Two years ago today I had our first miscarriage. Sometimes it seems like forever ago, and then other times it seems as though the grief is close and new and raw again. Miscarriage, infertility, or just fertility troubles in general still seem to be in a shroud of uncomfortable, awkward, messy feelings that aren't really talked about very often. Maybe you're of the mindset that it should still be kept just to the person who has experienced it. You'll want to stop reading now then. I can completely admit that I didn't understand either until that September day. But now I am a member of this club and, after sharing with other women experiencing this loss, I can attest to the healing power of talking about it. The strength found in admitting the huge array of emotions that come forth....even those that you don't think would be very accepted by others. How since you aren't really expected to grieve publically, you feel lost and alone and shamed. I started typing in the quiet of night, working through these feelings, chronicallying the process, putting the good the bad and the ugly into print. Here's what came from it:
1. It hurts. Not a hurt like a skinned knee or a sad story from a distant friend of a friend. But a hurt that makes it hard to take in a full breath. A hurt that feels like your heart is being squeezed by some invisible hand and you can’t get it to let go. A hurt that makes you think you won’t ever be the person that you were just a few hours ago again. And you won’t.
2. A choice will have to be made. You’ll sit and think and try to decide between staying at home and risking not doing all that you can to save your baby and going to the hospital and spending thousands of dollars to give it a shot. You’ll feel guilty for this decision. You shouldn’t have to choose between your child and your money. But you’ll have to decide, and you’ll always wonder if you made the right one.
3. You’ll have three doctors tell you that it’s common, it can stop. You’ll still hold your baby in 7 months time. You’ll believe them. You’ll let them lull you into this false hope. You’ll begin to take full breaths again....just for a little while, until the pain gets worse, the bleeding gets heavier and in your heart, because you are the mommy, you’ll know, you won’t hold this baby in 7 months.
4. You’ll reach a point where you can’t take the unknown any more. You can’t have one more high only to come crashing down to a low. You’ll change your prayers to include the possibility of losing the baby....something you NEVER considered in the beginning...just so that you can end the cycle of unknown. You’ll just want the definite yes or no. Not the confusion of days of waiting.
5. You’ll see your baby alive. A sonogram of hope revived. A little blob, growing inside you, part of you, sustained by you, made by you. A little flicker on the screen will be that fast-beating heartbeat. You will exhale in relief. Unaware how long you’d been holding your breath. You will feel hope.
6. Because you know the exact time that you saw a heartbeat and you know the exact time that you deliver the baby you’ll wonder, at what moment did that little flutter of a heartbeat stop. Did it happen soon after you saw it on the screen? Or, was it still going just moments after being placed in the little cup and stop soon after that? What was the timeline? What happened first...the baby’s death or me pushing it from my body?
7. The physical pain will get strong. You’ll lie on your side, staring at the wall. You’ll suddenly realize that you’re doing breathing techniques taught to you in birthing class. You begin to pay attention to each ache, each tightening. You realize you’ve felt this way before while giving birth to your first child. You’ll realize at that moment that you’re going to lose your baby.
8. It can take days. Days of hanging on. Hours of thinking you're in the clear. It was a fluke. Followed by hours of thinking it's happening now, any minute.
9. You’ll be standing in the kitchen. Hunched over really because it hurts too much to fully stand. Trying to make a sandwich for the little girl in the other room who is oblivious to your pain and anguish. Suddenly you feel something different. Too big and too solid. You run to the bathroom saying out loud to no one, “no, no, no.” You look; it’s what they told you to keep an eye out for. You brace yourself on the counter. You put it in the little cup they gave you and place it in the kitchen. You go back to clean up. When you return to the kitchen, you look again. There, in front of you, is your baby. Whole and perfect. It’s happened. You’ll lose it now.
10. Everyone who comes to your help in those next couple hours will hear you cry out, “It’s in the cup. The cup. My baby is in the cup.” None of the doctors prepared you to see your wholly perfect baby. Not the tiny face, precious arm, curled up form, hairline umbilical cord. They said tissue. They did not say little human being peacefully laying there.
11. You’ll drive to the doctor, clutching your baby in the cup to your heart with tight fingers. You’ll stand in line at the front desk and listen to the very pregnant woman ahead of you ramble on to the receptionist about how active this baby is and how she feels it won’t be long now. Doesn’t she know your pain? Doesn’t she realize what she’s doing to you?
