Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, September 06, 2008

On Personal Loss

by Sariah S. Wilson

I've been thinking a lot lately on how these great personal tragedies occur in our lives, and that most of the people around us won't ever know about them. That sometimes things are so private, so intensely painful, that it is too hard to talk about it. Or that there's never a polite way to bring it up. (Because I really don't think that when people say, "How are you?" that they always want the truth.)

So we smile. We sit in church as if everything's fine, as if our world isn't crumbling down around us.

Sometimes the news is too big. Sometimes you've announced the happy news and then you have to announce the sad when things are ruined. Like the infertile sister who finally, finally, finally got pregnant, and then lost her triplets at 21 weeks. Or the family trying to adopt, who have gone to four different births with the promise of bringing home a baby, and have come home empty-handed for the fourth time.

How my heart grieved for them. And how their palpable pain made me grieve for myself.

Last October I discovered that I was pregnant. I was excited and scared at the same time - excited at the possibility, scared by all the losses that had come before, panicked at the thought that my youngest would be turning one when the baby would be born (how does anyone care for a one-year-old and a newborn at the same time? The thought boggled my mind!).

But from the beginning something was wrong. The hCG levels were never quite what they were supposed to have been. They monitored me, and we all hoped for a miracle. But the levels never rose appropriately.

Finally, the bleeding started. My OB-GYN wanted an ultrasound to see what was happening so that we could plan our next move. He offered me medication to speed up the process. I refused it - I would let nature take its course.

As I lay there with the ultrasound, the technician found the sac. It was not circular. It had it fact started to elongate and lengthen, almost into a rectangle. I asked what was happening, and the technician matter-of-factly told me that the sac was pulling away from the uterine wall. I couldn't believe what I was watching, what was happening inside me at that moment.

Then the technician said, "What's that?"

The curiosity in her voice made my heart stop. The room fell into total silence, with only the slight thrumming of the machine filling in the gap.

"What do you see?" I asked.

"It has a heartbeat."

At that moment, I couldn't imagine worse words in the English language. I couldn't stop silent, hot tears from falling either. It was alive. It had a heartbeat. And it was dying and there was nothing I could do to stop it. And I had to watch it all happen on the little black and white screen in front of me.

The technician didn't know of my past loss, of my past pain. She informed me in that clinicial, emotion-free tone that the heartbeat was highly irregular, too slow; there was no way this pregnancy ever would have made it. I was eight weeks.

I was sent on my way to deal with this at home. I didn't invite people in. I told my mother, because of course you have to do that, but I didn't tell my sisters. I didn't tell my friends until much later. What could anyone have done? What could they have said? I was so miserable that I wanted to be alone. I wanted to deal with it by myself. My husband was amazing through it all, but I needed to know that I was strong enough to cope and to overcome. This one was worse than any of the others.

So I went to the Lord. I told Him what you're not supposed to tell Him. I told him that I had suffered enough, that surely He never intended any of his daughters to go through such a thing so many times. That in two years' time I would take measures to make certain I never had to go through that again. So if He had a spirit for me, He'd better get it here fast.

The Lord apparently believed me.

Through a series of what seemed to be amazing coincidences as far as timing goes (very long story I won't bore you with here), at the end of June I began to suspect that I was pregnant again.

This time there was no excitement, no hope. Only a feeling of dread and worry. How could I expect this to be any different than the others?

My fears were confirmed at six weeks when the bleeding started. My doctor examined me, and had the same diagnosis that I had arrived at. We had lost another. We would again do an ultrasound to confirm it.

But because he would be out of town on vacation, I was sent to the local hospital to have the exam done.

Very strangely, the bleeding suddenly stopped. I went in for the ultrasound, lying on that table, preparing myself for the worst. I refused to look at the screen. Not again.

I heard the blips and beeps of the technician taking measurements.

Finally, I couldn't help myself. "What do you see?"

"It has a heartbeat."

