Nicole recently shared the story of her loss at 10 weeks of her baby Blueberry. This is another piece written by her of a more introspective look into her loss.
Sometimes I smash bugs, most times I try to save them. I killed a bug that was on the ceiling the other day. It was a huge, gray bug with 100 legs as long as my fingers. No idea where it came from… suddenly it was just running across the ceiling at lightning speed. I had a choice I guess, but that time I was no savior.
Immediately after knocking it off the ceiling with a Swiffer and smacking it with my shoe, I had an intrusive thought… that bug was another bug’s baby. A mental picture, as big as a movie theater screen, of my dead, tiny 10 week baby, Blueberry, cupped in my bloody hands, froze in my brain. That bug was some bug’s baby.
There are so many things no one ever tells you about miscarriage and pregnancy loss. Sitting in the doctor’s office on the day I found out my Blueberry no longer had a heartbeat, I thought they were giving me all the information they had as it related to miscarriage and it’s process. But no… They gave me lumps. They lumped physical pain and bleeding together as what to generally expect. They lumped together emotional pain and trauma as feeling grief. They lumped together the available methods of birthing my dead baby into 3 options. They handed me a pen, pointed to paper, said sign here, and after I did they sent me home. This is not to say I didn’t have a great medical team, because I did, but in that moment it was just their job, but it was my reality.
My friend Sarah, a mama who lost her beautiful baby, Indie, at 17 weeks, recently had the opportunity to see a rainbow mom motivational speaker. Sarah said this speaker equated how she felt after pregnancy loss to size 72 font, colored bright red, bold, and underlined. It’s a great example because everything in my head IS size 72 font, bright red, bold, and underlined. There’s also a million exclamation points, and it’s also invisible ink. The huge red block letters that I feel like are projected over my head aren’t seen by anyone else. Some days maybe other mamas who have experienced pregnancy loss can see what’s written in this imaginary text box, but even then, miscarriage is a very isolated experience. Everyone experiences it differently, and like snowflakes, no two losses are exactly the same.
I wanted to touch on 3 major key points that no one ever told me, but have tremendously impacted me and the slow (turtle speed slow) process of healing. There’s certainly more than only these 3, but these have been weighing heavily on me lately. I broke it into 3 parts labeled with headers. Putting accessible information out there about miscarriage and pregnancy loss is important to me… so it’s there for you to read it all, or just the parts that will quell some curiosity. Here we go.
This part may be a little graphic for some readers, but it’s raw and it’s real. It’s apparently a normal occurrence, and something I wish I had known. So here’s the warning… feel free to skip the next 4 paragraphs if you may be a bit faint of heart (which is okay! Respect yourself and your own boundaries)! And if you find the below is happening to you after pregnancy loss, always notify your doctor so they can ensure there are no other underlying causes.
I was bleeding ridiculously heavy and had been since I had Blueberry; changing huge pads that could have passed for diapers every hour because they were soaked through with blood and clots several inches long. And then one time when I went back into the bathroom and pulled my pants down, it hit me like a ton of bricks: I smelled like a dead, decomposing body.
I didn’t notice the smell immediately. I don’t remember noticing it the actual day that I miscarried… I think maybe the following day, or maybe even two days after, is when it became prominent. But when I say I smelled like roadkill had climbed up my vagina and laid dead there, I’m not exaggerating. One evening after I had already discovered the putrid smell emitting from myself, I was sitting next to my mama, a critical care nurse, watching a movie. She gently put her hand on my back and said “Colie, I need to tell you this, and I don’t want to upset you, but you smell like…. Dead…. Blood. Like some of my patients.” I asked Heath later if he smelled it too, and he simply nodded. The smell radiated out of every pore, and clung to my pants, shirts, and even my socks. If you went into a bathroom 15 minutes after I had left it, the pungent odor would sting your eyes.
