The growing pains of a family

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house, tiny bathroom and even the same office. But not always the same opinion. The Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on every-day issues, told from two different perspectives.

HE SAID: Show, don't tell.

That's the advice I give reporters, the advice I've tried to write by for years. And it's the advice I'm leaning on today. Because I can't tell you how I feel about my wife's miscarriage. I can only show you.

You should have seen Callie at the beginning. She took a pregnancy test just about every day around the time the baby should have been conceived, anticipating the day the test finally showed two lines, not one. The day the test barely showed a second line, I thought it was a fluke. I didn't anticipate she would be pregnant after just two months of trying, after the problems she's had in the past. But she knew it. She took another test the next day; the line was darker. She went to the doctor for a real pregnancy test. It confirmed what she had suspected.

You should have seen Callie get prepared. She bought at least three books: a what-to-expect book, a sibling book for Drew and a planning book. She bought a Yoga Momma exercise video. She combed catalogs and eBay for maternity clothes.

She talked about it constantly, keeping me awake some nights, reading from her books, about what the baby looked like and how it was developing at weeks four, five, six, seven, eight. We talked about getting the upstairs remodeled so we'd have room for our new girl. We both wanted a girl, because there are so many boys in our family, and we thought a little balance would be a good thing.

I started working little by little on the new master suite where we'd section off a little area for a nursery. I started putting in insulation.

Callie stopped changing the kitty litter, because that's what the books said to do. We told our friends and family that we were expecting. The books warned against telling everyone so early, but we did anyway because we were so excited. You should've seen Callie's dad. He couldn't wait to start spoiling his first grandchild. Well, his second if you count Drew (and he does).

We were going to announce our pregnancy in this column a week ago, only to learn a coworker had experienced a miscarriage. Out of respect for him and his wife, we pulled the column.

About two weeks ago, Callie started spotting, which was cause for concern. But the books say that it's common for women to do this and not to worry as long as the bleeding isn't heavy or bright red. I blew it off. But Callie seemed to know.

By last Sunday evening, the bleeding was serious enough to take her to the emergency room at around 6:30 p.m.

We waited four hours in the ER, wondering if Callie was losing her baby. I didn't take a book because I thought it would be disrespectful. So we sat and we thought. We talked. We prayed. We played the dot game and a few rounds of hangman. Hours upon hours of nothingness in the emergency room.

By 1:30 a.m., Callie was finally in a hospital room, having an ultrasound. I watched the technician look at the screen. I saw a black circle with a small image inside. From a distance, the image looked like a shrimp. The technician said our baby's heart was beating about 90 beats per minute. He made it sound like a positive, but Callie knew better. Because, you see, she read those books.

"It's too slow," she said.

She knew, that by the ninth week of pregnancy, the baby's heartbeat should've been much faster. The technician couldn't comment on that.

We went back to the emergency room where the doctor there said the results showed Callie was five weeks pregnant. Of course that was incorrect. Callie had monitored her cycle by recording her body temperature with a basal thermometer. She knew the precise day she conceived based on the chart, which was recommended by her doctor. She was approaching her ninth week. The doctor didn't acknowledge that Callie knew what she was talking about.

But the baby was alive. The doctor told us there was nothing they or we could do.

The next day it happened, and we decided not to go to the emergency room and wait another five, six hours just so they could tell us there was nothing they could do.

They don't tell you in the pregnancy books the horrifying nature of a miscarriage. They say it's like a heavy period.

But let me tell you, miscarriages are a horrible, violent act of nature.

My wife started cramping.

I watched her double over in pain then disappear into the bathroom for minutes. She'd come back out, rest on the couch for a few minutes. Then she'd double over again, moan in pain, make her way to the bathroom again.

She'd tell me the bleeding was getting worse, that the blood was clotting and I watched with horror as she'd repeat the exercise. The sound of pain. The trip to the bathroom. The ominous report. Each time the bleeding was worse. And so were the tears.

I never felt so hopeless. I could only hug her and cry with her. The loss of our baby was second on my mind. First was my cute and talented wife. Watching her lose something she cared so much for, and while being punished with physical pain, seemed so unfair. And that's what upset me the most.

Finally after hours of going back and forth from the bathroom to the couch, my wife passed what I first saw as a black spot on the computer monitor. The books say to collect the tissue, in case your doctor wants to test it to determine the cause. The books don't say how you're supposed to do this. Callie had me fetch a Tupperware dish and a plastic spoon.

That's what our hopes were reduced to. Tissue in a Tupperware dish.

What we decided to do with the remains of Callie's pregnancy is a secret we wish to keep between us. We decided our baby wasn't to be discarded with the trash or in the sewer.

Since the miscarriage, we've gotten many warm wishes from friends and family. We're not writing this to invoke sympathy. We don't need sympathy, really. We're writing this for our own purposes, as a coping mechanism, as a way to preserve the memory of the life that was lost. And we're writing this for you, because we felt that this column, from the beginning, was to be about real life. This is as real as it gets. This is life. This is death.

This is what was meant to be.

bmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 122

cmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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