Where Have You Been? (Part 3 of 3)
Is it truly better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?
It took me a long time to write this blog post (as you can tell from my last post being published in January!), but I couldn’t write it before I was ready. I’m finally ready.
I know many people won’t understand my openness about sharing something so personal online for all to read, but for me, sharing this experience is healing for me and I do hope it helps others going through similar experiences.
Just a heads up, this post is rather long (a 45 minute read) and deals with sensitive topics.
Okay, enough stalling, here we go –
After Evan and I tied the knot in June 2018, we flew off to England and Scotland for a trip gifted to us by a dear friend. We made a brief stop in London to attend a conference on Men’s Issues (the topic of my last documentary). Then, we swung by Stonehenge, dreamt of the alternate universe where we live in Bath (my spirit city), and partied like locals in Edinburgh, Scotland (Panda & Sons: we’ll be back!).
We ended our UK road trip in Lancaster and then finally Slough. I’ve never been more horrified than the night I spent in Slough, but that’s a different blog post (for any fans of the supernatural).
We then waved the United Kingdom goodbye and found ourselves back on our porch swing in San Anselmo, California, counting our grey eyebrow hairs.
Life was good, but we weren’t getting any younger and my 32-year-old eggs were constantly telling me what time it was. YES, I KNOW! Thank you, eggs.
Evan and I had never been more ready to start growing our family, but as it turns out, our preferred timelines mean nothing to Mother Nature. You’re ready when she says you’re ready! Why? Because she said so! Yes, Mother…
A few months went by and we still weren’t pregnant. Our house seemed so empty since our kitty, Nala, passed in May. Since our human baby was on-hold, fur-babies were definitely the next best thing. Enter: Dinah and Gigi, sisters who were born and abandoned the same week our Nala passed, and were saved by the Berkeley Humane Society on our wedding day! It was meant to be.
That was August. In September, I flew to Canada to speak at The University of Calgary about my film, The Red Pill. A few days later I flew to Dallas, Texas, to be interviewed on the Glenn Beck Show. After I got home, I was sick in bed with the worst flu I’d had in years!
As soon as I got better, my mom, who is also my producing partner, came to visit me and we came up with the topic of our next feature documentary! It was a doozy. Likely another “career suicide” mission. The topic was postmodernism (in the political sense, not the style of art and architecture). It generally hurt my head to read about it, but our research led us to find that it’s related to other ideas that would be very useful to explore at this point in time: individualism vs collectivism, anarchy vs totalitarianism, capitalism vs socialism, the Bill of Rights, free speech, due process, stoicism, and other ideas and ideals that should be examined in order to either remind us why we should value them or show us why they’re outdated for modern times. Of course, these topics are being thoroughly discussed and debated in academia, as well as in many books, essays and news articles, but not yet in documentary form.
If this topic angers you, then I need to clarify: I don’t have a stance on postmodernism, and SPOILER ALERT = this film isn’t happening. So, please put down your pitchfork.
Back to September. After my mom and I committed to this film topic, we immediately got to work on budget spreadsheets and lining up potential interviewees, when all of a sudden –
Boom! I’m pregnant.
About 20 home pregnancy tests confirmed it to be true and my body immediately started changing.
I was overjoyed by the news. My husband was… well…. a bit stunned. Working towards getting pregnant is one thing, but once you’re pregnant, you realize the next step is working towards planning the rest of your life as a parent! It’s a lot to take in.
My overachiever-self was thrilled to have been given this challenge. I was like, “I got this! I’m going to declutter our entire house, design the nursery, green-light every home improvement project my husband and I have ever discussed, work on a new feature documentary, AND quit caffeine cold turkey (while finding out how dependent I am on coffee) all in the first few weeks of being preggers! Woo hoo, let’s go!”
I can’t say that was the wrong approach, but it probably wasn’t the best approach. You’ll later find out why.
The first few weeks of pregnancy were total bliss, besides the debilitating fatigue, constipation, nausea and frequent peeing.
I found out I was pregnant at 4 weeks (yup, apparently I was pregnant while I was in Calgary and Dallas). At 5 weeks I told my mom and sister, and at 6 weeks we told our closest friends. We didn’t mean for the news to get out so soon, but my mom was wanting to make plans for the new documentary that wouldn’t work with my pregnancy, and the reason we told our friends so early was because we were at a halloween party and one of my friends magically guessed that I was pregnant! She shouted at me from across the room, “Are you pregnant?!”, and I couldn’t lie, it was written all over my face – or it was the cookie crumbs all over my face.
