All The Things I Can & Cannot Remember

This Story Contains: Pregnancy Loss, Pregnancy Termination, Grief

This essay was written and workshopped in The Layers Writing & Publishing Your Personal Essay Workshop. 

“In a town called Kfar Saba, not far from where I live, in a tall building above a ‘Fresh Market’ supermarket, there was a gynecologist’s office.

Don’t ask me what the doctor’s name was. As I write this I attempt to scroll through the list of doctors stored on my phone to jog my memory. I expect to have some kind of visceral reaction when his name suddenly jumps out at me and hits me in the face.

But in reality, I have no idea who he was. 

Only that my life changed the day I walked into his office in November of 2011.

I went to see him for my routine 16-week ultrasound scan; my usual gynecologist didn’t have the right tech for this scan. 

At the last minute, a friend offered to come with me to the doctor. I’m assuming this was because my husband was away but I honestly cannot remember. In the next few hours, my brain was just too busy trying to help me get through what came next. Trying so hard not to shatter into a trillion pieces, my memory is disjointed and fragmented. 

I dissociate from my body in that room, probably as soon as he says “not a viable pregnancy” and starts to spout a whole list of jargon at me that feels heavy and alien and terrifying and all I can think is, “Why is this room so cold?”

“Do you understand what this means? Do you understand what I’m saying to you?” he says, without an ounce of warmth or compassion. I am in a trance and rather non-responsive and I actually sense some irritation in his voice. All I can do is nod. 

Not because I really understand at all but because I want him to stop talking as soon as possible and remove the probe from me so I can leave and never see his face again.

I walk back through the waiting room in a thick, dazed fog. I meet my friend’s eye and instantly she knows. She doesn’t ask me any questions yet, she senses my need for silence.

I remember seeing two rows of chairs, lined up against each wall, and walking past them with my head down. Not wanting to meet anyone’s eye. Avoiding those scared, pitying looks that would say “poor woman,” “thank god that’s not me,” or “please let that not be me.”

We find our way back to the car and she asks me what I want to do next. “Don’t google it, don’t google it,” I tell myself.

But of course, I do; all the words that he had just vomited at me, the terminology that I had never heard of before.

What happens next is blurry, to say the least. I know I saw my regular gynecologist and he was so comforting and reassuring. I know my rabbi and his wife came over to try and help me come to terms with my reality. And I know at some point we were sent to the hospital to begin jumping through bureaucratic hoops in order to get all the boxes ticked, all the papers signed, in order to be able to have the termination procedure.

We trudged through the hospital, collecting papers and signatures and being yelled at by overworked staff who seemed to have forgotten they were dealing with grieving, traumatized human beings.

“You didn’t take your folic acid, did you?” one nurse barked at me accusingly. I gaped at her in disbelief. 

At one of the final stations, we were told to wait outside in the corridor while a committee assessed our case. Sitting outside with all the others who were in the same boat, I remember seeing a woman who was most definitely further along in her pregnancy than me, and we attempted to smile at each other, all the while trying to drown out the sounds coming from the maternity ward situated right next to us. We sat as we watched the women who had just delivered babies bundle them up and bring them home. I began to numb myself, to shield myself from my grief and anger. 

At some point we must have gotten the approval because we were sent home and told to come back a couple of days later to have the procedure. They told us so little about what to expect that we ended up researching it online.

We also somehow decided that in order to be nearer to the hospital and get there on time, we would stay in a hotel the night before. What a surreal experience that was — ordering room service and eating delicious fish and chips with tartare sauce the night before the operation.

I have avoided writing about the actual termination for the longest time because there are so many feelings there, I don’t know what will happen to me when I release them onto paper. And my memories are so patchy.

But two things stand out. 

The first was going into the first room where they prepared me the night before; details that are mostly suited to a private journal, images that I will never erase from my brain. A doctor who had just recently returned from maternity leave felt compelled to show me photos of her baby and ask me, “Isn’t pregnancy amazing?”

I looked her right in the eye and still, the penny didn’t drop for her. She continued to scroll through the camera roll on her phone, showing off photos of her beautiful chubby baby girl. To this day my brain still asks me, “Did she ACTUALLY do that?” and my heart can barely contain the memory. 

The second memory that I can pull out from my mind was the moment that I woke up. I had an overwhelming sense of peace and calm that I had survived this ordeal and that I was going to be OK. 

I remember a nurse, the first person in this whole process who showed me compassion. She validated what I was feeling. She held my hand, told me it was going to be OK, and stroked my forehead, and stayed with me for a while.

I wish I knew her name.

I wish I could remember her face.

I wish I could tell her how her empathy meant everything to me. How, when she put her hand on my forehead to stroke me, I cried and exhaled for the first time.

And then there’s fogginess again. I remember the support of my dear friends and family who came over, offered help, painted my nails, sent me text messages, dropped off cakes and ice cream. I remember having to tell my kids and break their hearts, a memory so painful for me I can feel it in my chest as I type.

I remember a woman in the same exercise class as me who was expecting at the same time. When she saw that I was no longer pregnant, she waved her hand dismissively in the air and said, “Never mind, next time!” 

I remember chatting with people who had been through similar experiences who gave me permission to feel and told me it was going to take a while to feel OK. 

At some point, enough time had passed and my wounds had begun to heal enough that I felt I could pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again.

This happened to me ten years ago. In the bits that I can recall I feel the weight of the words and the interactions that shaped how I grieved. How alone I felt in those moments, where people looked at me without compassion or could not perceive how deep my loss truly was.

I have found in my healing process that the more I have shared, the less alone I have felt. 

That in telling my story to other women I have found a sense of connection. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t alone, and that there were so many women who have lost as I have lost. 

This is the first time that I am sharing my story in public and it feels like peeling off a layer of my skin; like nothing will ever be the same again. I have been carrying this close to my chest for many years. 

But it also feels like the minute it is out there in the world, a weight will lift, something will shift for me. I will feel lighter and just that little bit more unburdened.

I know that if I help even just one person to feel like they aren’t alone, then telling my story was worth it.”


I am Sarah Ra’anan & I am a Personal Branding photographer & Instagram coach. I help creative, entrepreneurs to banish their limiting beliefs about 2 things 1. photo sessions & 2. Marketing themselves on Instagram.

I empower and support entrepreneurs who are struggling with their social media presence, to get unstuck and give them the clarity, direction & momentum they want, in order to make an impact online & show up as their true selves.


@itssarahraanan on Instagram