12. You’ll sit in an examination room that must have walls of paper because next door a woman receives news that she’s expecting twins. Two babies. You listen to her call every person she knows, excitedly telling them the news. She has that right doesn’t she? Maybe. Yes. But you don’t want to hear it.
13. The nurse who will ask to take your baby away will put on gloves. You’ll watch her put on these gloves and wonder why. It’s not some horrible disease or gross abnormality she’s about to touch. It’s your beautiful, perfectly formed, precious baby, and no one should need gloves for that.
14. The nurse will point at the little plastic cup....such a crude and inappropriate container for your baby....and ask, “Is that the tissue that you passed?” Tissue? You’ll stare at the container, wishing you could yell, shake her, tell all the rest of the office that no, that’s not tissue. That’s my baby. Perfect. Whole. Mine. But you won’t. You’ll just gasp, answer “yes, that’s my baby.” Quietly, painfully.
15. You’ll ask to say goodbye, one last time, to that tiny, thumbnail sized, little blessing. The nurse will say of course, rub your back and let you cry into that cup. Then, she’ll say something that to her must seem comforting but to you will be the worst words you could hear that day. “You’ll have other babies.” You’ll sob out, “THIS is my baby.” Doesn’t she see?
16. The doctor will say, “I don’t know how close you looked at the baby but it could be that there is some sort of abnormality on the abdomen.” You’re heart will break, just a little more if possible, and you’ll want to refute her immediately. There was nothing “abnormal” about your baby. Your baby was perfect. Unblemished. Pure. But then you realize that you really know nothing about such things and that she may be right. And that it’s not proper to cry out that a doctor is wrong. So you keep it inside.
17. The doctor will ask if you want your baby sent away to pathology so maybe they’ll be able to find out what went wrong. You’ll feel insensitive, horrible, unworthy, because you’ll have to tell them that no, you can’t afford it. You can’t pay to find out why your baby is no longer growing inside of you.
18. It won’t be right away, because you won’t be thinking fully right then, but sometime, hours after you’ve left your baby at the doctor’s office you’ll realize it: They’re going to throw your baby away. Like waste. What have you done? What kind of mother leaves her child to be thrown away? Why did you ever let go of that cup?
19. Your husband won’t know what to do. He’s sad, of course. He’s sensitive to your feelings, of course. But he doesn’t seem to really know. After all, he didn’t carry the baby. His heartbeat and his blood and his every bite and drink and breath weren’t keeping this baby alive for nine weeks. How can he really understand? How can he know that while becoming a parent for him starts when the baby is placed in his arms, becoming a parent for you begins the second you know you are pregnant?
20. The “ugly cry” will make an appearance several times. Accompanied by silent tears throughout the day because the truth is that once you saw that second pink line....you set a place at the table for your baby.
21. You’ll be showered with love and support. Cards, e-mails, prayers, flowers, meals, memorials will pour in. You’ll recognize just how loved you are. How very blessed you are. You’ll feel sad that your baby won’t ever experience just how many people would have loved him here on earth.
22. For days to come you’ll have the physical reminder that you aren’t a mom anymore. The pain, the bleeding, the headaches from crying, they are each tangible proof that something has gone terribly wrong and that a baby no longer grows inside of you.
23. You’ll begin to realize that something is wrong. Something isn’t finished about the loss of this baby. You realize that you need a name. Your heart needs a name to cry out to. Your mind needs a name to picture in heaven. You want to make this baby a part of your family in a more concrete way. You won’t know how to bring it up to your husband. You’ll feel silly. You’ll wonder if he’ll think you’ve gone crazy. Does he just wish you’d drop it? Is he afraid you’re going to dwell on this forever? Never move on? Of course, he’ll be sensitive to you and listen to you. And of course he helps you name your baby and is happy to help you with this part of the process.
24. For the next week, every time you go somewhere you’ll have the sensation that you’re holding your breath. Just waiting to get through. Just survive each moment and surely, soon, you’ll be able to escape. And once you do, and you really let out that breath you’ve been holding, the tears will come with it. But at least you can breathe again....until the next event....even if it's just getting groceries.
25. You’ll sit and you’ll think about who this baby was supposed to be. What talents would he have had? What profession would he have taken? How many lives are now set on a completely different path, all because this little baby didn’t enter the world?
