7:00pm PT by Kiele Sanchez
Kiele Sanchez Opens Up About How 'Kingdom' Helped Her Heal After Miscarriage (Guest Column)
Kingdom star Kiele Sanchez and her husband and fellow actor Zach Gilford announced Oct. 9, 2015, that they lost their baby. Here, Sanchez writes an intimate account of her triumphant return to the DirecTV/Audience Network series — and her decision to write the ordeal into Kingdom's storyline. Wednesday's episode marked the return of Sanchez's character, Lisa, after she experienced a similar ordeal.
It was a few weeks after losing my pregnancy. A few weeks after giving birth to him. My son, Winter. I was in New York and was supposed to start shooting the next season of Kingdom in a few weeks. I couldn’t imagine it. The amount of pain I felt consumed me. Every day it bit at me. Chewed on me. Swallowed me. I felt heavy and hollow. I got a call from Byron Balasco, the creator of the show. He said I love you. I’m sorry. How are you? I said I’m hopeless. I’m infinitely sad. I’m on the ground. He said I haven’t written a word. I’ll do whatever you want and something inside me twisted. We had filmed the last season with my character, Lisa, pregnant so she either has the baby or she doesn’t. Both seemed merciless. I told him I’m at my lowest. I can’t imagine playing anything other than where I’m at. If I can turn this into ... something. He asked if I was sure and I said let’s lean in.
Therapist. Psychiatrist. Trainer. Short stint on anti-depressants. Long stint on anti-anxiety. Ambien. Alcohol for the remaining bits. I fantasized about being dead with him. I would have dreams where he was still inside me and I would wake up and howl that he wasn’t. The abruptness of the loss was terrifying. I would panic. I would rage. And the only thing that calmed me was imagining I stopped breathing. If I cried hard enough the panic would capture my breath. The rage would squeeze off my windpipe. My lungs would collapse. My heart would speed up until it finally exploded. My whole body working to get me to him. I imagined him slightly cold as I wrapped my body around him and we were at peace. These were the thoughts that soothed me.
One foot in front of the other. Waist trainer. Trainer trainer. Diet. I’m 30 pounds heavier than my normal weight. Apparently my body hasn’t gotten the memo that we lost the baby. Lost is not the right word. Lost implies I misplaced him. That I was careless. Maybe that’s why we women feel such shame. We didn’t lose them. They were ripped from our clutched hands. Minds numbed quiet by horror. Voices stuck in our throats. Rage with nowhere to go but inward. If anyone is lost it is me, wondering how this is my reality. Worrying about my weight. What is this sad, misshapen body? The hits don’t stop. There is a hate-fueled need to return to who I was before all of this.
The reasons I hated myself are endless. I was never one of those “glowy” pregnant women. In fact, I hated it. I would bitch about it constantly. I questioned if I would be a good mom and felt the universe decided I wouldn’t be. I wasn’t able to do the one thing that biology and evolution and society told me I would be able to do.
Of course none of these things are true, but it didn’t stop me from beating myself up. And so I punish my body for its part in all of this. I cram my post-pregnancy waist into a corset. I work out for multiple hours a day. Nothing happens. The weight sticks to me. And because of the way I carry this weight (all belly) I have people coming up to me saying, "Congratulations!" I am too embarrassed, mostly for them and their smiling faces, to say the truth. So I say thank you. “Do you know what you're having?” What the f—?! “Yeah it’s a boy,” I say mimicking their crazed smiles. “Best thing you’ll ever do,” they say. “Yeah.” I say weakly and make my escape.
People keep saying, “He’s with you always. You carry him with you, in your heart.” I smile kindly and don’t say, “But I want to carry him in my belly. In my arms. Babies are big and my heart is small, tender and beaten.” People don’t know what to say and they're trying their best, but I feel so alone that it’s almost crippling. Why am I keeping myself isolated? There are people reaching out to me. I think I’m afraid of any “normalcy.” Nothing should be normal, for anyone. I’m scared of the conversation turning to Facebook. Of someone showing me a video of a dog finding a home or sleeping with a tiger that would melt my stone heart.
I feel like I should be sent to the desert. That there is some tribe of women waiting for me. We wear heavy black veils and bang and drag sticks on the scorched earth. We pull out our hair and bleed and know that there is no pleasure in this world.
This is my life until the day comes when I have to go back to work.
I find myself in L.A., driving to set. In hair and makeup, we cry and sniffle our way through. My first day: Lisa loses the pregnancy. I really hadn’t thought it through. And there I was, on autopilot. I couldn’t look at people's faces. It wasn’t until I saw the prosthetic stomach I was going to have to wear that I started to buckle. I was sweaty and shaky as wardrobe silently helped me into it. My small trailer filled with their pity and sorrow. When I looked at myself in the mirror my mind somersaulted. I’m pregnant again. It was all a bad dream. A bad dream I was going to have to preform again and again until we “got it.”
As I made my way to set, the crew, who is family to me, looked everywhere but at me. They had seen me through most of my pregnancy. Shared pictures of their kids. Their birth stories. And now I felt so bad for them. We all felt the loss. They were so invested in my well-being and always took such good care of me that standing there, hugging them, I felt shame that I had let us all down. It was so quiet. Somber. We rehearsed and they were afraid to tell me I missed my mark. That I wasn’t in my light.
I seriously thought we had made the wrong decision. Why did we decide to cut so close to the bone? And then, right before “action” I looked at the "A camera" and asked, “Do I look fat?” Silence. And then laughter. And we all breathed for the first time since I walked in. I wanted them to know that although this incredibly difficult, unlucky, life-altering thing had happened, I’m still here. Inside this swollen, morose vision you see before you is the person who swears like a sailor and will give you shit if you’re out of focus or if we have to go again for sound. Who loves you ferociously and didn’t feel like herself until she was in your presence.
As I sank into Lisa and her pain, and how she dealt with loss, it got easier. I started to care about something outside of my own agony. My critical mind activated and I worried more about the scenes than anything else. The story. HER story. One that unfortunately touches so many of us. One that I feel honored to tell. A story so feminine on a show that is perceived to be so masculine.
It ended up being cathartic. A word I never really knew until now. I have so much pride that we didn’t shy away. That we created something that speaks to suffering that for some reason lives in shadows. I am grateful that I was put in a position that I did not have the option to hide. I’m glad that we leaned in. Went into the humanity of heartbreak.
Thank you Byron.