No one can prepare you for what it feels like to lose a child. It should come as no surprise that losing adult children or young children would be difficult to overcome. My friends who have gone through such tragedies in their lives are heroes in my mind. How do you face another day after that sadness?
What has been revealing to me is the overwhelming sadness that losing an unborn child can bring. My first miscarriage was almost a year ago. We were so surprised to even find that we were pregnant since we hadn’t been “trying” and our first child was only 15 months when the pregnancy test proved positive. Since it took so long to get pregnant the first time this felt like a surprise gift from above. Could it really be this easy to have another child? It was early November when the miscarriage happen. Since the pregnancy was “only” about 7 weeks along, it just felt like a normal menstrual cycle but with a lot more crying involved. It feels like whiplash to go from such hope to such despair–which must be how people feel who lose loved ones to accidents–here one moment and gone the next. It felt silly to be so sad after the loss. We had only known we were pregnant for a few weeks. But it is amazing how much dreaming, planning, envisioning and connecting can happen in such a short time.
I’ve been pregnant three times and each time my brain immediately relabels and re-categorizes myself and my family. At first we were just a couple, then we got pregnant with C and instantly I could think of us as a family. I could picture welcoming our little boy or girl into our lives in August and how our lives would be forever changed. The same phenomenon happened with the other pregnancies but with a much sadder ending to the dream.
After waiting a bit after the first miscarriage, we tried again. To be honest, the dreaming and future planning begins for me with the trying. Any woman who has had difficulty getting pregnant knows the trials of temperature taking, charting and masterminding that you fall into each month. “If we can get pregnant this month then the baby will come on this month…it will be fall…my first child will be 2….hopefully she’ll be out of diapers by then…it will be….i will feel…i can picture….” The rabbit hole of future planning is never ending and completely futile.
This past winter on vacation in Goa I found myself watching the waves and imagining that that time of trying had been successful. It definitely seemed like we had gotten it right that time. I found myself drawing “A+B+C+?” in the sand a lot. The thought was we would keep going through the alphabet as our family grew, but I could not bring myself to write a “D” even though a glimmer of hope was encouraging me from within. One day I did complete the equation with the proper letter, drew a heart around it and took a picture. I thought “This will be a great story to tell our little D one day. I knew he was there before the tests could know.” But hoping and believing with such abandon seemed far too scary and crazy and the sand was swept and the picture deleted.
It turns out that I was pregnant at that very moment. That glimmer of hope was a real baby brewing inside of me. When the pregnancy test confirmed the news I was both ecstatic and scared to death. “Just get me to the 12 week mark,” I thought, “then I can really be happy.” I ticked the weeks off slowly and carefully, wanting to believe that this pregnancy was working but fearing the worst throughout. Although, I couldn’t help but brainstorm names on my walks to and from school. While pregnant with C, people would ask me if I “had a feeling” whether I was having a boy or girl. I never did. But with D, I couldn’t help but imagine a little boy growing inside of me. I started calling him Daniel…at least in my thoughts.
I felt pretty rough this time around. It’s much harder to be pregnant when you have a 1+ year old to chase after as well. And the sadness and trepidation from the first miscarriage still lingered. My heart sank when the spotting started. My doctor tried to be hopeful. It wasn’t too much blood at first. The heartbeat was still strong and little D was dancing all over the place in the emergency ultrasound that Monday. Friday at 3am the labor started. The horror movie lasted an hour at home in the bathroom. We buried D in a paper box I made on Saturday. At 11-weeks along his body was very nearly fully formed. His little legs, arms, head and body. I will never be able to forget what he looked like. I will never be able to stop wishing that I could hold him, feed him, play with him, watch him grow.
We in the West are crap at mourning. We just don’t know what to do. The Eastern ways are much more flagrant–a beautiful spectacle of emotionalism and freedom. Tearing clothes, cutting hair, rolling in ash, paying people to cry and wail outside your door so that the whole community, your whole world, can know—-something terrible is happening here. Someone inside this house is hurting. Death has come and pain is rampant.
I nearly took my husband’s clippers and Sinead-ed my hair. Hinduism has a ritual called tonsure where all male members of a family shave their head when a close family member dies. An act of sacrificing your beauty for the grief over a loved one. But more than that, I find it a helpful method for a community to know who needs our special care and attention. The family is making it obvious that they are going through something difficult and we, in turn, can help them.
I settled for a pixie cut. I didn’t do it so people would know I was sad. I did it because I knew I was different. Changed. Broken. I told myself that the process of growing it out again would be the time limit of mourning I would give myself. How naive of me to think that a few months, a year, a decade even could ever erase the sadness and the emptiness.
October is something like “Child loss month” (how is every month a something these days?) and several of my FB friends are outing themselves as miscarriage survivors saying, “I’m tired of people NOT talking about this…” I agree whole-heartedly and each time I see a post like this in my feed, I send a private message to the person saying “I’ve been there, too and thank you for speaking up.” It was only a matter of time before I worked up the courage to do the same.
Like a ray of light after a destructive storm, hope is slowly, timidly peaking in. There is lot more healing of mind and heart to do and I’m grateful for those who are walking beside us in life, but I don’t think I will ever be able to think about this without crying. And that’s okay. There was so much loss: of a plan, a future, the ability to trust my body, the ability to innocently believe in good alone.
And yet we must continue to dream and long for a time without tears where joy may be realized and life can be fully lived. Two days ago was Little D’s due date. My how different this year would have been…if…