Truthfully, I was happy for everyone to know so that I could ask them questions and have them be excited with me.
To this day, I can’t remember being happier than that one month of pregnant bliss.
My last day of bliss was October 25, a Thursday. I remember cleaning out my closet to donate boat loads of clothes to free up space for the baby that I believed was arriving in 7 months.
4:00PM rolled around and I remember having this overwhelming yearning for sunshine. I live in a woodsy area and since it was Fall, the sun was setting earlier and earlier. I had to literally get in my car and drive to chase the sun before it set. I drove for about 10 miles until I found a grassy knoll high above the trees facing West. I sat there with the sun blanketing my eyelids. I soaked up every ounce I could while thinking of my growing baby.
I sat there alone until a car drove up behind mine and out came what appeared to be a mother and her teenage daughter. The mom was taking photos of the girl in front of the sunset. The daughter would strike a dozen poses and then they’d review the images on the mom’s camera. It wasn’t odd to me because my mom and I did the exact same thing when I was in high school. I was in acting classes and for years my mom took all of my headshots for me.
I heard the mom and daughter laughing and I’d look over my shoulder every once in a while to see their smiles. I thought of the sacrifices my mom made to have me, to care for me, to protect me and teach me. I thought of how much love I have for this unborn baby inside me and I thought of how much my mom must love me! I recognized that I could not imagine the range of emotions my mom has felt to get to this point of having two adult daughters, but I couldn’t wait to find out what it’s like to get to that point.
The mother and daughter left and I watched the sun finally set and a full moon rise.
That night, I heard from my mom that my paternal grandpa was in the hospital. Five of the arteries to his heart were blocked and he’d be having quintuple bypass surgery. This was my last living grandpa and the sweetest man in the World.
Since I’m a chronic Googler, I found out that while open heart surgery is now fairly common, the death rate is 1-3%. Because the surgery is so common, that’s a lot of deaths! I learned that most (4 out of 5) open heart surgeries are “on-pump”, which means they stop the person’s heart and have a machine pumping their blood while the surgeon operates, then they (hopefully) start the heart beating again. As you can imagine, I was terrified.
The very next morning was the beginning of the end.
I started bleeding. It was peach-colored. My first prenatal appointment wasn’t for another few days, but I called and they had me come in right away.
It was a Friday and my husband was working, so I was alone. The nurse came to see me and wheeled in a transvaginal ultrasound machine. She told me it’s a little early. According to the first day of my last period, I was only 6 weeks and 5 days pregnant, but the bleeding alarmed her enough to have a look.
I remember being sad that my husband wasn’t there for the baby’s first ultrasound, but I didn’t have any other negative emotions besides that. I had already Googled enough to know that a little bleeding during pregnancy is usually normal (but the thing about Google is: whatever you want to believe, Google will find a way to support that belief).
The nurse said she could see the gestational sac, but not the yolk sac, apparently not good news. She said that based on the measurement of my gestational sac, I was only 5 weeks along in my pregnancy, not almost 7 weeks like we thought. This was confusing, but the nurse and I both shrugged it off as simply my baby being younger than we thought and it’d be too soon to see a yolk sac on an ultrasound anyways.
The nurse did find that I had a yeast infection, a common and low-risk infection likely caused by my hormones fluctuating from the pregnancy and perhaps having too much sugar (I had an awful lot of fruit smoothies the previous few weeks). She concluded that this infection could be the cause of the spotting. We agreed that I wouldn’t take medication for it since most of the pills/creams can cause birth defects, so I was prescribed to “wait it out”. I had some bloodwork done and was sent on my way.
The next morning, Saturday, I woke up to a call from the bloodwork lab telling me that my results came back and my hCG (the pregnancy hormone) was registering high enough where they should have seen a yolk sac on my ultrasound but didn’t. She told me that I could have an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the fertilized egg never made it to the uterus, but it’s growing in a fallopian tube. If it grows there, it could rupture and potentially kill me.
She urged me to go to the emergency room right away where they could do more extensive testing to find out where my baby was growing. I called my husband who was working on a film set at the time. He told his coworkers he had to go to be with me in the ER and they were all supportive.
