Four days later, I am still pregnant. The misoprostol I took to induce labor is either working much more slowly than anticipated or my body is resistant to it. Until the last few days, I had no idea how common it was to experience pregnancy loss and yet remain pregnant.
If I had not seen the three ultrasounds, I would still be going about contentedly, thinking and dreaming about my baby. After all, I’m still exhausted, still have vivid dreams, still feel hunger pains every two hours – and if I don’t eat? I still feel nausea creeping in. My pants are still too tight to comfortably wear, even though the scale still shows my prepregnancy weight – when those same pants were loose. While I don’t have a baby bump that is noticeable to others, I see it when I look in the mirror or when I glance down at my clothed belly.
I had begun wearing maternity pants with a bella band over the top. The day of my ultrasound, I decided to try my regular jeans with a hair tie slipped through the button loop and around the button, which allowed an extra inch or so of space.
Neither of those options feel appropriate now, so I’ve been wearing my husband’s wind pants or a long, flowing skirt that used to be a little too big.
While there is no real way of knowing if my body deceived me by not giving my baby what she needed, I do feel as if my body is deceiving me now. I wonder how long we would have been ignorant had my midwife not offered that ultrasound. It felt like an afterthought at the time, “We could do an ultrasound, if you like.” My next appointment would not have been for another four weeks. Would I have miscarried on my own by then? Would I have developed an infection? Would I have remained happily content, believing the entire month that all was well?
The still-pregnant state of my body can also feed the denial state of my grief. “See? Nothing is wrong. Perhaps the medicine didn’t work because she is still alive. Perhaps all of the machines were defective. Perhaps her heart started beating again just after they stopped. Perhaps with all of my tracking, we were simply two weeks off, and we’ll have a Christmas baby.” I know, logically, that none of that makes sense. The child within my womb is not growing, is not thriving, is not miraculously going to return to life. She is dead, laid down in the back of my uterus like a body in a tomb – a tomb that she does not want to leave.
And I don’t always want her to leave. While she is here, she is still mine. Still the little girl I am carrying. What happens once I go into labor and have to give her up? A friend sent me a note with an email she wrote after losing her first child – she talked about how women pregnant with their first child are considered parents, but once that child dies before birth, you go back to the realm of the childless in many people’s eyes. You have a child, but a child that you will never hear cry, never watch smile, never experience firsts of any kind with. Your child is invisible to all but you as you ache for their presence daily. Who am I when I can no longer hold on to my little girl?
You may have noticed I’m using female language. Allyn and I have believed from the beginning that we were having a girl. On Saturday morning, we named her Avelyn Grace (the “Ave” in Avelyn is pronounced like the beginning of “Av-e-nue”). The Hebrew origins of Avelyn mean life or little bird.
We have since been given a Bible with “Avelyn Grace” inscribed on it (our last name, Harris Dault, did not fit) and a Willow Tree figurine of an angel holding a baby bird, still hatching from the egg, beautiful reminders of our little girl.
I don’t know who we will be or what titles we will hold in the weeks to come. But I do know that we are better because of Avelyn.
Author’s note: This is the second in a series on pregnancy loss/miscarriage. Read the first post, “First ultrasound,” here.