Perspective is a funny thing. There is no way to predict how the pain of now will translate into joy in the future.
When Matt and I lost our first baby to a late first trimester miscarriage, it was – by far – the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I didn’t know where to turn or what to think. I had no markers or guideposts to cling to in such grief. The pain was so constant and overwhelming that it seemed certain that others could look at me and see the hole left by the end of my pregnancy. Lost expectations choked me daily and clinging to the fragile hope of a second pregnancy did nothing to ease the drag of days.
Matt tried to help me. He held me as I sobbed. He drove me to the surgery and held my hand through the IV and the cramps and the pain. He let me talk and talk and talk about our disappointment and my grief and my fears that I would never be able to have a baby. That this would be my experience of motherhood.
I have a strong belief in doing. I don’t sit passively and let anything happen to me and I refused to let grief happen to me. If nothing else, I would be an active participant in distracting my own thoughts. I researched miscarriages and fertility. I comforted myself with the statistics that said that miscarriage was common and a couple able to conceive so easily had a high chance of eventually carrying a baby to term. I applied for a new job overseas because – dammit - if I couldn’t be a mother, I would have the dream career that I wanted. I wouldn’t sit still and hope for something out of my control to change my life. And, I researched adoption. Matt and I had talked about adopting often before we decided to try and have a baby. We had always felt open to different ways of building a family. I applied to volunteer at a small orphanage in the mountains outside of Port au Prince, Haiti. Just to see, I told Matt, for information and so that we can start to understand the process.
Months past. I got the job and we began the arduous process of relocating our lives overseas for the second time in our marriage, but I didn’t get the baby. Despite our best efforts, the pregnancy tests I took so hopefully “three days before the start of my period!” stayed resolutely negative. Each one took its own little chip out of my hopes. At Christmas time, I heard final word that they had room for me to travel to Haiti and work at the orphanage for four weeks in January.
I kissed Matt, promised, futilely, not to give my heart and soul away to orphaned children half a hemisphere away and left ridiculously early on a freezing cold January morning. After a long night on the gritty airport floor in Miami, I arrived in the oppressive, tropical heat of Haiti, drove the rutted, mountain rode to the orphanage compound and promptly gave my slightly battered heart and soul away to orphaned children who now sat in my lap, clamored for my attention, slept in my arms and filled my days and my thoughts. Grief lost the battle for my consciousness to industry and giggles and dirty diapers and an exhausting routine with “my” eight children to love.
I flew home changed. I wanted to be a mother through adoption. I was already a mother a second time. I missed my period in Haiti.
Eighteen months, reams of paperwork, several ultrasounds, an endless labor, endless waiting and hoping and filing and an exhausting series of flights across the country later, I held my fourteen-month-old daughter and my twelve-month-old son together in my arms for the first time.
I thought it that day and still think it now when I watch my six-year-old “twins” play and laugh and fight and giggle.
Just maybe, losing a baby was the best thing that ever happened to me.