My husband and I spent the next 6 hours in the emergency room and it just so happened that my grandpa was having open heart surgery at a hospital a few states away.
As my husband slept in the chair beside me, I laid on the medical bed, listening to the rhythmic beeps of medical equipment, the hurried foot steps in the hallways, and the automatic doors opening and closing for the new visitors and those who’ve graduated.
I was either growing new life or potentially losing mine. There was no third option in my mind.
A needle, two wands, lots of wand goop and one catheter later, I graduated and was released to the fresh air and sun setting yet again. All I learned was: I didn’t have a urinary tract infection, they couldn’t see my baby in either Fallopian tube, there still wasn’t a yolk sac visible, and my hCG levels were still rising.
I was pregnant with a missing person.
I was ordered to relax and have another ultrasound on Monday.
On Sunday, I took a break from navel-gazing when I found out my grandpa’s open heart surgery went better than expected. They never stopped his heart; he got the “off-pump” operation where they kept his heart beating the entire time! I was overjoyed. It’s not his time to go.
Enjoyed some relief until –
Monday arrived. I still had the yeast infection and I had another ultrasound appointment with a different nurse. My husband went with me and it was the most ridiculous experience I’ve ever had at a medical facility, ever. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but here’s the short version:
She did a transvaginal ultrasound and vaguely saw a little something in the gestational sac, possibly my baby…? When she went to take a screenshot of it, the ultrasound machine died. Like, all power, gone! Here’s where it gets weird. She left the wand in me while she tried turning the machine off and on again. Nothing. Then, she proceeded to crawl on the floor to unplug and replug it into the wall, all while her hand was stiffly holding the wand which was twisting and jabbing inside off me! A painful experience for any woman, but certainly made worse by my yeast infection.
To paint a picture, this woman was probably in her mid-50s, she had white, frizzy, long, tangled hair and her energy would make Tigger exhausted. She acted like she was on speed and had ADHD. She spoke a mile a minute, she couldn’t focus and she wouldn’t let me speak.
While she was crawling on the floor and twisting the wand in me, I cried out in pain and she reacted as though she thought I was getting a leg cramp. She grabbed my thigh and started thrashing it around like a helicopter propeller. I gently explained to her that, no, it wasn’t my leg, it was her hand haphazardly swinging around the wand that was causing the pain.
The machine never started working again, and she proceeded to tell me that I most certainly miscarried and that I must cry and mourn this loss. I looked at her dumbfounded because I didn’t see enough information from that broken ultrasound to tell me I miscarried. All I felt was anger at her unprofessional behavior and I certainly didn’t trust her medical opinion about my baby. She kept pressing for me to cry, which I ended up doing out of pressure, then she got 4 inches from my husband’s face and asked him if he cries. He said “not often” and she sternly told him that he needs to cry and she left the room.
A million other weird things happened, like her telling us she only treats her children with homeopathy and she only practices Western Medicine because it pays her bills. Ooookay…?
After she left the room, I used the hand sanitizer that was on the wall and looked at my husband like we have got to get out of here! Then, she stormed back in with a huge tube of vaginal cream, grabbed my hand and proceeded to squeeze the cream all over my hand and rub it in like she was giving me a hand massage. I guess in an effort to show me how to use it or something…? I had no idea why she did that, but at this point, I didn’t need to just wash my hands, I needed a shower.
If my entire miscarriage journey had defined stages of grief, this is when I entered the anger stage.
I was fuming inside.
I was angry at her, I was angry at the situation, I was angry at the World.
That night I found myself Googling dangerously. I found one mommy blogger who touted the evils of ultrasounds and how the radiation can harm your developing baby, especially in the 1st trimester. That led me to read the sources she used to support her claims and I became fixated on this. I began to believe my baby was always fine, it was just young and too small to see on an ultrasound yet, and I started to wonder if these repeat ultrasounds were harming my otherwise healthy baby!
I was in denial and the next day I entered the bargaining stage of grief.
It was Tuesday and I had yet another appointment. This time with a full-blown OB/GYN, Dr. Byer. She happened to be the same OB/GYN that very professionally cared for me at the ER on Saturday. When I saw her I immediately broke down in tears. I was so happy to see her friendly, familiar face and I was so exhausted from my pendulum-swinging emotions.
