Sunday, December 9, 2012

My intimate loss, and my secret happiness

We've got two kids.  Silly and sensitive little people, who test my patience, and show me how big love is on a daily basis.

One of them is cool and collected, way too caught up in being a teenager to allow us to see how silly he is.  Every now and then, he slips, and we find ourselves tangled in fits of laughter, unable to collect ourselves for several minutes.  Those moments are the best moments, and remind me of the funny little fella who sat on my lap in his diaper, smacking the air out of my cheeks and sending us both into fits of hysterical laughter, as his little round tooth peeked out from behind his drooling baby lips :)  And now he's grown into a man, towering over me and making it difficult to fathom that he ever lived inside my belly.  He's a builder and a thinker.  And tho he can sometimes be a colossal asshole, he's still the nicest kid you will ever meet.  Someone will have to meet very high standards to be "good enough" for our baby boy.

The other is a wacky, uninhibited thing, who is constantly singing, or painting, or banging away on the old dusty piano downstairs.  She needs hugs and attention and approval, or she can become very, very, very volatile.  She's very much a stereotypical "girl", but also insists that swords and stick horses and dirt on one's face are "girl" things.  She wears her emotions on her sleeve, and won't hesitate to let you know when you've crushed her little spirit.  So don't be a d-bag, because she will tell on you.  She loves the sound of her own voice, and when she is around, there is constant singing.  Constant.  Singing.  She doesn't want chemicals in her food, and the fastest way to her heart is to bring her an earth-conscious gift such as an organic apple or a hand-sewn grocery bag.  Someone will have to meet very high standards to be "good enough" for our baby girl.

And we are a family, happily, and completely.  Things are very even, and balanced, and perfect in our house.  Two boys.  Two girls.  Everyone gets a vote.  Everyone adds something.

Between the two pregnancies, there was a third.  A baby that never joined us...
And I'm going to talk about that right now.


Our son was four months old.  We were still learning our way around as parents.  We were still trying to figure out how to do everything "right" and probably failing miserably.  We were young, and still thought that the doctors and grown ups around us knew better than we did.  We were struggling to do what we were told was right, and figure out how to balance those things with what we felt was right.  It wasn't easy.  We fought each other, and we fought our baby and we fought our own feelings, in order to do what we thought was best for him.  So we let him "cry it out."  We gave him bottles instead of breasts because "he isn't getting enough to eat."  We were exhausted.  And so, probably, was our baby.  Postpartum depression had me pinned beneath it's black grip, and I struggled nightly with horrible visions, desperate thoughts, and resentment.  Because this wasn't supposed to be what having a baby was like.
But we were managing.  My mother helped the best way she knew how, and I was grateful.  My husband had begun working on the road, and it was hard being away from him.  Having my mother there to help me, and to remind me that all my wacky feelings were normal was a tremendous help.  Even when I want to punch her teeth down her throat, I can still take a little comfort in knowing that she was there during that time.  I was able to bond so closely with my sweet baby, and to understand that everything was going to be ok...eventually...and that I just had to get thru the first initial rough patch.  I would look back at this experience later, much much later, and see how far I'd come.

And then it happened.  I began to get symptoms of pregnancy once again, and because I'd just gone thru it, it was all still fresh in my mind, and I knew.
I went to the local pharmacy and bought a can of baby formula, and a pregnancy test.  The woman behind the counter giggled and said "oh, are we hoping for another already?" 

No.  Not in the least.  Not in my worst nightmare.  No.  More.  Babies.  Ever.


We did not make a prenatal appointment.  I did not begin taking vitamins.  I did not even quit smoking this time.  Somehow I had convinced myself that if I pretended it wasn't happening, it wouldn't.  I put my baby boy to my breast and pretended that it would always just be him and I, and that no other babies would try to infiltrate our perfect little circle of love.  Because they couldn't.  How on earth could I love another baby the way I loved this one?  How could I look at a different face against my breast and not feel resentment.  Or worse.  How could I ever feel anything for another baby.  It was impossible, and I knew it was impossible.

My thoughts were swamped with it.  I began telling myself that there was no way, that I was incapable of loving another.  That the baby in my belly would grow up feeling second best.  Because it was second best.  Because I loved my boy so viciously that anyone else would just pale in comparison.

For three months I carried that baby around inside of me, bombarding him or her with thoughts of disdain.  Wanting desperately to begin to feel...something...and feeling so very, very nothing.  

I can't love you, baby.  
You won't compare, baby.
And I don't want you, baby. 

And then my body began to change.  I began cramping.  Bleeding.  And then things began to get...grotesque.

