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 not-so-comfortable 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 had experienced miscarriages. Now, of course, I understood. I understood that it didn’t matter if it was 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. There is nothing tangible to which to cling – no tiny footprint. No hand-crocheted blanket. No picture. No funeral. 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 few I have written were born from grief, when constructing complete sentences just seemed too daunting. So a few days after we lost what would have been our third child, I sat propped up in bed and scratched out these lines. My husband printed it on pretty paper and framed it. It doesn’t hang anywhere in our house because I don’t want to see it every day. I don’t want to live in grief. But it helps to know it exists. Because my baby existed.
We all have shadows of some kind, hurts that haunt us from time to time. Perhaps no one else ever knows. 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 who waits for me in a place where there are no shadows at all.