Jessica is the author of Birth & What Came After: poems on motherhood and she is working on her second collection of poems to be released soon. This collection will include a section on miscarriage and loss. Jessica personally experienced a loss recently. October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month we wanted to share a few pieces of her story with you. Today I'm sharing her miscarriage story that she originally posted on her personal blog. Please take a moment to read these beautiful words and remember to be sensitive when responding to such a personal and difficult topic.
I had a miscarriage three days before my thirty-third birthday. It was a gray Wednesday morning.
Tuesday I was bleeding, like a light period. I went to the high school where my sister teaches for our after-school writing club. I held my son’s hand walking up the stairs, and he led the way to his aunt’s room. I pulled out a snack for him from my backpack. I noticed a black banana, rotted, forgotten, and with it a molded bag of blueberries. I threw them out. I was bleeding into my underwear and breathing and writing and telling myself it would be okay.
Self portrait (roughly) a week after my miscarriage.
That night the cramping got worse, and I made tea and drank water and held my womb. I went to pee and saw more blood, a dark stain, red-brown, in my underwear. I changed them, put on a pad. My son saw it and said I had a dirty diaper. He said, Lay down, mom, change your diaper.
I slept fitfully, feeling slow blood leak from me while my stomach cramped and ached. I had a feeling my body was kicking the baby out.
The next morning, Wednesday, I got up to let the dog out and I had to pee, too. I sat on the toilet and pissed blood. And then it slipped out. The baby. My baby. Dark purple in its sack like a bloodchild. It was about 2 inches long. There was a head, there was a face. It looked like a wet purple blanket draped over it. The tiny doll-like indentions, the eyes, the mouth, the nose, tiny, poking out. It was like how you cover up the dead with a blanket. I could have held it in the palm of one hand, could have closed my fingers around it.
I stared at it before I could bring myself to flush. I stared at it. I told it sorry. I didn’t know if it was a boy or girl. It didn’t have a name. We hadn’t gotten too attached, almost like I knew this one couldn’t stay, or would be back later in another body. It still doesn’t feel real, feels more like a dream or a story that someone else told me.
Soon after the dead one fell from me like a piece of shriveled fruit, I crawled into bed with my husband and child. I thought of plucking her up from the bloodied water, I thought of burying, or burning, or setting free on a raft in the river. I thought of a ceremony. I thought of a shovel. Of dirt. I thought of my compost pile, of my dogs nosing through it. I thought of the sewers, the pipes that carried her away, the water and blood and urine and feces. I thought of the wide open sea.
Later that afternoon I started a load of laundry, and I found a plastic bag tied tight, and inside, a pair of clothes my son had puked on a week earlier. They were covered in bands of mold, eaten by it. I threw them out, along with the blackened underwear I wore when my child-who-couldn’t-be slipped out, head first, like I had pushed a tiny doll up my vagina and played out its birth.
My son reminded me to drink water. He chanted om, om, om, om for several minutes and asked me to join.
I felt empty, a shell. I felt like a held breath. I felt like a slashed balloon. I felt like a quiet open mouth. Minutes moved by and I ate and drank water and played trains with my son. He lined up all the people, five in all, and he placed their wooden bodies in a circle. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. I wonder if my baby in the pipes will ever be ashes or if she will be food for some animal, or if she’ll be sucked up and squeezed and tumbled and processed and flattened or scattered by however we treat our water.
The face bubbles to the surface, purple, wet, dark, a soaked blanket crept over it. The face. I tell it I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It was nothing you did, nothing you could have done, the midwife tells me. Friends tell me. Still. I think of what I could have done better and did not do. It doesn’t matter.
I’m scared to go to sleep because of the little face. I pull out a cool slim wand, a crystal for good dreams. I think of my husband telling my son weeks ago, Your mom believes crystals have powers. And I smile. Believing is a hard battle. Some call it faith. And so I slide the white wand beneath the bed, right under my skull. I do not dream, and that is a gift.
When I wake, I can’t help but think of the face. The face. The tiny body, the empty palm of my hand. If I had held it, would it have been warm or cold? Did it feel pain? Does it know that however briefly it lived, it was loved? Did it know its big brother kissed it from the outside? Does it know that I could never forget its face?
Jessica Bates lives on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, with her family. She likes long hot baths, long steamy books, and howling at the full moon.
Jessica released Birth & What Came After: poems on motherhood on May 9, 2017. She plans to release a second collection of motherhood poems in the spring of 2019 with a section on miscarriage and loss. The miscarriage poems featured here will be included in her upcoming collection. Sign up for her mailing list to stay in the loop about her new collection. She's also working on her first novel.
You can also follow Jessica on Instagram to see what she's reading, what she's writing, and to follow her pregnancy. She has a 4 year old and will welcome her rainbow baby earthside in early 2019.
Photo credit: HN James of Punk Rock Photography
After having some time to reflect, Emily writes down a few thoughts and talks about how she is mentally and phycically preparing herself for her next transfer.
Get caught up here before reading this post
And as always, keep your comments and questions positive and supportive.
I want to give you all a quick update on where things are in the surrogacy story. It’s been six weeks since we did the first embryo transfer and there has been a lot of time for reflection and processing as well as how I can best prepare for what’s next. Also, thank you for joining me here again in this story.