Miscarriage is not just an unfortunate word pinned to something terrible that happens to a pregnant woman.  There are verbs, gory verbs, that attach themselves to the body of a mother experiencing a miscarriage.  I began to realize that the baby that was once inside of me was slowly making its way out of me, in a way that would change my view of pregnancy forever.  The things I started to see coming out of my body are things that were never meant to be seen.  Things that were meant to stay inside, protected, until they were done forming into the person they were to become.  I wasn't supposed to see them.
But I did.  I saw them.  I studied them.  I contemplated them from every angle.  Over several days, I struggled with my own emotions, as parts of my pregnancy made their graceless exit from my body.

The doctor confirmed a day or so later.  The pregnancy was lost.  She hugged me, as I sat on the funny table in my paper dress.  "I'm so sorry for your loss."  She put samples of what was left of our baby in a jar, and asked the nurse to label it "products of conception," and sent it off to some laboratory to be tested.  For what, I don't know.
And then she left us there, to deal with the news of our loss.

Was it a loss?  My brain raced, searching frantically for the heavy sense of despair that is supposed to accompany the loss of one's pregnancy.  Where was my sorrow?  Where was my guilt?  Where was my sense of grief and loss.

I didn't have it.  I had relief.
"Your baby is dead."
"Oh, thank goodness!"

This is the feeling that swept over me for weeks and weeks after the doctor had given us the official word.  People would pat my back and offer consolation, and I would do my best to appear slightly bothered, but with an understanding that life would continue.
I felt viscous and uncaring.  I wondered what that meant for the baby I already had, my sweet little boy, whom I adored beyond reason.  I wondered what it meant about me as a person.  Am I a monster?  My baby is dead.  Where is the grief?
Had I willed my baby to die?  Did he or she sense the feelings of resentment and my promises that I would never love him or her?  Can a person really will herself un-pregnant?

I never shed a single tear.  Not one.

As time went on, I just stopped thinking about it.  I heard stories of friends and family members who had lost babies, and who seemed to mourn terribly for their losses.  I listened as friends recounted their desperate attempts to get pregnant and make families, and furrowed my brow in compassion as they lamented their failed attempts.  And still, I wasn't sorry.  I wasn't sad.  My own miscarriage sort of fading into a memory of "just a thing that biggie."

The truth is, I have never been sad.  Not really.  A handful of times I might have stopped to consider the person inside me that almost was, and wonder "what if."  But mostly, it's something I don't think about.  I have never stopped being relieved.  I have never stopped believing that I wasn't going to be able to love that baby.  I have never stopped feeling guilty over my inability to mourn the loss of that person-to-be.  Ever.  In truth, if I had a time machine, I wouldn't change it.  Not in the least.  Not even a little.

What's that say about me?  Lots, I'm sure.
But, I have been able to come to the realization that there is no "right" way to have a miscarriage.  Whether we sob hysterically, or shrug it off like we accidentally left our eggs in the grocery cart, there is no correct reaction.  My relief was no less "right" than the woman who mourns tragically for years.  I have found that this is a common feeling among women who have lost pregnancies.  The feeling of needing to find the right reaction for such a thing.
There is no right feeling.  Mine is likely less popular, and difficult for someone who has grieved heavily for the loss of their pregnancy.  But it is still mine, and so it was the right one for me.

I have allowed myself to stop feeling such guilt over my lack of sadness.  I wasn't sad, and I'm not sad, and my beliefs allow me to realize that if it isn't meant to be, then it won't be.

And in the meantime, I've chosen to think that the baby we lost was our daughter, who decided at that time that we weren't ready to be a family yet, so she waited until we were.  And perhaps that's the secret to my inability to mourn.  Maybe I have decided to feel as if I didn't lose anything.  I just had to wait a little longer for her to decide she was ready to be with us.
There is no right way.  To have a miscarriage.  To lose a loved one.  To experience anything life has to offer.  Our emotions are our own.  Our reactions are right.  Realizing that saves so much time and anguish.


  1. sometimes the time just is not right! and that's okay. same goes for women who abort, which is just a fancy word for forced abortion.. some mourn and some do not. I was just watching a documentary on epigenetics (the environment and maternal emotion while in the womb) last night and how they can cause miscarriage, and if not, worse things can happen, like developmental issues or lifelong emotional issues. it's really fascinating!

    1. sorry, and I meant forced miscarriage. I'm on my phone and its hard to leave comments with lol

    2. The time was definitely not right for us. And I'm a firm believer that life knows what it's doing, and when nature takes it course, we should listen. I'm also a believer in the infinite nature of souls, and I believe our daughter eventually came back to us when she was ready. And when we were ready :)