The ones that didn’t make it. Part 1.

I received this e-mail on August 13, 2010:

Hi Kristin and Son.

If you are still a student at MIT, Kristin, are you still seeking care at Technology Children’s Centers for Hugh?  My human resources contact was not certain whether you were still an active student or not.  If you are still interested in a space for Hugh, please let me know your status.

We have reached your name for a full time space at our Stata location to begin September 7 (Mon-Fri, 8:00 – 5:45, $1,819 per month).  I can hold this vacancy until the end of the day Tuesday to give you time to come to a decision.  Please let me know whether you would like to arrange a visit to the center for Monday or Tuesday.


Hugh was the name I had given our honeymoon baby in August 2008.  Anticipating the long wait list for childcare at MIT’s Technology Children’s Centers, I had submitted an application for a space at the daycare after my 8-week prenatal appointment confirmed that everything looked good.  At a 12-week ultrasound, however, I learned that Hugh had stopped developing when I was 9 weeks pregnant.

Thanks for your e-mail, Doug.

Unfortunately, Hugh was never born.  We have Peter instead.  He’s 31 days old today but still in the NICU because he was born 12 weeks early.  We are not seeking child care for him.


I was devastated by the loss of Hugh.  Though his conception wasn’t planned, by the end of August, he had already become a bouncing baby in my mind.  At 12 weeks “pregnant”, I was certain that a little bump would start bulging out of my abdomen any day now, and I had preemptively bought some maternity shirts on Massachusetts’ tax holiday, August 16-17.  Never mind the fact that clothing is tax-exempt every day of the year in Massachusetts; I was feeling festive.

After losing Hugh, I hid my maternity shirts in the back of my closet, anticipating their use in a future pregnancy.  I used most of them when I was pregnant with Peter.  A couple, though, still cling to their tags because I never grew into them.

I learned about Hugh’s fate on Friday, August 22.  I was at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for a prenatal screening when I saw my little nugget on the monitor, completely motionless.  I was given some tissues and invited to leave out the back of the clinic so that I would not have to pass through a waiting room full of pregnant women, betraying my baby-less future with my tear-streaked face.

I had taken the T to get to Brigham and Women’s, but I did not want to be in confined public spaces any longer.  The subway was too stifling for a woman whose dreams for the future had just collapsed.  I headed back to Cambridge on foot, and on my way, I called Son to break the news.

After a halting, sputtering, choking, teary conversation with Son, I called MIT Medical.  Or, no, that can’t be right.  They must have called me after receiving the results of the ultrasound from Brigham and Women’s.  They told me I could head straight to the OB/GYN department for a follow-up appointment.

I met with the nurse practitioner at MIT Medical.  She gave me her condolences and told me my options: I could wait for the tissue to pass on its own, I could use medications to induce its passage, or I could have a D&C at Mount Auburn Hospital.  I chose the latter option.  I didn’t want to deal with my miscarriage alone.  I also wanted to make sure that the miscarriage would not foil my plans to visit Son in Illinois over Labor Day weekend.  My D&C was scheduled for Thursday, August 27, the day before my flight to Illinois.

The next day, my dad was in Boston on a layover.  He smiled when he saw me and commented that I wasn’t showing yet.  I, of course, burst into tears.  I pulled out the sonogram image I had as a souvenir from the ultrasound and explained that the fetus was only measuring 9 weeks and that there was no heartbeat.  My dad gave me a big hug, the one thing I really needed.

My grandmother wrote me that weekend.

My Darling Kristin, do you realize how very much I love you?  When you stayed with us in Camarillo while your Dad was overseas, you became an integral part of my life.  I still remember the night you left for the airport and I knew we wouldn’t have you anymore.  As the car pulled away, I let out a primeval scream that must have been heard in Santa Barbara.  My baby was leaving.  I was there for your Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, Graduations, Dance Recitals, and finally your Wedding.  As long as I’m able, I’ll be there for you.

I was saddened to hear that little Hugh went to Heaven.  I remembered him in my Mass today.  I, too, lost a baby in 1966.  I baptized the baby and named him Kerry because 2 of my grandparents came from County Kerry in Ireland and it could be a girl or a boy.  Joe was in Ca. at the time, Dawn was living in Ca. so I had to go to the Navy Hospital and leave my little boys with my cleaning lady.  It was tough being alone and the doctors wouldn’t release me right away to go home after the DNC so, of course, I was worried about Kevin.  The only consolation is that the Dr. told me it was usually nature’s way of taking a baby who was not healthy.  Growing up with a handicapped sister and knowing of your autistic uncle, you didn’t need a risk like that.

