I got home this morning after dropping the kids off at school and became frantic because I couldn’t find this innocuous yellow baby blanket I bought over 15 years ago. I didn’t do anything else until I finally tracked it down in my office buried in an old hope chest. I have been drowning in memories that I didn’t even know were still buried. I have been overwhelmed by all the small and magnificently giant ways my heart was changed when we lost our baby.
Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, so I’ve been reading stories of loss and heartbreak all weekend. But from that I’ve been so uplifted by those willing to share their stories. By bringing light to what can feel like the darkest time, they are reassuring others that they are not alone in the emptiness and the struggle and the overwhelming feeling of loss.
About 15 years ago at the ripe old age of 22, my husband and I found out we were pregnant. I still remember that day. We had donuts for breakfast and then I had to leave him at home alone with this gigantic news while I went to work. We weren’t planning on having kids for YEARS, it wasn’t even on the radar. We spent hours and days and weeks trying to reconcile what this meant for our life. None of our friends had kids or were having kids, so we had nobody to relate to. We told our parents, who were admittedly shocked but excited.
We slowly came around to understanding and accepting and excitement and anxiety and trepidation and exhaustion. I bought a book on pregnancy. I bought a copy of Robert Munsch’s Love Me Forever and cried every time I read it. I spent what felt like hours up and down the baby aisles of Walmart and settled on a soft little yellow blanket that ended up being the only thing I ever bought for our baby. We went through Christmas with our families and they bought us a little swing and a few cute little baby clothes. A friend brought us back a shirt and toddler cup from Hawaii. We told my boss and coworkers and several friends.
We went in to our doctor to hear the heartbeat and they couldn’t find it, but assured us it was still early. When I hit 12 weeks, I actually said to my husband “We have hit a milestone! They say that after 12 weeks, the risk of losing the baby goes way down. We’re in this for the long haul.”.
On New Year’s Eve, I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible cramping. No blood, just massive nausea and cramps that came in awful waves of pain. I didn’t wake my husband up for quite some time, but eventually felt that I had to. Once it was a semi-normal hour, I called a friend and asked for advice. She told me she had something similar happen to her and drank cranberry juice and all was better. Cranberry juice? My poor husband had felt so helpless up until this point, so he jumped out of bed to run to the store for juice. By the time he got back, things had gone from bad to worse. He called our doctor, left a message and we waited for what felt like the world’s longest seven minutes. They wanted us to come in.
Driving to the emergency room, it was all I could do to hang on for dear life. My husband had just opened one of those new car scented trees in his truck and to this day, I can’t handle that smell. It’s a flood of memories every time.
I writhed in pain in the emergency room. I writhed in pain once they got me into a bed. At this point, I had never even let myself think that we might be losing the baby. Not once. I just assumed everything would work out.
It’s all a blur from this point on. I remember the doctor coming in to break the news to us. I remember my husband crying, only because it’s so rare. I have a vague recollection of being taken back for a D&C. I don’t even remember how we got home.
What I do remember.
My parents canceled their New Year’s Eve plans and came down to stay with us. She took me to Starbucks for a coffee later that afternoon and I ran into a friend who asked about my pregnancy which knocked me sideways. I don’t even remember what I said.
I didn’t go back to work for almost a full week, not because I physically wasn’t able to but because I couldn’t have a conversation with anyone without bursting into tears. My husband and I holed up in our apartment and played a video game that we rented. We don’t even play video games. I just didn’t want to have to think. The first day I tried to go back to work, I was inconsolable as I walked through the door and one of my coworkers offered to stay for me so I could go back home and crawl into bed.
I worked with a gal who got pregnant at the same time I did and she seemed to just radiate life. Every inch that her belly grew made my heart shatter into smaller and smaller pieces. Hiding my pain from her became a full time job. It wasn’t her fault but I wanted it to be her fault.
