This is really the preface to a post coming tomorrow. I know all too well what it is like to be on the other side of this fence. Some terribly tragic thing has just happened to someone you know- maybe a close friend, maybe just an acquaintance, maybe a stranger of whom you are aware. How can you help? What do you do? What can you say to them? I hope with tomorrow's post to be able to help give as much of a guide as I can for that.
But tonight I write the preface.
So many of you have told me of your miscarriages or stillborn babies. As an illustration for this preface I will now tell you about my two miscarriages.
My mother tells me I like to measure my life out in teaspoons. I guess by this she means I am a planner. It is true. I do have a grand master plan for my life. Our senior year of high school we filled out predictions of where we would be in ten years. Questions like how many kids you would have and what your job would be etc. At my ten year reunion I looked over mine and saw the only question I was off on was "How much will you weigh?" I had guessed 10 lbs. heavier.
But in spite of all my planning and working to reach my goals, sometimes life throws you an unexpected curveball - a twist in the plot of your life you didn't see coming and certainly wouldn't have written in yourself.
The first time that happened for me was January of 2000. I was pregnant for the first time. I was 10 weeks along and had told most of my ward and the cub scouts I taught. I had told my family over the Christmas break. I was so excited. I was due just two weeks after I was scheduled to take the California Bar Exam. "What perfect timing," I thought. This, of course, was a very planned pregnancy.
The bleeding that began in that 10th week was not planned. I had so many friends reassure me that sometimes bleeding just happens and it could me nothing. But as the days continued and the bleeding increased ... well, I didn't hold much hope. I did much praying at this time. I was worried. I wanted this baby so much. What if I couldn't carry a child? Was there something wrong with me? I worried and I cried.
After about a week I had a very sacred experience in the Temple that removed all worry about my fertility and took away any sadness I had about possibly losing this child. The next night as I laid in my bed on bed rest, I was in so much physical pain and was bleeding so much that I was on the verge of losing consciousness. That night Jon took me to the ER. After and exam and ultrasound the doctors determined I had an ectopic pregnancy and took me into emergency surgery at around 2 a.m.
The doctor put me under and did his thing. I woke up to someone pulling the breathing tube out of my throat and telling me to breath. When I did breath it was painful and hoarse sounding. I had never had surgery before. I had never been to the ER before. I hadn't even ever had stitches before. I couldn't believe how painful it was. Then the doctor told me, "We didn't find the pregnancy. So that means one of three things: either we just missed it and we will have to do this again in two days, or you have miscarried and we will do a D & C in two days, or you are still pregnant and will have a baby in 7 months."
At that moment, none of those options sounded good. They all involved pain. I still have never been in as much physical pain as I was at that moment. My mother came the next day to be my nurse as I recovered. Two days later I went to my doctor's office. He immediately took me back to his personal office to wait till he could see me after his next patient. He didn't want me to have to wait with all the pregnant women. At that appointment, I found out that I had miscarried. Later that week, with my mother at my side, I had another outpatient surgery to finish the miscarriage. The experience was physically very painful. Emotionally, however, because of the experience I had in the Temple, I was fine.
The hardest part for me was telling other people. I hated that I had to tell them. It was like I had failed at something. Even worse was the pity and sadness that inevitably washed over their face as soon as they heard the news. Then I had to explain that I was fine about it. I learned one good lesson - never disclose pregnancies outside the family in the first trimester.
Okay, so that is miscarriage one. Now let us turn to miscarriage two. We now skip six years and three kids into the future.
Here is our family in 2006.
I had just found out that I was pregnant with Camille.
This was one month after my second miscarriage.
Again I have measured out my life and have a small window of time in which I want to get pregnant. On our first try we are successful. I am excited. I am only 6 weeks along when I start bleeding. I have just moved to Las Vegas and don't even know the OB I have scheduled to meet with the next week. I call in and they send me to a lab for testing.
The tests come back. I am miscarrying. I need to go have a follow up appointment with the doctor in a week. This time I knew what I was losing. I had three beautiful girls. I knew the love of a child. I knew exactly what I was losing.
That week as I bled, I did not have the physical pain that had accompanied my last miscarriage. What I did have was a house full of little girls with the stomach flu and a stressed out, overworked husband trying to launch a new business. That combination meant little sleep and lots of tending children 24 hours a day. This time my mother was not available to tend to me. She was on a mission in Africa. There I was tending to so many little sick girls and I really needed tending myself. I felt so alone. I don't know what I would have done without the support from beyond the veil. At least I was sure of God's love for me.
Then I went to my follow up appointment. After sitting in the waiting room - with all the pregnant women - for 2 hours I finally asked when the doctor would see me. I was told it would be another 30 minutes because my new doctor had left and the other doctor had to see all her patients before she could start seeing my doctor's patients. No one had bothered to inform me that she had left an hour earlier. And no one, not the staff, not the doctor, no one ever apologized for having forgotten to inform me.
I will not relay the rest of what happened in that office. It is still painful for me to think about. I will only say that I was treated with so much rudeness, as I was sobbing, by the all the staff (except the woman who weighed me) and especially by the doctor that I can not even drive by that office anymore. It took me about a month before I could even talk about that visit without crying. This visit, combined with knowing what I was losing, little sleep, and feeling alone, made this a very emotionally difficult miscarriage.
My point in telling you these two stories (other than preserving them for family history sake) is to illustrate why we don't know what to say or do for people who have experience a loss. Each loss is unique and each person is unique. There isn't one right way to treat someone who has experienced loss. We don't want to do the wrong thing and there are so many ways we could do the wrong thing. So what do we do?
Now being on this side of that fence and having talked to many people in my shoes or who know real loss like this, I have some pretty good guidelines that will work most of the time for most people, I think.
I will share those with you all tomorrow. For now, today has been a good day and I pray that tonight will be a good night.