“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” - Lemony Snicket
Two weeks ago, I thought there was one more stair than there really was. You see, I was pregnant. I’d been pregnant for exactly 8 weeks. I had the “What to Expect” app downloaded on my phone—it sent me an update every week on what was happening to my body and to the teeny tiny sweet pea-sized body inside of me—and my jeans had starting getting too tight. Normally, this would be a cause for concern, but under the circumstances, I was thrilled. Then, I noticed some blood. Normally, this wouldn’t be a cause for concern, but under the circumstances, I was terrified.
I called the doctor, they scheduled an ultrasound, and things didn’t go according to plan. The plan was that I’d go to the doctor, they’d do an ultrasound, I’d see a healthy sweet pea, and my husband and I would go celebrate our first-time parent freak out with steaks and ice cream. Instead, the doctor told me she didn’t see anything.
It wasn’t until later that I learned what a Blighted Ovum was, or that it was the cause of almost half of all miscarriages. It occurs when a chromosomal problem causes an embryo to never develop or to stop developing and be absorbed by the gestational sac.
At the time, all I could think about was how swiftly our future had changed. After four weeks of excitement and anxiety and more excitement, the last stair had been ripped out from under my feet. I was left with all of the things I wouldn’t get to do for this baby. We wouldn’t get to announce how excited we were for their arrival, or find out their gender, or have a baby shower. In fact, I was left with the truth that there may not have been any baby at all. I could have spent eight weeks nurturing an empty sac.
As reality settled in, though, my pragmatic side took over. I thought of all the things I’d done to take care of this baby. Months of prenatal vitamins, too many spinach and cucumber salads to count, humid walks in the middle of a Houston summer, and avoiding lunch meat, regardless of how badly I was craving a Jimmy John’s sandwich. I realized I hadn’t done anything to cause this. It was a cruel twist of fate that so many couples go through, a mis-numbering of chromosomes that didn’t allow for life. I took comfort in knowing I’d done my best to be a good mom for the short time I was one.
The true discomfort came when I began to feel like I couldn’t talk about the life-altering event we’d been through. People announce happy things: engagements, marriages, career moves, babies. No one wants to hear the sad, yet commonplace, story of my miscarriage, I thought. I felt alone, more alone than I think I’ve ever felt in my life. In this isolation, I realized how badly I wanted to know someone else’s story. Statistics told me 20% of pregnancies ended in miscarriage, but my Facebook feed told me everyone else was having successful pregnancies. I didn’t want to be a dark cloud over everyone else’s happiness.
Then, two nights ago, I had a dream I was holding a baby. I loved this baby so much. I kept staring at his little face and holding him in my arms, and even though the dream didn’t explicitly say so, I knew he was mine. I wanted so badly to take care of him, but I realized I didn’t have a car seat or diapers or a bottle or a blanket. I didn’t have anything necessary to take care of him and, even though I was surrounded by people, no one would help me. I started to cry and I held the baby close to my face and told him I was sorry. I was sorry I couldn’t take care of him the way I was supposed to. Sorry he had such a rotten mom. Then, I woke up, my arms folded across my chest like I was cradling a tiny baby.
After that dream, I knew I had to share my story. I didn’t want to be one of those people from my dream who stood by and did nothing to help. I didn’t want to stay quiet and let someone else feel as alone as I had felt. Miscarriages happen so often, yet people don’t talk about them. In fact, we avoid announcing a pregnancy too early in case a miscarriage does occur. I understand the need for private grief and emotional healing, but I also understand the need for community.
So, this isn’t because I want sympathy. I realize my story is commonplace, and I know many people have stories much worse than mine. Instead, this is for anyone who is going through or has gone through the loss of a pregnancy, to let them know they aren’t alone. To let them know they can talk about their story if they need to. A miscarriage doesn’t have to be a secret thing. Your baby doesn’t have to be a secret.
Thanks for listening, and sorry if I was a dark cloud.