Not really confessions…just life ish (Part 1)
I’ve been wanting to write this for a while, but wasn’t able to because it’s about the most painful experience I’ve had so far. However, as I’ve found, it’s surprisingly common. At this point, I’ve found some healing, although every day is different and I’m still on this journey. I’m sharing because I’ve been so reluctant to talk about it, but other people’s bravery in sharing their stories helped me get through this difficult time. I’m hoping this may do the same for someone else, and maybe be helpful to anyone with a loved one going through this. In all honesty, I’m not ready to do a deep dive yet, but this is me dipping my toe in the water. I also want to add that this is just a snapshot of the first part of my story, and hopefully down the line, I will provide more information of what happened next.
June 10, 2021, I had scheduled a doctor’s appointment to handle a couple of routine issues. In the days that preceded the appointment, I realized that I was late, so the morning of, I took two pregnancy tests which both came back positive. This was unplanned but a happy surprise for us. When I went to the doctor, she confirmed the news and advised that I did a blood draw. As I was mentally unprepared that day to face my fear of needles, I told her that I would follow up with my gyn, who also was an OB.
A couple of weeks later, I went there. All seemed to be on track, confirmed by HCG levels after a terrible blood draw(they actually went in through the top of my hand, after sticking me in the arm and moving the needle around). They had me come back closer to week 8 for an ultrasound.
The time in between the first doctor’s appointment (June 10) and the ultrasound, I was in beast mode. I went to the gym (pre-Delta) and worked out with a sense of urgency. I was meticulous in watching what I ate, because I wanted to do my part in avoiding gestational diabetes and other issues. I was 39 and therefore at “high risk” (in quotes because the more I talk to people, the more I hear of people having relatively smooth pregnancies into their 40s and even 50s). Note: I’ve also learned through research that not everything is preventable, no matter what doctors say. Just do the best you can, and don’t go to extremes.
I took a week off work for a staycation the final week of June/first week of July, and scheduled my ultrasound for July 1, 2021.
I don’t want to think about the details of that awful day, or the aftermath. Long story short, they saw the baby but no heartbeat, and apparently the baby had stopped growing the week before. To make matters worse, the technician was very rough (but I had nothing to compare to, so I thought it was normal) and I was in pain for days afterwards. Note: this is not normal.
I remember flashes. The long wait for the midwife. Her finally sitting us down and telling us the news. Me crying a lot. Her with her “politeness,” telling me to take all the time I need, then a few minutes later asking if I was ready to leave.
Diagnosis: threatened miscarriage. Wait 10 days and screen again. If same, well…it’s over.
I remember feeling cold and final, like a death…which is exactly what it was. The only way I got through the next few days was by trying to rationalize and tell myself they were probably wrong. Maybe I had the dates mixed up? Maybe their equipment was old and janky? I read so many articles online about misdiagnoses in similar cases, and almost convinced myself that this was what was happening here.
Determined not to return to the first place which had left me feeling so empty, I did some research, consulting with my Howard University alumni Facebook group as to who they go to.
Obviously, I am a Black woman. Based on my own experiences (and those of others who look like me), I have always had a distrust of medical professionals and have generally avoided going unless it was absolutely necessary. Since the group had given me the recommendation for the GP I saw on June 10 (and she had been cool), I rolled the dice again, asking for recommendations for an OB. Once again, they delivered. Within a day, I had a list of names of doctors who were Black-woman-friendly, most of them Black women themselves. I started off with the highest recommended. She was unavailable, but another highly-celebrated doctor at her practice had an opening. I went with her.
I will spare all of the details, but I had a much more pleasant experience (if there is such a thing), despite receiving the same bad news. This doctor left me with a sense of hope for the future. I decided right then that she was a keeper.
I will stop the medical part of the story there, although there is much more to it. I’m not ready to go there just yet, but like I said, I’ll share more at a later time.
I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about the social-emotional part of this. I literally mean: Social. Emotional. There were positives and negatives.
