Having grown up in Kamloops, I used to idealize Nicola Street.
I have called it the most beautiful street in town and dreamt of living in one of its heritage homes, which boast large mature trees — a rarity in this city — within a stone’s throw of the Kamloops Farmers’ Market, the downtown core and church bells that ring.
It’s not the whole story, however. Sad souls roam Nicola Street.
As the public again turns its attention to the perpetual parking problem at Royal Inland Hospital, I add another voice to the exhaustive conversation, having had a revelatory experience about a year ago.
It was the first week of January, when the novel coronavirus still seemed a distant threat, and I left work to meet my husband at the hospital on a weekday afternoon.
We were first-time parents-to-be attending our first ultrasound appointment.
I thought I had left enough time to get downtown to find a parking spot in advance of our appointment, but found myself winding down RIH’s Clinical Services Building, floor by floor, running out of time and luck.
There wasn’t a single stall to be found, forcing me back onto Columbia Street before I looped around and eventually found a parking spot on Nicola Street, a block from the Kamloops Y. I still had to run the rest of the way get to the appointment.
(It is unclear how patients in a wheelchair or with limited mobility would get to their appointments on time in similar circumstances.)
I made it to the ultrasound appointment, albeit slightly dishevelled, without time to consider my full bladder nor the horror that awaited. There was unexpected bad news. No heartbeat could be detected and development stopped just shy of six weeks.
They call them “silent” or “missed” miscarriages because the embryo or fetus has stopped developing, but has not been expelled. One often experiences no symptoms and doesn’t know something is wrong until a radiologist discovers it during a routine appointment.
We didn’t know and the news was devastating. One’s mind had not even yet truly arrived at the hospital appointment, due to the chaos that ensued over the seemingly simple act of parking one’s vehicle. Then, so many questions and grief immediately chiseled its own parking space in our hearts because, in our minds, we were already parents.
I grappled with sharing this story, considering the pain 2020 has inflicted on many. Surely we don’t need another sad tale. I buried some of the pain myself, but as bad luck would have it, I miscarried again this year, just before Thanksgiving.
The pain still twinges as I write these words, as we continue to wait our turn to become parents.
In discussing this openly, however, I considered our gratitude for the brave and kind people who told us their personal stories of pregnancy loss — family, friends, health-care professionals and strangers — and how much it helped us to understand we are not alone, that it is common and it is not our fault.
The issue also surfaced recently, following a New York Times opinion piece written by Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, during which she discussed her miscarriage and wisely advised the simple human act of asking people during these trying times: “Are you OK?”
I believe miscarriage is stigmatized and many suffer in silence while simultaneously inundated with pictures of perfection on social media. It’s not easy.
Perhaps a good first step could be moving the chapter about miscarriages from the back of the baby development books and into a more prominent place.
At the hospital, the doctor and technician kindly allowed us as much time necessary before we left the ultrasound room, where bad news remained in the air, so thick that it forced choked-back tears. The reality, however, is everyone has to leave at some point and, suddenly, the vehicle parked on Nicola Street felt miles away.
I cried with my husband in the ultrasound room. Tears streamed in the hallway past the emergency department as blurry faces passed us by. I wept in the elevator, where we held hands alongside strangers in a world that had yet to practise physical distancing.
I sobbed on the busy corner of Columbia Street and Third Avenue, waiting for the light to change at about the time classes would have been ending at nearby St. Ann’s Academy.
There were no masks behind which to hide and I still wonder who saw us while driving by. In the words of my husband — they chewed us up and spit us out onto the street during one of the most devastating moments of our lives.
We might as well have been holding a placard that said, “We just had a miscarriage.”
I cried walking down Nicola Street, amongst the tall, beautiful trees, with dreams of raising children in one of those heritage homes quashed.
I still love those old houses. It’s still a beautiful place to live. But I know now the neighbourhood is not that perfect, idyllic place once envisioned.
Sad souls roam Nicola Street. Their stories whistle through the leaves and shriek when the church bells ring.
Who knows how far they’ve walked?
Jessica Wallace is a reporter at Kamloops This Week. Her email address is email@example.com