A few months ago, a few weeks after having my third baby, I sat on the floor next to my friend’s green couch and cried with her. She started bleeding the day before, was up the whole night as her body brutally expelled her hopes and dreams. The only reason I knew this was happening is because her husband was scheduled to work with mine that day, so David was asked to take on extra patients to cover the load. Because he knew, I knew. And even though I also knew she was hiding from the whole bright world filled with new life and growing families to break her heart over and over again, I needed to knock on her door and, if she let me, enter that sad place with her.
She let me in. I’m so glad she did.
This was probably a place I should have held a quiet vigil, but I’m not very good at that. So we read a few verses about God collecting our tears, and talked about miscarriage. It’s nothing I ever wanted to be an expert in, but I’m one of the 50% who miscarry during the first pregnancy. So is she. So are so many of us, quietly walking around wondering what it must feel like to be pregnant with none of the nightmare. Never wondering when they go to the bathroom if this is the moment all others will turn on.
I will never forget the way my stomach dropped the first time I saw blood in the bathroom during the first pregnancy. For some people this is a normal part of a healthy pregnancy. It was just a little, nothing to worry about. I’m not sure if I knew from some deep place of understanding or if the story could have had a happy ending with that same sinking feeling in the middle. For me, there was no happy ending. The second time, I was supposed to be a practice patient in the residency clinic. Schedules got off and I was left waiting and waiting, finally using the bathroom with my two toddlers and then that familiar feeling of the bottom dropping out. I wasn’t the practice patient after all, just a devastated woman in a dark room with two doctors, searching the screen for a heartbeat. There wasn’t one. My baby was dead.
I’ve written a lot of words about the losses, mostly in my journals. Wrote a eulogy we read in our backyard as we buried the little ball of flesh in our overgrown garden. My family had sent a miniature rose bush; we planted it over our baby.
I have three babies now. One just turned four, so I guess he isn’t much of a baby any more. I hope there will be more, which means there could be more losses too. I am among the sadly initiated, the ones who feel along with the deep joy of anticipation a cloud of what-if. What if I don’t feel sick? What if I don’t feel the baby move? What if it happens again? Can my heart grow back together again?
A few weeks ago our little Ransom was shouting through our monitor in the quiet middle of the night. I was back and forth between his bed and mine, nursing, giving Tylenol, back to bed. Up again. Tired. In the middle of my pilgrimage across the house, I started to think about the losses. About those babies who never woke me up. It was the first time I thought about the words “blessing” and “miscarriage” in the same space. Not that the losses were worth the trade for some extra patience with my teething baby. Nothing like that. But in my deep loss I feel an equally deep gratitude. A healthy baby isn’t the expected end for me. I know the way it wrecks a soul to dream about the milestones, then watch those dates pass silently on the calendar, uncelebrated. How isolating the grief is, because no one wants to say the wrong thing so they usually don’t say anything, like it never happened. But I’m here to say it did happen. It happened and I’m better for it. Not happy, but better. Better at crying with people, better at fumbling for the right words because I just want them to know they’re not alone in their suffering. Better at getting up with my baby because I’m thrilled all the way to my toes that there are real teeth growing in a real baby that grew nine months in my belly.