The Red Thread: My story of miracle, loss and acceptance
I’ll never forget the surprised look on my dear doctor’s face as he delivered the news. I leaned back onto the clinic bed, fully aware that my children were watching, my husband just as confounded as I was.
I was pregnant. “Expecting.” That is a funny word for it, looking back. I had no idea what I was about to experience, let alone what I should expect.
Rewind 4.5 years from that moment, and that same doctor was giving me a referral to an OB/GYN. We weren’t able to get pregnant, and he thought the specialist would help. A diagnosis of PCOS and some Clomid later and our first child was on her way. A miracle – one that we fought long and hard for.
18 months after her birth, we had decided to start the process toward more fertility treatments. We knew it would be a long road, that we couldn’t just go back to the specialist right away. To our complete and utter amazement, after only two months of trying on our own, we discovered that our second child was due. She was due, in fact, within days of our eldest daughter’s second birthday.
On August 3rd we celebrated the anniversary of one birth – and on August 11th, we celebrated another.
In between pregnancies, I had been using a copper IUD. Hormonal birth control didn’t mix well with my PCOS, and of course the OB/GYN assured me that the risks were small. After our second child, we went back to the trusty copper IUD. We felt like our family was complete, but wanted to wait a few years before doing anything final.
18 months after our second child was born, we sat nervously in that doctors’ office. The exhaustion, the nausea, what I could only describe as a week-long hangover had hit me with the force of a freight train that Monday morning. Tension was in the air as we feared the news. The doctor decided, however, to do a pregnancy test as a precaution before diving into the myriad of other tests.
And that is when he said it. “It’s positive.”
We had to fight for our first. We had to try for our second. And here we were, pregnant again despite the use of contraceptives. We had come a long way.
At 10 weeks we had our standard midwife appointment, and even heard a flitter of that little heart beating away. We went home to prepare the nursery. I began to prepare my clients for the leave coming in October.
And then at almost 15 weeks, it all came crashing down.
Another standard appointment, for sure. We had almost finished the nursery, our anatomy scan was booked and we were set to find out whether the ample supply of pink clothes would work – or if we had to go and stock up on blue.
The midwife ran through the usual questions, the usual exam, and then pulled out the Doppler in standard fashion. And we waited. And waited. And… Waited.
She couldn’t find it. Could just be the Doppler, or something with the placenta, or even a tricky baby! She would do my exam and then grab her second, stronger Doppler from the car.
She hesitated during the exam. Blood. A tiny bit, but blood. I felt my heart pounding, like my world was breaking. She brought up the Doppler and again, we waited. And waited.
Every moment growing more fearful than the last. Every moment my heart breaking. Every moment wanting to cry and scream louder and louder and hiding my emotions less and less.
An ultrasound was scheduled right away, and we headed to the clinic. They never showed me the screen. They always show you the screen.
And I knew. My baby, my little miracle #3, was gone.
The midwife confirmed it by phone (at my request, not wanting to revisit her office) and I was connected back with the OB/GYN who had treated my infertility to give us our first. The irony of that moment was not lost on me.
A few pills later and I was home, but it was not over. No, hours of horrible pain, a hemorrhage and a hospitalization occurred before I could even really come to terms with everything.
And at first, I felt so alone.
I felt as though there was a dark curtain that separated me from the “other mothers”. The other women who weren’t experiencing a loss, those who never had.
A strange thing started to happen, however. First, the ultrasound technician told me the story of her loss while I was at the hospital. Then a nurse. Then a resident.
Stories from my family started to come forward. Women from my daughter’s preschool, friends on Facebook, people I had never met before in my life. I was amazed at the strong, confident women and mothers who looked me in the eye and showed genuine sympathy.
They had been there. They had walked that line. They had stared into the mortality of their children, the betrayal by their own body and healed.
And the more I heard their stories, the more I was able to heal. I was not alone.
Even now, months later, I still meet women who have experienced a loss. In fact before my loss, I cannot remember anyone and yet now it happens all of the time. It is as if somehow, they know I’m one of them. Somehow they know I’m safe. Maybe even somehow, they know I need to hear it.
I’ve begun to realize that even though most of us will never know each other, we will never meet, we are connected. We have shared a common experience, a common strength, a common loss and a common love. We have cried together, laughed together, feared together and hugged together.
And I call this connection “the red thread” – the colour of a mother’s beating heart, of passion and love and fury and fierceness. The colour of a survivor.
I want you to know that it is okay to hurt. The loss is real, and so is the pain. There will be no funeral, no grand eulogy, no pomp and circumstance but that does not mean that your loss is any less tragic.
I also want you to know that in those darkest moments, in the hours before dawn when the world seems to have abandoned you and you cannot bear to ask yourself “why” one more time – reach out. Reach for that red thread that binds us all together.
Because even if you can’t see us, or feel us, or touch us, we are there with you. We stand together, bound together, strong together. We are not alone.
Cheryl Woodhouse is a mother of two, wife, entrepreneur and business growth mentor from Canada. She is an Outsider, like you. If you would like to read more of her journey through entrepreneurship and life, you can find her at www.CherylWoodhouse.com