For a few days I pondered whether I should write or what I should write. But as I lay in bed on January 10th, 2019 - 365 days after the subject on which I pondered to write, I decided that writing is therapeutic and reflective. So many women go through this, yet so little is actually said.
As I scroll through social media on a daily basis, I see all the good. The perfect pose, the perfect makeup, the perfect family photos, the perfect home business, and the perfectly cleaned house. Gone are the days of getting my developed photos back from the store to find half of the pictures are blurry, have someone’s eyes closed, or a friend with 3 chins hijacked my camera to take a 90’s selfie. We are all infiltrated with the perfectness that makes up about 4% of my day. That leaves about 96% of imperfection. However, only the 4% is shared. I am choosing today to share my 96% from the last 365 days. So, if you don’t like honest or real, I suggest stopping at this point.
I have had 3 miscarriages since our youngest, Mitchell, was born in March of 2016. Those dates stand vivid in my mind; January 4th, 2017, January 10th, 2018 and October 9th, 2018. None are less important or meaningful in my life, however, January 10th, 2018 will always stand out as the most real. Going through the pains of labor to deliver a baby that will never take a breath in this world is downright real.
I remember certain imagines and sounds on January 10th like they were yesterday - The OBGYN telling me she hated to be the bearer of bad news, but there was no heartbeat. The emptiness that I felt while she was talking to me about my "options" and then the flood of emotion as I left the hospital looking at all the pregnant women in the waiting room. The drive home by myself hating the minivan we had just bought the weekend before in anticipation for 3 car seats. Watching the nurse put away the newborn baby bed and lamp as I walked into the labor and delivery room. She closed the door to the cabinet after placing the last items inside, it was a significant sound symbolizing that no living baby would be delivered here. Hearing the happy birthday song play over the intercom as a baby was just born, quick to realize no happy birthday songs would be playing for us. Watching Shark Tank in the hospital as a distraction while the drugs kicked in to ease the painful contractions. Long story short, I had a 9:50am routine 20 week ultrasound appointment and ended the day in the delivery room discussing funeral home options.
I remember walking out of the hospital holding nothing but a box with a cd of photos and a piece of paper with footprints of our baby. No car seat, no newborn clothing, no flowers or congratulation cards from joyful visitors. Just a box carrying my soul and the upcoming year long plus battle with insurance to cover the expenses. Currently, the insurance company is still calling this a terminated pregnancy and denying the charges.
I remember taking our baby to the funeral home, being handed a catalogue to page through endless items in hopes to select an urn and a font. That's when the numbness really kicked in. As the really nice man said he was really sorry for our loss, he showed us some great pieces that we could purchase to hold the remains of our child after cremation.
I remember the days that followed thinking I must be a sociopath. I wasn’t ridiculously sad, I didn’t cry much to at all, and I really just wanted to take the time off work I had to clean curtains in the house. Why wasn’t I crying and feeling like my world came crashing down after I just lost a baby? Everyone else was crying and sad for me, but I didn’t feel a whole lot of that same emotion. I became convinced I was a sociopath. My body was moving but my soul was missing – like a zombie. I went through the daily motions, finding activities where my brain could process but still accomplish small tasks. I still had two other children to take care of, the world couldn’t stop just for me. Four weeks later, the crash hit me and my world stopped moving.
I remember the crash. As a former athlete, unconsciously I think my body fought and fought to keep me from going to a point of no return. We are trained and disciplined as athletes to feel terrible and continue to push through the pain and exhaustion of training on a daily basis. It worked for a while, but about 4 weeks after delivery, the crash hit me. I finally reached rock bottom and had nothing left. I couldn’t sleep, I had no emotions, I had no feelings, I had nothing other than physical grief yet people still needed me to be a living and responsible human being.
I remember standing on a pool deck trying to coach a workout in February and seeing double. I couldn’t even read the workout written on paper let alone read a stopwatch for a time. The zombieness exponentially increased and I felt like I was standing still as the world spun around me at 100 miles an hour. I was trying to catch up on what someone said an hour ago and yet more things to process kept hitting me every second.
I remember the insomnia. I went through a cycle of not sleeping for two days and then crashing on day three and wanting to sleep all day. That lasted for at least four weeks. I didn’t lay in bed crying or upset. My body just wouldn’t shut off. I even got a prescription for Ambien, not ever taking it as the last thing anyone needed was a zombie walking around the hallways at night on an Ambien fix. What I finally realized is that my body was searching for something in the darkest hours of the night.
I remember the aching searching that started to happen. My body thought I had a baby to feed and care for, so the natural things that happen after delivery started happening. I produced milk and constantly was in distress that I had missed a feeding during the night. When I did sleep, I would wake up to the panic that there was a baby in bed with me under the covers. My body was looking for something that was nowhere in sight.
I remember seeing a passed loved one. That’s right, I saw dead people. In a hotel room in the middle of the night on a road trip in Columbus, OH. I am 100% certain I saw my passed Uncle. It was him, no question, with the plaid flannel shirt and glasses moving by the curtains and fixing the heating unit in the room. The curtains were even moving while the fan was off. I should have been terrified but it was the most bizarre yet comforting experience I can ever remember. I saw babies at night. I woke up to see babies looking at the baby monitor on my night stand. I saw babies in car seats and babies in my bed sleeping next to me.
I remember the healing starting after the crash. I slowly came back mentally and emotionally. I no longer felt like every time I went into a store, it was written all over my face – “I just delivered a stillborn." I talked with others that had gone through the same experience, one person in particular that was able to tell me I wasn’t crazy and everything I experienced was what she went through as well. I could be on a pool deck and not think that everyone was talking about me and wondering if they should say something. I started digging myself out of the darkest hole.
I remember realizing as the healing began that my life needed to change. Working in collegiate athletics has its perks, but getting people to go back and forth between a couple of walls quickly is not the most important thing in life. Spending time with the kids that I am blessed to have is far more important than any swim meet, recruit, or meeting. I needed to get off the carousel to find balance and meaning away from the pool. I had to put my family first. So, I quit a career that I had killed myself for in my 20’s and walked away to do what’s really important in life, be a mom to my kids and serve others. To this day, not once have I regretted that decision.
During the peak of my crash, I started watching “This is Us”. In the first episode of the series, the couple delivers a stillborn at full-term. Afterwards, the doctor talks to the father in the hallway sharing the devastating news of one of his triplets. Those words will forever stick with me and I hope that I am on the path that the father was pointed in by the doctor.
“I like to think that one day you'll be an old man like me talkin' a young man's ear off explainin' to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, just maybe not the way you planned.”
365 Days later after fighting the crash, hitting the crash of the darkest days, and rising from the crash, Luke Lykavittos Beine, continues to show me what life’s most important “things” are and directs me to continue making something resembling lemonade out of the sourest lemon life has to offer.
About the Author: Erica Beine is a former collegiate athlete and Division I collegiate coach turned foodie and cookbook author. She is currently publishing her first cookbook and runs a company called Beine Wellness Building while staying at home with her young two boys. Follow Erica on Instagram at @ericabeine and check out her business at www.beinewellnessbuilding.com