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A Black and White Clock
6:48 am

She sat slouching in the hard plastic chair, the nausea rolling in her stomach and burning her throat. He sat beside her, scratching away at the clipboard, asking occasional questions, "When was that last D&C?" "Is your name hyphenated on your health insurance card?" "What year were you born again? Never mind. I can figure it out."

She answered with brevity, staring at the black and white clock on the wall wondering, inanely, "Why do all institutions everywhere have that same black and white clock?"

7:21 am

She heard her name, the first name stumbled over, the last name butchered as always, "Mister Stephan ___." She stood up, moved toward the indifferent woman in the faded green scrubs who couldn't be bothered to acknowledge the mistaken gender. She remembered, hesitated, looked back at him.

"He'll need to stay there for now. We'll bring him back later."

"Oh no, it's OK. He's going to work. He'll be back to get me later."

Green scrubs looked at her with kinder eyes and turned to lead her inside.

The rows of curtained cubicles, tubes, and beeping machines were frightening. As she followed the green scrubs through the room, she saw some of the patients were asleep. "Or maybe unconscious," she thought, before pushing the thought from her mind. At her blue curtained cell, she listened to perfunctory instructions regarding her clothes, jewelry, hospital gown.

The smell was cold, antiseptic, with a whiff of plastic.

"Do you need a pad?" the green scrubs asked.

Startled, she looked up, questioning.

"Are you bleeding?"

"No, um, no. No bleeding."

She carefully folded her red sweatsuit, gray shirt, panties, and bra. Comfortable clothing, as if it would help. She packed her comfort away in the brown grocery bag with her name labeled in thick, black magic marker. She donned the tissue thin gown and sat on the edge of the bed, covered her legs with the blanket and waited, staring at the clock on the wall.

7:48 am

Green scrubs flung the curtain aside and began efficiently preparing for an IV.

"Lie down on the bed."

The sting was quick, but it burned.

Left alone, she wrapped her arms around chest, careful not to hit the bandage on her arm. She saw the goosebumps and realized she was shivering. Her feet and hands were ice cold.

7:56 am.

Again, she stared at the ubiquitous clock on the wall opposite her curtained rectangle.

Dr. M came, the sight of his familiar face flooding her with unexpected relief. All too quickly he was gone. She watched him at the nurses station in the middle of the pre-op room, joking with the nurses and greeting doctors with small talk. As if this were any other day.

8:02 am

"Hi. I'm Dr. A. I'll be the anesthesiologist for your procedure."

"Why does everyone here call it a procedure?" she wondered. "Is it easier than remembering to insert the name of each surgery while he goes through his spiel 8 times a day?"

"Are you all right?"

"What? Oh, yes, what was that?"

"Can you tell me why you're having this procedure today?"

"Is he checking to see if I'm lucid? Or just making sure I'm not slipping in an optional procedure?" she thought.

"Missed miscarriage. Blighted ovum," she said out loud.

Dr. A left and again she was alone, with a dozen people in sight.

"Missed miscarriage," she thought. "Blighted ovum." Counting the syllables in each word, tapping them repeatedly into the arm of the bed, creating a comforting rhythm with the sterile words.

8:04 am

He appeared in the doorway, following green scrubs.

She simply said, "You're here."

"I couldn't leave."

"I'm glad," she sighed and closed her eyes, her cold hand in his warm fingers.

8:12 am

They wheeled her out of the room and into an operating room. The lights hurt her eyes. Now she was scared.

It was cold. She shivered. Unseen hands piled warmed blankets on her. There was a burning in her arm.

"Count backwards from ten for me."

"Ten, niiiinnnne...."

For everyone who's had to have this procedure and for everyone who has ever dreamed of a miracle they couldn't have. For DD and Julie and Kate and Emily and Jenny and Casey and Joker and Bill (and Mrs. Gunfighter) and Rony and Country Dew and Paula and Lauren and Slouching Mom and Kate and Joanne. And for Bon. Oh, dear Bon. I'm so sorry.

This is part IV of my Baby Chase series. You can read Part I, Part II and Part III if you'd like to get up to speed.

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Blogger PunditMom said...

You're so amazing to share all this. It's hard for me to read, but good at the same time.

Blogger DD said...

The moment that struck me the hardest for both of my D&Cs was when the hospital chaplain asked if I would like him to pray for me.

The first time I said no, out of anger and shock.

The second time I said yes, because I needed a miracle.

Blogger newnorth said...

that's the seconds time today i've had to fight back tears.
Punditmom's right, you are amazing!

Blogger NotSoSage said...

I am in awe of the blogosphere lately, and the generosity of women who are sharing these stories. You are amazing, LM.


Blogger blooming desertpea said...

Oh yes, THAT procedure I remember so well - just lovely! And they act like everything is just ok, just fine!

Blogger blooming desertpea said...

My sister just had one on Friday, after she'd birthed her embryo of 12 weeks at home in her bathroom - I thought that was even worse than the PROCEDURE!

P.S. if this grosses you out, just delete it!

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

BD - Oh your poor sister!

Blogger Bon said...

funny...i was wondering the very same thing about the clocks just yesterday.

and why everyone was so goddamned cheery. but as the day wore on - because for us it was a fifteen-hour experience, just for kicks - they got a lot warmer, gentler. for which i was grateful.

thanks for this.