I saw that she had the transvaginal ultrasound machine ready to go and I told her that I had 3 blood draws and 4 ultrasounds in just 5 days. I couldn’t do it anymore! I was worried about my baby having so many ultrasounds in such a short amount of time and always ending with no new information.
I refused to do another ultrasound!
She saw my anger, pain and sadness, and she likely saw my denial before I did. She affirmed that I had been through a lot and I didn’t have to do the ultrasound today if I didn’t want to. I then cried out of happiness.
However, she told me that she’s still worried about where the baby is growing because my hCG levels continue to rise as if I’m growing the baby normally. She told me that she wants to see me in 3 days for another ultrasound and she thoroughly reassured me about the safety of ultrasounds. I understood I was still in danger of ectopic pregnancy, so I agreed. She told me if I have any pain at all, I must immediately go to the ER because it could mean that my fallopian tube ruptured and the internal bleeding could be fatal.
I left that appointment feeling like I bargained effectively. A silly thing to think, but it was the first time I felt like I had any control over the situation.
The next day was October 31, Halloween, and I was ordered to get more bloodwork done to monitor my hCG. My husband and I were planning to go out to breakfast and then to the lab, but the moment I stepped out of the car I doubled over in pain. I was screaming like I had been stabbed and the knife was continually twisting.
Back in the ER.
I felt like a child on the medical bed. I was eyeing the bowls of candy and watching the nurses and doctors walk by in their clever, friendly, or frightening costumes. A bumble bee would walk by, then a witch. The vampire drawing blood amused me.
I had acted like a child the previous day by refusing the ultrasound and look where it got me.
I finally realized I needed to accept the facts: the bleeding, the confusion over how far along my pregnancy was, the lack of a yolk sac when my hCG levels were saying a yolk sac should be seen, and now the undeniable physical pain.
I needed to stop blaming others like the crazy wand-flinging nurse, or things like the ultrasound machines. I needed to accept that something wasn’t right with my body and something wasn’t right with my baby.
In the ER for the second time, I had all the same tests and all the same results: pregnant with a missing person. A new OB/GYN came to reveal my unsurprising results. He told me he specializes in miscarriages, he’s seen every different way that a miscarriage can happen and he knows without a shadow of a doubt that that is what’s happening.
They say you can’t give someone a message they’re not ready to receive. I got the message.
For the next few days, I laid on my couch watching every 90s chick flick I could (thank you, Nora Ephron). I also got sucked into a mind-numbing Canadian reality show called Cupcake Girls. In between my wallowing and crying spells, I wanted to be in a mindless trance looking at something pretty. Turns out cupcakes are very pleasing to the eye.
Of course, I couldn’t totally check out, I wanted to know what I was in for. After all, I was in the worst stage of my pregnancy thus far:
I was waiting to miscarry.
It’s a horrible stage, especially for someone who has not had a miscarriage before and hasn’t even had a successful pregnancy before. I had nothing to go off of. I had no idea what my body would do, what it would feel like and I had no idea if it’d be normal or abnormal. I was flying blind.
First thing I did was… can you guess?
Google! Of course. I Googled what to expect when miscarrying naturally (as opposed to surgically, which I’ll go into later) and sure enough I found some message boards that gave me an idea. Many of the women said it was like a mini-home birthing experience. They reported extreme abdominal pain, contractions (since your body does have to open up the birth canal, even for a tiny 2 month old fetus), sometimes vomiting, nausea, some had diarrhea, some nearly fainted… it wasn’t looking good.
One woman explained how she was having extreme pain and took a hot shower to soothe the pain. She ended up miscarrying in the shower, which frightened her to see the amount of blood, but she was happy there was “less clean up” (her words, not mine). Although, she did pick up her miscarried baby and saved it for burial.
This was a common talking point among the women in the forums:
What to do with the miscarried baby?
The most common regret I read from these women online was regretting that they flushed it down the toilet before considering saving it for a more thoughtful goodbye. So many women said that was their biggest regret, not giving their miscarried child a proper memorial.
Other women spoke about trying to miscarry naturally at home, but after bleeding and cramping for 3 or 4 weeks it still wasn’t over and they were missing work and trips and holidays and they couldn’t keep waiting. They ended up having what’s called a D&C, otherwise known as the abortion procedure, where they dilate your cervix and then scrape out the remaining fetal tissue. (I’m sorry to be so graphic, but that is literally what it is and how it’s described in medical books.)
