One year ago, I had a miscarriage while at work.
I started bleeding on Monday night. This, for those of us with menstrual cycles, is not upsetting. We’re used to it. My normally militant cycle was off and I couldn’t figure out if I was late or early. Having just switched contraceptives and moved continents, I chalked it up to a very confused uterus and stocked up on Midol.
The next morning, I woke up to find I’d bled through pretty much everything in my path. Embarrassed, I tidied up and my boyfriend drove me to work. I was working as a nanny for a very busy family, and their three children were home for summer vacation.
I couldn’t get comfortable all day. Every time I stood up or sat down or breathed deeply, it felt like my ovaries were grinding against each other.
Fortunately, the kids in my care were very active and spent most of each afternoon outside. Once I’d shepherded them to their bikes, I headed for the bathroom. I wasn’t ready for anything like this. I doubt anybody is ever ready.
I’ve been using a Diva Cup for a few years now. It suits me best for a whole host of reasons. Because I was in so much discomfort, I decided to stand up, empty it in the sink and leave it out for a few minutes. I scolded myself for how gross this probably was.
Then I saw you.
After a bit of careful extraction, I had you in my hand. I sat completely still on the edge of the toilet seat, my hands cupping a makeshift bed of toilet paper. I knew I should clean things up, but I was numb to everything but you. I didn’t know what to feel.
Pain, sure. Pain as in the physical discomfort of my body suddenly not being what it was just a little while ago. Pain as in the incredible ability of my mind to think all kinds of things in one instant. Was there relief? Maybe a little in there. Guilt.
‘I’m sorry,’ I wanted to tell you, ‘I didn’t know.’
I set you aside as carefully as I could and set to cleaning things up a bit. My hands were sticky, my thighs streaked. And there you were, unable to be anything besides what you were. I didn’t know what to do with you. Could I throw you away? Do people do that? Was I supposed to bury you? I’ve heard of people doing that, but I think their "yous" were bigger.
I didn’t want you to be alone.
I took my cell phone out of my discarded jeans and completely ignored the absurdity of what I was about to do. I took my time to get you in focus. It wasn’t easy -- you were inconceivably small and your toilet paper bed was heavily textured. But there you were.
A knock on the door startled me. The kids were back and hungry. I was terrified someone would walk in to the mess and see what I was doing and think I was insane. I turned quickly to head them off and when I turned back you were suddenly gone. You, your papery bed -- gone. Lost in the mess around you.
Just outside the door I heard the sounds of my workplace -- nothing less was expected once I left the room. Nap time was over, playtime had begun and snacks were being demanded of me. My hands slid up to cover my face. Soft, warm tears mixed with the rest and I felt like I’d let you down.
I left work in a haze of uncertainty. What did I do wrong? How long had I been pregnant? Was I supposed to do something now? I bought myself a pack of cigarettes and a bag of Doritos and found myself on the waterfront in the dark, weeping.
I told my boyfriend the next day.
"Did you know? Did you actually want it?" he asks.
‘That could have been anything," a friend says. "Show me the pictures." But I can’t bring myself to show anybody.
I looked at the photos while I searched for medical advice. I looked at the photos when I was in the hospital with an infection two weeks later. And here I am again, a full year later, looking at the photos.
Although the fear and confusion of that moment have since faded, the profound sense of loss lingers very close to the surface and that’s okay. It’s okay to be sad about losing something you didn’t want. It’s natural to be frustrated when your right to a decision was bypassed. It’s perfectly fine not to forget about it.