I love you, Mamie

I wrote back:

Thank you for your message, Mamie.  The sad news was hard for me to deal with yesterday and Friday, but long phone calls with Son and my parents have been helping me to heal emotionally.  Their voices reassure me that although my baby left me, I’m not alone, and there’s much hope for the future.

I’m thankful that my dad was able to spend the afternoon with me yesterday.  I’m thankful that my mom will be coming to Cambridge to help me through the D&C. I’m thankful that I have such a supportive family.  And I’m thankful that I can look forward to future pregnancies.

It is good that nature can take care of many potentially unhealthy children in this relatively benign manner.  Every life is such a miracle that it seems selfish to complain when some don’t come to fruition.  Like complaining that not every thunder shower concludes with a rainbow.  There’s a Vietnamese quote that comes to mind:

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
— Nhat Hanh

Much love,

I was a nervous wreck during the week between the bad ultrasound and my D&C.  If I remember correctly, I tried to go to school to work a little on Monday or Tuesday but left after about half an hour.  The tears just wouldn’t stop blurring my vision.  I had spent the last 3 weeks abstaining from alcohol and preparing for the more exciting trimesters to come for no reason.  The fetus I was carrying was dead.  I could miscarry any day now, any hour.  And then everything would be as it was before the 4th of July, the day that I first sensed a change in my biological chemistry and decided to take a pregnancy test.  Only my broken heart would remain as testament that Hugh had ever existed.

In retrospect, there was an early clue that my pregnancy had gone awry: my morning sickness, though never severe, vanished entirely at 9 weeks.  My breasts still seemed to think I was pregnant, though.  As did my uterus, which failed to expel the dead tissue.

On Wednesday, August 27, a cousin I had met for the first time the previous week while her son was visiting MIT as a prospective student wrote me a kind e-mail.

Hi Kristin,

Thank you so much for the wonderful tour of MIT you gave us last Thursday.  What a great opportunity it was for us to see the school from your perspective, and to see inside your lab.  It was also very kind of you to arrange for Sophia to show us around the media lab.  Sean was so excited to see it, and he is still talking about it!  We also enjoyed meeting Stephanie, and hearing how much she enjoyed her years at Carnegie Mellon.  Sean has already corresponded with Stephanie’s friend from Carnegie Mellon, and he learned a great deal from her.  Most of all, though, it was such fun to meet you and your dad.  Dawn has always spoken so highly of you both, it was great to really meet you both in person!!

Dawn told me the sad news of your miscarriage.  I am so very
sorry for you and your husband.  Not sure if it helps, but I thought I’d tell you about my miscarriages.  When Sean was one year, 3 months, I got pregnant and John and I were so excited:  our second child would be exactly two years younger than Sean – just what we had hoped!  Then, when I was three months pregnant, a routine ultrasound showed there was no heartbeat. I was heartbroken.  I had the D&C, and then the doctor said we could try again.  I got pregnant again very soon, but within weeks, I lost that pregnancy as well.  I was so very sad, because I just “knew” that we would never be able to have any more children.  This time the doctor made us wait several months before trying again.   Finally, I did get pregnant, and you know the rest of the story:  we have been blessed with Beth, Christina and Colleen.  I’ll always remember the little ones I lost, but God has blessed us so abundantly.  So, although we don’t understand God’s plan, I hope you feel his love for you now, and know that many blessings will come your way in future years.

It was so wonderful meeting you.  I look forward to seeing you,
and your Dad, again sometime.


My mom flew to Boston that evening, and we took a bus to the hospital the next morning.  Thank heaven my mother was there to keep me company, to keep my spirits up.  We had to wait a long time before I was taken down to the OR.  Having fasted since the previous evening, I became lightheaded at about noon.  A nurse tried four times to put an IV in my arm and failed four times.  To her credit, my veins were small and hard to work with because I was dehydrated, but this excuse did not make the bruise I carried on my arm for the next week any less painful.  She should have just waited for the anesthesiologist; he got the IV in painlessly on the first try.