Some women in the forums said that they adamantly did not want a D&C, either because of their religious beliefs, the connotation, or because it goes on your medical record as having had an abortion. Other women said they had no choice, that they weren’t able to miscarry naturally and the doctor told them that a D&C had to be done, otherwise the leftover pregnancy tissue could cause fertility problems later on.
Other women in the forums were fully on board with having a D&C and elected to do it before even trying to miscarry naturally. They said it helped them move on faster and get back to normal life rather than having it drag out indefinitely.
I read that some natural miscarriages can last up to 2 months! I couldn’t imagine bleeding and cramping for months while knowing that the end result would be the same – my baby would be gone and I’d have to pick up the pieces of my life.
But I also really didn’t want a D&C.
I feel I should provide a full disclaimer here because some people will be wondering about my own personal beliefs:
I am pro-choice for 1st trimester abortions or if the mother’s life is physically threatened at any stage before giving birth. I am pro-choice because I believe that outlawing abortion will not make abortions stop, it would just make them extremely unsafe. At the same time, if I had an unplanned pregnancy I would not choose to have an abortion. I know it’s not an easy choice for any woman to make. What I would like to see happen is more progress made in preventing unplanned pregnancies so that fewer women are in the position to have to make that choice.
While I’m doing disclaimers, I’d also like to address language. I know that some pro-choicers do not like zygotes or fetuses being referred to as babies. While I am pro-choice, I also support a woman’s right to choose how to refer to the baby/ person/ human/ fetus/ zygote/ lump of cells/ clump of cells/ tissue/ products of conception, etc growing inside of her. Feel free to share in the comments why you disagree. Moving on…
I read more women’s miscarriage stories online and prepared myself for the worst, which in my opinion was trying to miscarry naturally for months and still needing a D&C in the end.
For the first time in a very long time, I prayed.
I prayed that if I was in fact miscarrying, then I wanted it to be as quick as possible and I wanted to be strong, emotionally. I’m grateful to say I got exactly what I prayed for.
Saturday morning, November 3rd, the contractions started. I started passing blood clots, most were about 2 inches, some as long as 5 inches. This was when I really knew my baby wasn’t going to survive. I guess a sliver of me was still holding onto hope that this was all a big joke, masterfully orchestrated by my healthy, jokester of a baby.
Two things made my miscarriage easier:
- A heating pad on my belly.
- Drinking loads of water.
Every time I downed a big glass of water, I would feel contractions and then pass more blood clots, like clockwork! I realized that for me, it was the secret to speeding up the process and it worked without fail.
By midnight, my husband was passed out upside-down on the bed. I laid balled up on the floor at the foot of the bed, hand-in-hand with my love. I’d already been there for hours.
At this point, I didn’t know how much more I could take. The pain came in waves and was becoming more frequent: 3 minutes off, 1 minute on, like a knife twisting my insides.
When that knife came, I knew I had to get to the toilet quick, because the only thing that would stop that wave of pain is pushing.
I was learning the lamaze technique without a teacher and without a baby to come.
This routine went on for about 12 hours: heat pad, water, pain, toilet, push, repeat.
Then, on November 4th, around 12:30am, at 8 weeks pregnant, something came out of me that was not a blood clot. In all honesty it looked like a jellyfish. It was a translucent balloon with a wrinkly skin-like exterior membrane. I put my hand in a plastic bag and used it like a glove to pull it out of the toilet. I sat there, exhausted, staring at it with my red, puffy eyes from lack of sleep and nonstop crying.
Could this be my baby?
What else could have been in me and look like this? Is this the yolk sac that was never seen on my ultrasounds, is it the gestational sac, or the placenta? I’m not a doctor and I didn’t want to be a Googler at this point. I just wanted to be.
This is the life experience that you can’t tweet about, you can’t Instagram, you can’t call your best friend or your mom or wake your husband to be with you. At least not yet. I just wanted to be in that moment.
It’s okay to just be – in your pain, in your aloneness, in your sorrow.