Positives: I didn’t tell everyone what I was going through at the time (because it’s so personal), but I did ask for space and people mostly gave it. In addition, to those with whom I did share, they were amazing. I can’t thank my friends and loved ones enough for their kindness, whether it was visits, kind words, lending an ear, bringing/sending gifts, sharing their experiences, literally letting me cry on their shoulder, etc.
This was really hard to talk about in any public way, not that I had to as it was my business. But I felt like I had to say something to publicly explain my flakiness, albeit very vaguely at the time. My inbox was overflowing, yet most days I could literally not drag myself off the couch to do the very basics. This made me feel like a failure, on top of everything else I was experiencing.
I constantly feel the pressure of not letting others down, especially as a community organizer who has promised many things to many people. Some of these people were so kind and patient, and helped me realize that I am “a human being, not a human doing,” as the saying goes…there’s much more to me than the ability to crank out books, podcasts, and the like.
Negatives: I will try not to harp too much on this, but some interactions left a very bad taste in my mouth. These included: knowing exactly what was going on yet still being demanding, and pressuring me into sharing details when I wasn’t ready to (and shame on me for caving in).
Sometimes it was a combination of both…I would share what happened when people didn’t respect boundaries in an attempt to get them to back off (sometimes even that didn’t work), then felt like trash afterwards, almost as if I violated my own privacy. A very small percentage of people I told fell into this category (so if you’re wondering if it’s you, it’s probably not…I doubt they would even be reading this). But some folks did, and that made things that much harder. I felt naked and on display, which compounded my grief. I’ll try not to succumb to this pressure ever again.
Takeaways: This post has been a long time coming, and the fact that I’m able to write it shows me that I’m starting to heal. Again, I left out quite a bit. This experience is still relatively fresh, with the whole process having finished its course just five months ago, in August 2021. I still have nightmares that wake me up about it, and still grieve. But time is helping. Talking, when I’m ready and on my terms, is helping. Another reason I’m sharing this is because I want others going through the same thing to know they are not alone, by a long shot.
Because this is so personal, I can’t make any guarantees. I can’t guarantee that the post will stay up more than 5 min. I can’t guarantee that I will answer follow-up questions. I can’t guarantee that there will be a part 2 blog entry (although there is more to share in time). I can’t (yet) guarantee that I’m here to listen and be a support, as it’s still new and a wound that hasn’t fully healed. But what I will say once again is that to anyone going through this, please know that you are not alone.
This feels like the loneliest shit ever when you’re going through it, even if you’re surrounded by love and have an amazing support network, because it’s happening in your body. Plus, not many people talk about it. You will probably want to scream into the void. My unsolicited advice: do whatever feels right to you. For me, it was a weird dance. I have been pretty open about my humanity (struggles with social anxiety, etc.) but this felt different and I felt that I had to keep this pain close to the vest. In that time I did talk extensively to my counselor via Talkspace and that helped tremendously.
As most of my readers are educators, you can check and see what services are available for you through work or your insurance. Talkspace is pretty expensive (and I do the cheap plan lol), but if you do have the means, I highly recommend it if needed.
For anyone who has a friend or loved one going through this, I’d advise being supportive as best you can. Just be there. Ask them what they need. Sometimes it’s just hope. This can happen to anyone, at any time, and it does, often. In many cases, there is apparently no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes there is an underlying issue and sometimes not. It’s not your job to diagnose it. That can just lead to more panic. Leave that up to them and their doctor. Also, don’t gaslight (i.e. “that’s not what’s happened” as they confide in you) or preach toxic positivity (“just smile!”). Again, just ask them what they need and show up the best you can, in a way that makes them comfortable.
I’m sending much love to everyone out there. Thank you so much for reading this 2 am unorganized stream of consciousness.
(Edit: thanks to all for your kind words. These days I’m optimistic and in a better emotional space, which has allowed me to tell part 1.)