I have long fought with this topic. Wondering if I should broach it here on my blog, a place that is generally happy. I wondered if I could talk about this subject in a positive light. I have drafted several posts and deleted them, not sure how it would be received...not sure that I was comfortable putting it out there. Then, yesterday a friend confided in me and I felt myself called to discuss this here with you. I know many of you have had this same problem or have known someone who has gone through it. Strangely it is something that we generally keep quiet about. I am talking about miscarriage and I hope you will too.
Fall of 2008 I found out I was pregnant for the first time. After years of marriage and a happy life we had decided to start a family. When I bought my first pregnancy test I couldn't believe it, that I was actually taking a pregnancy test. Then we hovered over that test as we waited. And oh, that magical moment when the word positive appeared in that window. Unbeatable. We took happy photos of the pregnancy test and the joyful tears that followed. We started planning trips to see our families to break the exciting news. I scoured the internet for vegan fortune cookies that I could have specially made to announce the pregnancy. I laid my hand on my flat belly, trying to connect with that microscopic baby inside of me. I tried to connect and I did. I talked and sang to that baby on my way to work. I carefully adjusted my diet. I set up my first doctor's appointment and was eagerly anticipating all that goes with a first pregnancy. Would I have morning sickness I wondered? Would I feel it move soon? Boy or girl? All of that was there I could feel it. I could imagine it and it was beautiful. Amazing. Hope filled.
Then it happened. I can't tell you how horrified I was. I called the doctor I was to meet with the next week. I was panicked. She sighed, she asked a few questions and pretty much just told me to wait and see. I sat on my bed, the curtains drawn, hunched over the phone, still in my work clothes. Eric was nearby, waiting to hear. Couldn't they do something I implored? If I went to the ER was there anything they could do to save it? She knew I was not far along and she told me that there was nothing to be done. She told me it could be nothing, that it could just pass...but it didn't. I lost it. I lost my first baby.
I told nobody. Well, I told Eric, he was right there with me. I went to the store a week later and bought another pregnancy test and this time it was negative. I wanted more than anything to call my mother, but I didn't. She was dealing with the loss of a dear friend at that same time and I just couldn't tell her and break her heart even more. I regret that. I went through a pain that only mothers who have lost pregnancies can understand and I needed someone to lean on. Eric was there and he was amazing and so sad, but he couldn't know how it feels to carry and lose a baby. The questions, the second guessing--was it something I did or didn't do? I couldn't properly mourn.
Then, a short while later, I was pregnant again, this one lasted, but oh the fear was heavy. I was no longer lighthearted about pregnancy. I would wake in the night, quietly listening to my body, searching it for signs that something was wrong. Each trip to the bathroom was filled with fear as I was sure that there would be more blood. I was terrified for my baby for the first 7 weeks until I saw that heart beating on an ultrasound. Gradually I settled into that pregnancy and connected deeply to the baby growing inside of me. I told my mother what had happened with the first. She cried with me and held me like I needed her to. When the due date for the first pregnancy passed me by I cried. I was conflicted. I was so sad to have lost that first baby, but I wouldn't have Cordelia if it hadn't happened. Ultimately I settled in on the fact that there was never going to be a way to comfortably deal with that loss...it will always hurt.
Unfortunately it doesn't end there. In the summer of 2011 I was pregnant again, we were thrilled. We decided to tell my family right away. I wanted/ needed their support from the start. We announced the pregnancy by putting Cordelia in a big sister t-shirt (we didn't tell Cordelia what it was). We were happy, but apprehensive. When I passed the time of my first miscarriage I breathed a little sigh of relief.
We decided to take a trip to visit my brother and sister-in-law in North Carolina that summer. The night before we left we drove down to Denver as we had an early flight the next day. On our drive down we discussed baby names and wondered what life would be like for Cordelia as a big sister. We had dinner and went to our hotel and there it was. I had a feeling. I knew the feeling. I told Eric and all we could do was wait in our hotel. I laid on that bed all night, sobbing quietly and begging that baby to hold on. Maybe it would be nothing, that it would just pass...but it didn't. I lost it. I lost another baby, my third pregnancy ended.
This time I called my mother. She hurt with me and cried with me. It wasn't easier, but at least my grief wasn't hidden. My father was there too. My brothers. They all were there for us.
I took that trip to NC to visit my brother. I cannot even express to you what I went through emotionally. I nearly fell apart when I was taken into the back at the airport and routinely searched...how vulnerable I felt. When we landed in NC I tried to use that trip to start the healing process off on the right foot, with support. I tried to be present with my brother. I tried to be engaged and normal, but I was hurting. The thing about miscarriage, or at least mine, is that they happen over days and they hurt. I was glad for the pain though, as though my body was mourning with my soul.
Perhaps you remember this post from that trip, I used this quote as something of a mantra. I think it was this second miscarriage in which I found my true strength. I found that I could have a broken heart and at that same moment revel in the joys of life. I could go into the bathroom and sob for a few minutes and then crack jokes half an hour later. I already knew from previous experience, that this hurt would actually last forever. I knew that it was OK to hurt, that it was just another layer to the person that I am.
I was pregnant again in the winter, just a couple of months later. I spent those first three months in terror, begging her to hold on, to grow, to be healthy. Elise came in the summer, nearly a year from the day that I found out about the pregnancy before her.
Who I am is forever changed by the losses. Babies that I never got to hold, my arms ache to embrace them. My heart has room for them, but they aren't here and they never will be. Oh it hurts, it will always hurt. Yet, somehow I am glad for this hurt, it is my way of acknowledging that I am, in fact, a mother of 4.
How strange life is, that we can hurt so deeply and feel such joy. Perhaps you are wondering why I chose to write about this. My hope is that someone will read this and feel less alone or maybe you will be more able to understand your friend, family member, spouse as they grieve. Have you been through a miscarriage? Were you willing to reach out to others for support?