But the good news is I didn’t even feel alone at that moment. I felt a moment of my life that I would always remember – a defining moment. I felt all the feelings all at once. Of course it was an incredible loss, but it was also an incredible lesson. I learned that I could love someone more deeply and unconditionally than any other love I had experienced before. I learned that I wanted to be mom. I learned that I could be a mom, I could step into that role and learn along the way. I learned how little my choices have to do with it, not only the lack of control over if you can have a child or when you can have a child, but also the lack of control over who your child is. I already had the conversations with my husband about what we would do if our child was genetically tested and found to have a higher likelihood of things like down syndrome. We were ready to take on whatever the universe had in store for us as a family. I felt all those feelings – all that growth and all that loss – all at once.
Miscarrying my child gave me more appreciation for life.
I had more appreciation for all the beautiful souls living right now and the ones who are trying to come through. Life is so fragile and it really is a miracle that each one of us were born.
I felt a new kind of love because of my unborn child and yes, I lost the baby, but I learned that the love doesn’t disappear.
My capacity for love expanded by embracing this child.
Although I feel lost – completely and utterly lost – many days since my miscarriage, I’m reminded that I am better for this experience and what my child taught me.
It was later confirmed by the doctor that the balloon-like tissue that I held was my baby.
Two days after my miscarriage, I brought it to the doctor in a tupperware placed in a paper bag for testing, but too much time had passed and they couldn’t test it for chromosomal abnormalities after 24 hours.
The doctor asked if I wanted them to discard it, they weren’t trying to be insensitive, they had to ask and I’m glad they asked rather than assumed that’s what I wanted. I politely told them that I would hold onto it. I knew that I wanted a memorial.
I needed a memorial.
For the next 3 weeks, I continued to bleed, cramp, and pass large clots. Even though my baby was gone, my uterus still had a lot of other pregnancy tissue to get rid of. On a weekly basis, the doctors had me come in for bloodwork to test my hCG levels. The goal was for my hCG to get under 5. If I got under 5 naturally, then I wouldn’t need a D&C.
The day after Thanksgiving, as my husband and I were driving to meet our good friends’ newborn baby boy, I got a call from a nurse saying that my hCG level was 4 and I was officially no longer pregnant.
I miscarried at 8 weeks, but my pregnancy hormone was gone at 11 weeks.
I entered the holiday season falsely thinking I’d entered a new chapter with my loss behind me. Not the case. Since the miscarriage, I actually went through many more stages of grief, perhaps even worse than the weeks I was miscarrying.
First, denial. I had strong denial, thinking I could move on like none of this happened and fool everyone into thinking I was fine.
I threw myself into work with ample caffeine flowing. I rented a new office space for a fresh start and to get me out of the house. I was still planning on making the documentary on postmodernism and I focused on that to ignore my emotional scars.
This was the wrong approach.
From December through February, I overshadowed my pain with this work project. I even had a pitch meeting with Dave Rubin (from The Rubin Report) and author Jordan B. Peterson. With some coaxing, they seemed open to participating.
Shortly after that meeting, my strong exterior began to crack and the project fell apart. I realized my heart wasn’t in it and my stress levels were off the charts. It was already a difficult project to undertake, but the added inner turmoil made it impossible to sustain a professional and capable mindset.
By the end of February, I was on an entirely new journey that I hadn’t planned.
Here’s how it started.
I was still reading the miscarriage forums and a name kept being repeated over and over again – Colton Burpo.
Colton Burpo, Colton Burpo, Colton Burpo.
Who is this person?
Google revealed that he was a young boy, 4 years old at the time, who supposedly had a near-death experience. He and his Christian paster father took his story to the masses, not only by doing tons of interviews, but his father also wrote a book called, Heaven Is For Real, and later a film was made about Colton’s experience starring Greg Kinner.
But why was Colton’s name flooding the miscarriage forums? Well, because as his story goes: he saw Heaven, he met Jesus, he met his grandpa, and he also met a young girl who gave him a big hug in Heaven. This girl told him that she was his older sister, but she died in their mother’s tummy. He asked what her name was and she said their parents never gave her one.
If that’s not weird enough, what’s really weird is that Colton never knew that his parents had a miscarriage. Actually, the parents say they never told anyone about their miscarriage.
This fascinated me, because whether you believe in Heaven or not, or an afterlife, how did a 4 year old boy know that he had an older sister that died in his mom’s tummy?
Also, the age that Colton described her to be would have lined up with how old she would have been if she survived, but the parents didn’t know that she was a she and they didn’t give her a name because, as far as I could research, the mother miscarried around 8 weeks pregnant (just like me).
