I didn’t know it would be so hard to get the day out of my head. I can go back and watch my steps again in silent slow motion. I see me walking into the office, breathing slowly in the waiting room chair. I hear the brittle paper on the bed beneath me, the NeedtoBreathe song from the speaker, the static as the doppler searches for any hint of a throbbing little heart.
I see the walk to the ultrasound room, the forced smile I offered the tech, the ceiling tiles I counted while she quietly clicked the computer, never swiveling the screen to show me the outline of a mini baby. I watch myself walk out the doors carrying a “countdown to baby” calendar the nurse had handed me upon initial congratulations. I see the way I avoid eye contact with the pregnant mothers in the waiting room and make my way to the car. See how I look down at the images of women gazing at their babies and feel the first hint of cramps across my abdomen.
I hear the noises dim, everything becoming slow. Methodical. Stoic.
Pregnancy hasn't taken up much space in my thoughts or dreams before this summer. Adoption was our first choice of family making. When we made the leap from 0 to 2 kids, it took us a while to find our footing again and when we did, we discovered our ideas about family size had changed. We weren't against growing, but quite content with just what we had.
I like to think I am prepared. I scroll through all sorts of scenarios, attempting to wrangle the emotions of surprise pregnancy, infertility, disrupted adoption, special needs diagnoses, difficult birth, etc. so as not to be caught off guard by pain. Somehow miscarriage didn't make the list. I've never seen myself as one in the 1 in 4 statistics.
Awareness is good, I’m no advocate of naivety. But it turns out, the preparation I think I have against being blindsided by pain or fear is mostly a mirage. I couldn’t have premeditated the peculiarity of this miscarriage pain if I’d tried.
I ask for a clear-cut description: How long will it last? How bad will it hurt? How sad will I feel? No one can give it to me, the ones who try get it wrong.
Walking out of the doctor’s office, l feel frozen in place while the rest of the world waltzes on around me. A week becomes endless when every moment, mind and body are in a state of confusion; becoming un-pregnant, un-imagining the future.
I am afraid. Of my body not doing all it needs to do, of inducing pain, of more bad news and medical procedures, of risking ever having to experience this again.
Two voices clamor within me; one cruel and bitter voice railing at my body for not keeping life alive, for not even being able to miscarry efficiently. (As if these intricate bodies follow text book time tables.) The other is fragile; wounded and undone at the harsh words self-inflicted, knowing my body is only doing the best it can.
I’m surrounded on every side by fervent love and support. Yet, lying on the bathroom floor searching for any position to gain relief, any place my mind can go to find comfort, I’m desperately lonely.
My own sorrow becomes a side note when I see my daughters’. I look into eyes who have known greatest loss and watch their faces fall with another blow and ache from head to toe for any way to spare them from more pain.
I dread to see the doctor’s rooms again. The swishing of a rapid heartbeat reverberates from a room down the hall the day I return, a sound track to my cynical thoughts as I stare at ceiling tiles once more and wait for confirmation that my uterus is empty.
The relief that my body has finally completed its grim task is shadowed by the next reality: It is done. Now life goes back to normal. I no longer have obvious reason to ask for help, cry at random, skip social outings. My body can resume activities, but my mind is still in the thick of hormone commotion, disoriented thoughts, and often overtaken by sad reminders: the grief of my girls, the absence of Jazzy’s comfort, the haunt of the prenatal vitamins on the counter and a newborn onesie on the dresser. Sometimes sorrow rises like a storm surge. I feel it’s ache pressing my chest, and when it crashes, it knocks the breath out of me. Fatigue is a lead blanket around my shoulders.
I’m disorientated about what I’m grieving. It feels fraudulent. Did I fake this whole thing? To reference a time “when I was pregnant” sounds like a child’s imaginary motherhood. Does it even count if the baby didn’t grow?
I didn’t have a connection to a life within me yet. I never saw movement on the black and white screen, never felt it flutter within, never even felt my body expanding with its weight.
