[As featured on Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope]
October 15th is National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Day.
Last October 15th, I was blissfully, naively pregnant — as one should be — taking belly photos with my husband and dreaming about finally being a family of three. After struggling with infertility for over 2 years, we were pregnant! We had seen the baby! And the heartbeat! We were over the moon.
Little did I know, by that time, our sweet baby had already slipped away. She was gone and I was none the wiser. Isn’t a mother supposed to know when her child is no longer alive? I did not. It wasn’t until a routine ultrasound on October 23rd, that my doctor would say the words that changed everything: I’m afraid I don’t have good news. And for what seemed like an eternity — I stared at the motionless screen, along with my doctor and the ultrasound technician — desperately hoping for some sign of life.
Please… something, anything… please…
But there was nothing to be seen, just a tiny shadow frozen in time. She was gone.
After the D and C, and the misoprostol, and the vicodin-induced haze, I packed all of the pregnancy tests, and the congratulatory cards, and the sympathy cards, and the photos into a small wooden box and closed the lid — an entire life in one small box. I couldn’t put the box away because I couldn’t figure out where such a box should go. Under the bed? On a shelf? Nothing seemed right. I didn’t know what to do. I was lost.
Baby loss is so very hard. No one knows what to do or to say, and truthfully, there aren’t any “right” things. There are, however, lots of “wrong” things. In my case, I wasn’t interested in hearing about adoption, or how I can, “always try again,” or how, “everything happens for a reason,” or how, “at least I know I can get pregnant,” or how a niece or a neighbor or a cousin got pregnant again right after a miscarriage. Hearing those things only made me feel damaged and broken and guilty and responsible and empty.
The only thing that helped me was space and peace and quiet.
So, I took some time off of work and I spent some time by the sea and I slept long and I dreamt hard and I cried big, fat, ugly tears every single day. I thought about everything that almost was and about everything that could never be and about everything that just is. I bought a remembrance necklace with a tiny angel wing and a pearl (for her birth month). I lit a candle every day for all the babies who had been lost and for all the mamas and papas who had lost them. I found a therapist. I started Zoloft.
I gave her a name.
And somewhere along the way, there was a shift – almost imperceptible, but I found I could smile and laugh and get out of bed again. And that’s when I knew I could get through the grief and the heartbreak and the loss. Not over it but through it. I’ll never be over the loss, but I’ll keep on getting through it, some days with a quiet grace, other days with a tear-soaked pillow and puffy eyes.
So, no, there is no happy ending to this story. Losing my baby will never be okay, but I have learned that I can be okay in spite of the loss — or maybe even because of it. After all, as Glennon Melton says, “grief is love’s souvenir. It’s our proof that we once loved.” And loved I did — a whole lifetime of love in just a few weeks.
So now, with nearly a year’s worth of wisdom and distance, I can say that not a day goes by when I don’t pause and think about that tiny flicker of a heartbeat, and that brief whisper of time when I was a mother.
In case maybe you were wondering, on August 11, 2016, my husband and I transferred our last beautiful embryo — and then we waited, and hoped, and dreamed, and imagined our life as parents.
As much as I wish I could say otherwise, the transfer was not successful. We are not pregnant. We are disappointed, and angry, and sad. We are out of money, and options, and time. We cannot conceive naturally, and we do not feel called to adopt. We will have to be a ‘family’ of two.
The finality in that realization is devastating, heartbreaking, absolute.
My husband and I have done a lot of talking and a lot of crying, and we’ve come to recognize that although we know our families and friends care very much about us, we also know that they do not and cannot truly understand what we are going through. We feel so very alone. Everyone else already has their children and their family, or they are childless by choice. No one else has experienced failure after failure after failure of something that is supposed to be natural and automatic. No one else has had to abandon their dream of being parents.
I long to see my husband holding our child. I long to look into our child’s eyes and see parts of me and my husband reflected back. I long to discover the world anew through a life we created. I long to experience pregnancy and childbirth. I long for every discomfort I hear pregnant women complaining about. I long for the sleepless nights and tears and frustrations of mothering a newborn.
I guess it’s fair to say that this experience has changed us irrevocably and I’m not sure it’s for the better. We are plagued by the worst feelings — envy, jealousy, guilt, doubt, anger, and so much grief. We are grieving the family we wanted, the baby we lost, the embryos that did not develop, the parents we will never be, the life we envisioned for ourselves.
We gave everything asked of us — time, money, body, emotion, hope — and got nothing in return.
We are trying our best to move on. We are trying our best to focus on other things like saving money to buy a larger home, and getting my husband back into school, but everything else pales in comparison. We are bruised and broken in every possible way. We are defeated.
No matter where we go from here, this childlessness is something that will never, ever be okay.
Let us agree
that we will not say
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.
Let us promise
we will not
time will heal
when every day
opens it anew.
Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—
as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it
as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
is to love still
as if it trusts
that its own stubborn
and persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
begin to fathom
but will save us
Today was to be my due date.
The day I would become a mother.
They day we would become a family.
I’m so sorry that I will never meet my sweet baby girl, or see her face, or hear her laughter, or teach her about the world an all the beautiful things in it. I’m sorry that all my hopes and dreams for her will never be realized. I’m sorry that we only had 8 short weeks together — I wish it had been so much more.
I will never forget seeing her heartbeat for the first time and knowing that I was carrying a life that was so very wanted and loved. It was nothing but joy, pure and unspeakable.
Not a day will go by that I won’t think of her, and of all that could have been, and of all that will never be.
In a secret and broken place in my heart, I will always wonder…
between the sacred and profane
nobody hears me chant your name
another year has gone again
and i will never be the same.
it was one of those days that never really ends; there were no goodbyes. i remember the fog and the ice and the road leading me south. and that is about as far down the path as we can go together. unless, of course, you’ve already been there yourself.
sometimes the only way to tell a story is to not tell it at all.
as this year draws to a close, i resolve to take a few moments to myself and just be here, in this moment.
i’m going to breathe deeply and savor every breath.
i’m going to be thankful for the people and things that surround me.
i’m going to love myself and all my imperfections.
and then i’m going to close my eyes and surrender to the passing of time, to the closing of a year.
goodbye 2015. i was here.