trigger warning: pregnancy loss/miscarriage

Nadine's Story, Nadine Nesbitt

'I think about pregnancy constantly. The only way I thought I could heal from this loss was to be pregnant again. But it's Covid-times. Covid-times when your partner is an essential worker means waiting for the endless waves to be over before attempting to try again. It was Covid-times while I was pregnant too, maybe it was the stress of it all. In the weeks after my pregnancy loss, I was so incredibly isolated. A combination of physical distancing, the next looming lockdown, and no understanding of if my experience was normal - I began to write. And then one day, I shared my story on social media. I'd been so alone in my experience, until I shared what I'd been though. The response was overwhelming. Women - many of whom I am friends with, began opening up about their losses and their trials. And it made me so angry. Why don't we talk about this. Why are women left in the dark. I know it's incredibly personal but knowing I wasn't the only one - in fact, I was one of every four women - made my situation just a little more bearable. Community helped me heal. Community during Covid-times, shared experience during pregnancy loss, there are simply no words to write the gratitude for that.'

'Ferocious is the only word I can use to describe my experience. I wanted you so badly. Even though at the start, I wasn't so sure. At the start, genetics were top of our minds. I was scared and my body was changing so quickly. It only took a few weeks for my last pair of jeans to feel too tight. A few weeks to feel dizzy from the slightest hunger pang, to feel exhausted 24/7, to be nauseous at all hours of the day. We were told that at 10 weeks to do the CVS test, to monitor for a rare disease that runs in the family. 10 weeks came and went, still with no results to determine if we could do the test or not, and every day that passed I felt closer and closer to you. I could feel you growing inside me. You were so real every second of the day. At 10 weeks we thought we'd have answers, but learned it would be closer to 16 or 17, if we were to get any at all. I had made the decision to keep you regardless. I had not shared this out loud yet, but in my heart, I knew.'

'Friday was our new week day, and that Friday of week 12 we celebrated the end of the first trimester. I was finally getting my appetite back, I had enough energy to clean the glass studio, even though I was still nervous to work in there and it was a healing space I missed so much. I felt we'd rounded the corner and was planning to announce the pregnancy to more friends and family that weekend and to work a couple days later. We headed to our ultrasound, excited to see you again. I laid on the table and felt the cold gel above my pelvis. I told the nurse where I was feeling my lump growing, and thought in my head it must be nice to have a job giving people joy during the pandemic. After a few moments, she turned off the screen. I had to pee, so she said I could use the washroom and she'd get my partner to bring into the room. When I returned, I thought we'd see the image of our growing baby together. "From time to time," she said "the doctor needs to come in." C held my hand as I lay there. When the doctor and nurse entered, we were told there was no heartbeat, and our baby was measuring only at 9 weeks. It had died sometime nearly three weeks ago. I had been walking around for three weeks, putting C's hand on my belly where I could feel a hard lump forming, telling close friends and family, celebrating the passing of my first trimester symptoms. I turned to my side on the nurse's table and cried. I've cried so many tears of grief, but these were of a different kind.'

'We were given a few options to pass the pregnancy. Waiting it out, through a D&C procedure, or using tablets. I decided to use the tablets, Misoprostol, which would induce a miscarriage. This decision felt for a moment like it gave me some control. I couldn't imagine this process starting while at work or while alone and the D&C just didn't feel right for me at that time. The rest of the day, I was completely numb. I was in shock. I was scared. But mostly I felt nothing at all. C picked up the prescriptions, pads, a thermometer. I called my mom.

That evening I decided to begin the hardest process I have experienced. I could have waited, but it had already been three weeks and C would be home the next couple of days over the weekend. I was told it would be like a heavy period. Insert the pills before bed, and it will be like a heavy period while you get some time to sleep.'

'In black underwear and tank top, I stood there in the washroom looking at myself in the mirror. I hated myself for being so happy earlier that day. I hated my body for letting this happen. I felt betrayed. My body, the graveyard. I crumpled to the floor trying to put the first, thick pad onto my underwear. C came in and held me up. A strong and steady wall of support, calm, and kindness. He assured me that we didn't have to do this today, that it was okay to wait. But I couldn't wait - the fear would overwhelm me. With C standing just outside the door, I opened the pill bottle and poured four of eight pills out onto the counter. Although my baby was already dead, inserting the pills felt like I was making the decision to end the pregnancy. I wanted to hold onto you, to keep you in my body. I'd been so confident.'