26. You won’t be able to go anywhere without seeing a pregnant woman. They will be everywhere. And to add to it, two of your best friends will be having babies. They’re due when you were. And they’ll talk about maternity clothes and nursery colors, nausea and heartburn. Not because they are insensitive or rude. But because that’s what pregnant women do. And it’s their right. And while you never want to take that joy from them, there will be times when you want to run, crying from the room. But you won’t because that makes people uncomfortable and you don’t want that.
27. Your living daughter will be both a joy and a hurt. A joy because she makes you laugh, because she is all that is your life and day and world. Because she is love. A joy because she so hates to see you cry, it hurts her as much as it hurts you and so you know she understands, in her own, precious, tiny way. A hurt because you know she doesn’t fully know what she’s lost. She doesn’t understand that her future has been irrevocably changed. A hurt because you wanted to see her as a big sister so badly. She would be so good at it. Seeing her “realness” is physically painful sometimes.
28. For weeks afterwards, every time you sniff, you’ll see in your side vision, your husband’s head sneak over and you’ll know....he’s checking to see if you’re crying. This will make you feel somewhat like a crazy person. Like you’re being watched and that if you are crying that it will be yet another time that he’ll feel obligated to comfort you. Not that he doesn’t want to, but you’ll start to feel like he’s wondering how long this will last.
29. You’ll miss being touched, being looked at desirously, being wanted immediately. You’ll know that he’s just being sensitive to you. That he doesn’t know his place anymore....what’s ok, what’s not. He doesn't want to rush you. You're so grateful for his patience and consideration but you need him to need you again. You want to feel sexy and worthy and beautiful again. But what if you aren’t? After all, you lost his baby.
30. Weeks later you’ll receive a bill. $6,000. $6,000 and no baby. All the money you’d saved to happily pay for a warm, tender, sweet smelling little bundle went to heartbreak and lies. You’ll feel so guilty showing the bill to your husband. All his hard-earned income going to nothing. He showers you with love and reassurance. He reminds you it was the right and only thing to do. But still the negative thoughts hover...how long will it take to save for another baby? Should you have not gone to the hospital? Would you do it again?
31. When you find out you are pregnant again you don’t know whether to be happy, or to burst into tears. You’ll have such a mix of emotions that you didn’t have to carry the first two times you found out you were pregnant. This pregnancy you no longer have the luxury of being blissfully ignorant of the pain that can take place. You’ve been stripped of your naiveté.
32. You’ll feel guilty for having such a cautious optimism with this baby. You’ll feel like you’re cheating this baby out of the love that you so freely and unabashedly poured out on the previous two babies. What kind of mother says, "I'll really let myself love you when your (x) amount of weeks old."?
33. You’ll watch the days creep by. Every feeling, every little cramp, every grumble, will send you flying to the bathroom to check. Is it happening again?
34. A friend will tell you. Don’t worry. It won’t happen again. God won’t give you more than you can handle and He has to know you can’t handle this again. You’ll feel comforted by this. Because you know you can’t do it again. Surely God knows, you can’t do this again.
35. The day will come. The day that began the nightmare with the first miscarriage. You’ll survive that day. You’ll be proud of yourself and lightly chastise yourself for being so paranoid and anxious. Then, the very next morning, when you’ve let your guard down some and begun to see more hope, the nightmare will begin again.
36. You lose a second baby. An innocent, precious, thumb-sized wonder. The horror that surely wasn’t going to happen again has happened.
37. After the first miscarriage, people tell you that there must have been something wrong with the baby. Something big that didn’t let it survive. You let yourself believe them. After the second miscarriage, however, you realize that they were wrong. There’s something wrong with you. You did this to your babies. There are two babies that are gone now because of some imbalance, some deficiency within your body. Your babies were perfect. They were innocent in what was going to happen to them.
38. You won’t understand. You’ll ask God, beg God to help you understand why He doesn’t want you to be a mommy again. Your head will know, you aren’t supposed to question it. God has a perfect plan for your family, outside of our understanding and our control. But it won’t help your heart. You still want answers. And then you’ll feel guilty for questioning God’s choices.
39. If there is a blessing this time it is that you are more prepared. You know that you won’t leave your baby behind at the doctor. You know you need to pick a name. You know what your body and heart will experience.
