A Place to Lay My Grief

Home birth wasn’t something I considered.
With a doctor for a father, I grew up hearing about medicine and science – its benefits, primarily.
As a girl, he was the one I turned to when my breasts began to develop, when I experienced vaginal discharge for the first time, when I began menstruating.
Is this normal?” I asked with near certainty that I was the only one attempting to hide my boobs under big sweaters despite the year-round heat of Los Angeles.
Through my father’s knowledge but more so his intricate compassion for maturation, I came to respect my body and its capacities.
When I became pregnant, I assumed certain things almost immediately: everything would be okay and I would give birth in a hospital.
Looking back, I envy the definiteness I possessed.
I was afforded the luxury to be resolute.
I trusted in my body’s ability to not only support burgeoning life, but also the process of bringing a being into the world.
Free from anxiety, I watched in wonder as my belly expanded. My imagination followed.
As my son emerged nine months later, my hands excitedly reached down to scoop him up to my breasts where he suckled for nearly two years.
Supported by loved ones and doctors through a calm birth, a family we became.
Nearly four years later, we decided to expand beyond our cozy threesome.
Pregnancy came quickly but my assuredness did not follow.
Sick as a dog, I dragged myself through the first trimester with a sense of dis-ease. Glued to the crisp sheets whenever I had the chance, my buoyant mood escaped me.
But at fourteen weeks, I turned the proverbial corner and with that came a restoration of energy.
Finally, I had enough verve to resume daily tasks, like going to my dermatologist for my annual check up.
After checking in at the front desk for my appointment, I went to the restroom.
Faint but still, blood.
I returned to the waiting room, frightened.
The nurse called my name and I floated into the exam room. I had left my body just when it needed me most.
In came my doctor and I shared with her that I was sixteen weeks along and just saw blood. I promptly contacted my obstetrician and somehow drove myself to her office after finishing my routine mole check.
Everything appeared perfect: the heartbeat, the placenta, the fluid.
“Did you have sex last night?” she inquired.
“Are you experiencing any cramping?”
After that, I don’t remember much.
I went home: ate, slept, showered, dressed, ate, went to work.
Tightening enveloped my belly as I drove home from work the following night. I called my father.
“Is it possible to have Braxton hicks contractions this early?”
The next day, while home alone, my baby emerged.
Home birth wasn’t something I considered.
But here it was, an unassisted home birth to a daughter I will never know. A stunted hello and a goodbye that continues still.
As my baby dangled just centimeters from the toilet bowl water, I shrieked so fiercely I expected every surrounding window to shatter.
They didn’t. I did.
And then I began to hemorrhage, and with it my self-possession oozed from me.
No longer sure of anything, I crumpled in on myself, hysterical.
On the one-year anniversary of my miscarriage, I sobbed uncontrollably on the phone with my father, replaying the details to him as my very pregnant belly jiggled with new life. He wept too as we reflected on my pain and he described what it was like to hear his “baby” go through this traumatic loss. He said he admired my courage to enter pregnancy again and provided me with a resting place to lay my grief.

My father rushed straight to the hospital after my daughter was born on a drizzling night in December. Watching him hold my brand new baby girl, while he retold the story of my birth, felt like something out of a movie. We reflected on the gravity of things and the way life and love and loss change you for good.

Still, I think about my home birth and how my humility inadvertently took hold that day. If there’s anything I’m sure of now it’s that joy is almost always intermingled with grief and vice versa. This, I am quite sure, is the new normal.

Jessica Zucker is a Los Angeles-based psychologist and writer specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. She is the creator of the #IHadAMiscarriage campaign.


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