'Around 10:00 is when the cramping started. It did feel like the cramps experienced on the first day of a normal period. But it wasn't long before the pain moved deeper into my back, thighs, abdomen. By midnight, my stomach was so tender, like a balloon, the pain was intensifying throughout my body. My bowels emptied and I thought I would start to see blood at any moment. Where was the heavy period I was expecting? I took two T3's, but they did nothing. C refilled my hot water bottle and held my hand while I wept in agony. By 2:00, I was pacing around the bedroom, in and out of bed, huddling over the mantle and bedside. In so much pain, I prayed for the miscarriage at this point. I cried and begged for it to be over. I thought the pills hadn't worked or targeted the wrong part of my body. I was terrified. This was not the pain of a heavy period, and there was still no blood. Like lightening, I felt the pain come on stronger than I could have imagined. By 4:00 I was in some kind of child's pose on the bed. The pain would fade so slightly, then shoot back through my whole body. It was deep in my back and pelvis. All I could do was try counting to stay calm. I counted and counted and counted. I thought, what the fuck, am I having contractions? This was not supposed to be happening, no one told me this would happen. I was counting down the last few moments with you inside me. I rushed to the washroom, calling for C, and felt a huge rush of fluid leave my body. It felt like my uterus had fallen out. In the darkness I thought I'd left a trail of blood from the bed to the washroom. I felt it pour down my legs, I felt my underwear soaked, my feet standing in a warm puddle. We turned the lights on and the liquid was clear. None of this made any sense at the time, but later I realized that this was my water breaking. During this miscarriage, I still went into labour, I gave birth, but the outcome was different. In the pad was our baby. As big as my finger. Pale, pale pink. I saw her, I held her, I wrapped her in toilet paper and placed her on the counter. C held me while hunched over the sink and I cried. I felt such sorrow and overwhelming guilt for letting this happen, but a few moments of relief from the pain.'

'I thought the worst was over now, still very confused. It had been nearly eight hours since inserting the tablets, and still, no blood. But by 5:00 or so, it started. I could never have imagined how much blood I would lose. I'd never seen so much blood before. Even losing a chunk of my leg to a dog earlier this year, nothing prepared me for this. By noon I'd gone through 12 heavy pads. My body like a faucet, I felt large clots leave, placenta likely one of them but had no idea at the time. I wondered if I should go to the hospital. I was exhausted. I was still in incredible pain. This was not the heavy period I was expecting and the pandemic was accelerating again. Everything was terrifying. C made some toast and refilled my hot water bottle. By noon his constant puttering and clanking of dishes downstairs brought me some comfort.

I've never felt an emptiness like this before. When my past partner died, the physical pain, guilt, and loss were so intense, but external. People around me could see why, could understand. But this loss is so different. It is internal. It is isolating. I am nowhere close to being okay. An invisible loss to anyone else. A confusing loss. A loss that makes me feel so fucking stupid for those three weeks I thought you were alive. A loss I can't explain to anyone else because we never got to meet you. But I felt my baby growing inside me. With every new pain, nauseous moment, every tums, glass of milk, anxious moment of worry, pants too tight, nails growing, hunger pang, every second of complete exhaustion, every unexplainable tear, every vitamin, every hard-boiled fucking egg, every twang of pain in my pelvis, ache in my breasts, every hand on my growing lump, every desire for fruit, candy, fresh air, every doctors appointment, genetics appointment, every talk with family and friends, every dream of the future. You were so real to me.'

'I am not okay.'

