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A Dream and Three Ultrasounds

By Emily Milner

First, the dream, at eight weeks pregnant:
It’s my birthday and there is some kind of crisis–a doctor masked in black trying to kill people, but friends organize a huge line of women knocking on the door bringing me gifts. I wake from the dream with an overwhelming sense of being loved. I don’t understand the dream, but I write it down anyway.

And the ultrasounds:
I. Seven weeks
Only because I’m spotting, the doctor sends me to have an ultrasound. I climb onto the table and shift my jeans down to my C-section scar, the line that says I have done this before. She squirts warm jelly on me and moves her wand to find the baby. “See the flashing there?” she says. “That’s the heartbeat. Looks good.” She measures it, pronounces it normal, and types “B-A-B-Y” on the screen. She prints me out a picture.

I tuck the picture into my planner. The picture makes the two pink lines on my stick into an actual baby. I am starting to believe in this pregnancy, and it feels good.

II. Eleven weeks
I’m back. More spotting, and no heartbeat. “No heartbeat at eleven weeks?” the technician says. “Don’t worry. That’s early enough they don’t always hear a heartbeat. We’ll find it.”

I tuck my jeans down. My belly hasn’t stretched out into the circle of a full baby yet. It’s jiggly and slack from three pregnancies. I’m looking forward to having it taut and round.

She finds my uterus and asks “How far along are you?” She is trying to be casual. I look on the monitor to see what she sees, the ultrasound’s dark and coded world of shadows. And there it is, a small circle in the middle of another. It should have winked at me, that shadow. Its heart should be the brightest light on the screen, flashing and alive.

The weight of the darkened circle hits me in my empty gut. I try to think of all the people I knew who had seen the same thing. Other women have been here before. Or maybe they found out a different way: not from losing the expected heartbeat, but from a sudden rush of blood. It could be worse. I could have woken up at three in the morning cramping, and felt all the life slip out from me. Is it worse to see death on the screen, or to be surprised by it in the night? Does it matter which one is worse? Both of them are real.

III. Post D&C
One more time, I’m staring at the screen. There is a long wedge where a baby ought to be growing, and a fuzzy line at the top, from my C-section scar. My hollow body. The technician is embarrassed that she didn’t notice me crying sooner. She hands me a box of tissues and I wipe the tears, and look at the wedge.
***

I wrote a poem called Ultrasound when I was pregnant with my youngest child. There’s a line that says “We both await release/ the pain and freedom of an empty womb.” I have had that line rolling in my heart ever since I saw my own empty womb. There is freedom in the emptiness: I’m free of nausea, free of heartburn, free to sleep through the night, free of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes and the need to rearrange my house and my life. But I have never understood, until now, how much the pain swallows up the freedom.

What dissipates the pain is the line of women bringing me gifts. Gifts of prayers, gifts of tears, gifts of understanding. Sometimes the gift of letting me talk, sometimes letting me not talk. When my friends remember their pain so that they can ease mine, that is a gift. When they mourn with me, whether or not they’ve been through this particular loss, that is a gift.

At my door and now in my soul, there is a line of merciful women, practicing the healer’s art.

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About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

41 thoughts on “A Dream and Three Ultrasounds”

  1. This was painfully beautiful. And your poem is wonderful. Such a gift for expression.

    The only miscarriage I have experienced coincided with the only planned pregnancy I have had and happened in the baby store while shopping for a crib. The sudden gush of blood. Pounding on the door of the only bathroom, two year old in hand, where my husband was changing the diaper of our one year old. Sitting on the toilet crying, husband helpless, hands busy, two year old repeatedly flushing the toilet, a constant reminder of what was happening to my baby. When my husband asked someone at the counter for a pad they reminded him we were in a store for pregnant people, they didn't keep that kind of thing around. Angry husband announced a little too loudly that his wife had been pregnant when she came in, but was now losing the baby in their bathroom. Stunned silence. A baby diaper became a place to catch the stream of loss on the way to the hospital. Out of town, spring break vacation, Elizabeth Smart was found that day. I'll never forget it.

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  2. This has happened to me; and until it did, I didn't realize how many other women had experienced miscarriage. I think part of that healer's art is sharing our sorrows. And then, a reason for our sorrows is so that we have a compassion and similarity to share.

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  3. Emily,

    I'm kind of embarrassed that I shared my experience like that. I was so caught up in the emotion of your story that I was re-feeling my own story. I'm sorry. I feel like that friend who shows up in the day of one's grief and wants only to talk about themselves.

    I will say that there was much healing balm found on my front porch swing, talking and crying with other women who bravely came to be with me in the awkwardness that can be bred by loss. I'm so glad you have those kind of sisters around you as well. There is much strength and comfort to be found in the loving heart of a friend. May the Lord bless you and those who mourn with you.

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  4. Sunny, no worries. I can't put words around how terrible that must have been–just the story speaks for itself. But please don't be embarrassed. One of the things that helps is knowing others who have been there. You are part of the line of women too. 🙂

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  5. Sadly, beautiful.
    I am truly sorry for your anguish and loss.

    "Is it worse to see death on the screen, or to be surprised by it in the night? Does it matter which one is worse? Both of them are real."

    Perfectly said.
    At 15 weeks, I saw mine on a screen after two years of infertility and a much awaited pregnancy. I was then sent home to "wait it out"–followed by cramps in the night and the horrible gush.
    I too, never realized the sorrow felt by so many women before me. I consider this the gift in the awful and unwanted experience; increased awareness, empathy, compassion.

    I am happy you have that line of merciful women. Best wishes.

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  6. There is a club that no none wants to be apart of. You have now joined it. My only consolation is that others are there to help you bear your sorrows and burdens. Take the time you need to grieve and sorrow. You are the only one that feels your sadness. However, many have traveled your path before. I too have felt your loss many times. I did not handle things as beautifully as you have penned. I excluded so many people, refusing to believe that any one could help or feel my pain. We each deal with our grief in different ways. I wish you joy and laughter in due time. I wish you happiness and normalcy. This to will be for thy good. Thanks for sharing your experience so meaningfully.

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  7. I also didn't see that empty hole until 11 weeks. I'm not sure whether it was worse that way or not, but I know that I wouldn't wait for it to happen on it's own again. I decided to let nature take it's course, but that was the absolute worst week of my life. I also absolutely remember wanting to know who around me understood. Not that anyone who hadn't had one couldn't be a friend, but it helped so much to look in the eyes of someone and see the remembered pain and understanding. Words can seem useless anyway…I'm glad you have so many willing to share their gifts with you through this.

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  8. My own miscarriage experience was similar in many ways; my pregnancy ended somewhere at about 6 weeks, but wasn't discovered until an ultra-sound at 9 weeks, followed immediately by a D&C. I was never more disappointed and heart-broken, yet at the same time I have rarely felt the Spirit so powerfully. I had so many questions, but the biggest was, what of the Spirit which had inhabited the body that never was? Would I have another chance to know that person? I mourned for the might-have-been. I was confused because I had been given some powerful personal revelation with regards to the nature of that baby, only weeks before losing the pregnancy. But it was the Gospel which supported me, as well as love and concern from the Relief Society, family, friends, etc. 4 beautiful children later, I still wonder, sometimes, about that baby, but have felt the healing balm of the Savior, and trust in the Father's plan. Thank you for sharing your own experience.

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  9. You shared this beautifully, and I wish I could be one of the line of women supporting you in person, rather than just here on Segullah.

    Having said that, I do support you…and all mothers who've experienced the loss of a child.

    My mother was among them; she had four live births and at least as many miscarriages, two of which I remember quite well. The first happened while we were on vacation, after a long drive to a relative's home. The second occurred in a public restroom. Both were devastating.

    I've never had a miscarriage, but I feel sure my mother was lovingly supported through every one of hers. What a powerful force women are in each other's lives.

    Again, I'm so sorry for your loss…and so glad that you have a steady line of "women who know" to support you.

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  10. I'm so sorry, Emily. I know it's no consolation that such beautiful words come from such a sad experience, but your writing helps me understand how you and my other sisters may feel when they've lost a baby.

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  11. I am so sorry. I have walked that same path yet again recently and know how hard it is. The thing that helped me a lot was about it with close friends who had also suffered a miacarriage, I felt as if only they understood me. Women are wonderful for their capacity to love others through their pain.

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  12. I've never experienced miscarriage so I would be one of those that could only say, "I'm so sorry." and hope that you feel I mean it even though I don't really understand it.

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  13. Emily, I am so sorry for the loss you are experiencing. I have also been where you are, my baby would be turning 20 this year. It still hurts, but Heavenly Father has a beautiful plan that will heal my pain someday, just as He will also heal yours. Thank you for sharing so poignantly.

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  14. Thank you so much, everyone, for your comments.

    Sunny, I wanted to clarify my pronouns a little, to make sure that you know I can't put words around how terrible your own experience must have been (I reread what I wrote and thought it sounded ambiguous). Thank you again for sharing.

    Jenny, I think that's the gift for me too, in this, increased empathy and awareness.

    Pam, I actually have not been as good at letting people know as it sounds. It has been impossible for me to talk about without crying, and I think there are people I should have told that I have not yet, just because I couldn't. I need to let go of "shoulds" here though, because I don't know the best way to mourn, and I'm just muddling through. I am so sorry that you have been through this many times. Thank you for your encouragement here, though.

    Amy, you said "what of the Spirit which had inhabited the body that never was?" This has been one of the hardest things for me, wondering what happened to my baby. There's no official pronouncement on the state of unborn babies, but this is the scripture I love, from Alma 40:23:

    "The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame."

    I don't know how it will all work out, but I need to believe that this baby will live again. I don't care if it's doctrinally nebulous, it's the only answer that brings me peace.

    Thank you all for your kind responses. I hesitated over whether I should post this–it seemed both too personal and too indulgent–and I'm grateful for your mercy here too.

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  15. Oh, anon. I'm so sorry. And all the words in any post are not as powerful and sad as the ones you wrote. I'm so, so sorry.

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  16. I miscarried at church. I was sitting in sacrament meeting when something just wasn't right, so I walked to the ladies room pregnant, and walked out not.

    In the hall between the restroom and my car was every darling baby in the ward (there must have been at least 15), just chubby baby after baby. It was surreal. I had to bring my husband out to the car to tell him, and then I sat quietly through Relief Society (there was just blood and not much pain at that point and I was so dazed I didn't know what to do with myself). Then I got my children and went home and went to the hospital.

    I was barely pregnant, and I felt the most overwhelming peace and sense that this was precisely what was supposed to happen and that it was ok and for my protection. All of that didn't erase the urge to steal every baby and then toddler and now preschooler that would be that baby's age. Even having a new baby didn't erase that. There is a hole between my five year old and my one year old that I hope is someday filled with the daughter I lost.

    It is amazing to me what a private grief it is. I feel like I am the only one who cared or remembers. It was my loss, and mine alone. My very compassionate husband, who was perfect through it all, just doesn't feel the same way I do about it.

    It is like you are marked for life.

    I'm sorry you've experienced this.

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  17. It's just really not something that you can understand until it happens. I always felt so flippant when friends would have miscarriages. I'd think , "just get pregnant again; what's the big deal?"

    Basically I was just asking for it. After two miscarriages and a stillborn I know all too well what the big deal is. I have so much empathy and want to talk about it when I hear of someone who has a bad experience. But I also don't want to talk about it because it dredges up such heartbreak.

    I'm so sorry for your heatbreak. truly.

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  18. My miscarriage was similar to yours. Not a club I'm happy to belong to, but I am grateful to have an empathy that comes no other way. So sorry for your loss. In the end we will know why.

