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October 6, 2003

An Injustice of Miscarriage

Nearly two months ago, I took a day off work. It was a Friday, the first of August to be precise, and it was a lovely day. I didn't expect to take the day off until very late Thursday evening, at which point I called work and left a message that I would not be in on Friday. I'm not usually so spontaneous with taking days off of work, especially when I've only recently started the position and have no vacation accrued or owing. So, what prompted me to take a summer's day off of work right before the weekend? Four-day weekend? Long camping trip? Big Civic Holiday party? No. My wife was miscarrying.

If you've been reading my ranting for a while, you'll know that we have one daughter. Right now she's just about two and a half. Even before we started "trying" for children we knew we wanted at least two, and that the optimal spacing for them would be around 3 years apart in age. Well, a few months past my daughter's second birthday, and me finally placed in what has finally turned into permanent full-time employment, the timing for Kid #2 was there, and we were ready to start.

We didn't have as much luck this time as with our daughter... with her, my wife got pregnant the first cycle we were trying. Go, sperm, go! This time we had to wait until her second cycle to get a positive pregnancy test, which really isn't much of a wait. (I have no idea how couples with fertility problems can stand going months and years without success. It must be very emotionally draining.) We timed it well for our desired sibling age spacing, and my wife was on her way, digging out maternity clothes, writing things down in our 2nd pregnancy calendar, and just waiting for that first poutine craving to hit her.

Then the bleeding started. One morning my wife mentioned that she had some spotting (very light vaginal bleeding). As she's extremely well-read when it comes to pregnancy, she knew that it could be something bad, or just be something benign that she'd have to put up with and that would do no harm. We both eat and live fairly healthily, and our daughter was (and still is) a ridiculously healthy little girl - naturally, I assumed this bleeding was simply a harmless nuisance that would eventually go away.

We both started looking through our baby name books again and compiling lists for boy's a girl's names. My wife noted pregnancy events in her new calendar, and enthusiastically compared to her previous pregnancy. "It says that I first had morning sickness in two and a half weeks." "I should get my cravings any time now." We even went shopping for some baby items that we would need for our 2nd. The bleeding, however, continued for weeks.

By now, my wife was starting to show a little, much, much earlier than she had for our first. We had already started telling immediate family members, and decided that we would start telling friends as well soon, lest they find out by her wearing maternity clothing. But she was feeling uneasy about telling even our closest friends. Last time you could hardly shut us up about being pregnant, but this time I almost had to pull teeth for her to tell people. Little did I know that something "wasn't feeling right".

After weeks of very slight, but steady bleeding, my wife phoned our midwife. Our midwife is a great person, and was going to make sure that she would be around for our next birth. After consulting with her on the phone and having a visit with my wife, she ordered an ultrasound to see what was going on. I was still blindly confident that the ultrasound would show a small but healthy fetus, and perhaps whatever it was that was causing this bleeding.

The day of the ultrasound, I was completely unprepared for what transpired. I called my wife after her appointment, but didn't manage to get her on the phone. An hour later, she phoned me, and shattered the fragile confidence that I had built up. "There's no baby..." she cried. I didn't know what to say. I was so sure that a miscarriage wouldn't happen to us that I didn't even prepare for the possibility of it. I was stunned. The rest of that afternoon was totally unproductive for me, and only served to brew blind undirected anger. Why I got mad, I'm not sure, but it was a crappy day. That was a Tuesday.

We were told that this was a case of "blighted ovum", whatever the hell that meant. All it really boiled down to was there was no baby, and my wife would eventually miscarry. She was only 8 weeks pregnant at this point, so her body would have to not only stop ramping up the pregnancy process, but wind back down to normal levels. Oh, and it would also have to expel whatever remnants of the pregnancy were still in her womb, at a time that could range from days to many weeks. The prospect of waiting weeks to see if things progressed normally was the worst news of all. A miscarriage is bad enough, but waiting for one to finish is agony. I think we were both seriously contemplating dilation and curettage to remove the remains, in an effort to just get it done with. Turns out, we needn't have worried.

That following Thursday she was a miserable wreck. Hormones taking a 180, having no baby to look forward to anymore, and left wondering when her body would end it all and expel whatever was left of our child that wasn't to be. Sitting with her on the bed that night, with her crying, I asked her if she wanted me to stay home from work. "Yes," was her immediate response. Fine - unpaid holiday or not, I'm not going to leave my wife alone with our rambunctious daughter if she's feeling like this. Turns out that was the best decision I'd made in a while.

Friday afternoon, it finally happened. A small placenta-like object expelled itself from my wife, ending the physical drama that was her first miscarriage. Of course, the mental anguish had barely begun for both of us. I was still numb even at this point, and it would be weeks later before I cried. My wife is still sad at the thought of not being pregnant right now, and that will likely not end until she's both expecting again and past mid-March, her previous due date. It's no secret that we're trying again, and as soon as she's pregnant again we'll be telling everyone, to be sure that they're there for us in case the unthinkable happens twice.

While in-utero, our daughter was given the nickname Sprout. This time around, it was Jellybean. Unfortunately, it's going to stay Jellybean forever. Son or daughter, we'll never know. All we know is that there will forever be a small Jellybean-shaped hole in our hearts.


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