By Suzanne Schafer –
My husband and I lost a baby during the middle of my pregnancy. From the first moment the doctor told me, with a deep, pained look on his face, that our baby had passed away, I felt grave sorrow in my heart which surged down to my core.
Shortly after this shattering moment, the doctor informed us that the safest way to remove our baby was to go to an abortion clinic. As those words slipped from his lips, my heart seized and my body gasped for air. The alternatives, he explained, were too dangerous and I had to think of my two small children and my husband.
As I found a small gulp of air, I reluctantly agreed, even as I sobbed from the bellows of my heart. I sat in a parked car and I began to scream, grabbing hold of my stomach, aching, wanting to feel his feet moving just once more. I began asking myself, “How could this be?” I frantically retraced all the events that had led up to this moment, searching for some reason or explanation. In this time of crisis, I wanted desperately to place blame and find a reason for my pain.
But it soon became apparent that sometimes there is no obvious reason. The truth within this situation laid somewhere in front of me.
During this tragedy, I was in such a deep state of grief and shock that I began to witness myself and the events around me as if I were watching a movie in which I had been cast in the lead role. In the upcoming days, the intense physical and emotional pain I felt caused me to retreat from the outside world. I found refuge in my bedroom. I hid from my husband, my family, my children and my friends; even though, all of them certainly reached out trying to ease my pain.
I went in and out of deep meditation trying to find the strength to endure the greatest juxtaposition I had yet to face in my life: finding myself in the presence of those choosing to end the potential life of a baby, while having no choice but to say good-bye to a child I had wanted so deeply. The anger and sadness I felt was so intense, I became despondent and disconnected from what I had known as my life; and the roles I played no longer seemed to define me. I was no longer a mother, wife, daughter, friend, sister, designer or business owner. All of these roles just seemed to disappear. All I could focus on and all I could be, was in the moment.
I was completely immobilized physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. During this moment, I was in a juxtaposition between shock and hyper awareness which lead me into a witnessing state. In this moment, I had an inner-knowing that in the days to come I would be asked to look beyond myself and my immediate situation and once and for all break free of the past accumulation of pains and dramas which had hijacked my life over and over again.
As I walked into the abortion clinic, I was profoundly aware of the opposing forces of life and death. While I waited to be called for my pre-op appointment, I began to witness myself slip further into a state of deep sadness and shock.
I went through the motions for the pre-surgery procedures – a two-day procedure. Through it all, I kept whispering to myself, “This must be happening for a reason.” In an attempt to distance myself from my own pain, I tried in desperation to witness all that was around me. The energy in the room was filled with utter anxiety, sadness, and chaos. I thought about my husband and the way this tragedy seemed to be pushing him closer and closer to the edge. I could sense his pain and discomfort with not knowing how to support me.
I started to realize that we all had our own story. Everyone in the waiting room was not just there to end an unwanted pregnancy. They each had their own story that led them to this horrible place. In this state of witnessing, I watched as everyone’s tale started to unravel around me. I truly realized my story was different but my pain was no different from the pain all of these women felt. It was not just about me; it was about us.
I made it through the initial appointment, and left the clinic feeling more and more uncertain, as if a piece of my soul was being ripped from my very being. The universality of our loss was being pushed into my face and my soul was yearning to understand this sorrow.
Early the next morning, I arrived at the clinic. I slowly walked in the door, leaving my husband behind. This wasn’t my first miscarriage; two years prior, I lost another child at the end of the first trimester. Because I was early on in that pregnancy, I was able to go to the hospital, where an ever-present, compassionate staff coddled and supported me.
The atmosphere at the abortion clinic, however, was drastically different. You do everything yourself, you get dressed in a freezing room and wait in an open waiting area with other women. I was sitting silently in this waiting room when I heard the sound of shackles being dragged across the floor. Yes, shackles. I wanted to laugh and cry. Who wears shackles to an abortion clinic? Then, I heard police on walkie talkies: “The prisoner is here,” they confirmed to one another.
Suddenly, the circumstances I found myself in seemed utterly absurd, pushing me into fits of uncontrollable laughter. How could this really be happening? In full acceptance that this was part of my story, I said from within, “You have got to be kidding me. I think I am going to lose it.”
Just then, another woman is escorted into the waiting room, and takes a seat across from me. I recognized her as the woman who spent most of yesterday yelling at her boyfriend. I assumed she was terminating her pregnancy because she did not want to have a child. Then she told me her story. Although I was in a state of grief, I never felt such compassion. She had to do something I could never do; if she did not choose to end her pregnancy, she would not survive.
