Exactly two years ago, I found out I was pregnant. Actually, I knew I was pregnant before I even found out. I was outside painting bright colored stripes on abandoned newspaper stands with my friend Beth, when a strange feeling came over me…and I just knew. No outward symptoms, just a strange electricity inside. I went home that evening, took a test, and nearly fainted from joy at the two little lines.
I kept it a secret for a little over 24 hours. No particular reason why I kept it a secret, I just enjoyed it being "just me and my baby" for a little while. The next morning after my personal test, I got up at sunrise to do a photo shoot. I pranced about in Centennial Park's gardens with a flower crown on my head and I knew I was glowing. The photos are proof, but I could feel the love radiating out of me. The photographer, of course, had no idea.
The next morning, I got up at sunrise again and volunteered along with my coworkers to hand out food from a food bank in a very poor part of town. At some point, I wandered off to the art area and helped children splatter paint on a temporary sculpture. Eventually, I felt like I couldn't hold my secret anymore and I suddenly couldn't wait to share it.
As I was driving home, I passed a church with a pumpkin patch. I pulled over and bought the tiniest little pumpkin they had for a dollar. Nearby was the mall, and I headed straight to Nordstrom's baby section and bought a pair of white, lacey socks for about $5. I told the old lady behind the cash register and absolutely gushed.
I dropped the socks and the tiny pumpkin into a gift bag and waited for my spouse to come home. At first, he didn't get it. Then, he didn't believe it. Even with my personal test at hand. He sent me off to the doctor to double-check, which of course, was with the same personal test I already had used. We got the doctor's confirmation. We were thrilled and we were terrified, but mostly thrilled. We told his parents and that was all.
I was just in the very beginning stages of helping launch 12th & Broad. It was absolute insanity and incredibly stressful, though enormously fun. After a few weeks, my two coworkers were the next people to find out. As soon as I told them, they burst into knowing laughter and high-fives because they, of course, had already figured it out. Codie recognized my 'glow' weeks ago and the two had been watching me like a hawk. They were the only friends I could really share my joy with, and we talked about "Little Bean" every day.
One of my cousins became pregnant at the same time and our due dates were only days apart. When she texted me her secret news, I texted her my secret news back. We were like blood sisters. We texted each day about our symptoms, how wonderfully nauseous we were. I once had a crazy dream and called her to tell her about it:
"I was at the doctor's office, and the nurse asked me if I would like to hold my baby for a minute and I said, 'Yes! Of course!' "
…my cousin finished the sentence:
"and then she handed you the baby with the umbilical cord still attached to you?"
"And then put it back inside you?"
…We had strangely had the same exact dream. I remember how beautiful my baby was cradled in my arms in my dream.
I went to the doctor nearly weekly for ultrasounds. They never could quite peg how far along I was. The due date started changing. I didn't understand why the doctor was so confused about my baby's age but I didn't really question it.
Seeing the heartbeat for the first time just blew my mind. It was no longer a clump of cells (that I loved with my all of my being), it was a teeny tiny human with a teeny tiny heart! I kept a little black leather journal that I wrote in almost every night — mostly about how in love I was with my baby. I thought I might burst with love, so I needed an outlet. I imagined giving the journal to my baby someday and saying, "See? I really have loved you since the day I found out about you!"
We finally announced it to both of our families. My sisters had known for some time, but I waited to tell my mother and father in person. Little did I know, they would not get to enjoy our excitement for very long.
Right after we announced it, we went in for another ultrasound. I was a Google-junkie about anything and everything pregnancy related, so when I saw the numbers on the screen, I immediately knew something was wrong. I knew before the nurse even said anything. The beats-per-minute for our baby's heart was lower than last week's and substantially lower than the rate it should have been this far along.
Though I knew something was wrong, I naturally assumed everything would still be okay. Right? Some sort of regimen? Some sort of medicine?
Then the doctor came in. She let me know I was going to miscarry. I did not register what she said. How could she know I was going to miscarry?? I can see my baby, right there, on the screen! I can see the heart beating! It may be a little weak, but it's still beating!
She pitied me. I'm sure she got this reaction all the time. She offered to go ahead and get the miscarriage over with. Take it out of me. It would be less painful, she said.
She was officially the devil in my eyes. I could not tolerate the words she was saying to me. Indignant, offended and confused, I got up and walked out.
I drove us back home, which, was incredibly dangerous, because I couldn't see the road since my eyes were full of tears. I couldn't breathe. I was bawling. I'd lost all control. My spouse, no matter how hard he tried, could not console me. I was too wrapped up in my own rage and sadness and heartbreak to consider that he was possibly feeling the same things. I didn't feel like I could talk to him.
I got home and called one of my best friends from high school, Matt. He has always been a voice of reason for me. He's seen my outbursts for years and has helped me through heartbreaks before. He also was one of my only close friends who had a newborn baby.
He calmed me down. My bawling was reduced to small sobs. He reminded me that the doctors had told him and his wife that they would miscarry, but they didn't. It was a miracle. …I held on to that. He told me to stop crying so hard and to stop worrying so much — that I was "stressing out the baby." That, maybe, if I didn't stress the baby and my body, there was a possibility the heart would get stronger. …I held on to that. It was a long shot, but anything — anything! — that could possibly save him was worth it.
I laid in bed for over a week. I didn't move. I didn't go anywhere. I missed Thanksgiving. I naively thought that if I didn't cry too much or worry too much or move my body too much, everything would get better. I laid very still and waited, though my heart was broken. I was mourning my baby's death, even while he was still alive inside me. My poor spouse was kind and attentive, but I don't think he knew what to do with me and I didn't really let him try.
I didn't talk to anyone. I didn't talk to my mother-in-law or my girlfriends, or my co-workers, or my sisters or my own mother. I asked my spouse to deliver the bad news to everyone and I kept to myself.
Several weeks later, I started having contractions. I went into the bathroom and shut the door and essentially went into labor by myself. I didn't tell anyone, not even my spouse. I endured the pain by myself. I writhed around on the cold, white bathroom tiles. I knew what was happening, even though I didn't really know. Of course, for all of my Googling, this was one thing I did not research.
It was awful. It was messy. I held him. I was in shock.
I cleaned myself up and went back to bed. All that I said to my spouse was something like: "It happened. It's over."
We never really talked about it.
In private, I named him John. I've never told anyone that.
Why am I writing about this now? For several reasons.
One, because I've done a lot of healing over the past year and this has been the hardest thing I've ever gone through. And only a few people have heard anything about it. But it changed me. It shaped me in so many ways.
Two, because I realized today that I didn't have to do it all by myself. Why did I do that to myself? Why did I not talk to my spouse? Why did I not talk to my mother? Why did I not hear their stories? Why did I not listen? Why did I go into that bathroom alone? Why didn't I have someone with me? I chose that. I chose to do it the hard way. I chose to carry the burden all by myself. …I'm still learning, but I hope that I never choose to go through hardship or heartbreak alone ever again.
Three, because nearly EVERY woman I've talked to about it, has also gone through the same thing. Apparently, it's extremely common — especially the first time around. Apparently, our bodies need a trial run. Sometimes they need three trial runs.
Fourth, because I'm terrified of when I get pregnant again, that I'll be the person who needs three trial runs. I'm terrified my heart won't be able to take it again.
Fifth, and mainly, because I think we should talk about it more so it’s not such a taboo topic.
I didn't know then that nearly every woman in the world had experienced this. I didn't know that it was okay to go to a therapist or to take off of work. I didn't know that there are online resources and chat rooms where women emotionally heal together. I felt very alone and I felt like I couldn't tell anyone. We talk about all of our other baggage and losses, but I had never seen ANYONE talk about losing their unborn child. It was something I didn't feel "allowed" to be sad for — I thought everyone would think I was ridiculous for crying over a baby that hadn't even formed fingers yet. It was only something you whispered to your closest friend. It was too taboo. It was bad social etiquette. …Or so I thought.
In the past few months, I've noticed that people are a little more vocal about it. A little more accepting that this is life; this is another sad loss that we all go through. Even Mark Zuckerberg wrote a post about their struggles with miscarriages.
I still keep my ultrasound photos in my bedside table drawer. I look at them one to three times a month. I 'talk' to Baby John in my mind sometimes. He's very real to me. I still have my test and my "Congratulations!" baby cards and his little lacey baby socks.
But I'm ready again.
That's the last reason I felt compelled to write this post. My heart has finally healed and I feel stronger, more prepared, and …well, more in the right place. It actually occurred to me recently while on a trip to Virginia in July. I can't explain it. I just randomly felt a new sort of electricity run through me and I knew that something in my heart had healed.
Now, when I see my cousin's gorgeous baby growing, I feel genuine happiness — rather than sadness, bitterness, jealousy, or heartbreak. Now, I know that things all happened for a reason — a "blessing in disguise" as they say. Now, I have a deeper understanding of just how much a mother unconditionally loves a child — it's a scary-wonderful bond. Now, I know I will cherish every moment just that much more, whenever the time is right again.
So, let's talk about it.