I Shouldn’t have Looked

grief,loss, parenting, miscarriage

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.

Then, I saw something that I’ve seen before but with fresh eyes and a heart that’s survived a miscarriage.

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?

grief, loss, anniversary, parenting, miscarriage

 

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.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

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.

The scarred wound of my miscarriage has been ripped wide open.

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.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

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.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

 

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.

My miscarriage robbed me of all of that.

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.

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Comments (29)

I am so sorry for your loss. I too lost a child – I was 6 months pregnant. I lost her on of all days, April 1st and trust me it was NO JOKE. I hate that I lost her on that day. A day when everyone is pulling gags and laughing. To me that day is not funny. This was 25 years ago. It still hurts, I still have the scars in the inside. What’s more – no one really remembers anymore (my family that is) and no one celebrates her birthday because to me it is still her birthday.
I am sorry I did not mean to make this about me, just letting you know someone out here understands.
XOX

I am so, so sorry for your loss. I have no words to share to help. I can’t even say I know how you feel because I don’t. I just hope that one day, the pain is a dull ache instead of a fresh wound. You will be in my thoughts. <3

That is such a powerful post. I am so glad you shared this with all of us. It took some major guts. I am so sorry for your loss and the pain that still remains fresh. =(

I’m so sorry! I want to sob with you and console you at the same time. It is something that will likely be with you the rest of your life. I’m glad you are able to talk about it and hope that one day you will not feel as much pain as you are today. ((HUGS))

It must have been so hard for you to be in that exhibit. I am so sorry for your loss. It would be very interesting to go see it in person. I have always been fascinated with pregnancy and fetal development

Wow, so very brave of you to share all this. The deepest article I have read in a long time. Hugs to you for your loss. It is beautiful that you remember on this day and take the time too.

I’m so sorry about this terrible anniversary. I once heard a friend call it a “crapiversary.” Pregnancy loss is common, but not normal. And I imagine the grief is lifelong, as with any loss.
I wish your family the best.

I’m SO sorry. I’m sure the grief is the last thing you expected that day. Sending you virtual hugs and comfort, friend.

I’m so sorry. I lost three babies and I know how hard those dates are. I have my due date and miscarriage dates forever engraved in my heart.

I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m glad that you finally had a closure. I know it was hard, but you were able to do it.

I am so sorry to hear about your loss, what a powerful post. So many people don’t seem to understand that a miscarriage is still a loss, it was still and life, it was still your child.

First, I am sorry you had to go through such a thing. Second, that exhibit looks really interesting. We lived out there for over 10 years and never seen anything like it.

I didn’t notice this exhibit when we were last at this museum but that was about a decade ago. I feel bad for the emotions that it brought out for you but it looks like a great display to teach people about the development of a baby. Actually want to check it out now myself.

I’m so sorry about your loss. This is such a tough thing to deal with. I’m glad you wrote about this. Many others just don’t understand this, so thank you for writing about it.

Michelle Waller

Thank you for being brave and sharing this post. I am so sorry for what happened to you.

I know exactly how you feel. I felt this way with my second pregnancy. When we found out the baby was gone, I felt like I had died inside. It still hurts seven years later. To keep moving forward, I knew I could not brush off what happened. I do things to keep the memory of this little one in my heart. It makes it easier to accept that this little one is gone, and, that in some way, this child knows that it was and still is loved.

You are so amazing and I applaud you for facing your fear. I am with you that a baby is a baby when they are that tiny. It is those tiny bit of cells that grow. I am sure that this post will help a ton of moms out there would are scared to look and face their fears head on.

You are a strong and brave women. Thank You for sharing your story.

This is an immensely emotional post and believe me, I know about opening old wounds. I also know about carrying those burdens, all alone. It is the hardest thing that we have to do.

I am truly sorry. I can’t even imagine how hard and painful it is to loss someone so precious!

I am so sorry for your loss. You are very brave to share your story and I know it will help those who have gone through a similar experience.

Victoria Heckstall

Sorry for your loss. There can be many confusing terms and moments that accompany a miscarriage. There are different types of miscarriage, different treatments for each, and different statistics for what your chances are of having one.

I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for being brave and for sharing your story with the world.

I’m incredibly sorry to hear about your loss! It takes tremendous courage to share this kind of story and I believe that it will help many that have been through a similar situation.

I wish I could find the words that would ease your pain… I am a developmentalist and thus understand the miracle of life quite well. To go through what you did is indescribable and still, I find you incredibly strong to selflessly give of yourself as you share your story with everyone. Your words can help countless people who have gone through this difficult time. Thank you for that. Sending Peace and Love!

What a moving post. I am so very sorry for your loss. I know this miscarriage will be in your thoughts forever. No one can understand what you went through. Thank you for sharing these words.

I am so sorry for your loss. It will remain alive in your thoughts forever. Try to forget that and move forward with the hope and make it again.

What a powerful post. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how hard it must be.

This is a heartbreaking thing to go through. My wife and I dealt with it just after we got married and we weren’t nearly this far along. My heart breaks for you.

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