(Note: This is my version of my story.)
In the years since my divorce, there have been numerous attempts to shame me about my past. I used to feel threatened and worried that people would find out, I really don’t care anymore because I realize that events that happened say less about me and more about the person I was in a relationship with.
When my oldest son was five-years-old and my younger one was barely two, I became pregnant with a third. I vaguely remember some unprotected sex with my husband, not even thinking of getting pregnant because it had been so difficult before. My first pregnancy was a breeze and I worked full time until three days before I gave birth, three weeks early.
Because I had gone early at 37 weeks, the earliest you ever want to go without getting into scary preemie territory, I was very carefully monitored during my second pregnancy. I had a team of doctors who planned to induce me just before 37 weeks. I was taking large doses of steroids to keep my plummeting platelet count up, not allowed to lift or bend (sorry, existing two-year-old son!), not allowed to raise my blood pressure and put on bedrest. It was a solid plan. It was totally undone by my kid who decided to give us all the tiny middle finger and arrive six weeks early by emergency c-section.
He spent 13 days in the NICU, jaundiced, unable to swallow on his own or maintain his body temperature. Barely four pounds, his entire head fit in the palm of my husband’s hand with room to spare. Depression set in, then fear. I was so convinced he was going to die that I didn’t want to get attached. I was pumping alone all the time so he could be fed through a tube in his nose. He was hostile and fragile. I was hostile and fragile. It was not good.
At home it wasn’t much better. I spent more time alone and pumping than I did with my kids. I fell deeper into depression and had anxiety attacks. I was finally prescribed medication and started therapy. At three months things started to turn around, after the baby had triple emergency hernia surgery which radically changed his personality to pleasant and happy overnight since he was no longer in pain. All of the sudden he could drink with ease and the hours and hours and hours of hysterical screaming stopped. And it got better.
Apparently it got so much better I finally had sex with my husband. He’d always wanted a third. Because of the complications suffered with my last pregnancy, I immediately had team of high risk doctors assembled to monitor me. I went on instant bed rest (sorry, kids, you’re on your own!). I had regular bloodwork done, which quickly revealed my platelets were dropping even more than before. I went on steroids again and started getting platelet transfusions. I had a home nurse. My bladder felt left out and started prolapsing on itself so I couldn’t pee, requiring multiple ER trips. It was good times all around. But I finally cleared the three-month mark in October, when the miscarriage rate drops dramatically, and we started to tell family and friends and settle into the idea of another kid. I breathed a sigh of relief. The rest of the pregnancy was going to be rough, but it was going to work. We would be five, not four.
Then I miscarried on Thanksgiving morning at just over four months pregnant. My water broke. An ultrasound confirmed the worst. I had to be checked in to the hospital, dilated overnight and have the baby extracted under general anesthesia. So I sat around on Thanksgiving with a tiny, fully formed in miniature baby, dead, inside me. I begged the surgeon to try to figure out the sex of the baby. She was pretty sure it was a girl.
I started suffering anxiety attacks again. I feel deep, deep into depression. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t care for my kids. I couldn’t attend to my marriage. I couldn’t care for myself. Less than two weeks later I “had” to host a party for my husband’s business colleagues at our home, that I begged him to cancel. No one knew about the pregnancy or the miscarriage. I remember the caterer coming a week after I’d lost the baby, asking me about napkin colors and saying that I didn’t care because my baby had just died. At the dinner I fielded normally just annoying questions about our plans for a third, saying that a girl would be the perfect addition to our family. I remember hiding in the hallway.
After that we hosted our annual snow party. Again, I begged to cancel it but to no avail since “it was for the kids.” But I couldn’t face masses of people. I drove around for five hours while the party was going on. Then I came home and crawled into bed. Christmas was a blur. I sold all of the nursery furniture we had on Craigslist.
It took me a long time to recover. I went through the motions but between having a sick preemie and a dead baby I could really barely function. Slowly things got back to more normal. I stayed on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. I went to a psychiatrist for prescribing those medications and a psychotherapist for talk therapy. I skipped a lot of events. I didn’t interact a whole bunch. But I was up and out of bed more than I was in it.
And then the anniversary of the miscarriage came around- Thanksgiving. I panicked and couldn’t attend my son’s kindergarten holiday play at the last minute because I couldn’t stop crying. I called my therapist and left a message that I felt like killing myself because I was so sad. I didn’t really plan on killing myself but the feeling of not wanting to live anymore was very strong and very real. It was scary, too.
We’d planned to go to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, to be away from the memories. But I couldn’t get out of bed. My therapist kept calling me, and then the psychiatrist, but I quit answering my phone because I was so despondent. I couldn’t face life. I couldn’t face a trip with the kids- the airport,and the crowds. I wanted to hide in my bed, under the cover and maybe with a pretty strong dose of meds to keep me my emotions numbed to a bearable level.
I just couldn’t get myself to go. I remember being barely able to respond to anything my husband said from the bottom of my black spiral of sorrow. Frustrated, I think, at my unwillingness (in reality, inability) to power through and rally for my family, he took the kids and left for the trip. Left me. Alone.
I was devastated and also relieved. I couldn’t believe he’d left me and I felt guilty for not going with my kids. I also felt kind of wonderful being alone, not having to put on an act for anyone. I was able to be sad and sit in bed in the dark and not have to answer questions or listen to suggestions like “maybe just go for a walk and you’ll feel better.” By the evening, I was feeling much more like myself. I’d slept and ate and had time to just be. I was watching T.V. downstairs when the doorbell rang. It was the police.
My therapists, concerned that I’d not called back after expressing thoughts of self-harm, had called them to check on me. I assured them that I was better, and I really was. I explained the situation. But I was home alone and my family was 600 miles away. Then the police asked if there were any guns in the house. Being honest, I answered yes but that my husband had them in a safe and I didn’t know the security code. I was then told that they couldn’t leave me alone like this, fearing I would commit suicide.
So, I was handcuffed. I was put in the back of a squad car. I was taken downtown where I was placed on a 5150 hold in a psychiatric lockdown facility. Luckily the staff there believed me that I really was OK. I was un-cuffed and allowed to sit on a bench and not in one of the padded, locked cells. I was allowed to called my husband in San Francisco to vouch for me and arrange for me to get out. But my husband had turned his cell phone off when he went to bed, never calling to see how I was doing after I’d been left alone the night before the one-year anniversary of my miscarriage.
In the middle of the night, after hours of calling, I was finally able to reach my mom who reached a friend of the family with LAPD connections who came to get me out. He drove me home, where freaked out but relieved, I went to sleep. The next day, Thanksgiving Day and the anniversary, I was able to pull myself together and join my family in San Francisco where we had a great time.
Still, though, I am threatened periodically with “Do you want people to know you were in a psych lockdown?” and “Do you want people to know that you’re on medication?” Do I want people to? Not particularly. Do I care now? Not particularly. Because I’ve come to know that my reaction was normal. Severe depression and mourning on the one-year anniversary of a traumatic event? THAT IS OK. That is to be expected. That is nothing to be ashamed of. Taking medication in a time of raging hormones and major loss? That was me taking care of myself so I could take care of my children. This was more than a depression I could walk off. The medication was prescribed and I was doing the work necessary to get better.
I did the very best I could. Apparently all I needed was a little time alone to grieve. Some support and acknowledgement probably would have been helpful too. And yes, I did think thoughts of suicide. But I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted my baby not to be dead. So, there you have it. Like Britney and Lindsay, I have been placed on a 5150 hold. And I’ve been depressed and talked of death. And none of this makes me a bad person, wife or mother. It makes me human.