Whether or not you want to believe Colton’s story or the idea of Heaven, that is entirely up to you. I’m not sharing this to convince you of anything. Personally, I’m agnostic and have been since 2009. I grew up Christian, but left that religion when I started seeing hypocrisy that greatly disturbed me. However, the teachings of love, kindness, respect and compassion, I’ve never lost faith in that, but I don’t subscribe to any religion today and I have no clue what happens after death.
Learning about Colton Burpo made me look more into other life after death stories, and Google propelled me down a whole different path that I never imagined going down – mediumship.
Again, I’m not promoting any of this! I’m just sharing what I innocently stumbled upon.
I found many videos of mediums supposedly channeling someone’s miscarried or stillborn child. Whether it’s the Long Island Medium, Hollywood Medium, or Monica the Medium, there are many stories about miscarried souls or spirits being on the “other side” with loved ones who have passed.
What I found interesting was that Colton’s story of Heaven and the mediums’ stories didn’t necessarily contradict each other. However, I know that most Christians do not approve of mediums because many Bible versus condemn mediums, but apparently many mediums believe in a higher power and an afterlife.
I continued to be open to all sorts of stories about miscarried babies in the afterlife because I found it extremely comforting thinking that my baby was with my maternal grandpa (who passed a few years ago). While some women and their partners have a crisis of faith following a miscarriage, thinking, “How could God let this happen?“, I seemed to have the opposite reaction.
Before I began spotting, I had a dream that my baby was a girl. I’ve always wanted a girl. When I saw the video where Colton’s dad made a plea to parents to name their miscarried child, I didn’t see any harm in considering:
What about a name?
Something I haven’t shared yet is that I documented my entire miscarriage journey on video. You see, when I first found out that I was pregnant, I thought, “This is it! We’re having our first baby and we’re starting our family!” I always imagined documenting my pregnancy because I’m a documentary filmmaker – I document everything!
When I started the process of miscarrying, I had already been filming my pregnancy for weeks, so I decided to just keep documenting. I had hours and hours of footage and it got to the point where I needed a new hard drive to store all the footage.
Like many documentary filmmakers, I have dozens of hard drives, each one representing a different film project. My very first hard drive was titled Jaye Bird (since my production company is called Jaye Bird Productions). The next hard drive was boringly called Jaye Bird 2, and then Jaye Bird 3 came along. I knew I was going to be collecting more hard drives and the numbering system was so dull, so I decided to switch it to bird species, since I figured there’s a lot of those!
Now I have over 25 hard drives. I have Eagle, Raven, Hawk, Albatross, Sandpiper, Dove, Crow, Hummingbird, Cardinal, Goose, Finch, Toucan, Falcon, Owl, Parrot… you get the picture.
I bought a new hard drive that would house the videos of my first pregnancy, and subsequent miscarriage, but I needed a name for the drive. Blanking on a name, I asked my husband and he simply said, “Robin”.
It was perfect. Robin.
I had my Robin hard drive for many months before learning about Colton Burpo’s story, so when I considered naming my child, it was no question, Robin was the perfect name.
When I told my family that I named my child Robin because all of my memories of this pregnancy were encapsulated on the Robin hard drive and because I had a dream she was a girl, they told me that the name Robin is actually gender-neutral; it’s a name for a girl or a boy (as in the late and great Robin Williams). So, it really was the perfect name!
Naming my child helped with my healing, but healing is a long process.
Even after I started exploring ideas of the afterlife, I still wasn’t at peace with what happened.
After cancelling the postmodernism film project, I decided to channel my energy towards editing a documentary about Robin’s miscarriage from all the footage I had gathered. I titled it Waiting to Miscarry since it’s the film I would have wanted to see while I was waiting to miscarry. The process of reliving my pregnancy through this footage was therapeutic, enlightening, validating and overwhelmingly emotional.
I spent 6 weeks working on it. I was putting a nice film together, but all of a sudden –
I hit a brick wall.
I had editor’s block. I didn’t know where it was going or how to end it, because I was still in it.
The thing was, Robin was still in a tupperware container, hidden out of sight. This is the single thing I am most ashamed of, that I let so much time pass, but I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye. For those few months since the miscarriage, I felt like time stood still because I was clutching onto the past and refusing to step forward.