At that moment, I couldn't imagine better words in the English language. "Is it fast enough? Is it regular?" I asked, daring for the first time to turn my head and see for myself.

"Yes," the technician sounded confused at my questions. "The heartbeat is right on target. Everything is exactly as it should be. The baby looks great."

Could it be?

I watched and waited. Because of a scheduling snafu, I didn't return to see my doctor until I was 10 weeks. (And let me just say here, I much prefer being pregnant as an infertile patient. Because I had blood tests and ultrasounds like every couple of days until I was ten weeks along. I missed that constant reassurance.)

The doctor couldn't find that wonderful heartbeat. He methodically pushed that doppler around, determined to find it (he's been my doctor since my first child, so he's very well-acquainted with my history).

No sound, other than my own heartbeat.

Then he did something I've never had him do before. "Come on, get dressed. We're doing an ultrasound right now."

I dressed and followed him, praying as I went. Not again, not again.

The ultrasound found the baby, with a steady, regular heartbeat. I saw a face, a head, a little body and limbs. I loved that baby with an intensity that surprised even me.

I could hear the relief in my doctor's voice. "Everything's fine. The baby is fine."

When I came out to schedule my next appointment, the doctor said, "This baby seems bound and determined to make sure this pregnancy is an interesting one." (Although I'm not sure "interesting" covers the panic and stress I keep feeling.)

I'm now 13 weeks and officially in my second trimester. I supposedly only have a 1 to 2% chance of miscarrying at this point. It is starting to feel like it might actually happen.

There are still concerns. I haven't been nauseous or thrown up once. And for anyone who knows me, and that I routinely vomit all nine months, it does make me worried. At least when I was puking I knew things were all right. Now I have to wait four weeks between appointments before I get that reassurance that things are still okay.

I will keep you updated. I know you didn't ask to be told, but this time I feel like I don't want to be alone. Whether the end result is joy or misery, I'm letting people know. Like Kerry said, I'm stumbling around in the dark here with a malfunctioning flashlight. I need people with strong flashlights who can help me to keep going.


At 9/06/2008 11:51 AM, Blogger Jennie said...

Sariah, I'm glad you shared your joy and fear with us. Now we can pray for you, put your name in the temple, and be a part of the miracle taking place in your life. Beautiful blog by the way.

At 9/06/2008 11:59 AM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

Sariah - I ditto what Jennie said. I'll say extra prayers for you. I'm attending a temple trip in a few weeks & will be sure to add your name to the roll. BTW - I puked my guts out like crazy with both my boys, but not ever once with my girls. I have friends who experienced it the other way around. It's amazing the different ways our body reacts to pregnancies. So, my hope for you is that you'll get to enjoy a wonderful, beautiful pregnancy - puke free! :) Much love!

At 9/06/2008 12:40 PM, Blogger Melanie J said...

Thank you for such an honest post. I'll say a little prayer for you that all goes well.

At 9/06/2008 1:33 PM, Blogger Janice said...

When I was pregnant with my first child a good day when when I only puked once. When I was pregnant with my third child I never threw up - not for the entire pregnancy. Both are boys and both are happy and healthy. They also have very different personalities.

At 9/06/2008 2:31 PM, Blogger Mindi said...

As someone who has already been down that road, I really hope and pray for the best for you. Best of wishes!

At 9/06/2008 4:37 PM, Blogger Ally said...

Sariah, my heart was in my throat the entire time I was reading your post. You have been through so much this past year. Please know that I will be adding my prayers to those many others that I am sure will be going up on behalf of you and your little one.

At 9/06/2008 4:38 PM, Anonymous allyson condie said...

I didn't mean to be anonymous in that last response...Sariah, this is Ally Condie.

At 9/06/2008 5:31 PM, Blogger Just_Me said...


I've always dreaded miscarriages. My mother had 9 pregnancies, half of them twins, and lost all but three babies in the second trimester. Before I left for college I went in for testing and was told I'd never be able to carry a baby to term and the chances of me ever getting pregnant slim.

