the little things: standing in front of the mirror (holly terpening).

Man, I can’t believe it: this is our LAST “The Little Things” guest post of this year.  In a week or two, I’ll highlight some of the stories we journeyed through and introduce you to 2015’s theme.  (If you’d an invitation to write, do contact me!)  Otherwise, enjoy this hard-but-good last piece from an old friend of mine, Holly Please take note that this post is about pregnancy loss, and may trigger emotions from those who have traveled the same journey.  

Flickr Creative Commons: Rudolph Visek.
Flickr Creative Commons: Rudolph Visek.

I walked the Green Mile two days before Christmas last year, 2013.  

My Green Mile did not have Tom Hanks or any magical theme woven throughout it.  If it had, I imagine everything would have turned out differently.

Moments before, I had been in the exam room with my husband.  He was lovingly holding my hand and I was uncomfortably lying on the table as an extremely nice technician moved a very cold ultrasound around on my uterus.  She made small talk as she searched, before finally saying, “I think it’s just too early to see them with this type of ultrasound.  I’m going to have you go empty your bladder, and when you return we will try the other kind.”

My husband and I made eye contact as I slowly got up, cleaning the ultrasound goo off my tummy so I could get dressed. This was our fourth ultrasound, and for ultrasounds two and three our identical twins heartbeats could be easily detected using the “exterior” equipment.  There was really only one reason she would not have been able to find the heartbeats at this stage.  Still, I gamely slipped on my shoes and headed for the bathroom.  As I walked down what seemed like an endless white, sterile hallway, doctors and nurses just reporting for work at this ungodly hour greeted me with friendly smiles.  I returned them with polite good mornings and stayed my course.

When I reached the bathroom, I suddenly realized that whole walk had been an epic waste of time, because I didn’t need to go.  Instead, I stood in front of the mirror with the water running, with my hands caressing my slightly rounded belly and thought to myself, This is the last time I am going to feel happy for a while.  Because right now I don’t know.  Not for sure.  Even though I did know for sure.

When I had left the exam room to head down the mile-long hallway, a sense of calm and peace had engulfed me.  I was walking away from what I knew was a nightmare.  As I made the return walk to the exam room, I left all that calm and peacefulness behind me in a wake of dread with…each…step.  I considered not going back, maybe just making a U-turn and heading for the café on the other side of the building.  I could hide out there, drink my first cup of coffee in three months, and elongate the time I had left before my heart broke into a million pieces.  I didn’t have my purse with me, but maybe the barista would feel sorry for me and hook me up with a nice hot drink, which I would then take over to the big comfy chairs, sit down, and hide out from reality for a while.

This plan involved abandoning my husband in the exam room, so I steeled myself and made the rest of the return journey back to the last place I wanted to be.  The technician, with a heart as big as Texas, spent about ten minutes desperately searching for heartbeats.  I think she wanted to find them as badly as we did.  I do not know how she brought herself to tell my husband and I, two days before Christmas, that our twins had died.  But she did, and then she left us alone to process the news.  I’m pretty sure she needed to get out of there before she herself started to cry.

After about ten minutes, our perinatologist came in the room and offered his condolences.  In his hand he held sonograms from the ultrasound, and he hesitated before offering up the news.  Not the news that we had lost them, but the news that our twins were not identical, as we had believed.  They were conjoined at the pelvis, and had we not lost them at ten weeks, we would have lost them three months later.  If not then, they may have survived gestation, but they would never have survived outside the womb.  Neither my husband or I knew where to begin processing this information; we had just learned our babies had died, and now we were hearing why.  It was the equivalent of trying to pour three cups of water into a one-cup receptacle.  He asked me if I wanted to have a D&C that day, or if I would prefer to take some medicine that would induce a miscarriage at home.

I told him with two days until Christmas, I needed to go home and make things as normal and festive for my two year old as I possibly could.  We agreed to touch base December 26, at which time I chose the pills.  I asked him what I should be prepared for once the pills kicked in, and he responded by saying, “It shouldn’t be too bad.  They are the size of two large grapes right next to each other.  You won’t see anything that looks like a baby.”