Anonymous Mishel said...

Wow. You are a strong woman for sharing something like this. Thank you.

Blogger slouching mom said...

Thank you, LM. It's comforting, in a perverse way, to know that I'm not alone.

This was moving, so moving.

Blogger Janet said...

I clicked over from bon's site...

Thanks for sharing your courageous story. I see a common thread of perfunctory hospital staff running through these stories. I experienced it, too, when I had a miscarriage several years ago. The most compassionate person was the technician who took my blood after it was over. She gently asked me what I would have named my baby, with tears in her eyes.

I wonder whether the seeming indifference is a defence mechanism to protect their own tender hearts, or whether they have developed some sort of immunity to the suffering, after seeing so many women in the throes of loss over the year. Whatever the reason, it kind of hurts to be on the receiving end.

Blogger Moondance said...

Janet, yes it's a defense mechanism. They want to care for us, but could't stay on the job if they took to heart every person they meet in a work day who suffered such a loss. For them, it is just another ordinary day. Steph, I am glad your husband stayed with you. But then, you had to be strong for him, too.

Blogger Brillig said...

I'm just now catching up on this series. It's heartbreaking, but fantastically written. I'm glad you're sharing it too. It hits very close to home.

Blogger Michele said...

Thank you so much for sharing this info. I had a miscarriage 4ish weeks ago and it's been a really awful time. It really helps a lot to know I'm not alone.

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Touching. Heartbreaking.

You captured the surreality so well, of hospital and procedures.

I remember having my lap and needing to prove I was something, like smart or cheerful or good or okay or something.

Why did I need to prove anything?


So sorry Steph...I hate like crazy to hear you had to go through this...hate to hear it from anyone.

The sharing is so good for others...hope it is for you too.

Using My Words

Blogger Joker The Lurcher said...

with my first pregnancy i had a scan and they told me the baby was dead. i would have to wait for the miscarriage. the first person i rang was my friend who i have known since we were 10.

she said "you will think you are bleeding to death but you aren't. don't go to hospital, sit on some towels in your own bed and let it happen. only go to hospital if you feel really ill." she knew about this because she is a gypsy and because her sister had gone though this.

i took her advice. we went shopping and waited for it to start. my husband lit a fire in the bedroom hearth and i went to bed when i began to bleed. it was wretched and miserable but i am so glad it happened at home. i could not have bore what you went through.

that same friend was there when my son was born...

Blogger ExPatSW said...

I remember sitting in the bathroom miscarrying...every line of graffiti is etched in my memory...to this day I have great difficulty using public restrooms. It's a horribly surreal experience no matter where it happens. My heart goes out to every woman who has experienced a miscarriage. Thanks for sharing, sweetie.

Anonymous Emily R said...

Oh, girl. What a wonderful, generous, sharing post.

I was actually really, really lucky because it was a miracle for me. After the fertility treatment and the heavy bleeding and cramping, they managed to convince Zachary to stick around with extra progesterone. The second time they gave it to me right from the start. This is why I'm so pissed off that you aren't getting it right from the start. I KNOW how much those little pink pills can help.

These stories from the past few weeks or so are all breaking my heart.

And, for me, the words, "Blighted Ovum" stir up such memories I can't even begin to write about them yet. Perhaps one day...

Blogger melissa said...


You are very eloquent about a very trying experience. I had a miscarriage, too, but I was lucky(?) enough that it was complete.

Blogger flutter said...

I am here and listening

Blogger jen said...

oh, honey.

Blogger Mrs. Chicken said...

Oh friend. I am awed by your strength and those of so many others, including Bon and my own very dear sister.

Blogger Magpie said...

really moving. so sad.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so brave for posting this. Brave, and inspiring.

I'm so sorry. Thank you for sharing this. You are a strong lady.

Blogger Family Adventure said...

You just posted my experience. Almost exactly.


Anonymous Wright said...

Thanks for sharing your story. What makes it so wonderful is knowing that it will turn out great in the end - H and H.

Blogger QT said...

Thank you for sharing this - I think it helps so much for women to know that this is something so many go through. It doesn't make it easier, but maybe just a little more bearable.

Anonymous dana said...

I have never had to have this "procedure" done, but I imagine it's a very emotional time. Two years ago, I had an extremely heavy period with clotting and such and I called my doctor because it scared me. After some testing he diagnosed it as a miscarriage and I remember feeling normal until after the bleeding was done. Then I cried and cried. I didn't even know I was pregnant, but after it was over I mourned. It really made me think I was crazy, but I suppose it was hormones and emotions.

Thanks for posting this. It's an amazing post that shows how strong you were and are.

Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

Reading with deep appreciation...

Anonymous PT-LawMom said...

Oh wow. I am so sorry that you ever had to go through this. :( You wrote about it so beautifully.

This is heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time! Makes me want to go and hug my babies!

Blogger Christine said...

just hearing those two words--blighted ovum--makes my stomach turn and my heart feel like there are clamps around it. and while i never had a d&c i spent may hours in a cold, horrible ER room with may "green scrubs" all of whom i hated by the time i left.

this was a wonderful, heart wrenching piece.


Blogger Christine said...

ps i am so sorry you had to experience this. sorry that any has to.

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