A letter to myself.
To the version of myself going through recurrent miscarriages:
Let me just cut to the ending, because I know you can’t stand the suspense (if this were a movie, you’d be googling the plot by now): you have a son! He’s healthy, he’s alive… He’s here. Now that you know how this ends, let’s go back to where you are now.
I see you, sitting on the floor of the porch. It’s nearly spring, but it’s cold. A mix of snow and rain coat every surface. You feel anything but cold, as hot tears fall. They won’t stop, and you don’t know if they ever will. I know you are confused, embarrassed, angry… There’s a calendar beside you, in pieces. You had already marked each week until the all important day of December 9th, 2017. A baby just in time for Christmas! Life hasn’t felt very full or meaningful or joyful in years, I know. I know that every year around Christmas, you and your husband say “things will be different next year”. I know you hoped this would be the year that everything changed in the best way. But the weeks stopped at 5, and the calendar beside you is a cruel and useless reminder of what could have been. Still, everything will change this year.
I hear you, an excited squeal bounces off the walls in the guest room. You just got off the phone with the doctor, and it’s good news. You’ve worked really hard to make some big changes and it’s finally paying off. I know you feel like you’ve found a way to fix the fact that you rarely ovulate. You’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to fix everything you feel is broken in your body. Your fierce determination is inspiring, even now. Thank you for putting in the work, doing so much research, and developing good habits. Nowadays, I’m so weary from years of fighting my body, but you… You make me want to keep going. I know right now, you’re celebrating a spontaneous ovulation, but two weeks from now you’ll be celebrating a positive pregnancy test. Well, several, actually. Too many. More than you can really afford on your budget. I want to say thank you for celebrating. Thank you for buying baby clothing and books. Thank you for buying a maternity shirt during the two week wait. Thank you for your faith. Oh, how I wish I had your kind of faith again…Your fearless hope… Your reckless celebration… These are things I’ll be searching for in the years to come.
I see you, taking pictures of your “bump”. You’re glowing and radiant! In the dark, laying in bed, I see your hands settle onto your belly as you pray over your baby. You’re a good mom. You poured out all your love.
I hear the blade of a chef’s knife making contact with a cutting board as you chop potatoes for dinner. Chopping potatoes will, from now on, always remind you of what happens next. Please know that there’s no amount of water or rest that can save your baby. You didn’t cause this by doing too much yesterday. You stayed hydrated as best as you could. You rested as much as you could. I know your mind is going over all the events of the week, wondering where it could have gone wrong. But you did everything just fine. You’re heartbroken, I know. But you will feel peace, too.
Thank you for deciding to share your experiences. That first post you made for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month took a bit of courage. But it was healing. It introduced me to a big community of invisible mothers. It kept me from feeling alone. And I know that every time you chose to share your love for your babies, someone else felt less alone. You are never alone.
I see you, in the earliest hours of Thanksgiving day. You’re holding another plastic stick with two pink lines. Things will be a little different this time, and you can sense it. You know that Christmas is coming. I hear you say that things really will finally be different this year. And they will, but, oh, not in the way you are hoping. I know you’re nervous for those first doctor appointments, but the first ultrasound will sweep you off your feet. I see you, laying in the doctor’s office, surprised to see your tiny, tiny baby on a screen. Yes, there’s really a baby in there! It will feel more real in a few seconds when the sound of the heartbeat comes through… And there it is, 120 beats per minute. Savor this sound. Memorize it. It only lasts a few seconds before they move on to check something else….
I see you, sitting in a little dark room off the hallway. A fresh ultrasound picture rests on your lap and your eyes are locked on the white form in a sea of black and grey. Your baby. You’ll be sitting here for awhile, as you wait for the doctor. I’m proud of you for staying optimistic. For focusing on the good. Your next appointment will be in two days. I know you can’t imagine that anything could be too wrong, and I’m grateful for your hope. Two days from now, everything will change.
Before you walk into this appointment with the specialist, take note of the lady at the reception desk. She will catch your eye as you leave, she will be kind. You will not forget the look of compassion on her face as you leave. The ultrasound starts, and you’re still mostly optimistic. But I know you’re nervous, too. Everyone is silent. The screen is silent. I know that time feels so slow. I know you can feel what’s coming. The doctor will be kind and understanding as he explains what’s going on: it would have been dangerous to continue the pregnancy, but your baby’s heart has already stopped. There’s no way to know when exactly it happened. There’s no way to know why. I know you feel lost and conflicted. I hear your sobs as you get dressed, and I’m sure everyone else can, too. But it’s okay. No one will fault you for your tears.
Days later, it’s Christmas… and you are still carrying your dead baby. You will still have morning sickness, fatigue, all the other symptoms of pregnancy. Pregnant but not expecting…that’s how you’ll describe it. I know you are unsure of which route to take. Doctors will give a lot of conflicting information, so you’ll just wait and see if what’s left of your baby will leave your body. I see the prescription on the counter, should you get the process started? Those pills will remain unused, unnecessary… You’ll hide them in the back of the medicine cabinet and forget about them until years later, you finally will throw them away. The process will start on its own, and it won’t be easy. It will be labor, with contractions and all. But you can’t know this, and so you rush to the emergency room, assuming something is very wrong. Everything about loss is wrong, but this is the process. I know you’re scared, but you will make it through.
I see you, coming into the emergency room, nearly blacked out from the pain. I want you to know that in exactly two years, you’ll be here again. Exactly here. Then it will be to give birth to your son. I wish you could know how healing that full circle moment will be. But all that’s required of you is to get through this moment. And you do. After surgery, there is relief and a longing… where is my baby? “Medical waste.”
I commend you for taking a long break. For giving yourself time to heal, time to grieve. Eventually you try again, and I see you holding another positive pregnancy test, emotionless and numb. Almost as soon as it’s begun, you awake one night to the reality that your body has failed, yet again. And while it hurts just as much as the others, the hardest part is figuring out how to tell your husband. I see you fighting tears, as he wakes up and turns to see your face. Not a single word is needed. He knows.
I see you, in a similar scene as the last, whispering into the early morning light “I’m pregnant. You can go back to sleep.” I know you’re numb and in denial. There is no hope, no joy in these early weeks. Only a deep breath that you hold for 9 months. But things do get easier, with every heartbeat heard, every ultrasound, every kick, and every person who carries hope and joy when you can’t.
And, finally, I see you in the last moments of delivery, still in disbelief that things will end with a living baby. Until your screaming son is placed in your arms, and, finally, you exhale. At least for a bit. Because the trauma of loss doesn’t end with a rainbow. But you can breathe one shaky breath after another. Suddenly, the numb emotions come back to life and you can feel everything again.
The journey has been long, and we’re at the beginning of a new one. But because of you, I know we’ll be able to handle anything that comes our way. Thank you for surviving in whatever way you could. Thank you for not giving up. You did it.
Love and gratitude,