I had my first miscarriage in 2015. Three more followed. My womb was a land mine, a repository for scar tissue and trauma. It turned out that having a baby wasn’t something I could achieve like the other goals in my life. Given my medical history, staying pregnant was even more difficult than getting pregnant. After two years of trying, we saw a specialist.
“Well, maybe you’ve waited too long. Over 35, you have fewer viable eggs. With endometriosis, you were certainly prepared for that possibility,” said the baby guru light-heartedly.
I wondered how this doctor could wield so much power. Did she know that she had doused my dreams and blamed me both deficient and responsible in five minutes? She took off her latex gloves and threw them in the red trash can. “Plan with my receptionist. We’ll put you on fertility drugs.”
I was 37
At the age of 12 I was diagnosed with endometriosis – an early bloomer and heavy bleeding. I had surgery before I was old enough to drink alcohol and took oral contraceptives like vitamins for most of my life. There have been numerous attempts to regulate my body that got completely out of control. Doctors mentioned the risks but acted casually.
I didn’t know when I was 16 or 18 or even 20 that I wanted kids. The urgency came much later.
Despite threatening statistics, I got pregnant after a round of fertility drugs. They labeled me high risk and required an early ultrasound when my baby was the size of a popcorn kernel. I carted my Polaroid popcorn core everywhere and waited for the baby to move to prove that my body wasn’t broken.
In the sixth week, I was put over the toilet with hyperemesis, a form of severe morning sickness. “It happens sometimes,” said the doctor.
I wanted to radiate life. Instead, I was sick and was able to fight off a wave of fear that grew next to the baby in my tummy. I read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Birth like an evangelical reading of the Bible, trying to connect with deeper wisdom about this original rite of passage.
Our popcorn core turned into an avocado, then a melon. Movements moved. We got a doula and planned a natural birth, mother and child danced the great dance of antiquity. I believed this would be my big reset.
We didn’t stick to our birth plan. The grand reset did not happen. In week 27 I woke up wet and shivering. “Baby, come here. Something’s wrong,” I said into the deep darkness. “I think my water is broken.”
When I pulled back the covers, purple began to gather around me. My husband, an Eagle Scout who was unwavering under pressure, looked for the phone in the dark.
“She’s admitting us now. I’ll get your things,” he said in a cracking voice as he ended the call with our midwife.
“Did she say the baby is fine?” I was looking for reassurance.
“She didn’t say anything except to go now.” His eyes were glassy in the moonlight as he collected my bag, packed, and waited for weeks. So much intention. So little control.
Doctors found it was a disruption of the placenta, a pregnancy abnormality that only occurs sometimes. During the upheaval, our baby, who weighed barely two pounds, remained strong with no sign of distress.
Despite the slow agony of hospital time, something sacred happened over the next six weeks while I was tied to this hospital bed. My son and I bonded in the most extraordinary and inexplicable ways. Looking back, I understand that we had already started our own special dance in antiquity, just not as I had imagined.
I read every book I could find on premature babies. I had prepared for everything except this result – nobody prepares for a premature baby. After 32 weeks the baby is viable outside the womb and the statistics for complications drop dramatically. I was slightly relieved when we passed this mile marker.
But at 33 weeks my blood pressure went up. “Preeclampsia,” the doctors said, “it happens sometimes. We don’t know why.”
So much expertise, so few answers. The diagnosis required an immediate caesarean section to ensure not only my baby’s survival, but mine as well.
My son was born on March 3rd and weighed 3 pounds, 12 ounces. His scream was as tiny as his body. Everything in me throbbed and tingled at the same time. I reached out for him, but the nurse took my hand. “Your blood pressure is not improving, honey. We need to focus on you.”
Just like that, they took him away. I swayed in and out of consciousness for the next 30 hours, praying like I’d never prayed before. Doctors, nurses, family, and friends came to see me. They all reported the same thing: we were both fine, we were even lucky.
More than a day after I was born, my favorite nurse said: “Your blood pressure is finally stable. No more danger zone. How about if we see your baby?”
In the intensive care unit, he slept in a tiny box with tubes, lights and blankets. He looked more like a doll than a real baby. Suddenly I was afraid I might break it. I was afraid of breaking the balance that the medical team had worked so hard on.
“Is it safe to pick him up?” I asked. “He looks so fragile.” My eyes sought reassurance.
“Of course,” said the nurse. “He needs you most now. You have this, mom.” It was the first time anyone called me mom.
She put the little mound of flesh and blankets on my chest. There are moments that define a life. Part of me is still in this room, holding onto it, wanting it to be okay with every ounce of my being. Part of me could always be in this room.
I know that 33% of Americans depend on some form of fertility medicine to conceive. About 10% to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and probably more, before a woman realizes she is pregnant. One in eight couples (approximately 6.7 million American families) suffer from infertility. I was one of those statistics. Often I almost gave up my inexplicable, deep desire for a child. A combination of hope, stubbornness and trust propelled me forward even in the most difficult moments. Now I’m more than a statistic.
Now my son is a jerky 5 year old bronco, the same baby that couldn’t be contained in the womb. Now he’s a boy who isn’t held back by fear. The same baby boy who changed my life
Micah Stover was raised on a farm in rural Tennessee by evangelicals. Now she is an ex-godmother from Mexico, where she lives with her husband and two sons. Working with trauma survivors as an integrative support therapist, Micah is revising a treatise on Intergenerational Healing of Sexual Trauma Using MDMA, Psilocybin, and Guided Psychotherapy. www.sugarfootjourney.com