Two grapes.  Ten weeks of loving these tiny little beings that grew inside my body amounted to two grapes.  Ten weeks of dreaming what these new babies would look like, act like.  Ten weeks of joy as we imagined them squealing with glee as their big brother made funny faces to make them laugh.  Two grapes.  A lot of love, excitement, expectation, and heartbreak can easily fit into two large grapes.

In the year that has passed, I have done my grieving and accepted that they are most assuredly better off in heaven than they would have been here on earth with me.  The emotional pain lessened in time, and joy eventually found a way to fight through the layer of gray and burst forth back into my daily life.  Sometimes when I look through my son’s “fancy clothes” (the ones on hangers) I encounter the Big Brother long sleeved tee shirt he wore the day we told my parents we were pregnant.  Each time I see it I feel a pang in my heart and flip quickly past it.  The most logical thing to do would be to fold it up and put it away; however, I washed and ironed it for a reason.  I have every confidence that he will have the opportunity to wear it again someday, as long as that day comes before he grows out of a 3T.

Hipster santaHolly can be found at Borrowed Genes, where she blogs about her journey to grow her family, as well as her adventures in motherhood and other parenting shenanigans.  Holly left teaching after ten years to become a stay at home mother to her son, Ezra.  She and her husband are currently playing the waiting game in the adoption process, as they pray for the phone call that will tell them a birthmother has chosen them to be the family for her baby.  If you or someone in your acquaintance is a birthmother actively seeking a family for an upcoming baby, Holly will gratefully accept your referrals and present them to her adoption agency.  Otherwise, how did Holly’s words touch you today?  Leave a message and encourage her today!

11 thoughts on “the little things: standing in front of the mirror (holly terpening).

  1. A beautiful story to end The Little Things on – one filled with pain but also great expectations. Great job Holly on telling a heart wrenching story with so much peace. Good job Cara on making Tuesdays one of my favorite days! 🙂

  2. Holly…I will be actively praying the Lord’s very best for your whole family as you pursue adoption. I ache that you had to endure such heartache, and yet I am grateful for your willingness to share your story, as I’m sure that is a very lonely ache and it will help so many feel less alone. Love to you, dear friend.

    1. Thank you Angie! The isolation that comes with these experiences is why I am passionate about sharing them. When I didn’t have anyone who could relate to my pain, I found solace online reading about how other women recovered with time. I am fully at peace now with the loss, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Ironically, I found a lot of healing via “rage prayer.” Is that a thing? Basically I spent a lot of time telling God I was exceptionally pissed off at him, and that the least he could do was heal the hole in my heart. He did, and I learned that God is big enough to handle my yelling at him! 🙂

  3. Holly: Thanks for putting together a very touching story…without the goop…or sadness that could have made this whole ordeal much more difficult than it was. It is a sad story, but I see a clear vision in your writing to move into another challenge, and not let this one hold you back. Whether you have read Ekhard Tolle’s books or not, I sense that you are living in a healthy NOW. Ever Onward. Best to you and your family. Hey…did I ever tell you that my daughter is named Holly…pretty Kool name, I think!

    1. Hi Kirk! Thank you so much for responding, and no I did NOT know your daughter and I shared a name. You never told me, and after all the times we worked together! I haven’t heard of those books, but I will look them up. I do feel like I am living in a very healthy now, and am stronger for having gone through the loss.

  4. No matter how close a mother daughter relationship is you can still be surprised by the strength of your child, I know Holly was hurting but until I read her blog I didn’t really understand the depth of her loss for I did not walk that path. Her resilience and positivism are amazing and so is she.

  5. My first pregnancy ended in what Dr. Thomas called a ” missed miscarriage ” he explained that everything was there that was supposed to be but the baby just decided not to grow. It was the most heartbreaking and devastating news as my sis in law and a very close friend were also pregnant. I ended up having to have a D&C. I too, vividly remember that ill fated ultra sound where the technician desperately tried to find a heartbeat. It was a long time before I recovered emotionally. Thank you for sharing Holly, I know and feel your anguish and your broken heart.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that Lynelle. No one wants to be a part of the “miscarriage” club. I don’t think anyone who has ever experienced it forgets the technician searching for the heartbeat. I actually apologized to mine! She was visibly upset, and focusing on her emotions meant I didn’t have to focus on mine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *