Do you ever go through life wondering why some people just seem to have targets on their backs for profound loss? Yes, everyone loses something, someone, sometimes. We all experience it at some point.
And then there are those of us who just feel the familiar jitters of anxiety creeping along our edges, knowing that, yet again, profound loss is upon us, ripping our sense of comfort from our days, stripping our normalcy, our smile, even our faith to an extent.
There is always a story worse than yours, someone who has lost more, whose story is more heartbreaking, who has us saying "Thank God that's not me". But for those of us who experience big losses several times over, other people's stories no longer matter. It is personal and bitter and hard and it doesn't matter what anyone else has to relay about it. It just HURTS.
I lost another baby this weekend. In six months I've experienced two miscarriages and a chemical pregnancy. That means pretty much every other month I was successful in seeing those two pink lines that meant my husband and I were going to have that little one that is all our own; the little one whose only mannerisms and looks and personalities we see are the unique ones that only WE created. That little one we wouldn't share custody with, or go to court over, or have to put through the upending experience of divorce because one parent made selfish choices (which eventually granted beautiful freedom, but it was a cowardly way to go about it). That is not even an option this time around.
And all three times we've lost them.
There is such a stigma with miscarriage; don't talk about the realities of it, don't announce you're pregnant too soon JUST IN CASE. Those tsk-tsking people who want to hold that black cloud over your head, "be cautious", "What if you lose it, then what will you say?"
I find myself sitting here on this day I took off to take care of me, out to breakfast alone, stomach in knots and feeling that familiar vacuum inside that sucks the joy out of moments, when my mind throws out there "don't forget, your baby died", as if I needed a reminder.
The fact is, the whole reason no one wants you to announce your pregnancy early, is because if you should lose it, YOU will make OTHER PEOPLE uncomfortable with the news. THEY won't know what to say. THEY may feel squirmy and anxious around you, trying to find the right words. YOU DEFINITELY DON'T WANT THEM TO FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE!
Suck it up, sister. Keep it to yourself. Grieve in silence, at home. Cry in the shower because now you can't take a bath for two weeks. Be sad at work with your door closed, so no one feels strange and obligated to comfort you. Keep your grief in your nicely packed little box and put it up on the self. It is only supposed to come down when you are alone and no one has to be faced with your pain.
But you know what? I DON'T WANT TO DO THAT. Too many of us have experienced miscarriage, and, occasionally, one of your friends will come out of the woodwork and share that they experienced it too, and how much it hurt, physically and emotionally. And you can breathe because someone gets it. I write about it because it heals me. And if someone doesn't want to read about it, they certainly aren't obligated. However, that doesn't mean that I can't use MY platform to speak MY truth. And my truth is, recurrent miscarriage has been shocking (after two perfect, easy babies in the past) and life changing, in a way that I never realized it could be. You "know people" who have experienced it, and you wonder why they took it so hard, but the fact is, to each couple, that was a real little person. It was a person from the moment the two pink lines showed up, no matter what other people try to say. It had a heartbeat and made me hate chicken and give up coffee. So it was very much real.
I'm going to tell you how much it sucks. Because the best way I know how to express anything is to write about it.
I know that these losses have broken my husband's heart too, and put him at a loss for words. He can only hold me in those moments that it hits me like a ton of bricks and I am vulnerable and grief stricken. Add to those emotions the feelings of failure. I want to give him a little boy, and I can't. We are hopeful and then we are shattered. I try and be stoic, but then fall apart.
I think that we feel it, as women, even more deeply because of the physical transformations, unseen to others around us, but very much signaling "There's life in here!" to us. I know long before I take a test that we've been successful. Sore throat. Irritability off the charts (pleasant I know). Feeling puffy and tired and losing my appetite. Hating the smell of cooking chicken and drinking ridiculous amounts of milk. All the things that my veteran Mom-bod lets me know in advance.
And with all three of these losses, a couple of weeks in, one morning I wake up and just KNOW. I feel physically normal. Nothing aches or is uncomfortable or queasy or anything else. I know before I know.
I end up with unrestful sleep, worried every single night that I'll wake up and know the little guy in there just didn't have what he needed. And all three times, it has happened.
I have been on hormones for months to boost baby growth, for those months we are successful. They give me the equivalent of PMS on steroids. They make me feel terrible and unlovely and unlovable. But I do it because what I want outweighs the unpleasantness. Two months ago I was at my wits end with the hormones and their side effects and stopped taking them to focus on my well-being for a couple of months. I took up boxing and was going 6 days a week for hard workouts. I got the hormones out of my system. I was purposely adding in the activities I love daily, hot baths, good books, time to write. The things that feed my soul. I was doing a reset.
