Each year at about this time, for the past five years, a little shadow person sweeps through my house. Shadow might be too strong of a word. It’s almost like a shadow of a shadow, a fleeting presence of what could have been. Here, then gone.
Miscarriages may be “common” but that doesn’t make them easy.
After having Elijah, after years of secondary infertility, after adopting the most precious, perfect little Chinese girl in the world, I found, to my delight and shock, that I was pregnant. The timing seemed perfect. “Really Lord?” I whispered in the bathroom as the second line materialized. “Now you’re giving me this gift?”
Yet in the days and weeks to follow, I felt like something was “wrong”. A few weeks after paying a visit to the ER for bleeding, I found myself there again, this time for hemorrhaging. Hours later, the doctor sent me and my husband home to “let nature take it’s course”, but I passed out in the corridor, steps away from the exit door. I came to, surrounded by a flurry of activity. My hemoglobin had dropped to a seven. They couldn’t send me home so they wheeled me up to the- you guessed it- maternity ward and gave me two bags of blood via transfusion. Every now and then I heard a baby cry while I waited for my baby’s heart to stop beating. I had five ultrasounds throughout the night, the heartbeat slower with each one.
Then the next morning, there was no heartbeat.
After a “standard procedure surgery” I came home. Home to my husband and precious children, then seven and two. I went to bed depleted but grateful. I had survived an ordeal that was, for me, more gory than labor and delivery.
The next morning, it hit. Oh God, what have I lost?
I sobbed. I couldn’t fathom ever being happy again. Part of my brain, the left, logical side, told me Yes. You will. Be thankful for the two wonderful kids you already have. The right side of my brain told the left side to shut it. How, how, how could I push past this sadness?
I was thankful for my two children. I was thankful for life itself. But a loss is a loss and life isn’t one giant math equation; two blessings do not negate a loss. I wondered if I’d said anything dumb but well intentioned to the several women I knew who’d experiences miscarriages. Now, of course, I understood. I understood that it didn’t matter if it’s just the first trimester, or if it was for the best because there might have been something wrong with the baby. None of that helps. None of that erases the sadness, the throbbing emptiness. Because there is nothing tangible of which to cling. No funeral. No tiny footprint. No hand crocheted blanket. No picture. Nothing.
The heart cry of women who miscarry is my baby existed. My baby mattered. Maybe not to you, maybe you don’t fully understand it, but that baby, as tiny and hidden as he/she was, mattered to me. I was blessed to be surrounded by supportive family and friends and nurses and people who got it, who not only let me grieve, but expected me to grieve. But I still wanted something. To nail a stake in the timeline of life. To declare here was a life.
I do not consider myself a poet. Yet the couple I have written were born from grief, when constructing complete sentences just seemed too daunting and excessive. So a few days after we lost what would have been our third child, I sat propped up in bed and wrote these lines. My husband printed them off on a sheet of pretty paper, and we framed it. It doesn’t hang anywhere in our house anymore because I don’t want to see it everyday. I don’t want live in grief. It just helps to know it exists. I want to know he existed.
We all have shadows of some kind, hurts that revisit us from time to time that perhaps no one else ever sees. This particular shadow of mine now would be four. This shadow typically flashes before my mind as a boy with blonde, blonde hair. This shadow was, and I believe is, a real person and waits for me in a place where there are no shadows at all.