Seven years ago, my husband Jason and I traveled to New England for two weeks to visit our family and friends.
While we were there, Jason’s cousin Sara threw a cousins’ party, and I couldn’t wait to see all the cousins I have missed so dearly since we left Vermont. There were hugs and joyful tears when we got there…
And then I held a baby. A new baby. A perfect baby. A baby that was not my own.
Suddenly I felt my throat catch, and my eyes tear up, and all at once I was crying. I’m talking about the loud, shoulders-shaking-and-people-around-you-staring kind of sobbing. The kind you can’t stop, no matter where you are or who’s around. It was an involuntary, visceral reaction, and literally felt completely beyond my control. And I could not stop.
It had been nearly three years since we decided it was time to take the leap and start a family, and oh, how we longed to be parents.
We thought it would happen right away. Or maybe take a few months. Or maybe even a year, tops. But for 29 months, we experienced only disappointment. Month after month after month, we mourned. And then we hoped. Maybe next month our baby will come. Just one more month. We can do this. And then, again, a month later, we would mourn.
Finally – FINALLY! – in the 30th month, our hope turned to elation. There was a plus sign on the pregnancy test. Jason’s mom and stepdad were visiting, so we decided to share the news right away. We gathered everyone for a family dinner and insisted on handling dessert. After dinner, we placed a tray of brownies on the table, with “We’re having a baby!” written across it. There were happy tears, and screaming, and hugging, and JOY. There was so much joy.
I was six weeks pregnant. At last.
I was eight weeks along when we saw the little pulsating bean on the monitor, and 10 weeks when we heard the heartbeat for the first time. The nurse said the heartbeat was fast, and wondered aloud whether the old wives’ tale about girls having fast heartbeats would hold true. I was sure it would. It was a girl. I was certain.
At 12 weeks we saw a little peach-sized baby on the monitor, with hands and feet, and a nasal bone. She was gulping up fluid while we watched her, and then she got the hiccups. And then, at 15 weeks, I woke up bleeding and her little heartbeat was gone.
Miscarriages happen, I knew that. They’re not even rare. I knew that too. But nothing could have prepared me for the reality of it.
The physical trauma alone was shocking. There was so much blood and I was in such pain that I fainted at the triage station in the emergency room. Suddenly I was being wheeled on a bed across the ER while nurses yanked my clothes off and put me in a gown. Then I was vomiting into a bucket and experiencing a whole new kind of pain when a nurse inserted my first ever IV. While the nurses flooded my IV with fluid and painkillers and nausea medicine, an ultrasound revealed that I would need a D&C to fully remove the baby’s tissue. It was a long 24 hours in the hospital, filled with pain and shock and sadness. I can still hear Jason sobbing into the phone as he shared the news with his mother.
I was also overwhelmed by the love of our families, who rallied so beautifully in the face of our loss. And I was overwhelmed by the generosity human beings show other human beings when lousy things happen.
In the months that followed, I certainly felt sad. But I also felt grateful to be loved by so many people. I felt grateful to have such an open-hearted and generous husband. I felt grateful to know that pregnancy was possible. And I felt grateful to have been chosen to be that baby’s home… even if it was for just 15 short weeks. I felt grateful to have become a mother.
And even with all that gratitude, the sadness of it still snuck up on me sometimes. When I held my cousin Mary’s beautiful baby at that party in Vermont, just months after I had lost my own, I was surprised to discover I still had so many tears left to shed. Mary, of course, was magnificently understanding, and knew the tears were coming before I did. She gave me the gift of letting me hold her child while I mourned the loss of mine.