Some of you may know (and if you don’t, now you do!) October 15 is Infant & Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day. For a while I have been wanting to share my own story of pregnancy loss, in hopes that it will speak to someone that has gone through the same or similar situation, and what better time than now?
Before I had a miscarriage, I didn’t think much of it. I had a few friends that had gone through it at various stages, and my heart absolutely ached for them, and yet it still seemed so far off. It was so foreign to me. It felt like I was reading a newspaper article: I read it and sympathized, then when it was all done, life went on. They got over it. Maybe they got pregnant again and started, or continued, building their family. Miscarriage to me was like a speed bump – you slowed down for a second, then kept driving.
Then it happened to me.
It happened to me, to us, and my perspective completely changed. It wasn’t like a speed bump – it was like crashing head-on in to a brick wall. I survived, but emerging from it took a lot of work, support, and help. It didn’t happen in days, a week, or a month. I didn’t “get over” it, but I got through it. I found peace through my friendship with God, and my reliance on him. I clung to the life-giving words in his Book. I bawled. I grieved. For months.
For a long time, I even questioned if I had the right to grieve. I wasn’t that far along in my pregnancy, and the baby didn’t even look like a baby. I wasn’t sure if I could share the same air with my friends that I felt had suffered more, so I hesitated. I brushed off what I felt. I edited my feelings and what I told people when they asked how I was doing. I told them I was “okay”, gave them a half smile and changed the subject. Truthfully, while I felt a strange peace, I also was hurting. So much.
Dear friend, if you are reading this and you feel or have felt the same way, I want to tell you: your grief matters. My grief mattered, and so does yours. There will always be someone that goes through more, loses more, or seems worse off. But loss is still loss, it is a wide spectrum, and we all fall somewhere on it. But we’re all on it.
One day, a while after it happened, I had an urge to write about it. I had not written anything in a long while, perhaps years. But I sat down at our computer, fingers poised on the keyboard, and the words spilled out like I knocked over a glass of milk. After I felt it was done, I felt like the burden was a little less, and the open wound started to scab over.
I had a hard time coming up with a title for it, and I settled on Your Story, as I felt it was my only gift I would ever be able to give that baby.
So, here it is: Your Story.
How should I begin your story? Perhaps in the way you made your way in to our lives: abruptly, with no introduction. On one single day, in the matter of seconds, our lives turned another page and began the next chapter.
On that cold January morning, I sat there with my snowflake-print pyjama pants pooled around my ankles, still half asleep, and waited for this little plastic stick to reveal a mathematic symbol: A ‘plus’ would indicate an addition to our life and my body; a ‘minus’ would mean no change. I carefully placed the stick on the counter and gathered myself, washed my hands, trying so earnestly not to steal a look that would prematurely give me my answer.
I dried my hands. I closed my eyes for a moment, took a breath. Held it. Picked it up. A plus. The addition that would equal the source of the joy, and the change we wanted and longed for.
From that moment, we began to prepare for your arrival. We bought soothers, tiny onesies, and began poring through gigantic baby name books to find a name suitable for you. Dad and I threw around many suggestions, many vetoed by one another. The one name we both liked equally was Charles, and although nothing yet was decided, in my heart you already were our little Charlie. Even in those dawn hours of pregnancy, I felt you were a boy. A spirited, lovable, curious boy that would grow up to be a strong, loving man, full of integrity. I dreamed for your life.
Weeks wore on and we began to tell those close to us of your presence in our world. Everyone was in love with you already. My belly slowly began to swell and soon enough, I was trying to find creative ways to hide the evidence of you: flowy tops, baggy t-shirts, leggings, and long coats. I felt that, even though no one could tell, I had a sign around my neck that said, PREGNANT!
Maybe it was the smile I couldn’t wipe off my face.
One day in February it was raining very hard. It was Valentine’s Day. The wipers on our car could barely keep up with the sheets of water dancing around on the windshield. I had an appointment with a doctor to listen to your heartbeat and see how you were going in there, your little home. My heart could hardly contain the excitement of listening to the proof of what we had been expecting.
When I arrived, I laid myself down on the table, butcher paper crinkling beneath my body with each move. The technician put that familiar warm goo on my belly and began to search around on my stomach with the Doppler.
I could hear the sound, like the ocean inside a shell. I waited. I waited a bit more.
I looked at the technician, a furrow in his brow. Then he asked me the most bizarre question that caught me off-guard: Are you sure you’re pregnant?
What? Of course I was sure…how could anyone mistake that? I thought back to January, the plastic stick: the sign of addition. Then later, the nausea. And of course, my little growing belly. Is it possible I imagined it all? Could I have dreamt it?
I turned to I look at the screen that showed the inside of my womb: darkness. Shadows. Empty and hallow, like the shell. The technician saw the obvious confusion in my face and told me not to worry too much. Maybe it was too early to hear anything, or maybe I got my dates wrong. I would need further examination, just to be on the safe side. But his question burdened me.
In the next examination room, I laid down on a second strip of butcher paper, again crinkling beneath my nervous shifting. A new technician bustled her way in. As she continued her exam I propped my head on the back of my arm, eyes focused on the wall beside me.
I counted the chips in the wall and read the flyers hastily taped to it. I listened to the quiet hum of the lights and machines. I tried to be somewhere else.
Still, the sound of a vast, wide, lonely ocean in this tiny little shell filled the sterile room. I felt stranded on that ocean, my raft dismantling beneath me.
After hinting at what the previous technician had suspected, that you were gone, she asked me if I wanted to see what was on the screen. I think she expected me to say no, to decline the chance of further heartache. But I had to see you. You were worth the risk of it all.
She turned the screen to face me, and there you were: A tiny little circle, attached to my womb. Clinging to me.
The days that followed were full of silent waiting, and quiet pain. Waiting, because I didn’t know what was next, and there is always pain in waiting. We tried to carry on with our day to day tasks: caring for your brother, making dinner, going grocery shopping. All the while, there was the Cloud of Unknown hovering above me, following my every single move.
Then one day, it was time.
We came home from church and a dull ache began in my belly. Later that day, in the twilight of the evening and when the people of the world were preparing to sit down to dinner and share in a meal, you left me. The pain in my body and the pain in my heart were that of the same, but I was never angry. Not at you, not at God, or even myself. I don’t even know if it was or wasn’t meant to be…it just was. And you just were. And to me, you still are and forever will be.
After a little while, when I was able to think of you and not cry an ocean, I looked up the meaning of the name we chose for you: Charles. It means full grown, a man. I had to catch my breath when I read that. That’s when I knew: you had a name. You would forever be Charlie to me. Even though in this life you only grew to be the form of a beautiful unending little circle, in my mind and in my heart you are my full grown little man.
Question: Have you experienced a miscarriage? What helped you get through it?