I want a system restore back to spring. Why can’t I resume the contentment I had with my life just a few short months ago? I envisioned a future that now I have to un-think, and nothing changed but everything has.
It isn't a tragic loss, I'm keenly aware of so many suffering so much worse. Nevertheless, hope deferred makes the heart sick and sad. Sad for the disappointment, sad for the way death casts a shadow no matter when or how it comes.
I read and re-read every note, message, and text, amazed at how few words it takes to be lifted by kindness. No need to attempt making sense or better of the situation, the simple acknowledgment of pain and reminders of love carry me many moments and days. I have never savored every check in, every mention of a prayer offered, every hug and handpicked flower and grocery bag delivered so deeply.
Amidst hopes and fears and thoughts of a possible next time, I look at my daughters lying next to me in bed and tell them with voice choked but adamant, “Having a baby is absolutely not something upon which our happiness hangs. Our family can stand complete and completely delightful to us as it is.” We have been gifted wildly beyond our deserving with two precious loves. To share in the wonder of a new baby together would be a delight, but there is goodness in store for us no matter what shape or size our family takes. We are not waiting on a delivery of joy. We have it already.
Life is brighter now. I’m surprised how hope springs up again from broken ground. How one can start to dream of better days and better news. Hope is often hard won in my heart, but it's shown up persistently of late.
My thoughts are less often “Why?”, and more often, “Why not?”. If suffering is world-wide, this whole universe groaning to be delivered from injustice, disease, and death, why not me? If it’s 1 in 4 women, why not me? If my place somehow leaves less space for my sisters, my friends, my daughters, in the statistic, I’ll take it willingly.
I don’t know how I’ll feel next week or next month, what disappointments or sorrows may roll over me again. But today, I don’t wish this experience away.
Every woman who called or sat down beside me and quietly spoke her story, or willingly answered my questions and revisited her heartache for my sake left a lasting impression on my heart. Friends who’ve spent hours listening and reliving their own dark days in order bring a glimmer of light to mine have given me a new understanding of whole-hearted friendship.
Sisterhood shines bright if you look around the corners of this isolating loss.
Brittany, Becky, Kayla, Sandy, Alice, Megan, Melanie, Janna, Abbey, Amanda, Angie, Tina, Hanna, Kate, Alaina, Cielo, Erika, Allison, Sara, Michelle and others who prayed, thank you for being a light to me.
If sharing a story can give companionship to another woman wrestling through the confusion of her loss or give insight to the sisters, spouses and friends trying to understand the peculiar grief of their loved one, I offer mine with open hands, cupped ever so carefully around the fragile edges of this sensitive topic.
Grief has many varying degrees. My recovery from deep disappointment is so different from another's recovery from acute grief, and even within the same loss, the process doesn't look the same. Comparison and expectations of healing upon ourselves or others are unfair. Each storm moves on its own path and time.
For you maybe miscarriage was a blip on the screen, possibly even a relief, and you move right on. Maybe it was an emergency room and surgery and trauma upon trauma. Maybe it was confusion. Maybe it was a prayer answered and then revoked, and sorrow stings bitterly for months and years. There’s an open page for every version here.
Compassionate storytelling brings healing to the listener and teller alike.
If you are living out your own pregnancy loss or any grief story, I hope for you what I’ve hoped for me: that you realize how much God and your people are for you. I hope you make peace with your body and deal tenderly with yourself. Look, see how she’s doing the best she can? I hope you don’t allow shame to taunt the emotions you do or do not have. There is no formula, no feelings rule book. Sit with whatever emotion arises and be honest with yourself and your people. I hope that hope surprises you, rising from your ashes. I hope in time you find it is well with your soul. And when it is not well, I hope you see a Jesus who weeps with you.
I hope beauty shows up boldly in the Autumn of your life. And I hope Spring, when it returns (and it will), is glorious.