I was only twenty-four when I had my first miscarriage. I was at a funeral. I’ll never forget how I felt when I stood and noticed that the first drops of blood had made a crimson ribbon in the water, swirling their way to the bottom, drowning the last seven weeks of hopes and dreams. As the congregation listened to a sermon about the splendor of a Biblical heaven, I could only hope and pray it was all true, and my baby would be waiting for me there.
I was overcome with grief. People started to question why I was still mourning, months upon months after the bleeding had stopped. I didn’t have an answer. I just knew that, even though it was early, when I lost my pregnancy, I lost part of myself. That grief was heavy. I had to get stronger to be able to carry it, and that took time.
Three years later, we finally welcomed our first living baby. I spent my entire pregnancy with bated breath, waiting for my body to betray me like it had the first time. I shouldn’t have worried. He is perfect. Eight years on, and his little freckled face still brings a tear to my eye once in a while. My Henry healed so much of what broke in me when my first baby left so soon.
Our second son came to use three years later, sailing into our lives with such ease that it almost made me forget how delicate and fleeting those early weeks can be.
So, when he was eighteen months old and a little miscalculation on my part resulted in a very surprise pregnancy, I just started preparing for my third baby. I told my anxiety to be quiet about the possibility of miscarriage. We put our house on the market, started looking for one with some room for our growing family. I made my first appointment, started taking my prenatal vitamins.
Our house sold in one weekend. We were on our way to our new home where we would raise our complete family.
But the 8-week ultrasound showed that our baby had left us weeks before. My body didn’t know, so the gestational sac continued to grow. Just a few days before Christmas, I went to the hospital and my doctor removed the sac that had been my baby’s only home, leaving my body and my heart bleeding and empty.
I smiled and cried on Christmas morning, celebrating my beautiful, healthy boys but missing yet another baby I would never get to know.
We had just closed on our new home when my doctor’s office called me with my testing results. I sat on my bed, surrounded in boxes, staring out my door at the bedroom that would have been our nursery when the nurse delivered the news. Our baby was a girl. She was genetically perfect.
“Sometimes these things just happen.”
The next year and a half were a roller coaster of emotion. My lifelong anxiety disorder kicked into overdrive, and crippling depression crept in for the first time in my life. I had an ovarian cancer scare. I lost one of one of my fallopian tubes. PCOS wrecked my fertility, leaving me unable to plan our third and last baby.
I tried to make peace with my perfectly healthy, beautiful family. I felt so supremely selfish and ungrateful. After our first loss, life had handed me two children. Yes, I’d lost another one to miscarriage, but my dream to be a mother was already reality. Why was I still crying about the babies I wouldn’t get to know when I had two right here in my arms?
But it wasn’t selfish, and it wasn’t ungrateful. I had lost someone I loved. Twice. I only got to carry them for a couple months, but I loved them. I did everything I could. The second loss brought me back to the first. I had to fight my way out from under an avalanche of pain, disappointment and adjusted expectations. Some of my grief was new, and some ten years old. It was a lot.
I was allowed to be sad.
Last summer, while I was still trying to sort out all the pain, I found out I was finally pregnant again. I got to keep this one. Our baby girl is now nine months old.
In our wildest imaginations, there were always three. The road was long and full of unexpected hairpin turns, but despite it all, they’re all here. We lost two along the way, but three made it. My miracles.
I knew that welcoming a living baby after a miscarriage would heal some of my pain. A baby just floods your life with so much beauty, it’s hard to stay sad.
But one thing I never expected is how much easier I breathe knowing that I will never have another miscarriage. I didn’t even realize how heavy that fear was until it was gone.
I’m done now. I’ve made all the babies I will ever make. I will never say hello to a new baby again, and sometimes that idea feels bittersweet and strange. But I will also never have to say goodbye too soon ever again, and that relief is a soothing elixir to my wounded soul.
Losing two pregnancies changed me. Forever. My babies who made it all the way to my arms are a treasure, and I know that. I also know that losing a baby later in pregnancy or a living child would have changed me even more. This is not a competition, and I am not saying my pain rivals or eclipses anyone else’s.
I just think we need to talk about how miscarriage can change the landscape of your heart. The images will never leave my mind. The ultrasound tech’s furrowed brow when my baby’s heartbeat was clearly not present. My doctor’s kind face, assuring me this kind of thing is nobody’s fault. A single tear rolling down my husband’s face as he drives me home, shakily remarking, “Thank God we didn’t tell the boys.” The blood. So much blood.
Standing in the intended nursery in our new home feeling as empty as the room itself.
Some of us never forget how these moments looked and sounded and even smelled. Some kinds of hearts never totally heal. There’s no right way to lose a pregnancy. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. On the 15th– which is the day set aside to remember my babies– I let myself feel that sadness. They only live on in my memory, and by remembering them, I can keep them close to me in the only way I know how.
If, like me, you feel that your loss changed who you are for the rest of your days, you should know that it’s normal for a lot of us. You’re not alone. There is no wrong way to grieve when you lose your baby — no matter how early it happens.
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