I have started and re-started this entry so many times over the past couple of months – mostly in my head, mostly at 4 am, mostly in moments of heartbreak followed by clarity followed by heartbreak. In writing this, I hope my words find their way from my heart to yours and give you what it is you need to take from it. My wish is that the clickety-clack of my keyboard that has offered me so much release over the past few years translates to some kind of release for you. Whether you have miscarried or not, this is for you, because we’ve all been where I was that night – in some form, in some way.
I’m no stranger to loss. In the past 25 years, I have said goodbye to two uncles, two grandparents, my father-in-law and my mother…and now my unborn child. But please, throw no pity my way – I won’t accept it. I consider myself a very lucky person to have been so close to these wonderful people; that kind of love doesn’t die and I still feel its effects years later. The first person I lost, my uncle, was a second father to me and at the age of 9, his death rocked my world. But it wouldn’t have had such an impact if I hadn’t known that kind of love, if I hadn’t grown up to that point on his knee, with his laughter, and surrounded by that indescribable feeling of my family extending comfortably beyond those I lived with. Do you see what I mean? My family – whether they are in physical form or not – is my comfort. Always.
It may seem impossible that when someone is taken from us, we gain something in exchange but it’s been true in my life and for that I am grateful. I had never considered, though, that I’d lose a child I was carrying. That happened to some other people, but not to me. Well, I was wrong about both those things; I learned that 1 in 3 pregnancies end in miscarriages. So, it doesn’t happen to just some other people – it has happened to almost everyone I know and have since met/talked to. After opening up about my miscarriage, I have heard countless stories of others.
And this, in a nutshell, is mine.
We were in the living room – my dad, two children and I – enjoying each other’s company and exchanging ideas for baby names. I was pregnant with my third child. Certain it was a girl, I shared my favourite name with my dad.
“That’s beautiful. Perfect.” He nodded. When we shared our news with my family – that a baby would be arriving in 2013 – my dad had danced over to me and swallowed me up in a big bear hug. Needless to say, he was ecstatic about adding to the joy in our lives. I was about 5 weeks along then and that’s when my pregnancy symptoms hit me hard and knocked me off my feet.
It ended up being a very rough summer. Pregnancy has never been a walk in the park for me; the first 3 months at least are spent in a nauseous, debilitated state. This time around was no exception – though in the months we tried to get pregnant I told myself, “Third time’s a charm; this one will be the easiest.” It so happened, this experience would be the toughest and take a devastating turn.
During the time I was pregnant, I spent much of the day on the couch. Movement made me heave; even changing position on the couch could sometimes trigger it. I had trouble eating more than a few bites at a time because the food literally felt stuck in my chest and sometimes never made its way down. Drinking was next to impossible and water was the last thing that I wanted to pass my lips. I got moisture from grapes and blueberries, but even they sometimes didn’t stay down. I had to back out of some very large obligations, I stopped writing – all I wanted to do was get through the trimester.
Among the heaving, the reflux pain and the gassy tummy, though, I was deliriously happy. A mama of 3 – that’s how I always saw myself. No matter how many times I questioned my ability or my sanity, my arms always felt a little empty without that third child. And so I dreamed of this baby, pictured her being enveloped in the love that I know my family has to offer, basking in the attention of a big sister, trying to keep up with her big brother. I dreamed of holding this baby, feeling much more confident and happy with who I am outside of being a mother and knowing that would extend into my ability to be the perfect mother for this child and her siblings. I looked forward to the joys of a newborn, the excitement of wondering how this little creature would fit in to our existing framework. And finally, at least half of the clothes that have completely taken over our storage space, would be worn again!
Sitting on the couch that day with my dad and kids, dreaming of my third baby, I was not expecting to feel a sudden gush between my legs. And I was certainly not prepared for the ambulance ride I endured in shock, nor of the fear that settled over me as I waited for my husband to join me in the sterile hospital room.
“I’m sorry!” I found myself crying to him in anguish when he rushed in, panting. “I’m so, so sorry!” Assuring me it would be all right, my husband grasped my hand and for a moment – just a moment – I thought, maybe it would be. A couple of tests later, we still clung to each other and waited for the news that I was already preparing myself to hear.
“Unfortunately, the ultrasound did not detect a heartbeat. The pregnancy is not viable. “ The emergency doctor paused before delivering the final sentence. “The baby has died.”
And just like that, I was no longer pregnant. I was no longer carrying that third child who I felt had been visiting me in spirit for several months. I had to go home and tell my 5 year old daughter that the sibling she had been drawing pictures of and kissing through my belly all summer was not going to grow and be with us. And somehow, I had to find the strength to face Life again even when this new space I was occupying felt foreign and strange.
That first night was hell. After our parents and siblings, the first call I made was to my cousin, Nazira. She, my friend Salima and a couple others close to me, had been with me through the entire pregnancy – calling, texting and listening to my heaving play-by-plays every day. (God bless them!) Telling Nazira was incredibly difficult because I knew how much she loved my baby. That’s what I mean about my extended family; when something happens to one of us, it happens to us all. In her words and through her tears, I found a little strength. I knew I still had to call Salima the next day but the thought of a “next day” at that point was too much for me.
After sitting in shocked silence, exchanging looks of devastation with my husband, we climbed up to bed, limp with exhaustion. And then that awful night – that first night of loss that I know so well – began. My body shook with sobs till it was almost dawn. I felt that familiar mixture of disbelief, pain and grief that I felt after losing my mom 3 years ago. It’s the exact same agony – losing someone you have loved all your life and losing someone you have loved all its life. In between bouts of tears, though, a strange thing was happening.
I kept hearing a voice that I’m sure was mine and I’m sure was not. “Everything is Perfect. Everything that is happening is happening for my Highest Good.” These phrases kept tumbling in my brain, wrapping me up in hope and calming my racing, breaking heart. Looking back, I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t hear those words that night, if I didn’t have the short reprieves from hysteria to gently guide me to daybreak?
Every night since then has been better. The moments of grief are a little more widely spaced between the knowing that all is well. From what I’ve learned of grief, it doesn’t completely leave, it just changes. That first night revealed to me how much I have learned, how much I have come to rely on a Greater Power to handle my worries and difficulties. I’m still not at a point where I am emotionally ready to exchange my unborn baby for a lesson…but if it was meant to teach me something, then I’m happy to have learned of my own spiritual growth.
My baby would have been born around the next Spring equinox, one of my favourite days of the year. To lessen the impact of that day, my family and I are planting tulips this fall which will bloom when our baby was supposed to. I find joy in tulips as they announce brighter, longer days and I can’t think of a more fitting celebration of life for the earth and my baby than that.
Would you do me a favour? When you see the tulips bloom next Spring, would you offer up some thanks for what you have, for what Earth provides us and for the experiences you will have in the new year?
Thanks for listening to my story; I can assure you there were many more messages for me in this experience that I will release on this page as time goes by.