I’m sure at least one person is wondering “wow, how bad did this dead baby look if she smelled so bad?” Blueberry didn’t look decomposed at all. Blueberry actually had a nice healthy, glossy look when my mama initially rescued him/her from the toilet. But my body had began processing Blueberry’s death 2 weeks and 4 days before I actually had Blueberry, and it seeped through all of the layers of the uterus that I would later shed heavily for nearly 2 weeks afterward.
Having previously interned in a homicide unit, and now working as a police officer, I’ve smelled more rotting human flesh in hot, sealed houses and on autopsy tables than I’d like to count. It’s a smell that’s unmistakable… it lingers in the nose, in the hair, and on clothing. It’s not something that can be described to someone who has never smelled it, and it’s a scent that stays with you forever, long after you’ve washed it out of your nose, hair, and clothes. But the fringe benefit to smelling decomposition in a professional environment is that it’s (typically) an adult stranger’s odor, and it’s NOT your own dead baby’s odor that has creeped it’s way into every orifice of your body.
Resentment Towards Heath
Heath is Blueberry’s dad, and my boyfriend. He’s 10 years older than me, but can run a mile and a half in 10 minutes (I can’t). He’s a former combat marine, active national guard, and a police officer in the same police department as me. He has 3 teenagers from a previous marriage, and they are with him full time. They never see their mom. All of this makes him who he is, and impacts the lense through which he sees the world.
I always admired Heath’s dedication to his kids. I knew walking into the relationship his kids came first, and that’s the way it should be. I come from a rocky home where my father is not a good role model, and Heath’s focus on his kids was one of the (many) things that drew me to him. Although Blueberry wasn’t planned, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I was ecstatic, and had no concerns about bringing a child into the world with him.
When we learned Blueberry no longer had a heartbeat, Heath was more logistical than he was emotional. He wanted to know why, he wanted an in depth explanation, he wanted statistics and concrete, irrefutable evidence that this was surely happening. I, on the other hand, heard “I don’t see a heartbeat,” and I stopped listening and started sobbing. Everyone grieves in individual ways, and I know that. But immediately the difference in Heath’s and my coping mechanisms were off putting for me. Why was I crying puddles, and he had hardly shed a tear? He told me he was devastated and sad, but I couldn’t SEE his devastation and sad, so instead, I started seeing red. What I believed was his lack of emotion was infuriating me.
I’ll expand on this more in the next section, but I temporarily left the state a week after we found out Blueberry had no heartbeat, and 4 days after I birthed Blueberry. Heath was leaving for annual training for the military during that time frame, and I didn’t want to be alone in the apartment where I had just given birth to my dead child. Understandable.
Once in New Jersey, I had texted and called Heath about our Blueberry, and he would respond and try to be as comforting as possible. One night I was specifically speaking to him about burying Blueberry and all of the emotional pain that would come with it, and shortly after responding about burying Blueberry, he told me (for the second time that day) it was his son’s birthday. I snapped. My fingers worked just as fast as my brain as I spit back “I know. Good thing you have a living kid to have a birthday for.. my only one is dead.” It came out like venom. And while I was on a roll, f*** their mother too, who was blessed with 3 babies that she didn’t even want and never cared for. I was given 1 that I wanted in the worst way, and it was taken from me.
It was wrong. What I said was wrong, cold, and cruel, and that’s also what the world around me felt like. Of course I wanted Heath to enjoy his son’s birthday, and I wanted his son to enjoy his birthday as well. Heath had just lost his baby too… as much as I was supposed to be Blueberry’s mama, Heath was supposed to be Blueberry’s dad. And his son lost a sibling. But no matter how far down I reached to find some feeling of guilt for what I had said, and no matter how hard I tried to be sorry, I wasn’t. At the end of the day it was Heath: 3.5, Nicole: 0.5. Just like when we’d run the mile and a half, Heath was in the lead again, with his 3 healthy kids, making a birthday cake, and finding a reason to smile. And me? I was in tears over burying my half baby, my dead baby, my only baby, in a shallow hole in my backyard.