Nobody knew what to say. Ever. People say the worst things, as I’m sure I have also done because you just don’t know. I didn’t care for one second that these things happen for a reason. Or that there was probably something wrong with my baby anyway. Or that this is God’s way of taking something from us that wasn’t ours in the first place. I know people mean well. I fully understand that. But when you are drowning in heartache, it all feels like knives slicing you apart. Still to this day, I remember my mom’s friend sending me a card that said “The only thing I can tell you is that this means your body knows how to get pregnant”. This was the only thing that gave me hope. She didn’t discount what I had been through, but gave me something to cling to.
Even though we had no plans to have children before this all happened, I started to feel as if the only thing that could take the pain away was to immediately get pregnant again, which put a huge strain on our relationship. My poor husband couldn’t understand how much this had changed and broke and ravaged my heart when it wasn’t something we had been planning in the first place. I crawled into a very black hole of grief while he was left to deal with his own grief and try to lift me up. Big job.
I felt a wild amount of guilt. It must have been my fault. I used the elliptical machine too much. I ate the wrong kind of meat or not enough meat or cooked the meat incorrectly. Did I get too close to the cat litter box? Should I have changed my work schedule? Did I lift a box that was too heavy? Nobody could tell me what really happened, so I piled the entire load on my shoulders.
A few months later, we moved into our first house. While packing up the spare bedroom in our apartment, I found a box with the few items we had set aside for the baby and my heart was ripped into shreds all over again. I couldn’t look at it. I threw things. I got very, very angry.
Everyone was pregnant everywhere. Around every street corner. At every store. Every friend I had ever had was getting pregnant or talking about getting pregnant. I was invited to baby shower after baby shower and I just couldn’t face them. I tried so hard to look past my grief and into their joy but all I could see was loss. Nothing ruins a baby shower more than a tearful girl who wasn’t even given the chance to be a Mom. I felt very, very alone.
I didn’t want to stop talking about it. If I stopped and people stopped asking me how I was feeling or how we were doing, that meant we were moving on. HOW CAN EVERYONE MOVE ON FROM THE LOSS OF A BABY? Even though we never got to hold our baby in our arms, even though we never knew the sex, it was such an amazingly real loss. People aren’t quite sure how to handle your grief when your loss isn’t something they can quantify. I wanted to scream from the rooftops, but most people felt that this was something we could just “get over”.
Even though I never felt the baby kick or even felt a flutter, we were a team from the start. I ate for our baby and slept for our baby and talked about our baby and dreamed about our baby. After the loss, I felt like an empty shell. Like there was a literal hole inside of me.
That coworker and I are still friends on Facebook and I have seen her sweet daughter grow up. Every year on her birthday, I feel this twist in my heart. For a second, I try to envision what our lives would be like if we had a son or daughter her age, but I just can’t. The loss of our baby changed the course of our lives in so many indefinable ways that it feels impossible to see where things could have been.
There were some that were afraid of my story, they didn’t want to hear it. But the light in the darkness for me was hearing from those with a similar story. It felt like people climbed out of the woodwork to tell me what they had been through. It felt like I had joined an exclusive, albeit heartbreaking, club. You don’t hear these stories unless you have been through it. I assume we are afraid of terrifying people. I NEEDED to hear these stories. I needed to hear that miscarriages were common and even more common, there is usually no clear and articulated problem. Until I heard from these Mamas who wanted to take a piece of my grief on to their shoulders, I felt wildly and desperately alone.
Grief is meant to be shared. To be lightened. It is not meant to be born alone.
To each and every one of you who have lost your precious baby, at any age, I carry your grief in my heart. I encourage you to write down your story, even if you don’t share it. As I wrote this post, 15 years later, I cried for our loss and for my two sweet healthy boys who drive me up the wall most days but who are here. With me. I cried this cathartic flood of tears for all the memories that came rushing back. I can’t remember what I had for lunch today, but I can remember the day my heart irreparably changed 15 years ago.
Thank you for letting me share my story. I feel so much like I was honoring the baby we never got to hold in our arms by remembering. — Melody, Angela’s blog manager
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