Five years ago this morning, I broke the news of my miscarriage to you in a blog post, as I was undergoing my D & E. It was the only way that I could process any of it. It was the only way that I could carry on and your support meant everything to me but every day since, I’ve had to live alone with that loss like we all do. Try to make sense of something so senseless.
Recently, I did something that surprised even me. I shouldn’t have looked. Until, I saw it, in person, in the flesh, it wasn’t “real”. It was just this terrible thing that happened to me five years ago. It was the bill I paid for what is referred to by the medical billing department as a “missed abortion”. It was a child I will never hold. It is the faint whisper of sadness that lingers forever and leaves me melancholy just around the edges. It wasn’t real in the way that you could see it with your own eyes.
But I’ve seen it now and I can’t unsee it.
Last month, we took the girls to Chicago for Spring break. It’s my hometown and the girls have been many times but they’ve never done the touristy things so we took them to some museums and the zoo. It was a fantastic trip.
As we entered the exhibit, one I’d seen before, I suddenly felt anxious. Like I needed to know. I was borderline obsessive and I couldn’t control myself. No one noticed what I was doing but I think the Big Guy caught a glimpse of the desperation in my eyes as I walked up to the dial upon entering the Your Beginning exhibit and turned it to the first trimester; I wanted to pinpoint specifically the 4th day of the 11th week. What could he do?
The exhibit was different than before. It was completely in black, darkness was everywhere and only the fetuses were lit up as if my very soul had put this exhibit together. It is somber. I tried not to do it. You’re not supposed to do it. You’re supposed to carry on. Push it down and pretend it never happened. You’re supposed to move on. Go on living as if your entire life is not tinged by the hole in your heart.
I didn’t want to make a spectacle with my mom, my sister, my daughters and my husband there. I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole of grief facing anger and sadness head on but I had to know, so I turned the dial.
Such a little thing and to anyone who didn’t know or even just wasn’t paying attention, this was naturally inquisitive behavior. Only I never twisted the dial to progress to the second trimester. Instead, I left it frozen in time, suspended in disbelief, as is my daily existence since that day 5 years ago.
I try not to overthink it or linger too long in my loss. The emotional time bombs are less and less frequent but I remember every single day. I have two children but I am the mother of three but most people don’t know that.
It’s not like I wear a t-shirt that says so. It’s not like I’m marked in any way but on the inside, I am scarred. I don’t howl like an injured animal as I did on that day or fall apart anymore; so silently I continue on, remembering but not making too big of a deal about it.
Pregnancy loss is so common that some people believe it’s almost normal. I could never subscribe to that way of thinking because for me it was profound. For me, losing my pregnancy changed me forever. But still, after a while, it feels like it happened to someone else and you learn to live with it. It feels like a wound that’s healed and the scar has faded and you hide it beneath your clothes so no one has to look at it or think about it or feel sorry for you ever again.
But you want to feel it. The pain makes it real. It reminds you that it happened. The pain is the only thing that proves your baby was here at all. So, I looked and now, I can never forget.
On the morning of my D & E, I frantically demanded that they perform another ultrasound. In complete desperation, I refused surgery without one more ultrasound. I was desperate for rescue. I needed this to all be a mistake. I needed my baby to be alive.
But when they did the ultrasound, there in black and white, the perfect baby with absolutely no heartbeat. He looked like he was sleeping. Like a little astronaut exploring the space of my uterus and that was the last thing I saw before my heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. I broke, just before they wheeled me into the operating room and I’ve detached myself as much as I can since.
My heart still aches but it’s in survival mode. But on that day in April at the Museum of Science and Industry, I purposefully opened my wound. The pain makes me feel closer to my baby. I walked into the exhibit and I slowly made my way to the 11 wks. Fetus. Yes, the exhibit has fetuses from conception until 40 weeks in formaldehyde. Then, I saw it, the closest thing to my reality; 11-weks and 4 days and 11-weeks and 6-days.
I felt the wind get knocked out of me as it has been almost every time I think of what will never be. My eyes began to go blurry and the room began to spin. It was hard to breathe. There it was; bigger than I’d thought; a fully formed person; with 10- fingers and 10-toes and ears and a tiny little mouth and eyes. It wasn’t a “pregnancy” that I lost, it was a person.
I wanted to run away and howl, like I did in my car on that day 5 years ago. But I was frozen and trying to digest the truth. I couldn’t speak. I only lingered. Truthfully, part of me never wanted to leave because it was like seeing my baby for the first time. I know it wasn’t my baby but it was what my baby would have looked like could I have seen him; touched him; held him in my arms.
No one said a word. I was like thin glass in an earthquake and it was taking everything inside me to not collapse and sob like a baby on the floor. My legs were shaky. I could feel myself getting wobbly. It hurt reopening that wound but it was something I needed to do. In some small way, it gave me closure just knowing/seeing what was. It made him real and less than a memory cloaked in sadness and emptiness.
On this day, I forgive myself and give myself over to the grief. I get no birthdays to celebrate with my third baby but I will never forget he existed, if only briefly. Every year on the 1st of May, for the rest of my life, I will be alone with my grief and allow myself to remember the worst day of my life because it’s the only tangible memory I have of my third child.
Today, I am frail and vulnerable and my heart is heavy because my arms are empty and my house is filled with the laughter of one less than it is supposed to be and I can never forget any of that.