I’ve had this post sort of hanging out in my drafts for a while. When would be a good time to post it? There’s not really a good time.
We talk about pregnancy loss in much harder-to-find, quieter places than we do healthy pregnancy and babies. But now that my friends and I are trying for and having kids, loss has become an abundant part of our journey-to-parenthood stories. More friends of mine than not have been through it in some way or another. What’s strange is that it still feels so lonely. I mean, we all wait three months to tell people that we’re pregnant so that if we lose the baby – what? We keep it to ourselves? That seems to be the message, doesn’t it? I understand we don’t necessarily want to grieve publicly, but I’m still sort of baffled that our culture seems to dictate that we endure these losses so…quietly. Do you know what I mean?
Dan and I were on our way to the airport when it occurred to me that maybe I was a little bit late. The night before had been Dan’s birthday and I had guzzled wine like nobody’s business.
When we arrived in Minnesota–we were there for my sister’s engagement party–I made up some lame excuse to go the grocery store and bought a fancy digital pregnancy test. I didn’t even tell Dan. It just seemed too crazy. I COULDN’T be pregnant. This was the month we absolutely no-way no-how could get pregnant because it would mean missing my sister’s wedding.
But there was this one time on our living room couch.
So I got out of the shower, peed on the stick and paced around my parents’ guest bedroom after putting on my pretty blue dress waiting the two minutes until it flashed there plain as day: PREGNANT. No lines. No plus signs. This fancy test spelled it right out for me.
A series of F-bombs bleeped silently across my lips. I threw the test into an empty shoebox–please don’t ask me why–and then went upstairs to join my parents and Dan went downstairs to get ready.
When I went back downstairs to grab something Dan looked at me with wild eyes.
“Are you pregnant?!”
“How did you know?!”
“I found this in the shoebox!” He showed me the unmistakable PREGNANT.
“Maddy’s wedding,” I kept saying. “This is so exciting,” Dan kept saying.
It was going to such a funny story – how Dan found the pregnancy test in the shoebox. But we lost the pregnancy a few weeks later. And we lost the pregnancy after that too.
After the second miscarriage I cried in bed for days and then I cried everywhere, unpredictably. I would have to abandon my spot in line at the coffee shop, huddle in the bathroom stall and wait for the tears to clear. Silently at work, staring at my computer screen.
I bought a beautiful but totally impractical skirt-black with gold thread flowers in the shape of a bell-that made me look so skinny. I didn’t want to be skinny. I wore the skirt for about five minutes that Christmas before changing into jeans. That was two years ago- and I haven’t worn it since. I feel so sad when I see it in my closet, but I can’t bear to give it up.
When I was home for Christmas, my mom was going through her friends’ Christmas cards and showing them to us. “X just had their second baby, remember him? And Y is pregnant. And Z is due next summer.” The names seemed to go on and on. I should have been happy for them all. I wanted to be. In my rational head, I was. But I had to leave the room and lean against the back of a chair to stop the room from spinning and catch my breath.
Sometimes it felt like the world was hurling babies at me like rocks. (Even Carrie Mathison was pregnant on Homeland that season. I mean with her insane stress levels and vodka-guzzling habit? I know, I know, It’s a TV show, as Dan always points out to me when I tell him I’m scared/worried/stressed out by things like Saul Berenson’s hostage exchange. And how awful of me to think of little babies like this. It just makes it all worse. Feeling as sad as you have ever felt. So raw, undone and lonely. Feeling like your particular loss doesn’t merit your grief. That your lowly thoughts are ugly, selfish, pathetic things. I knew that there were just as many women out there dealing with loss, infertility and a host of other tough situations. That many of those new moms had been through their sorrows. But like I said at the beginning, it’s only the happy healthy pictures we put on Christmas cards.)
So anyway, the shoebox story is not really one we tell.
When you start looking, there are many women writing about pregnancy loss. Some pieces I have found particularly moving: Un-bearing by Mira Ptacin, Thanksgiving in Mongolia by Ariel Levy, my friend Jennifer Massoni Pardini’s blog. Jenn also has an extensive list of resources and reading about pregnancy loss and grief. Also, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken.