Around two in the morning, I laid on the cool tile of my bathroom floor, naked, as thin lines of sweat slid down my side and along the outline of my rib cage before puddling beneath me. I heard myself panting as pain in my lower abdomen quickly reached a crescendo with a pulsing, stabbing burn.
Is this what it's like to have a miscarriage?
Disappointment came quickly as scenes from life skipped through my mind. Eyes clenched, I thought of my sweet little boy who was six years old and how I'd always hoped to give him a sibling. Everything I'd been through so far (I was on my second marriage) and all the things I dreamed of and wished for (especially another child) flooded my thoughts until they were interrupted by another jolting blow to my stomach.
Barely able to breath, let alone move, I called my husband's name. I needed him near, to hold my hand or call for help if needed. I was terrified.
Another paralyzing cramp forced me into a fetal position, ironically.
I called his name again.
A long pause.
"What is it?" he asked as he stumbled into the bathroom.
"I... think... miscarriage," I gasped, barely able to string words together.
"Stay?" I pleaded.
"What am I supposed to do?" he huffed with a carelessness that shocked me. I wish I could forget the dismissiveness in his voice and the look of impatience on his face. To this day, I still hear it, see it.
He stepped over me and went back to bed without another word.
Pain rushed through me, only it wasn't in my stomach, but my heart. Was this really happening? Did he just walk away? Had I married a man who had no idea how to console, comfort, show love or concern for his potentially dying wife who was in the throes of a miscarriage? How had I missed his egregious lack of empathy? We'd only been married four months. Four months.
As beads of sweat continued to pour down my sides, I forgave myself for having no surefire way of knowing his inability to support until the moment he failed to do so.
In an instant I knew the marriage was over.
This wasn't just a chip at the respect I had for him, but more like an enormous gauge leaving sharp edges that couldn't be softened by forgiveness or time or hope or prayer. Nothing could erase what he did (or didn't do).
The idea of forever when it came to marriage slipped away as I had the biggest epiphany of my life: I deserved better. Prior to marrying him, I had very little self-esteem. And it was only in this moment of obvious neglect that I somehow got my groove back. I could not, would not, stay with someone who had no problem allowing me to suffer.
Staring at the bottom of the bathroom cabinets, I struggled to breathe through the cramping and prayed it would be over soon. I also prayed I wasn't dying, that something wasn't happening to my body that would kill me because I was all alone. Was it ectopic? Women died from ectopic pregnancies. I panicked. Who would find my dead body in the morning? Would I hold my son in my arms again? I bargained the way we do when we're desperate. Please God, my son needs me. I'll go to church. I promise to be more giving. I'll...
I knew if I survived, I would make good on my promises to God. However, in that moment, I knew divorce was imminent and I was sure God would not be happy. I was at once pleading with God and hoping not to disappoint.
After laying on the tile for sleepless hours without so much as a glance from him, I drove myself to the doctor the next morning and was prescribed a shot to terminate the unviable pregnancy they said was lodged in my ovary or fallopian tube (they couldn't be certain even after a sonogram). As the doctor jutted that needle into my hip, I knew the contents of the syringe would kill a life while simultaneously free me to a new one.
I was at the biggest crossroads of my life while awash in the most confusing intersection of competing emotion. Relief. Grief. Relief. Loss. Relief. Helplessness.
Tears fell but didn't wash away the confusion. Relief told me I wouldn't be locked in a relationship for the rest of my life because we wouldn't be bound by a child. Grief said I'd lost a baby and would probably never have another child, never again experience the miracle of pregnancy, never give my son a sibling.
The shot didn't stop the growth and I had an emergency D&C. Even then, my husband dropped me off at the hospital and left to get a sandwich. I've since wondered if empathy is taught or something we hold inside us that's unlocked by another's need.
This experience was the catalyst not only for divorce, but life-changing perspective. I immediately related to women who suffered miscarriages, whether it brought them a sense of relief or loss or both. I also realized character often reveals itself during harrowing circumstances, and that, unfortunately, there is no litmus test for compassion. And, of course, successful marriages are characterized by far more than romantic love. Along with a multitude of other qualities, marriage is about knowing someone will be there for you, and you for them, in our deepest, most vulnerable moments.
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