Written on September 16, 2010
Once upon a time, way back in December 2009, I thought that I was going to be having a baby this week. I was shocked and amazed by the news because after only three months of trying, I wondered whether or not I was really ready for something so huge. But just a few weeks after I found out, before I could get used to the idea, before my waist disappeared and my boobs grew a cup size, and before the faintest whiff of trash gave me dry heaves, I lost the pregnancy. Or, the pregnancy ended. Or the mass of cells that was supposed to be growing and doubling stopped growing and doubling. More succinctly: someone died.
At least, that’s how it felt.
I heard all kinds of things in the weeks that followed, both from loved ones and well-meaning dummies, who were occasionally also my doctors. I heard that “it was for the best,” or “better to have something happen now than later,” or “it wasn’t even a baby, yet,” or, my personal favorite, “at least you know you can get pregnant!” I said very little in response, though I wanted to say, “there is nothing best or better about this,” or “it was a baby to me and to Matt,” or, “yes, but I don’t know if I can stay pregnant, so please shut the fuck up.”
Some people said nothing at all. Their silence implied discomfort, disquiet, and sometimes, a respect for my wish to stay hidden and cocooned.
Trying to explain why I felt as devastated as I felt was impossible. I couldn’t even explain it to myself. I felt a strong need to justify it to others, especially the well-meaning dummies. Some of those dummies were people whose opinions I value and respect above most others in the world, people whose counsel I seek and whose shoulders I lean on. I felt like I needed to explain why I felt so bereft, so full to the brim of grief, so very much like I was walking through a fog.
I kept picturing myself in 10th grade when I had just come back to school after my mom died. I was going through the process of meeting with my teachers to try to catch up on what I missed, and in what is now a long-established habit, I apologized for being so sad. My math teacher brightened at this and said, “well, at least now that the funeral is behind you, you will be able to concentrate on school again, you won’t have to worry that your mother is going to die.” I stared at him just like you’re staring at your computer screen right now. How can you explain grief to someone with no connection to it? How can you teach someone tact and understanding? How can you tell someone to just take you where you are, to let you feel what you feel, even if they don’t understand it? You cannot. You cannot do any of those things. And you are foolish to try.
And so I soldiered on. Not alone, of course. There are very few things that I do alone. But I felt awfully lonely. The loneliness and grief sneaked its way into the very corners of my existence. I could and did pour myself into work, but I would push and pull all of my friendships and relationships. I could talk to Matt about how I was feeling, but then I would spend days pretending that I was totally fine, when my brain was repeating, “miscarriage, miscarriage, miscarriage,” over and over again.
To be perfectly honest, much like most of the months surrounding that 10th grade conversation with my math teacher, I cannot conjure up the months immediately after the miscarriage. I remember specific things like Matt’s birthday dinner at the Summer Shack, Neema’s falafel party, and going to New York with Julie. But I don’t remember how I functioned, because in my memory, the images float by like they happened a long, long time ago and I don’t feel connected to them.
The last few weeks couldn’t have been more different than those weeks. These weeks feel brightly colored, hued in pinks and yellows and bright, vibrant greens in my mind. The smiles I see in my memory are genuine and not strained, the connection I have felt with Matt is as real as it ever gets in any marriage, and there is nary a well-meaning dummy in sight.
But the fear is very, very real.
I recently read an article about pregnancy after miscarriage, and the author concluded that while all pregnant women know real fear about their pregnancies, women who have had a miscarriage have a totally different level of fear, one that can’t be controlled or rationalized. I couldn’t agree more. I was the only person who imagined myself as that baby’s mother and after I lost the pregnancy, my imagination was all that was left.
Some days I have to work hard to imagine myself as THIS baby’s mother. It will catch me off guard, the times that I imagine it, because more often than not I imagine myself grieving, walking out of the doctor’s office after hearing the terrible news, or trying to picture getting out of bed if something goes wrong again.
Miscarriage, as it turns out, is like any other loss. Sometimes it’s with you wherever you turn. Sometimes it sneaks up on you. But no matter what you do, it is part of you who are, something to fold into the fabric of your life, like any other fact, happy or sad.
Tomorrow was my first due date, the date by which I would have been pleading with my doctor to just induce me already. And now tomorrow is just a day. Just a day when I’m also 15 weeks pregnant. Just a day.