40. You will find a baby sitter. You will get into your car and force yourself to put it into drive. A coffin. Shopping for a coffin will be the most surreal thing you’ve ever done. You’ll wander the isles. Too big. Too little. Too plain. With a box picked you pick out a cross necklace that you plan to cut the chain off of and glue to the top of the box after your husband stains it for you.
41. You’ll dig out your fabric scraps, choose one for your baby, line the inside of the box then put your tiny, perfect little baby on the fabric, say goodbye and close the lid forever.
42. The corners of the box will dig into your palms as you squeeze it so tight over your heart on the way to find a perfect place to bury the box. You won’t mind. Maybe the pain in your hands can get strong enough to cover the pain in your heart.
43. In the chill of the winter afternoon you’ll watch a hole dug, listen to the beautiful poem that your husband has surprised you with and found to read. You’ll pray, cry and so very reluctantly hand over that box to be covered for always.
44. You’ll cautiously tell those you know you can trust and who love you what you’ve done. Naming babies you didn’t know. Burying babies that never lived on this earth. Will they understand? Do they just think you’re being dramatic? Do they believe, like you, that life begins at conception? Does it matter if they don’t?
45. Mourning, praying, living, cooking, cleaning, parenting, reading. All activities that help pass the time, heal your heart, give you hope.
46. Two pink lines again. Again. Can you do it again?
47. Research will consume your time. Is there something you can take? Food you shouldn’t eat? Positions you shouldn’t sleep in? Should you stop exercise or exercise more? Should you eat only organic? What can you do to save this baby!? You'll pick a hormone to take that your doctor says is ok for you to take but it is pretty clear that she sees it as somewhat of a placebo.
48. 12 weeks. You’ll make it 12 weeks. You’ll anxiously sit at the end of the table on crinkly paper with clammy palms. A heartbeat. You’re there for a heartbeat. Such a simple, subtle, understated sound pierces the quiet of the patient room where two parents are holding their breath. Beautiful music. That rapid, static steady precious sound.
49. 13, 14, 15 Weeks are picking up speed now. With each week checked off a little more breath is released. The squeeze on your heart eases a little. You start to tell people. You start to show. You start to let yourself believe it. You’re going to have a baby. Hold a baby. Care for a baby.
50. The baby moves. Now you have your own gauge to know that things are ok. You don’t have to wait for that monthly appointment for reassurance. You simply lie down, close your eyes and wait for the little flutter that tells you you’re still a mommy.
51. At 40 weeks and 5 days you’ll get your hold your newborn. A baby you can hug on this earth. A baby you can dress, feed, comfort, train and love on this earth.
52. You knew having this baby would add another layer of healing to your previous losses but you’re also surprised how much having this baby reminds you of the fact that you don’t have the other two. How her being here reminds you that the others aren’t.
53. You’ll be hit by moments when holding your baby in the quiet of night that you’ll cry for the two babies you didn’t get to hold and nurse and comfort. You’ll whisper to this baby how lucky she is to have three wonderful siblings. One here with her and two waiting for her in heaven.
54. Weeks and months and now even years after losing your first baby, you’ll still feel the sting of the miscarriage. It’s something that stays with you in the deep recesses of your heart, tucked away from anyone who could not possibly understand what it’s like to miss a child that they never knew.
55. Thankfully, your heart will be able to heal past the hurt and frustration into simply being thankful for the little life you lost, knowing that someday, you will know him or her. For just as God knows the hairs on your head and the plans He has for you, you must trust that each little life was not in vain.
My story, written over the last few years as God's plan for our family has played out in front of us, is not one that I am alone in experiencing. I have several friends who are continuing to work through their own losses. Some have been similar to mine. Others have their own tragic twists to the story. The truth of these losses is the same. Any child concieved is a life, God planned, knit in his mother's womb. A mother's love truly begins at conception. These are not children that we should whisper about, losses that should be quickly mourned then moved on. I say a prayer today for my precious babies waiting for me in heaven now, as well as a prayer for my friends, who are mothers of children they haven't got to hold yet.
Hold fast ladies, we will snuggle those babies up under our necks one day. We'll breath in their smell, we'll plant kisses on their cheeks, we'll tickle their tummies and we'll count their fingers and toes.