My anger towards Heath was displaced. Heath didn’t hurt Blueberry, Heath didn’t abandon me before, during, or after Blueberry was born, Heath didn’t harbor any anger, blame me, or yell at me for the death of his 4th child. He actually had done the opposite of all of that. Before that fateful day, he would come in from work and kiss my belly, he held my hands, wiped my tears, and rubbed my back during the agonizing 21 hours of labor I endured to birth our baby that we already knew was dead, he empathized with my grief, and assured me it was NOT my body that failed Blueberry.
We’re okay. We’re working through our grief one day at a time, sometimes even one minute at a time. His kids are great kids. I’m looking forward to being around them again when I get back into the swing of things, but I also know it’s okay if there are days I need to stay home and let him go spend time with them on his own. Heath and I are compatible, we just handled this crisis in different ways. Our pain is shared; it’s not processed individually, it’s just processed uniquely.
Heath, if you’re reading this, I love you baby.
I’m originally from New Jersey and am now a transplant in Louisiana. My mama had coincidentally been visiting me in Louisiana, and was there when we found all of this out, was there when I actively miscarried, and there a few days after. I was going to be out of work for awhile to heal, so I decided to fly back to New Jersey with her for a change of scenery and to spend some time around my family and friends. My mama was going to be home for a few days after returning to New Jersey, and then was going to visit my sister who lives in Rhode Island for a few days. I opted not to go because too much scenery change was overstimulating.
The night before she left for Rhode Island, I realized it was the first time in over 2 weeks I would be away from her again. And it would be the first time I’d be away from her after having Blueberry. I felt a dread filled tingle make its way down my spine and my eyes filled with tears. I found my mama in her bedroom packing her suitcase, and told her I thought I was on the brink of a separation anxiety spell because she was leaving. She hugged me and told me I probably was, and if I needed her while she was gone, I could take the train and meet them in Rhode Island.
The morning she left for Rhode Island I woke up at 5 am to pack her suitcases into the car, and I repeated over and over in my head that I’d been living alone for over 2 years, 1,350 miles away from her in Louisiana, and had done just fine. That kind of self pep talk is usually a good indicator that I am not fine, and I was not.
Trauma bonding is a real thing. My mama held my hand through a series of the most traumatic days of my life. She and Heath are the only two people on the Earth that will have ever seen me covered in tears, snot, and blood, as I birthed and held my dead baby. As close as I’ve always been with my mama, our relationship will forever be different now.
There were so many things I thought I knew about miscarriage, and the reality was I knew damn near nothing. The ones plaguing me recently are the ones I discussed here; physical changes, and relationship changes, even how I felt about killing a bug. Then there’s all of the things I haven’t touched… like physical pain, clotting, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, life as a first responder after the loss of a child, guilt, fear, bitterness, and dodging the baby aisles, just to name a few. From the moment I walked out of the doctor’s office the day we found out Blueberry’s heart stopped beating, the way I saw the entire world changed. And I hate saying it that way because it’s so generalized and vague, but just in the way there is no way to describe the smell of death, there is truly no way to articulate the way in which my universe shifted after losing Blueberry.
The biggest “lump” takeaway is grief is not linear. There are ups, there are downs, there are seconds I can laugh, minutes I’m neutral, and hours I can only cry. Losing my baby was different than losing anyone else I’ve ever loved. The grief is different, the pain is different, the ache is different. Different, different, different. I just f****** want my baby back.
I could write forever if I really wanted to get into the nitty gritty of all of the things I’ve learned from this experience. I’m also open to questions and suggestions. The only way others will learn about the things no one tells you is if the people who have lived it start talking about it. I’ll end this with a quick note to my Blueberry:
Mama loves you Blueberry. Even if it ended the same, I’d do it all again if it meant I could hold you again, cupped in my hands just like you were, and tell you how much I love you and how much I would miss you.