I rarely could eat breakfast before an important meeting, but it was obvious the baby in my womb had different plans, when the cafeteria lady asked me what it would be, I ordered Eggs Benedict. I wondered if he would mind if I added a decaf but had enough self-control not to.
The two executives from headquarters walked in and noticed me right away, they were screaming ‘corporate’ due to their sharp suits and polished shaves. One had a British accent; the other German, they smiled and tried to figure out who I was and why all of a sudden I had been dumped on their agenda.
I felt so proud, this was it! This was the career I had always dreamt of. They tried to remain polite but the British couldn’t help himself, as he showed me the list of meeting attendees, he insisted “Don’t take the seat right next to the CTO, let, Xavier handle introductions.”
“Of course”, I smiled, trying to put him at ease. I was not in Sales, no commission was going to come to me, I just really wanted this deal to close before I left for maternity leave, but of course I was not going to bother explaining all that.
Xavier chimed in, “Did they ask you to come so we can have a ladies’ views on the Retail deals” I wanted to give him a sneer, but instead I practiced my diplomatic face, “No, I was invited by the office of the Chairman. When his perplexed look continued, I added, “Because I have been working on this product for two years, and I AM THE BEST person to speak on the Go To market plans“
I see, and why couldn’t the product manager come to explain, what is his name, you know the Asian fellow with the colorful glasses?”
I felt a sharp pain in my side, it took all of my strength not to shiver down, this asshole was clearly upsetting the baby. “Because”, I gave him a cold look, “He actually believes I can do my job, plus I am already working on iOt innovation deals, we just want the deal to close, doesn’t matter by whom.”
The other party’s executives arrived, whistling and too happy of a face for a 7:30am meeting. They greeted each other so warmly I felt we were in a Godfather scene.
The CTO then acknowledged me at last, and looked me up from head to toe, “They sent us a model since this is a retail deal?” He laughed at his own joke but I could tell he put everyone at mal ease.
“I’m Layla, Sebastian thought it would be beneficial if I came today, so we can discuss post- launch milestones and hopefully add them in?
“Interesting, and what kid of a name is Layla? My daughter wants to get a dog and name her Layla too, you must be very trendy”. I wasn’t sure whether to love or hate the guy. To the dismay of Xavier, he pulled the chair next to him for me to sit on, and ordered his assistant to get me a cappuccino. I tried to refuse, but he made one of his jokes, “Oh don’t worry, this is not one of those drinks your German colleagues claim as coffee,this is the real deal”.
We transitioned into the conference room, the meeting was supposed to last 5 hours max, we were going to go through each clause and ensure everyone is clear on the co-innovation agreements between two companies, we had legal, product, and business development teams in the room. I was the only marketer and the only woman. The Chairman had told me if everything went smooth, we could close the deal by lunchtime, and go celebrate on his card. I was so looking forward to that, this baby had an appetite unmatched by anyone I knew.
As the negotiations progressed, so did the sharp pain on my side. It began taking over my entire body, I felt a mixture of morning sickness, dizziness, and then a cold shiver all throughout. It must have shown because the CTO threw in more of his humor:
“Come on Xavier, you can’t be serious with that idea, look you are making your own iOT expert shiver”.
I tried to mask the pain with yet another smile, I had waited so long to be taken seriously, and now here was my chance, it had been given to me, and last thing I wanted to do was to distract the again with my ‘femaleness’.
The hours went by, the CTO ordered me another coffee, I knew better than to drink that much caffeine, so I tried to warm my hands with the cup, I desperately needed a warm beverage. I tried to get up to go the restroom and I realized I was in so much pain I could not stand up.
Lunchtime came and we were no place to closing the deal, so they decided to go to the Café. I still could not manage to get up, so I made an excuse that I needed to catch up with emails and remained in my seat.
I robbed my belly and talked to my baby, he was the only thing that kept me going, I felt his warmth and encouragement, it felt like he was saying, “Keep going Mommy, I know you can do this”, I knew he was going to be like his father, supportive and a feminist. It must be special to raise a son, to raise him right.
The guys came back to resume meetings, and kept arguing over what felt to me unimportant details. The pain began increasing, but suddenly I felt empowered by it, it was as if the baby was helping me speak my mind. I began chiming in, ignored Xavier’s raised eyebrows and provided input on how to change each clause so it made sense to both parties. I even gave some radical grass root suggestions that had all of them looking stupefied.
But the meeting DRAGGED on. It was finally 8:00pm by the time we signed the deal.
I had sat there for 12 hours straight. It took all of my strength to stand up so I could say goodbye, they invited me to go for ‘scotch’, but I could tell they were relieved when I refused. The CTO looked at me and said, “I am going to write a note to Bernie, I look forward to seeing you again and working with you on this” and then he winked, I tried to find what the appropriate answer should be to this, but noticed there was blood in my chair and just smiled.
I waited for them to leave the parking lot before calling the ambulance. 30 minutes later, I was in ER room, and felt like I was in the middle of a dream when the Dr. told me I was pregnant with twins. How could my Dr. have missed this. I called my husband to tell him the news, he got super excited and did not wait for me to finish the whole story, “I am on my way honey”. We lived two hours away, as I tried to call him back to tell him the situation, the phone rang, it was the Chairman himself, “Congratulations, YOU closed the deal, we’ll celebrate tomorrow, with the whole team, my office, Well Done”.
