I can’t tell you how long I have resisted the writing of this post.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, September 24, 2014, I experienced a miscarriage. One week later, I learned that October was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and felt like I I had to write this post, or should write this post, and now, after giving myself plenty of time and space, I want to write this post.
The loss and heartbreak of this experience pales in comparison to what I’ve gained…something I never thought I’d hear myself say.
Grief, that is one tricky emotion. It doesn’t just happen in quick eloquent stages, transitioning smoothly from one to the next.
It scared me, actually.
The act of writing these words, simply watching them show up on the screen as I type, is quickening my heartbeat and making me want to go fold laundry instead. I know myself, and if I don’t do this, if I don’t write this out and share at this level, it will drive the grief deeper still.
I’ll ignore the laundry for now, because if there is one thing this passage has taught me, it’s that I have spent the better part of 38 years setting aside my grief to wash the floor, clean the fridge, or tell the same stories of my victimhood over and over again to another well intentioned listener.
September 5, 2014: We packed for a friends wedding in Two Harbors and I had been dreading this weekend in the north woods because I’d be in the midst of my cycle. I shared with Chad the “symptoms” of pregnancy I had noted for the past few weeks. I also reminded him I was supposed to get my period this weekend.
Just in case, I took the below photo to chronicle what could have been the beginning of my journey.
September 6, 2014: We enjoyed ourselves at a glorious gathering of community on the beach with no wind in the air and no ripple on the water as we witness the partnering of an amazing couple. Throughout dinner, Chad whispered in my ear, “I think you’re pregnant.” We were giddy with excitement, simply living in possibility.
We had been trying for a few months, and I had recently let go of expectation and began to accept that what my body had been healing, (somewhat similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,) would heal on its own time, and when it’s ready to accept, hold and sustain a new life, we would be blessed with the surprise of it.
September 7, 2014: Sunny’s 11th birthday, I, the non-napper, fell asleep on the dock while the girls and dogs ran, jumped, giggled, shouted and splashed around me.
That night when we returned home, I opened my fertility calendar to realize instead of being just 4 weeks along, I was actually 6 weeks counting from first day of last period.
6 weeks. That was substantial in my view and a real feeling of having thrown my hat over the fence. Having lost four babies in the 10 years prior to this pregnancy, 1 at 5 1/2 weeks, 2 at 6 1/2 weeks and 1 at 9 1/2 weeks, this felt like progress.
So I peed on a stick. At 1 in the morning. I wasn’t about to wait another second to verify what my body had been telling me…heavy full feeling in my breasts, a stomach ache after eating too fast or too much, needing to relieve my bladder more frequently, and that I’ve-been-raking-leaves-for-8-hours-a-day kind of tired.
We didn’t have to wait 3 minutes because there were 2 pick lines within 10 seconds.
And in that moment it changed everything. We knew we had everything we needed to pull this off. We laid out a timeline of projects to complete within 9 months and began discussing how to tell our girls.
I knew instantly I wanted to share the level of joy and excitement with them. We had come so far as a family, this was like the icing on the cake, and IF something were to happen, they would be sharing in my heartbreak and sadness so they would also revel in the joy.
In that moment, it changed everything.
We held out for a week, then told them with a scavenger hunt around the bonfire on a Friday night. At each spot they got a Post-It with one word and brought them into the house to crack the code. Their response was priceless. Sunny sobbed as she processed the surprise, excitement and possibility. Annie was 6 and quietly took it all in until it hit her.
For the next 10 days we giggled, stared at my belly, planned out the baby’s room, and how to tell the grandmas. There was an overwhelming sense of partnership, family, love, f-u-n. They had me feeling so cared for. Allowed me naps, tucked me into bed early with foot rubs, kept me well fed.
We focused on that timeline. With an estimated due date of May 11, we planned on having a baby before Memorial Day weekend with my typical 41 1/2 weeks gestation. Even how and when to plant the garden had been sorted so it would be complete before our little one arrived.
We thought about baby names. Annie contributed girl names that were quite similar to those 6 year olds she shares a first grade room with, and Sunny began knitting squares to make a blanket to welcome him or her.
Then on Monday, September 22, I noticed some spotting at the end of the day. It was dark in color and it was hours old when I found it so I wasn’t alarmed, though I held off on exercising the next day.
Wednesday, September 24, Sunny and I headed out for a hike after we dropped Annie at school and I noticed a dull ache begin in my low abdomen toward the end. We’d only been hiking for 45 minutes. When I got home there was another spot, still dark. Just in case, I crawled into bed for a nap as insomnia had kicked in the week prior so I wasn’t getting much sleep at night.
The tension was still there when I woke, so I called Chad to share about it as I drove to a postpartum visit. We agreed to meet at home at 3 so I could rest or do what I needed to take care of myself and he would tend to the kids.
As I was loving on this sweet chubby boy at the postpartum visit, my mama client and I were celebrating her beautiful water birth, I had to get clear. Right then, I knew I was miscarrying. I know what it feels like. I just didn’t want to stand up. I have known this mama for a couple of years, love her dearly and knew I could be straight with her. It was hard, being authentic and sharing this in the space of her celebration, and yet, my head was in the clouds.
I got home at 3, wiped away pink slippery discharge when I peed, and hopped into bed. At 3:30 I found myself in the bathroom again, this time staring down into the toilet at what I knew was the yolk sac. Hearing our girls playing in the front yard outside the bathroom window, I called to Chad as I reached in to the cold water to grab it.
In that moment, in that beautiful and still moment, we sat there and both grieved and celebrated what we had both lost and gained. It was heartbreaking and such powerful closure all at once. We hadn’t experienced this with our past losses so we were in awe at this small sac and the power of my body.
By holding this in my hand and knowing what the growing fetus should look like at 8.5 weeks my guess is the development stopped within days of learning I was pregnant.
In the five days that followed, I was in a high amount of toe curling discomfort, from my shoulder blades to my knee caps, my body behaved as if in contractions, the feeling of grief was tremendous and I began to look at what I was really going through.
I was grieving five miscarriages.
What I got was that I had made an agreement with myself that when I was pregnant again there would be community, resources, and support (both financially and emotionally) I hadn’t felt the first two times around. I had been creating this for some time. Here I was, experiencing amazing love and affinity from my husband, incredible emotional intimacy and sharing, love, food, and time from my friends and family, space to let myself heal. I had it all except a warm little one in my arms.
In that moment I got clear on what was happening. I wasn’t grieving just this loss, I was grieving the other four lost little ones that came at times where I felt I couldn’t put my own needs first, where the emotional and physical pain of them were literally swept under the rug.
Once I acknowledged that was happening, it all played out like turning pages of a book. I would see the grief, acknowledge it, set it aside and the page would turn, showing me another moment in my life where I didn’t give myself space to heal. The years of struggle in our marriage showed up, the years I spent caring for my family while my mom was sick took its turn, and the time I spent dealing with physical health manifestations of the stress of caring for my family for years after that. Then we were back to childhood where childhood sexual abuse had taken place in the space of those who loved me, all the while those who loved me had no idea.
In five days I went from age 37 down to age 7. I grieved 30 years of my life and the healing that hadn’t taken place. For about a month after, there were daily instances of crying–crying when the kids fought, crying when I got confronted, crying because it felt good to cry in the moment, and crying because I couldn’t explain what I was feeling.
By late October who I had become was a powerful source of knowledge, wisdom, and intuition. I got that I did in those five days what I was meant to do. My loss of Winter (the name we chose as a family for that baby) was heartfelt, though what this baby gave me was a lifetime of freedom from the walls of a prison I had myself inside of.