physically. Our unconditional love is all we can give it.
    However, try to believe that 'it came from heaven and went back heavenwards...." This is what my mom wrote in her diary many moons ago when she lost one of my unborn siblings.

    It's God's wish that you went through this, and it's God's wish that you will pull through this, and I am sure you will soon be well on your way. You have bidden your baby Bye Bye, from your body, but it will always live in your heart in a very special corner.
    I am sure you wrote this post in the thick of your loss, coz it is so powerful, deeply felt, and incredibly true. You are lucky to be blessed with such writing skills, that you have touched all our hearts, a lot more than you know. We all bond with you in this moment, and wish you many healthy children.
    With warm hugs and cheers !

  27. Ah Suzanne it's the starkness of the image isn't it, which burns it into the memory? I'm sorry you had to go through that too.

    There are so many people commenting here, and my offline friends too, who've had the same sort of experience, or what I'd imagine to be worse - I know there are a lot of positives to be taken away and a lot of human kindness showing through (I now have 5 bunches of flowers and a cupboard full of chocolate)

    Elizabeth your experience sounds truly heartbreaking. You must have felt so angry with those medical professionals who didn't listen to you, and so devastated. Was it recent? Do you feel like you've worked through all that trauma? Writing about it really helps!

    Pouty - thanks so much. I wonder which levels? (she asks cheekily)

    Intro - thanks for your lovely long message. So very gentle and warming, I wonder how you are getting on with such troubles of your own?

  28. I came over from David's authorblog. Congratulations on the Post of the Day Award. Hugs and blessings to you.

  29. Pinkerbell, I'm new here (via David's post of the day) and just want to say I'm so sorry for your loss.
    I've never experienced miscarriage or ectopic,so I can't say that I know how you feel, but I do empathise and sympathise with you and your husband.
    Take care.

  30. Dear Pinkerbell, I am so very sorry to learn
    of your loss. You have amazing strength to
    recount your story - and I am so pleased
    and grateful that you did, for your pain
    will help/ease anothers. You and your husband are remarkable. As you said now you
    truly know the length and breath of your
    husband's love.
    Thank you again for sharing this long
    moment in your life 'Bell.

    Love & Hugs,

  31. Cheffie-Mom, Mimi, and Marie - thanks so much for your kind comments. Marie - I'm not sure how I can help others. My husband suggested I send my account to the Miscarriage Association or to see if there is some help group or other which could use this to show others that it's normal to go through so much emotion at losing a baby in the very early stages. I think there is a view that it's not really far enough along to be considered a baby, or maybe that's just how people have learned to view these things as they are so often lost in the very early stages. Needs must and all that.

    I've heard a few people saying that they cry when they come out of anaesthetics and my sister used to be an anaesthetics nurse and she says it's quite common. I suppose I don't feel quite as stupid for crying, but I still like to think that my crying was significant, that I'd have felt different if something like a tumour or an absess had been removed (ie something you're glad to lose), but I'll never know I suppose.

    Also Marie, I've always treated this blog as somewhere to write my total and honest truth, sometimes painfully true I think. There is a compulsion when with people in the flesh to be ok, to act ok and not to be too over-dramatic. It's much easier to share deep thoughts online when anonymous and when you know that people only read it because they choose to and not because they feel they should. So basically this is much more for my benefit than anyone else's, although I'm happy if people find something here they like.

  32. I am so terribly sorry for your loss.

    It was very touching to read how your husband could be there for you when you most needed him- this is how it's supposed to be. This piece is so raw, real, and vulnerable- definitely deserved POTD; congrats.

    You'll be in my thoughts, Pink.

    Hugs and more hugs.

    <3 E