It was about 4 p.m. before things got rolling.  I was put under general anesthesia, and my mom went out to the waiting room, expecting the D&C to only take 15 minutes.

Four hours later, I awoke as my doctor was explaining what happened.  I wasn’t fully conscious, so all I remember was being told that the D&C didn’t work and that I would be given medications to help me pass the remaining tissue.  “So I’m not going on an airplane ride tomorrow?” I asked foggily.  No, indeed.

Later, I learned that my OB/GYN had only been able to remove a small amount of tissue.  She brought in another surgeon to help; he was equally unsuccessful.  Even when guided by ultrasound, most of the tissue remained trapped in my recalcitrant uterus.  Finally, after a very experienced third surgeon was unable to complete the job, everyone gave up.

My uterus is bicornuate, or heart-shaped.  It must have put up obstacles that day, finding it amusing to foil the OB/GYNs of Harvard Medical School.  Not so fast! it seemed to say.  I’ll expel this fetus on my own terms! Two years later, during Peter’s delivery, I would learn the full extent of my uterus’ treachery.

My grandmother wrote before my D&C,

Just had an appointment with my Dr. who is the PhD and M.D.  He said, “l out of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage.”  I told him your Mom’s concern that your uterus is heart-shaped.  He drew a normal uterus which looks like a light bulb, a dog’s to show me how they can have multiple births, a heart-shaped and said that everyone’s uterus becomes round when there’s a baby there, thus you have no worries.

Well, I guess my uterus became round when Peter was in it.  Except, you know, the half of my uterus that didn’t contain Peter.  I really think that “lopsided” is a better descriptor for my pregnant belly than “round,” but that’s just me.  Regardless, I plan to see a perinatologist next time I’m pregnant.  Call me a worrywart.

A couple hours after the failed D&C, my mother returned to my apartment for the night.  Since I was going to miss my flight to Illinois, Son made preparations to fly to Boston the next day.  I snuggled into my hospital bed.

Shortly after my mom left, my lingering anesthesia wore off, and I found myself in labor.  Honestly, my labor during that miscarriage was more difficult to endure than the labor I had with Peter.  Well, at least if you disregard that whole screaming part during the last fifteen minutes before Peter was born.  My labor with Peter was very fast, and I spent most of it trying to trivialize the contractions:  I can’t be in active labor; surely, the Procardia is going to kick in any minute now! During the miscarriage, though, I wasn’t prepared for the pain, and I was alone, and I couldn’t believe it when my doctor told me that she couldn’t give me anything for the pain.  Seriously?  I was just put under general anesthesia for a D&C, but now I can’t even get a Tylenol or… SOMETHING?  ANYTHING?!  Why am I even spending the night in this hospital, then?

From 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., I squirmed and writhed and cried and repented for many sins.  Many, many sins.

Son and I met with Fr. Ken for baptismal preparation last August.  He commented that perhaps Peter’s premature birth provided an opportunity for me to examine my faith and grow closer to God.  I replied, “No, miscarriage is what really tempered my faith.”

At 4 a.m., I slipped into merciful sleep.

A few hours later, I got up to go to the restroom.  Tissue slipped out of my vagina and into the pan left in the toilet to catch it.  I was later congratulated by my doctor.  I’m glad she appreciated my efforts of the previous night, but it seems a bit ironic to be congratulated for a miscarriage.

My mom returned that morning, and Son arrived that afternoon.  Everything was much better from then on; my family members have the magical ability to restore equilibrium to my psyche.

An ultrasound that morning elicited the standard question, “Have you ever been told you have a bicornuate uterus?” and then confirmed that all the tissue had passed.  About 24 hours after I had originally expected my simple outpatient procedure to be complete, I was discharged from the hospital.

I was weepy for several weeks following my hospital stay.  The biggest stab came during the first week of September, when a fellow lab-mate announced her pregnancy.  Her due date was a month after mine.  She went on to have a healthy, full-term pregnancy.

Next January, a second lab-mate announced her pregnancy when she was only four weeks pregnant.  FOUR WEEKS!  Who announces a pregnancy two weeks after conception? But she, of course, went on to have a healthy, full-term pregnancy.

[Editor’s Note: I was also going to write about the other One That Didn’t Make It, but that will have to wait for another day.  This post is long enough.]

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