Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Deciduous

Saturday, September 23, 2006


by Dorothy Ferguson

How very softly
you tiptoed into my world,
almost silently,

only a moment you stayed.
But what an imprint
your footsteps have left
upon my heart.

I certainly don't intend to be the Sylvia Plath of the blogging world, although I do get a bit dark sometimes. I assure you that I laugh on a regular basis to the point of unladylike snorting on occasion. This week, however, has been a darker one for me, beginning with Erik's horrible appointment. After watching Erik walk all week, I am now certain orthotics are appropriate and feel hopeful about them. My last post generated the usual wonderful, warm avalanche of phone calls and e-mails. I assure you that I have not placed my head in the oven and have gotten out of bed every day this week without fail. I fully intended to post something side-splittingly, hopelessly funny today. However, my mind doesn't work that way, as I have little control of what is generated there. I suppose my mind has a mind of its own. My head isn't pretty inside a lot of the time. It is a cluttered mess. Before I write, I usually find myself up to my knees in an ever changing wall-to-wall collection of thoughts. At 3:00 this morning, a lot of what I found on self-examination were thoughts of loss. As the leaves outside begin to turn colors and threaten to let go, I can't help but think of the fall I lost Scooter.

The whole experience seems like a faded dream to me now. Brian and I, naive as we were at the time, drove to my parents' house the day we found out we were expecting. Being medically minded, I knew about miscarriage but was certain that this was not something I would need to worry about. My body was strong, and I took decent care of myself. I believe we even had a bottle of champagne with us that day, which everyone sipped while I had a fruit-flavored sparkling water. Everyone was appropriately excited, and everything was right with the world for weeks after the news. However, the first sign that something was wrong came without warning one Sunday before church. After the service, my parents suggested a Sunday drive, but I requested to be taken directly home. I didn't call the doctor that day. I was morbidly calm and knew in my heart there was nothing anyone could do for me. The next morning I called to schedule an ultrasound. My parents came to sit with me at home until Brian came home from work, and we watched television together in relative silence. Brian took me to the hospital that afternoon for my very first ultrasound. I remember sitting on polyurethane-covered furniture in the small waiting area next to a gigantic fish tank, which made me hungry for Chinese food for some reason, thumbing through magazines that addressed weighty issues like split ends and nail polish dos and don'ts. There was a Bible there, too. Neither choice seemed appropriate to me at that moment. We were called into the cramped, dark room. I put on a gown sized for a tiny woman most likely made by a tiny woman in some corner of the world and took my place on a table as if I was waiting to be sacrificed on an altar. The keyhole-shaped window appeared on the computer screen, and I could see my internal organs in all of their pulsating, veiny, grainy glory. Without any sort of fanfare or warning, a bean-shaped morsel appeared on the screen in the center of it all, and I remember actually smiling. I asked the technician if that was the beginning of our baby, and I honestly don't remember receiving an answer. He was very quiet, clicking the mouse on the computer and measuring its length to determine when it had ceased being a living thing. He quietly explained that the little heart had been still for two weeks and pointed out that it was sinking like a stone inside me over time, getting ready to exit my body and the world. He said he was sorry and that they would give us a couple minutes but needed the room for the next patient. From there, we went to the doctor's office where I had to sit in the middle of a group of pregnant women reading articles on nail polish. I was called back to receive my very first exam by a male doctor, a painful, traumatic experience inside another traumatic experience I didn't ask for. He explained that what I would experience physically would be like a thunderstorm. He told me the pain would be alarmingly great but not to worry, as it was perfectly normal and would subside gradually. To this day, the sound of thunder makes my insides cramp and my stomach feel sick. We drove Brian's Jeep Wrangler that day, and I am sure that everyone in a 15-block radius heard me through the flimsy plastic windows wailing all the way home. I wailed and wailed. I seemed to be channeling a foreign woman on the nightly news who wore a tent-like burqa and wrung her hands in a bombed-out building. When we arrived, a box of maternity clothing I ordered was sitting on the front step. Brian offered to set it on fire, and I laughed loudly and inappropriately, but I found what he said horribly funny and very appropriate at the time.