    You mention the line of women supporting you – where I live now that doesn't happen. How can I improve this? Just by serving myself and being an example? Or by opening up my own heart and saying that I need help? I could play both sides right now 🙂

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  19. I'm so sorry. I haven't been through this myself, but my sister-in-law has. We both were pregnant at the same time; due within a week of each other. Then she miscarried. I had the most horrible "survivor's guilt" and felt terrible every time we got together because I was this growing reminder of what she didn't have anymore. She was always very gracious, and seemed genuinely happy for me. I don't think I could have been as kind as she was. I know she hurt more in private than she showed in public. I didn't know what to say to her, other than that I was so sorry.

    It was a beautiful post, and again, I am so sorry.

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  20. Leah, wow. Every time I hear another woman's story I am stunned again with the grief of it.

    Jennie, I know–I am torn between wanting to retain the grief, because letting go feels like a betrayal of my baby, and wanting to let go of it. I want to talk about it and I don't. It's hard to explain.

    Jendoop, a lot of my friends have been online ones, who have given me grace and comfort via mail and email and postings. If your ward is too small, maybe letting the people online who love you know could be a help.

    Kim and Melinda and everyone who has not experienced this, thank you for your sympathy–I really appreciate it. My brother and sister-in-law had their first child the same week I miscarried, and my sister announced a long-awaited pregnancy. I was very, very happy for both of them. I saw the irony/pain of the situation, but I am happy for their joy. And maybe I appreciate it more than I would have.

    Thank you, everyone.

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  21. I have also not experienced this, and I am sorry for your loss and the losses of others who have shared. The thought occurred to me to thank you for posting, not for me, but for others. I have had other emotional pain in my life, and when I have shared some of it and what I have learned, I always find others who were so grateful for my sharing. It allows others to share their pain and lets us know that we are not alone.

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  22. I am so very sorry for the loss of your baby. I want you to know that your words have touched me deeply. The comments from these wonderful women have touched me and have made me feel not so alone. You have put into words the many thoughts I had while hearing "I am so sorry … there is no heartbeat. I'm sorry." I, very recently, have gone through the three ultrasounds. Spotting ultrasound, where everything was fine; no heartbeat and then … the terrible, dreaded, empty wedge. It was 2 weeks ago, today, that I was scheduled for a D&C at 13 weeks. I delivered moments before they took me to pre-op. He was so small and so beautiful. I have never felt such heartache, confusion and peace at the same time. I am amazed at how much love we receive from our sisters here and on the other side of the veil when trials and heartbreak hit. I will be forever grateful for strong and compassionate women like you all, that are willing to share and comfort, though your hearts are broken, too. Thank you. Thank you so much. My love and prayers go out to you. ~ Alina

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  23. jendoop – I know how you feel. When I hear other's stories and testimonies of all the support they receive over something, I feel both really glad for them and the need to support them myself, but also a little jealous that I didn't feel supported over something equally hard (or even the same situation) because I feel so invisible in my current ward. It's a hard fence to be on. Sometimes I have felt supported online, sometimes not. I'm not sure what to do to change it, but I feel for you.

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  24. Alina, I am so sorry. Just really, really sorry.

    corktree and jendoop *hugs*. I know that it isn't enough, but virtual hugs are what I have got right now.

    MissMel, and Jennifer, and Melissa Pete, and everyone, thank you.

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  25. Your writing made me cry. I have had three miscarriages this year. Three. The first pregnancy ended at 12 weeks. The second at 9. The third at only 7. It seemed unreal to me to have even one, after having four healthy children. It still seems unreal. Did I really have three miscarriages this year? Really?

    Like you, I found comfort in all the hugs, knowing looks, shared stories from friends and neighbors. They brought me food. They offered hugs. My husband felt my pain, too, and mourned in his own way, but what really helped me through were women who really felt my pain.

    I'm sorry this happened to you. It is so hard. Hugs.

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  26. Hello dear sisters.
    I had four miscarriages but was also blessed with nine healthy children. I wrote my book We Lived in Heaven as a comfort to myself and other women who have lost children through miscarriage or other losses.

    There is hope, I promise you.

    My sincere best wishes for you.

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