This has been a painful month.
At the end of February, I kept waking up early in the morning, abruptly like a person wakes up in a book or a movie. I would immediately think “it’s March first ” but then I would realize I was awake and it was actually February 24th. It took me a moment to understand why I was anxious about March.
As far as months go I have dreaded April not March. I have been known to repeat T.S. Elliot’s famous line “April is the cruelest month” a lot. But last March I was living in hell and my body remembers it even if my mind would at moments like to block it out. Sometime in my twenties, I lost my ability to block things out (a side effect of choosing to live in the moment that no one tells you).
Last year at this time I was walking around with a kicking baby girl in my belly. When the Ultrasound/Imaging place called to tell me that our baby didn’t have Down syndrome (or any of the other abnormalities you are routinely tested for as a woman who is pregnant over the age of 35 in New York City) and that our baby was a girl I screamed of joy! I had thought I was destined to be like my grandmother Dorothy (my favorite person I ever knew) and have three boys. And my next thought was “Hi Dorothy!”.
I think that was around 10 weeks at that moment. So for about two more months, I moved through life nauseous as hell and happier than maybe I had ever been. It all seemed so right. Not just to me but to everyone including my family and friends. My parents who have 4 grandsons would finally have a granddaughter! My Dad would get to hold his granddaughter in his arms and rock her and call her by his beloved mother’s first name. I would have someone in my home who would maybe not want to talk about poop after age 5! And I would have someone else in my home who had that deep intuitive intelligence that is reserved only for girls and women. It felt like a relief.
But this time last year I walked around with kicking Dorthy knowing she had half a heart. I also knew she was not a good candidate for any of the risky surgeries invented for babies born like her…I walked around knowing she was going to die. And I walked around knowing we had decided to terminate our pregnancy. I walked around in unbearable pain and the only thing that kept me going was that somehow I was able to shield her brothers from this pain. Of course not entirely, Louis still tells me he still misses her surprisingly often. He told me recently that when we had a ceremony for her at the end of Summer and spread her ashes and all made a wish for her that he wished that we could have another baby girl.
Purgatory, the in-between is surely hell. And this time last year I was in it. And then on March 31st with the help of the most incredible caring team of doctors we said goodbye to Dorothy.
I didn’t have an easy time. I went home after the surgery and began to bleed and was rushed back to the hospital 12 hours later and had an emergency surgery. Before going under for the second surgery I was told my risks, the worst being that they may have to remove my uterus if it didn’t go well to save my life. I was so depleted at that moment I couldn’t wrap my head around that idea so I instead I just looked at My husband who had turned grey.
The days following were a painful blur. I remember drinking a lot of sage tea to tell my milk to go away and having to put ice packs in my bra. Whenever I forgot my milk came back. I sat on my couch in beautiful printed pajamas given to me by my friend and was surrounded by so many flowers that truly made me feel loved. I was afraid to be alone so I had an endless stream of guests and I don’t remember any of our conversations. My friend Ayla brought me bone broth and talked to me in the most soothing voice, I remember thinking Ayla is going to be the best Grandmother that ever lived. But I have no recollection of the conversation at all.
About two weeks later I got up and went to work. I worked and I worked. I thanked God for my work all day every day. I emailed my clients in advance and I told them I know they cared for me so much but could they please not ask me how I am doing or hug me until the very end of my appointment. I longed to lose myself in anyone else’s story. I lived for other people’s lives. And in the night and morning when I was with my sons I lived for their lives. I lost myself in their moments. I actually liked talking about legos and mine-craft and the silly kitty cat.
I found a few things in my closet that fit me post-Partum with my other children and I wore them over and over. I bought myself a few very expensive pieces that I think I am still paying off on my credit card that were full of colour and pattern and barely touched my skin. I closed my eyes when I took a shower. I tried to never catch a glance of my belly that looked so obviously post-Partum and absolutely hollow. I realized I never truly understood the word hollow. I thought I did, that first real broken heart was pretty hollow but this experience embodied the word entirely. My empty womb was hollow.
I got through the Summer pretty painfully and past Dorothy’s estimated due date. I welcomed September so happily. My clothes started to fit. I could exercise without pain in my back and my pelvis most of the time and I had energy in the morning. My children were happy in their current moments and time was passing at a more reasonable pace (most of the time). Time had almost seemed to stop before the Fall. Like how can time move this slowly and I am still alive?
I have thought of Dorothy every day. I have spoken about her often. I have talked openly with many people in my community about the decision we made to end a very wanted pregnancy. I have joined an online support group full of other women who have ended wanted pregnancies. I have felt immense gratitude every day for the care I received as well as for the state I live in that supported my family’s decision with so much respect and dignity. Many women who are in my support group live in State’s that did not support their decisions so in their darkest hour, their days were so much more challenging than mine. Many have to lie to their communities and families. Many had to leave their state to have their abortion, missing work, paying for childcare of their living children and did not receive my level of care at any step of this hellish process.
Today I am tired and I am so sad. I have been crying all week. I have been missing my baby so much. I have been thinking about my own self this week last year. I have been thinking if I can just get through this next day or two. I have been brainstorming what can I do to move through these next days that honors my daughter’s short life inside of me? I have been thinking what can I do to not cry in front of my children often. I have been thinking if I can just get to April, my previously dreaded cruel month.