I have two daughters now. The first wasn't planned the second was. Neither made it all the way to 40 weeks and I spend the last trimester in bed, but it works for us.

We decided at the start of the year to try for number 3, but no luck. I'm beginning to think I'll have to be content with the two lovely girls I have. Which is okay. I think I'd rather not be pregnant than have to lose a baby. I don't know if I could handle it. I've seen friends in the same situation and it's always painful.

My prayers are with you. And my hugs.

At 9/06/2008 6:04 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...


You will have a houseful of prayers from over here. Thank you for sharing your feelings and know that they are honored and respected.

At 9/06/2008 11:43 PM, Blogger Stephen said...

Bless your heart, I so wish you well.

At 9/07/2008 12:19 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Oh, Sariah! I have long believed that no woman was ever better named than you. Such a wilderness you have endured -- and with such faith and courage. I already admire the little spirit who overheard your prayer and piped up immediately, "Me! Send me!" What a blessed child (s)he will be!

My first four pregnancies were just like yours. (I swear I could have fasted forty days and nights and still found stuff inside to puke.) Although I lost the fourth "pukey babe," I was never so much as a little bit sick with the fifth. Twenty-one years later, she is still a joy in every way! Hurray for this added blessing on top of the miracle!

I feel so touched and honored and tearful that you would share your heart this way. Like Ally, I couldn't breathe until I had read it all! I felt inspired to check e-mail quickly before bed, and now I know why. My husband and I had just discussed our fast, and while there are always so many concerns, nothing felt sublime. In a few minutes more we will kneel in prayer for you and yours -- and you will be ever in my mind and heart tomorrow and the days that follow. If ever a woman deserved a perfect blessing for her faith and self-sacrifice, it is you.

Bless your heart -- and that sacred little heartbeat who is so anxious to be yours!

At 9/07/2008 12:43 AM, Blogger Kimberly said...

I'm a mass of snot and tears at the, that was powerfully expressed, and hit pretty close to home. Thanks so much for sharing this. It's easy to get wrapped up in sorrow and anxiety and forget to hope.

At 9/07/2008 3:17 PM, Anonymous John said...

Thank you for your faith in your audience to share something so deeply personal and wonderful. I feel lifted and blessed by your story. It helps me to have courage in my own trials.

As I heard President Packer say in our stake conference today, "Don't be afraid. It's going to be alright."

Bless you.

At 9/07/2008 9:24 PM, Blogger Pat said...

Please add my prayers to the others listed here - if anyone deserves that sweet precious miracle, it is you.

At 9/08/2008 6:50 PM, Anonymous Michele Holmes said...

Your post made me cry and hit very close to home. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your little one.

At 9/08/2008 11:49 PM, Blogger Tamra Norton said...


Happy 2nd trimester!!! :) Thank you for sharing this with us. What heartache and joy this journey to motherhood can bring. Here's to many more months of joy!

(okay...and here's a weird side note. For this comment the word varification thingy is "tjboyo"--not that we're looking for signs or anything! :)

At 9/09/2008 2:44 PM, Blogger Anna said...

I struggled to get pregnant for 3 1/2 years. I got pregnant once during that time and miscarried at 6 weeks. It was definately a very hard thing to deal with at the time.

Now 8 years after having first started trying and struggling, I have a 4 year old, 2 year old, and a baby on the way (22 weeks along). I would have never thought my life would be like this while I was going through the trial.

Congrats on getting to 13 weeks, and I hope that things keep going good for you.

I couldn't share any of my thoughts or feelings during my struggle, but I can now. I think it's good for people who have gone through these trials, and can talk about them to share it. Because I didn't know anyone who had ever miscarried until I did. All of a sudden, I found out from people I'd know for a long time about when they had miscarried.

Both of my sister-in-laws have miscarried a baby, and although it was hard for all of us, I think it makes us feel better knowing that we are not alone in it. And we can talk about it and understand each other.


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