'The weeks following have been completely debilitating. At first I couldn't eat, talk, move any part of my body. I fantasized all the ways I could end my life. C could sense this and came home from work shortly after leaving on Wednesday morning. Him, my mom, and my best friend had a coordinated effort behind the scenes to watch over me. I couldn't be alone. It's still hard to be alone. My hormones crashing and burning around me with no reward. No high of a new baby to ride out the storm. Overnight my body was naturally pushing tissue out, but bleeding getting lighter day by day. As much as I want it to stop, I know this is the blanket that held my baby in my body for 3 months. It's hard to let it go knowing it will end soon. A few friends sent flowers. A nice gesture. They were beautiful and thoughtful, but I also hated them. I didn't want flowers. I wanted 6 more months. My mom brought three beautiful, pink peonies on Saturday. She and my dad had come the next day. I hadn't really hugged my mom in months other than a shallow and guilt-ridden embrace holding our breaths, faces turned apart. But she had come that Saturday. She cradled me in her arms on the couch and I cried. I knew she loved me more than anything, but I finally had had a glimmer of what this love really meant. It means doing absolutely anything to keep your child safe. It means my mom had been at home, crying too, awake while I was tortured by trauma. My best friend would cradle me on the kitchen floor a few days later. By Thursday the peonies, once so vibrant, were turning nearly white, petals completely open, and faces flat to show all their organs inside. My baby was the same colour the night we met. Colour drained from the three weeks it was buried inside my body. Every task was impossible, even composting the flowers.'

'Every possible article on the internet relating to miscarriage or pregnancy loss has been read by me now. Obsessively, I tried to find other people's stories that I could relate to in an effort to understand that what I experienced was normal, or that someone else had been through this too. We don't talk about miscarriage. It's personal. It's taboo. Even the 12 weeks that we are 'supposed' to wait to tell others about our pregnancies, the 12 weeks that are supposed to 'protect' women from having to share potentially hard news down the line - to me now, this feels like it only created more isolation during a time where each friend I told helped me to feel more supported. Friends now whose calls I can't answer but know they are thinking of me. Isolation upon nearly a year of isolation.'

'I'm told that I am strong. I've faced so many obstacles in my short life so far. Losing my identity after an injury to my brain and the unending rehab, therapy, and depression in the 6 years that followed; going to war with my partner of nearly a decade in his fight with addiction that he eventually succumbed to; being attacked by a large dog alone at night; losing a pregnancy that I came to want so badly. I am resilient, but I'm so tired of being strong. What is expected of me. When is it enough. When is it too much. What comes next. The pandemic continues to rage on.

We planted our baby under the young serviceberry tree in the backyard. My mom surrounded the tree with spring bulbs that will come up in May, around the same time as what was to be your due date, May 14. A Taurus. C placed a pink stone on top of the earth that now holds your small body. He says the tree will grow three times faster now. We decided to call you Berry.'

'On Friday, one week had passed. I had a bath. There is so much information out there on what to do or what not to do after giving birth to a live baby. Not so much for loss. I took the bath anyways. I filled it with rose petals and some essential oils. I lit a candle. When I sat in the water, tears came down my face again. It felt like saying a goodbye. Like the water was cleansing me of the great trauma I'd endured during that week since learning Berry had died. I laid into the water, its warmth washed over me, soothing every muscle that had worked so hard to hold onto you and then so incredibly hard to let go of you. Each moment in the bath came with unplanned intention and purpose, a small and sacred ceremony that I didn't know I needed. C came in, kissed me, and left. Always checking in. Without him, I am not sure I would have made it to see tomorrow. I brought in a face cloth and used it to wash water over each part of my body. Hands that felt you growing, arms that would have held you. I filled the cloth again and ran it over my shoulders and neck strained from my grief. Over my back, aching from cramping, feet that supported us both, legs strong, breasts that were once so sore, stomach that I kept fed with healthy food, face that cried 100,000 tears for you, and finally the top of my pelvis. I pushed the cloth over my pelvis a dozen times. Pushing down from my belly button towards the bone, desperately trying to hold onto you, but move the last pieces out that once held you in my body. A dozen - one for each week you were mine. In the bath I couldn't tell my tears from the bath water. My body is truly powerful, a portal. I have never felt closer to nature than during the rawness that took place during that full moon the previous weekend. It took a while once getting out to empty the tub. I sat on the mat beside and when I felt ready, pulled out the plug. I watched the water slowly drain, petals staining the last drops of water like the blood leaving my body.

In the backyard where you are planted, I placed two yellow roses. One for me, and one for you.'

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