When you find out you’re pregnant you assume that this little person is about to be, and instantly rebuild a whole vision of the future with them in it. They’ll be born right after your sons’ 6th birthday, right before your own. It will always be a manic time, but you’ll always make it work. The boys will be in school at first, then you can enjoy a summer together before they start first grade. It will be warm. You’ll be 56 when your youngest is done high school, but it will be fun the second time around. You’ll be more relaxed because of all you’ve learned in the years since you brought twin boys home.
When you find out it isn’t viable, as I did at my first ultrasound, life collapses back down to where it was but you can still see the holes. That is what you mourn. The plans to surprise your family with the news. The pile of maternity clothes, fresh from the laundry that now need to be put away. The glances at your belly, which you now know holds nothing. There will be no baby passed around at Folk Fest next summer, no need to pick up the stroller from a friend. There is nothing now but carrying on.
Hope is a peculiar form of uncertainty. The expected kind. We are supposed to face the unknown with optimism. My doctor assured me that sometimes ultrasounds are mistaken. The very few friends I told offered the same sentiments. These words were said with the best intentions, the product of a culture that accepts nothing less than a happy ending. We spend all our energy hoping for a reversal of fortune instead of gently allowing the grief to wash over us. I have learned now that we need to feel loss. To say our goodbyes to things that will inevitably leave us. We need to be angry to spur ourselves on, to change our present circumstances. We need to observe this process in each other so when our time comes it is not unfamiliar.
Instead, I remained hopeful, all too ready to believe that I was the exception. My body hoped so hard that it wouldn’t let go, stuck in a horrible limbo until a doctor gravely told me what I already knew at my second ultrasound. And then the pain came, furious and terrifying.
I had a miscarriage. Right in the waiting room of the ER, surrounded by strangers. That happened to me.
The days that followed were complicated. I learned later that my kids opened the door to a stranger and the dog got out. Had I not taught them this? Of course I hadn’t, or how to call their dad, or dial 911, because I was not expecting this. I was ashamed that I knew disaster was coming and I wasn’t prepared; at how primally out of control my body was, and how vulnerable that left me.
I felt tremendous gratitude that my safety net of friends caught us on the way down. A friend was nearby and let our dog back in, other trusted friends answered our call to take care of the boys. I was grateful for my husband’s warm hand to hold when I was cold and in the most pain I have ever felt. The nurses who kindly helped me through. I was dizzy at how easy it was to find help, to be completely immersed in it, our house filled with food and flowers, our hearts filled with kind words. I am grateful for the short period of joy I had after finding out I was pregnant at all.
Overwhelmingly, I felt relief; hope replaced with certainty. I was glad that I had not escaped this without feeling every inch of it. For some reason that was a terribly important thing, as so often life’s important bits are felt only in reflection, in the mourning of the holes left over. But I felt this as hard as I have ever felt anything.
Life is unrelenting and will not just let you stop. I had to leave my cocoon early to deal with another loss, and now I am plodding along in a haze of exhaustion, feeling raw and unhinged. I have learned in the aftermath that I am not alone at all; so many women and their partners have suffered this. Miscarriage. The word just keeps turning over in my mind, escaping my lips more often than it should. I have the distinct feeling that people don’t talk about it for a reason but I can’t stop. Something cracked open and the words just keep pouring out, like some dotty old relative droning on about the price of bread. Maybe that will heal up too, or maybe it is a permanent channel. Maybe the due date will be hard, or maybe it will pass by without notice in the mad pace of life. Things are uncertain and hopeful. I am cautious. But for now, I say, goodbye little Cheerio, I held you as long as I could.