I am the 1 in 4 who has lost a child through miscarriage. Although many of the details of that time are hazy, there are specific moments, snapshots, that remain crystal clear. I share those moments today in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
A torrent of vulgarity shoots from his lips, hitting his target, me, directly in the heart. It is the first time in my 25 years that I’ve been cursed at in such a manner and I stand in stunned horror at the fact that it is coming from a nine year old.
I make it through the rest of the school day, thankful that I am only a substitute for the day and don’t have to come back to this classroom or even this school if I choose not to. As the children file outside to waiting buses, I tidy my desk. The teacher’s aide walks in and asks me how I’m doing. Much to my embarrassment, instead of displaying my typical stoic nature, I break down in tears. “I’m not usually like this,” I lamely explain as I try to get control of my runaway emotions in front of a man who must surely think I’m a weak, delicate girl.
At home I continue my emotional response to the day’s events. Every time I think of being sworn at, the tears begin to flow. I stand over a pot of Kraft Mac and Cheese, eager to devour the entire thing, and cry out in dismay to my husband, “What is wrong with me??”
And suddenly we both know. I’m pregnant. It’s the only explanation for the larger than life emotions that are so out of character for me. I laugh through my tears.
My husband and I celebrate our first anniversary with a stay at a local inn, then head to my family’s church. We plan to tell them the news that afternoon, but I can’t wait and whisper it to my sister during the song service. She follows me to the bathroom during the greeting time to shriek excitedly and give me a hug.
My grandfather has been visiting from Rhode Island. I join my mother for the two hour drive to where my aunt will meet us to bring him home. On our return trip, we talk of babies and excitement and how cramping is normal in early pregnancy.
We visit a store where I use a bathroom and worry that the wetness on the toilet paper looks slightly discolored. It’s probably just the lighting, I reassure myself. Back on the road we hit a pothole on the highway that jars us both. And then we wonder for weeks if that was the cause.
The spotting begins the next morning. There’s no chance that it’s the lighting this time. I know as I call, even while holding onto a shred of hope. I have known about my baby for less than a week.
My nurse practitioner enters the small exam room where my husband and I wait in nervous silence. Before saying a word, she walks directly to me to give me a hug.
There is no heartbeat.
I sit in another doctor’s office, waiting to have a more in depth ultrasound to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. I stay still in a wooden rocker, listening to the happy chatter of a pregnant woman, her husband, and mother as they laugh about the twins occupying her womb. Twins! Why does she get two babies and I don’t get any? Why are they being so cheerful in front of me? Can’t they see the silent tears coursing down my cheeks, even though I’ve turned my face away? Don’t they know their words are like daggers in my heart?
We make it into the exam room where the ultrasound tech bemoans early pregnancy tests. “If those weren’t available, you probably wouldn’t have even known you were ever pregnant. You’d have thought you just had a heavier than normal period this month.” It’s as though the idea that I should have never known about my baby should somehow make up for losing it. And in that moment, I despise her.
Our big green couch envelopes me as I numbly eat Dorito after Dorito. My sweet friend, the one who has had fertility issues of her own, stops by after work to check on me. She asks if I need anything, then heads to the store to buy me maxi pads. The ones with wings. The ones I didn’t restock because I wouldn’t be needing them for months.
Just days later, we see my parents for the first time after losing the baby. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m annoyed as my mom tries to comfort me. I don’t yet understand that my pain is her pain. That a mother feels for her child as acutely as she feels for herself.
We’ve been told it’s safe to try again, but a blood-stained pair of underwear taunts me, “Not this month.” I fall to my knees at bedtime, “Why, God? Why not?”
We attend a family picnic the next day. It’s the first time I’ve seen these people in months and the questions start rolling in, “Oh Lauren, didn’t we hear that you’re expecting?” The good news was easy to share, but the bad news has apparently been overlooked. I fight off the swelling in my throat as I quietly say, “No, no I’m not,” because I just can’t explain that I was, but am no longer. The pause is long and awkward as I avert my tear-filled eyes.
Just a couple of months more and another positive pregnancy test. We are cautiously hopeful, but we wait. We don’t say a word, just in case. We see the heartbeat and our hope soars. But still I am fearful. Every twinge. Every cramp. Every heavier than normal discharge. Is this the beginning of the end? It’s not.
Eight years later, my mom and I drive by the now repaired patch of highway where we once hit a pothole on the day before one of the hardest days of my life. She says, “I always think of that day when I drive by here,” and I nod in agreement because I do too.
My perceptive seven year old sits beside me. “Think of what day?” he innocently asks.
So I tell him the truth. That he has a brother or sister who wasn’t with us long. That if that sibling had stayed with us, he wouldn’t be with us today.
He is thoughtful for a moment. “I’ve always wanted a big brother. I’m glad to know I have one, but I wish I could have met him.”
I pull him close and say with confidence, “Someday, my love. Someday we’ll all meet him.”