For now we’re taking October off all medication protocols. As hard as it is to wait, I’m really thankful for this time of recharge. Here are some of the things I’m doing during the pause before the next try:
I’m taking an 8-week Dynamic Mama pilates class at Rooted Pilates focused on strengthening my core, both physically and emotionally. It’s the first group exercise class I’ve done in like 8 years and it feels so good to do alongside other women at different stages in their journey as mothers. Some are newly pregnant others are further down the road in their mothering experiences (like me being 5 years postpartum, lol). On the first day of the class all the participants were encouraged to journal some questions…
We were also encouraged to pick one card from a special deck of cards to serve as a focus for the day’s practice.
If you’re following along with me, perhaps take a moment to ask yourself these same questions. Pause, take a deep breath, and fill your own cup.
I’m doing yoga at home everyday and that’s been amazing, too. Did you know that there are a bazillion YouTube videos for Fertility Yoga? Yeah, I didn’t either until I started this journey. One of my favorites is YogaYin. I also do Yoga with Adriene.
I’m doing acupuncture to help prepare my uterine lining. The topic of acupuncture for fertility deserves it’s own blog post to explain Traditional Chinese Medicine practice and how it can boost fertility. But for now I’ll share this quote from acupuncturist Jane Gregorie, MS, LAc, FABORM, from an interview with Elizabeth Katkin in her book Conceivability, “we nourish the soil before we plant the seed.”
I’ve also been taking this time to nourish my own family. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary this month and we’ve been working on some home improvement projects together. Also, the fall is our family’s season of birthdays, with our oldest turning 11 in September, our middle turning 9 in October, and our youngest turning 5 in November. So, making memories together has been an important priority.
Nourishing friendships and staying connected is also a priority! I’ve had the joy to reconnect with three previous doula clients over lunch or coffee in the past/upcoming week. Nothing makes me happier than maintaining these relationships, except maybe hearing that a family I supported during their first pregnancy is expecting again!
So, what’s next? Well, we will be starting medication again in mid-November in preparation for an early December transfer. I know my IPs are super excited, as am I, for what’s to come. Let me tell you folks, the determination and resolve they have is incredible. They are amazing people with unparalleled fortitude. Brave and badass. Please send some love to them today.
Flashback 4 takes us with Emily as she experiences her first embryo transfer.
If you need to catch up you can find all the previous posts here
Comments and support are always welcome, just please remember to keep it positive and supportive!
Originally written on Sept 6, 2018
"I'm a surrogate. What's your superpower?"
Those were the words etched on the necklace given to me by my IPs on the morning of their EMBRYO TRANSFER (!!!) And let me tell you, I am feeling super hopeful right now that the excitement is palpable. (I can barely say the words "embryo transfer" without wanting to squeal inside.)
Let me tell you about this experience. I arrived at the fertility clinic about an hour before my appointment time. My sweet friend, Michelle, dropped me off and picked me up when it was all done (Jack, my husband, couldn't get off work that day because it was right after Labor Day weekend and a co-worker already requested off.) Moments after I arrived I took a prescribed Valium, which is said to help me relax and also help my uterus relax for the procedure.
Then, I was told to empty my bladder and begin chugging water. The full bladder makes it easier for them to see and reach the uterus during the transfer on the ultrasound. In total I consumed between 40-64 oz of water in an hour and wouldn't be allowed to empty until after it was all complete.
Moments before my IPs arrived the valium began to kick in and I felt really loopy. The nurse lead us back to the room and asked me questions. The whole time I felt so goofy and not like myself. I was pretty glad my IM and I had been together the past few appointments because I thought she would know I was acting differently than normal. The IF probably just assumed I was a fruit. lol. This loopy feeling lasted about 10 minutes and then things seemed to level out.
The doctor came in, calmly explained what would happen, and just a few moments later we were ready!
They rolled in an Isolette (tm) incubator just like one would see in the NICU for a premature infant or other infant in need of a controlled environment. The incubator held the thawed frozen embryo. If felt like a holy moment.
The IM got to look at the tiny little embryo under the microscope and was given a printed picture to keep
Then it was time! They loaded the embryo into a catheter with an air bubble before and after it so we could see it on the ultrasound and with a quick burst of air sent it into my uterus to live! I recall saying many silent prayers in that moment.
The medical team wished us luck and were out just as quickly as they came in. I had to hang out on the bed for a few moments before I was allowed to get up and empty my bladder. And then we all got our things together and left the office.
While waiting for my friend to pick me up my IPs and I took a few pictures together. This was one they took of me wearing a shirt they gave me for the big day (plus the next size up, too! Gotta love that thinking ahead!)
"I've got joy like a fountain."
So, now we wait. For what exactly? Well first I've been given the green light to take an at-home pregnancy test on Monday morning. But really, the next clinical step is for a blood test a week from today. And after that we wait for the hormone levels to double and keep doubling.
I came across this interesting video today about what's happening in the embryo development at this stage. Apparently it starts as a pancake like structure and then becomes more of a cannoli like structure. I mentioned above that it felt like a holy moment. But I didn't say a "holy cannoli" moment! *audience groans*
Until next time!
A collection of posts from different humans all over the world, sharing their stories about the struggles they have faced in their individual journeys to motherhood.