She was so strong and yet shaken at the same time. I sat there wanting to just be there for her and take away the pain, when I realized that I had assumed and judged her without knowing her story. I was no different than the picketers outside of this clinic. Just as my husband’s words and gestures were of no comfort to me, I realized nothing I could say or do would ease her pain because words can not comfort any of us in times of desperation; it is time that will slowly ease the pain.
Finally, my name is called. I walk into the surgery room where I am met with the words, “Get up on the surgery table and put your feet in the stirrups.” I climb up and pull myself into the right position, feeling like a prisoner myself. A few moments later, the surgeon arrived, a mood of anxiety and detachment looming overhead. His hair smelled like stale tobacco and his mood fell somewhere between anxious and a detached despondence from his own life and spirit.
They slowly put me under and when it was over, they rolled me into a recovery room where ten girls lay in beds side by side. The doctor came over to check on me and I asked, “Did you see my baby?” He could not even look me in the eyes or show one ounce of regard for me or my situation. He quickly turned his head and mumbled, “No.” I laid there feeling empty. I then appeased myself with a reminder that the worst was over and I could finally start to cry, weep, and heal.
Moments later, my prisoner friend is rolled in to the recovery room. She shoots me a look that seems to say, “I’ve been through this before,” and then begins to tell me her story. She stayed in prison two weeks longer than her prison sentence, she explained, so she could have the state prison pay for her second trimester termination of her pregnancy.
I really did not know what to say. I tried to wrap my mind around the social and spiritual implications of her choice. She was detached from life and from spirit. As I lay there, the director of the clinic walks up and I begin to cry. In an admonishing tone, she says, “Finally, you show some emotion; you are stoic.” I just looked at her and said nothing. I rolled over on my cot until it was time to go to the next room.
She finally takes me and my new friend to the other room. The prisoner then turns to me and says, “How old was your baby?” I look at her and reply, “My baby was dead.” She looks horrified and for a brief moment, I could feel her compassion and sense of my loss. She replied, “Oh.” The pain she felt for that brief moment pierced my heart. I was not able to even imagine what I could say to bring her peace. I just whispered, “It is okay.”
It took me a long time to completely process these series of events. The deep sorrow felt so familiar to the deep wounds which struck my heart in a distant past. I reminded myself that in sorrow you can find joy.
Later, as I lay in my own bed recovering from the surgery, I yearned to feel freedom again. I began to surrender to the idea of being present in this moment and to allow myself to finally grieve all that I had been through. I needed to say good-bye and embrace the bigger meaning behind my life. I was finally ready to raise my white flag and scream, “UNCLE!” With a deep sigh, I slipped into meditation and with gratitude agreed to find a way to heal my wounds and find my eternal peace.
In a subconscious and slightly conscious state, I knew all of this had happened for a reason. I would sing over and over in my head, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you’ll find, you get what you need.” This had become my theme song over the past seven years. I was beaten down and ready to move on. This was yet another life experience which I would use as a tool, a tool to help others have the hope and belief they can move beyond their current state of living and experiencing.
Now, when anyone tells me they are going through a difficult time, I see it differently. I can be in a place of acceptance, compassion and love. I actually get excited for them knowing that they too are being asked to expand their awareness.
During the days and weeks that followed the procedure, I started to revisit all the highs and lows I experienced in the past several years. I began to reassure myself that I could make it through one more incident. At night, when the sadness lay heavy in my heart, I would whisper to myself, “You can do it. You have survived before and you will survive again.”
My husband and I had made it through cancer, depression, illness, loss of close friends and family and another baby all within the past seven years; we could make it through this too. When I sat in that sterile office feeling the loss of not only my baby but my identity as well, I realized that the greatest obstacle I faced was finally healing. I reflected on seeing my baby one last time during the pre-op ultrasound and realized how in that moment I began to surrender to the idea of healing.
I knew that I was being asked to grow from this because I had internalized so much loss in the past; I had built a stone fortress around part of my heart and soul. I knew I was being asked to grow from this moment and finally move on from all that held me in deep bondage and servitude. I would finally allow myself to surrender.
Suzanne Schafer has just finished writing her first book, Bare Naked Bliss. She is currently working on a children’s book of poetry-inspired by her two lyrical children and a book on Self Intimacy. In Fall 2008, she launched her internet radio show on www.lifestyleyak.com. To learn more about Suzanne and her work, go to http://www.suzannetoro.com.Tags: anger, Depression, grief, hope, signs and connections
Thank you so much for sharing your story.