That night we went to bed like usual, except I had the strange knowledge there was something dead deep inside me. I wanted it out immediately. I drifted into soggy, tear-filled sleep with the help of Unisom but was awakened shortly thereafter by the first wave of agonizing pain. I remember getting out of bed and dressing in comfortable clothing, not having a clue what time it was. I went downstairs to turn on the television. I vaguely remember watching Conan O'Brien and even laughing a little. The rest of the night I spent facing hours of pulsating waves of pain, the likes of which I had never known before or since. Morning brought the virtually unspeakable, indescribable trauma of having to look upon that little bean again, not knowing what I was supposed to do with it. I panicked and quickly discarded it like trash but felt a horrible sense of shame and guilt for that action later. I had wanted it removed from my body, and now that it was gone, I wanted it back. The physical pain ceased immediately as if it had never occurred.

Our second pregnancy was pretty much identical, but I didn't have the emotional or physical trauma that went with the first loss. It was over a year later. There was no bean. There was only an empty screen on the ultrasound machine showing that anything that existed before had already passed just six weeks into the pregnancy. My doctor said that in the old days, I would have never known I was pregnant. I wanted to bitch slap her, because it was quite evident to me. I had the usual three days of hangover-like agony followed by weeks of migraines and then thought I was bleeding to death. In a strange way, I felt cheated out of having even the physical pain of the loss. There was almost nothing to prove that this life existed except for a positive pregnancy test lying in a desk drawer. Even my own doctor seemed to deny this life existed.

My physician recently told me that there was a 50% chance something was genetically wrong with both of the pregnancies I lost. I have obviously been completely unsuccessful staying pregnant or having a genetically normal baby, and I accept that, although it has been a little hard on me as a woman. I'm sure a lot of the people who love me would pat me on the back and reassure me that I'm great at it, but the results are undeniable and speak for themselves. Doctors will often brush off one miscarriage but take notice, ask about family history, and subject you to an alarming amount of blood work after two or more. My blood work was all normal in terms of clotting, thickness, makeup, etc., so that leads me to believe that my problems could have been entirely genetic. They also perform an ultrasound every five minutes when you manage to stay pregnant. I know this from experience. I sometimes wonder what was wrong with these pregnancies and whether or not they would have been physically deformed in some way. A coworker of mine carried a horribly deformed, genetically abnormal baby almost to term. When this little baby was born, he had already passed away. The hospital staff wrapped him in a blanket and took a photo of his face, which turned out to look like the face of an angel. He was beautiful. It was the only perfect part of his tortured little body. This woman carried the photo in her wallet, and the girls in the office cruelly whispered about her behind her back. I said nothing but also did nothing to shut them up, and I regret that. She was only honoring and remembering the baby she loved.

After my first miscarriage, I ordered the stone pictured above. It was made by an artist in Wisconsin and seemed to express the shattered beauty of something loved deeply but lost forever. It sits outside by the front walk now, but I originally had it under a tree where we last lived in a quiet, shady corner of our back yard. That is where I sat sometimes and talked to Scooter. I sat in that corner silently at times during my subsequent two pregnancies and felt peace there. It is now in the sun for me to see every day. It's awful, but I don't remember exactly when my babies were going to be due, although I can figure out the months if I think hard enough. I suppose it was too painful for me to remember at the time. Even the memories I write about are getting very fuzzy as time goes on. The pain, although still present, is fading with each passing year and has been covered by a newer, stronger type of pain and new struggles every day. However, I will always remember and honor these lives because they were loved and made me feel like a mother for the first time. They were important to me, as they were part of me. Every time fall is in the air, I am reminded how honored I was to carry and protect those lives like flickering secrets, even if it was only temporary. Fall is still my very favorite season.


Blogger Lisa R said...

Love You Nance... We have spoken about this all before so you know you are not alone :)

2:59 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

Nancy - I can only imagine the heartache you went through these times and I am so sorry for your losses. All the positive idioms about "what was supposed to be" is so full of ****. It's just rotten.

Your strength is undenialable; I hope you realize how amazing you are.
Love you -K

5:58 PM  
Blogger Kim, Grandma to Ava,ws said...

Oh, Nancy, you never fail to move me. You seem to channel so much emotion with your words..almost like you can read the minds of the rest of us and wrap up our thoughts and feelings. Have you ever thought of writing a book? I know I would be first in line at the book signing!

11:27 AM  
Blogger Lizard Eater said...

Beautiful! I know that someone going through this is going to find this post and it will give her a measure of comfort.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Teresa & Shawn said...

My heart is with you, Nancy.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Reynolds said...

My heart breaks for you.

12:34 PM  

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