Before I could respond my battery died. And then I passed out from the pain. When I woke up my husband was next to me, he was crying.
He held my hands, “They think one baby is Ok, the other one , they think it was another ectopic, but they are not sure”. I nodded, we had been through this before, I knew the deal.
My Dr. finally reached the hospital, and the doctor on duty came back to give results of ultrasound. “We think one pregnancy is already over, but the good news is the baby in the uterus looks fine”. Only time will tell. You need to stay here for a while, and we’ll monitor the pregnancy.
My husband had to go home to take care of our daughter, no family in town makes parenthood so much more of a challenge. But it was great time for me to get to know my baby boy. I had named him Milan and I could already tell what kind of a character he was going to have.
But my time with Milan did not last too long. As I continued to lose blood, my Dr. told me I had a duty towards my first born, “She is too young to not have a mom.” So I lay down, allowing the nurse to give me the infamous methotrexate shot, killing my baby. I felt like I could hear him protest, “But Mom, we have made it so far together”
When we went home neighbors and well meaning friends stopped by, but only to say comments that would simply want me to kill myself or them. “It was meant to be, imagine if he was born with defects, or autism”, “Really, it was meant to be?” First of all, my baby Milan was going to be perfect, I just knew that, and second of all, I would love him just the same, no matter what.
After a few days of bearing distasteful unhelpful signs of sympathy, I decided to go back to work.
I felt that was what Milan would have wanted me to do.
After all, this was not my first miscarriage, but I swear it would be my last. My great project was already given to an ambitious young man, who was running with it. My boss tried to find me a new home, a woman mentor stepped in, and offered me a fellowship in her team, and of course no sign of a promotion, as I tried to make the best of the situation, the sharp pains came back, and this time I deiced not to ignore it.
Turns out my body didn’t dissolve the sac & it kept filling up with blood; growing which ruptured my right tube. I felt like the baby was angry at me, he was punishing me for having tried to kill him. I kept calling my Dr. who told me it was normal to feel this way, the pain and the cramps were going to be present for a while. Then one day, I felt paralyzed at work, and in the middle of a staff meeting, our Director had to stop taking and drive me to the hospital.
I came home a few days later, with no signs of pregnancy left in my bodyy. But that baby sure fought his way to stay. My husband dropped me in the sofa; he also had lost his strength and could not carry me upstairs. The sofa became my new home. Days turned into weeks, and I could not face going back to work, or even upstairs to my room. My manger was kind enough to keep me on until bonus time and then offered me a nice separation package.
Neighbors began dropping by again, “ Cheer up, you are so young, you’ll have many more kids” and I just wanted to slap them, I am not young, and I don’t want any more kids, I just want to be left alone. I just want my son back. The days dragged on. And Netflix became my only friend.
Family members started calling, oh you are so strong, you already endured so many bigger losses, how bad could this be? It is not like he was even a person yet” and I I would have to block their comments out of my head in order not to lose it completely. When one of our religious friends told me that Jesus only gave us what we could endure, I completely lost it on her, was this really me ‘handling it?’ I told my husband no more visits, I stopped answering my phone altogether.
I felt so isolated and cut out from the world. What made things even worst was that one day, I overheard a conversation between my husband and his parents, they were asking him what was wrong with me exactly, and then telling him that he should have married a younger wife, who could give him the 3 kids he deserved. They also told him his brother’s wife was pregnant with the second child, my husband remained silent, and did not really respond, and soon found an excuse to hang up. But after that, it was as if something broke between us forever. I felt angry at him, and I felt guilty for not being able to give him the kids he deserved, and more than anything, I felt distant, so very distant.
One day, a neighbor stopped by, she could see I was in the house and not opening the door, so she let her self through the window. My daughter was lying down with me watching TV, so she looked at me long and hard, and then gave us both a hug, She did not say anything. Gold bless her for JUST NOT saying anything. I wanted to cry on her shoulders, but my daughter was there, and I just could not. But the hug felt the closest thing to a connection to life. She told me she was going to take my daughter to her house so she could play with the kids and I felt so grateful.
More empty weeks followed, my husband began taking more business trips and I just lay on the sofa watching as much Netflix as I could. Then one day, as we watched a Christmas movie, my daughter blurred out “Mommy, why does everyone think Santa is so kind when he is really evil?”
“Why do you say that darling?”
“Well for Christmas all I wanted was a baby brother, remember I wrote that in the letter, and then what does he do, he gives it to me and then takes it away, what kind of a sick person does that, specially since I have been so good, I eat all my veggies, I share my toys, I brush my teeth…”.
I knew my days on the sofa had to end right there. It was time to get up and act like a Mom again. “Honey it was not Santa’s fault that we lost your brother” and she began to cry, and we just sat there and cried together. Then she raised her beautiful head up and said, Mommy, do you want to go and make some food? I am hungry.
“Yes I do”.
“Mommy what kind of food do you think my brother would have liked?
I don’t need to think about this one, “Eggs Benedict” I say, immediately, and we head to the kitchen.
In the U.S. alone there is an estimated 900,000 to 1 million babies lost in miscarriage each year, causing depression in women and men alike. In my experience, one out of two families I know have experienced a loss through miscarriage. Yet it is so hard for people to be supportive for each other. I thought sharing my story could help others. it is easy to find that form by just being observant and listening. Thank you for everyone who was there for our family.