So when this pregnancy occurred it was actually a surprise, as no trying, temping, extra hormones were involved. This was joyful and I couldn't help but think that this was the one, the one that would make it, because it had happened when I didn't expect it. I had dreams that my grandmother, who has been gone for almost 35 years, was telling me, "I am here with you, don't be afraid". I realized that this is because I was worried about my age, 40, and wondering if I was too old to get the job done. And there she was, talking to me in dreams, and I realized that the due date for this baby would make me the exact age TO THE DAY that my 41-year-old grandmother was when she delivered my Mom. It seemed to be fate.
Except it wasn't.
A week ago, I started feeling "less pregnant". I have no other way to describe it. I started obsessively taking pregnancy tests to be sure it was still there. And then, by last Wednesday, I noticed the tests were getting lighter instead of darker.
This little one was tiring out. It was too much, he was missing something, needing something, that I was somehow unable to give.
And so, sometime between Tuesday and Saturday, he died. And all I could do was wait.
I was happy for the distraction of getting out of town with my husband, a pre-planned trip he set up to take me to Houston to see my favorite two teams: Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears, both playing there the same weekend. Surprisingly, on Saturday, my Cubs lost.
After all week being stoic and thinking "It's ok if I lose this baby, I hadn't let myself be happy yet anyway, because I figured it would happen", I started to break down, unprepared for how something as silly as the Cubs losing would affect me. I began to feel those familiar twinges of loss. I stuffed them away and focused on Sunday.
On Sunday, in a beautiful stadium in Houston, watching my favorite past time of all time, my Chicago Bears, I finally lost the baby. I was handling it ok, took some ibuprofen for the pain and went back to my seat to cheer. And then, in the second half, they played terrible and halfway through the 4th quarter, I knew the game was over too.
I sat there feeling completely lost and idiotic, tears welling up in my eyes and finally sending me over the edge. "Why, God? Why today? Why now? Can't you even help my TEAMS win, to give me some hopefulness? A little less loss? Why is everything in my life seemingly about loss?"
I'm tired of having to bounce back. I'm tired of having to regroup, "pull it together", and put on a happy face yet again. I want to go sit on a beach somewhere and grieve it out, dammit! I want to take this ache in my chest and find the physical core of it and have a surgeon rip it out and toss it in the garbage like a diseased gallbladder. I DON'T WANT IT ANYMORE!
The last few years have been saturated in loss. I am thankful, in the midst of it, to have been given the gift of a new life with my husband, the continued blessing of the babies I do have. I am not ungrateful, not even a little bit. I wholeheartedly realize what an exquisite life I do have. I have blessings upon blessings, and I know it, and I thank God for it every single day.
But that doesn't mean I can't call Him out on the losses. Yes, he builds our character this way. Yes, he uses EVERYTHING for His good eventually. The worst things can lead to the best things in life, and they often do. I GET THAT. My life is proof of that.
That doesn't mean I didn't want those babies. That doesn't mean that seeing new babies and pregnancy announcements doesn't pang me in the stomach with longing and grief. It doesn't mean I feel like hearing "It's for the best," "You can try again", "Count the blessings you have". All well-meaning, but I JUST DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT.
I am grateful for friends who have just said, "I'm so sorry. I get it. I am here." Grateful for the ones who don't get upset with me if I withdraw for a while and don’t feel up to socializing and putting on a happy face. I will eventually, just not today, and maybe not this week. Maybe I'll have a happy ending to this. Maybe not having one is God protecting me from something. Maybe He wants me to keep taking off with my husband on weekends to see the country and celebrate the joy of new life together and sports and friends all over the place. Maybe.
But for now, I am writing on loss, because I am in the midst of it. There is beauty and wonder and good things all around, and I see it all, but feel partially removed from it at the moment. And that's ok. This, my 40th year, has been chock full of trials, from custody battles and miscarriages, a car accident just yesterday, to the loss of my last living grandparent, my sweet 90 year old Gram, in June. It has been a lot to swallow.
I know in my heart of hearts that this season of loss will end and hope will keep me going. I have been here before, for different reasons. And I am still here. But today- today, it is loss. And I am going to give myself permission to feel it. Thank you for allowing me to. And if you are there yourself, I am here. I get it. I have no magic words for you. I've learned grief is not something you can skirt around. The only way to the other side is straight through the fire. And so, let's just go through.