How are you?

Seems like those three words should be words of comfort. Someone is concerned about you and they want to hear how you are. The difference lies in who is doing the asking. Close friend? Sure those are words of genuine interest and concern. Receptionist at the RE’s office the day of your D&C? Empty greeting.

It isn’t that she, or anyone else I encountered who I didn’t really know or who didn’t really know me and what was taking place for us that day, intended those words to be hollow and empty. I know it sounds crazy for me to take out my frustrations on a random stranger or chance acquaintance, but could she not see all of the blood had been drained from my face? Couldn’t she see that my heart was breaking and the rest of me was crumbling right there with it? Couldn’t she see it was all that I could do to put one foot in front of the other and walk into that office, the same office that had given me life and now was going to clean up what remained of that life? And to be fair, it wasn’t just her. It had been a build up of people from the moment we found out that we lost the heartbeat at the ultrasound on Tuesday.  As soon as we stepped from the exam room and made the appointment for the D&C, those words, “how are you?” became knives I wanted to throw.

On the day of our ultrasound I was 7 weeks and 3 days along, but our baby was 6 weeks and 5 days. It isn’t that we had taken for granted the miracle that was taking place inside of me. Having had a slight scare with bleeding around week 5, but a good ultrasound and no bleeding since, the signs weren’t there. The week prior, we’d seen our little peanut a second time and the RE was able to pick up a heartbeat at 115 bmp. When I climbed up on the exam table and the RE began the exam, I guess we both just expected to see a similar picture of the previous two times, maybe a bit bigger and with a stronger heartbeat. Instead, the RE’s face turns grey and she grows quiet. Our little peanut was difficult to see and find; even after a great search, no heartbeat was present. There were white lacey streamers in the gestational sac and the RE wasn’t sure, but felt that it could be blood.

I sat there, devoid of feeling, while she talked about our options. I call them options, but really there was only one. Her immediate suggestion was a D&C. There was talk of sending the tissue off for pathology. If it was chromosomal, we could check the other embryos. If it was something taking place within me, we could run tests and start different medications. This all washed over me. I was numb.

So by the time we made it to Thursday morning and I was signing in for my D&C, the words “how are you?” in a chipper voice and a smile didn’t have the effect that they should. I’d reached my limit with those words. I am not okay. I am not fine. I will not be okay today and I will not be okay tomorrow. 5 years from now or even 30 years from now, there will be a place in me that will never be okay.

The issue is that you can’t wear a sign around your neck that announces to those who have no idea what is going on for you under the surface how you are doing. We kept this pregnancy to ourselves for the most part. We’d only shared with our close friends who knew about our day to day journey with infertility and our parents and immediate family.  Beyond that, no one really knew we were expecting and of course I wasn’t showing. I think that in some ways that is the most difficult part. With the first pregnancy, we were open and shared it with people.  When it failed, we weren’t sure if we’d make the same choice again if we were able to have that choice. It was difficult to have to have a similar conversation with everyone when they asked about that failed pregnancy, and we didn’t want to go through that again-or so we thought. When we found out that this last round was successful, we kept it pretty close and were cautiously optimistic.  While I have been surrounded by those who know and I am eternally grateful for those people, I have had great difficulty acting like life is normal with those who don’t. I believe that is why those three words are so difficult for me to manage. It isn’t that I want to have people feel sorry for us or anything like that. I just need to be able to be honest with them when they ask, “how are you?”


6 thoughts on “How are you?

  1. My pastor once told the congregation that if he asks “how are you?” that he really wants the real answer. That if we are going through something rough, that we should tell him. I thought that it was wonderful that he said this. Although I find I struggle to do this, with anyone, even at times my husband. Heck, it’s even difficult to be honest with yourself sometimes with the answer to that question.

    I’m sorry you are going through this difficult time. I’ve been through two miscarriages. I’ve never heard a heartbeat. However I feel like if I did it would really be so much more to mourn (and it was already very devastating to me).

    Be extra kind to yourself if you can.


  2. Thank you for this post. I began miscarrying (my second) yesterday (December 10) and by the time I made it home, I realized that I had been asked “how are you” and lied with “good”, “fine” and “okay, how are you?” more times than I could count while trying not to break down in front of strangers in the business district. I was wished “have a nice day” when buying water on my way to the metro because I was parched from losing blood and trying not to cry. “HA!” I thought…

    I was/am not okay, and THAT is okay. We don’t have to be okay. Someday we will be okay, but yes we will never be okay with this. Thank you again for this post – for vocalizing what ran through my mind today as I got my blood tested and what I will have to endure for days to come.

    I’ve been considering Coming to Term: Uncovering the Truth About Miscarriage and other books…if you have any thoughts on getting through this, I’d welcome them.

    I wish you the best as you go through your own unique grief and just know that you’re not alone.

    • Elise-I’ve also been searching for books to help me through this process. I’ve hoped to look at amazon this week and order a title or two. I went to the public library to see what they had on hand. There were only three books specifically dealing with miscarriage and most were published in the mid-90s. I’d also searched the shelves at Barnes and Noble with no luck at all. I felt like the world was saying miscarriages are taboo or something. I did check out all three of the books at the library and have started reading After Miscarriage: Medical Facts and Emotional Support for Pregnancy Loss by Krissi Danielsson. It was published in 2008. So far, I feel like it is speaking to me. She isn’t writing from a medical perspective, though she includes medical information. She has experienced three miscarriages and writes from her perspective of living through them. I would love to get a copy of the text you suggest and perhaps have dialogue about it. Let me know if you are interested.

      Thanks for stopping in and connecting, though I wish it were under better circumstances. Hugs to you and take care of yourself.

  3. Such a loaded question, isn’t it? It’s a good reminder to be mindful when asking the question, rather than just parroting social greetings. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  4. Mel shared your post on the Friday blog round up, so I hope you don’t mind me dropping by like this.

    “So by the time we made it to Thursday morning and I was signing in for my D&C, the words “how are you?” in a chipper voice and a smile didn’t have the effect that they should. I’d reached my limit with those words. I am not okay. I am not fine. I will not be okay today and I will not be okay tomorrow. 5 years from now or even 30 years from now, there will be a place in me that will never be okay.”

    This is such an honest passage, so well said. You’re right, there will always be a place inside that isn’t okay. And that, in itself, if okay- normal. I’m almost 5 years out from my first miscarriage, 3 from my third one, and my son (after 4 years of infertility) is turning one- I’m still not okay. I still cry sometimes. I still mourn. I still wonder what on earth happened.

    “How are you?”- It really is a loaded question. After my losses, I spent some time just responding with a grunt or “Surviving.” I used to be okay with small talk in general, I wasn’t especially fond of it, but after my losses I think something broke. I still don’t do well with it. I mean, I do respond better as my hurts heal, but I don’t engage- that’s to say, I never ask someone, “How are you?” unless I genuinely care.

    I’m so sorry for what you’re going through and what you’ve gone through. I really hope that in time you can be okay. It takes time to recover, to mourn, to grieve… and you never stop grieving. And that, in itself, is okay. Wishing you strength to get through this. Take care of yourself.

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