I remembered the ladies from the forums saying they most regretted not having a proper memorial because they felt they would have benefited from that closure. I decided to heed their advice.
Four months after our miscarriage, I told my husband that I was finally ready to have a memorial.
Now, I know I haven’t talked much about my husband’s journey through this, but whenever I asked him how he was doing, he would always say, “I’m just worried about you and want to make sure you’re okay.” That’s it. If he had emotions beyond that, he didn’t want to discuss them. He focused on work and home improvement projects to pass the time. That was his way of coping.
We discussed that we’d have a burial and I would find a plant to put on the grave. My husband decided to make a bird house in memory of Robin. He immediately started calculating, carving, sawing, nailing, and painting a beautiful birdhouse that will hopefully be a safe home for new life someday.
I found a small wooden box to bury her in and bought a young michelia tree (in the magnolia family) to plant on her grave.
The day that we were ready to bury our child happened to be the first day of Spring: March 20th.
It was raining all morning and we didn’t know when we could get outside, but the clouds parted by noon, Evan dug a hole, and we said our goodbyes.
I didn’t have any statement prepared, I just said everything that had been locked inside of me aching to come out. I cried more tears than the rainfall that morning. I admitted to everything that I was ashamed to feel and expressed everything that I wanted her to know.
After all the words were said, my husband and I stepped back and looked at the michelia tree with it’s pure white flowers. Literally right then, the clouds parted and beams of warm light made the dew on the leaves sparkle.
It was perfect.
Everything leading up to that moment felt so messy and chaotic and clumsy and pained, but in the end it was perfect.
The memorial ended at 2:53pm on March 20th. I know because of the timestamp on this last iPhone photo that I took before we went inside:
Later that night, I saw a tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson saying that on March 20th at 5:58pm ET (2:58pm my time in California), the Northern Hemisphere entered it’s new season. Just 5 minutes after we ended our memorial:
It was Spring.
The long Winter was over and my husband and I found the closure we needed.
So, after all of this, is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all? I believe yes. I choose love and loss. Robin has enriched my life, and to me, she is not gone.
I like to believe I will meet Robin someday. I like to believe she is being cared for by my maternal Grandpa and I like to believe that this is not the end of our journey towards starting a family.
Just a few more words for women going through a miscarriage:
Something I haven’t talked enough about is how much guilt I felt during my miscarriage. The main topic of most of my tear-filled breakdowns was self-blame. I believe every woman experiencing her first miscarriage goes through this, but blaming yourself won’t change the outcome, it’ll just make it more painful. The truth is that most miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities which is entirely out of your control and roughly 10-15% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. The rate is probably much higher since that statistic doesn’t include women who didn’t know they were pregnant yet.
I no longer blame myself and I’m not ashamed to talk about my miscarriage. Perhaps if more people talked about it then it wouldn’t be so scary for the couples going through it. Once I started telling people, stories came out of the woodworks! My mother-in-law had one, my grandma had two, my friends, co-workers, my husband’s co-workers, our accountant… now I hear about it everywhere!
Also, so many celebrities have had miscarriages! Beyonce had one, so did Michelle Obama, Nicole Kidman had multiple miscarriages, also Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, Audrey Hepburn had two, Carrie Underwood had three, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, P!nk, Jennifer Aniston had at least two, Courtney Cox had multiple, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone had three, Brooke Shields, Bethenny Frankel, Christie Brinkley had three, Marilyn Monroe had at least two, Elizabeth Banks had multiple, Jackie O had a miscarriage and a stillbirth, Gabrielle Union had at least eight(!), and many others.
How is it both saddening and reassuring to hear how common it is? This is one of millions of questions I’ve asked myself throughout this journey.
It’s not easy and you can only really know what it’s like if you’ve had one or are going through it.
If you are going through a miscarriage, I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you know that you are not alone, you are not to blame, you are a warrior, and most of all – know that your heart will find peace. Believe that.
Thank you for reading.
If you’re wondering what happened to the documentary I was working on about my miscarriage, I haven’t worked on it since the memorial in March. I found the closure I needed and going back to editing the footage felt like scratching old wounds that have healed, but I still wanted to share this story which is why I wrote this blog. I’m now working on a new film project. If you really want to see the “Waiting to Miscarry” documentary, please say so in the comments below. It still requires a ton of work to finish, but if there’s enough interest, then I’ll consider finishing it.