Waves That Drown and Save

I listen to audio books on my drive to and from work. I was finding the radio to be a bit too much for a while, and this seemed like a better use of my time. It was certainly better than the silence that allowed my thoughts to roam to the darkest, loneliest places in my mind.

My book choices have varied greatly, from autobiographies to historical fiction or science fiction, from self-improvement to religious studies to classics (I really thought I read A Tale of Two Cities in school but NONE of that seemed familiar!) and on and on. I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read; seventeen so far this year.

This week I downloaded a comedic memoir from an author with whom I was not familiar (I’m not what you’d call ‘in the know’). I have been laughing and snorting my way through her offbeat tales of a not-quite-typical childhood. I was going to recommend this book to a couple of friends because it was so easy and funny and holy-crap-I-grew-up-in-farm-country-and-I-totally-get-the-cow-semen-jokes! Until I got to a new chapter tonight.

Suddenly, nearly half way through the book, I was blindsided. After chortling about her passive-aggressive notes to her husband, she spoke about the joy they felt at finding out they were expecting a child. And then it happened. Her words became all too familiar. She spoke about her expectations of her appointment with the OB/GYN. That knowing feeling of hearing about your child’s growth and size (which is always compared to some sort of food), excited to know what to expect next and ready to talk with your doctor about how you’ve been eating all the right things and staying away from your nasty neighbor who smokes and giggling at your ridiculous joy of actually wearing maternity pants. But, the doctor gets quiet. You still don’t clue in on why, or what’s actually happening. Then the words come out:

“There is no heartbeat.”

And your world stops. Sounds are muffled, movement is slowed. It’s like trying to view life through Jello – it’s all blurry, and stifled, and shaky. Your heart races and yet you lie motionless. Numb. Her husband was there to help her take in the information and to get her home. Home – to wait – for the moment you never wanted to experience. My heart ached so much for her as I listened. I was there. I lived that moment. And now – I was reliving it. With her.

I was alone when I got the news. I was devastated at the time. And angry. And scared. But, I’ve often wondered if it was for the best. She told her husband to call everyone and tell them to never, ever speak to her about it. Ever. No one but my partner and I knew when I went through this. So, being alone meant I didn’t have to worry about the condolences or flowers or pitying looks. I could live with my sorrow in my way. I could say goodbye in my own time.

Time is cruel in times like this. This author waited and waited for nature to take its final steps and allow her body to reset and begin to heal. She waited until she could wait no more and suffered an emotional breakdown precipitated by the anticipation. Medical intervention helped her through the final steps.

As I listened, stuck somewhere between the past and present, I found a new perspective in my grief. I am eternally grateful for my OB/GYN who sat with me in my shock and devastation and, when she believed I was ready to hear it, told me what the next few days or weeks or months would likely hold for me. She emphasized the unknowing anguish I would wake up to every morning and the daily wondering if this would be the day it ends, if this was the one. She gave me the option to let it happen on it own, or to seek medical intervention sooner rather than later – which was not always necessary, but occurred more often than not.

I didn’t choose that method. It seemed so wrong to me. I couldn’t let them take my child – even though she had no life to give. I quietly went home to grieve with a pain that reached depths I never imagined. Three days later I’d had enough. I called the office and just said “I can’t wait. It’s too hard.” They understood everything I couldn’t say and surgery was scheduled.

Listening to this author tonight, overwhelmed by the flashback of agony from that moment, I found myself thankful for caring doctors and nurses who helped me through these moments. From my OB/GYN who was honest with me in the beginning, to the nurse who held my hand as I sobbed when I awoke from the anesthesia.

They say grief comes in waves, over and over. Tonight I learned that those waves can sometimes leave you awash in new understandings.

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