We were looking at her calender after pizza on Sunday night when she asked if I remembered the date. October 14. The kids were wrestling in the living room, but we were a distracted audience. For nine years, she’s remembered that particular miscarriage and for some reason I just don’t. I felt caught, found out. I mean who doesn’t remember something like that, with the exception of someone who wants to forget.
She’s a pro at empathy, trained in social work, and she’s heard some of my toughest junk but she’s a good friend and even so, there was no way I could look her in the eye. Baby days are behind me and sometimes that makes me really sad but I will never, ever miss the days I came home empty and I still want to hide when I think about them.
I can tell you every detail about the first time. How the timing was a few months early so it took me a few days to adjust. About the two excruciating weeks when there was the slimmest of hope, but we still held on tight. About the baby kicking safely inside the sonographer’s belly as she asked when I was seeing the doctor, she knew my baby would never kick, I didn’t know enough then.
But mostly, I remember the doctor.
I didn’t know he was handing out condolences when he walked into the room. I’m sorry, he said before the door latched.
Foolishly, I thought it was for my two hour wait. I brushed off his apology, no problem I understand, and then he tossed me a word, denial. It linked cold to my hope when I realized he was chaining it to me.
Chaining it. To me.
That word pulled heavy, and hard. I started to fall inside myself, out of verbal firing range. I saw his mouth keep moving and then my husband’s, but the next thing I heard was the door unlatching, followed by, how will you pay today.
For real? They were going to ask me to pay for something I didn’t even have? I’d storm out of the office like a pro the second time, slam some doors to keep from screaming don’t you people know I just lost my baby, but I was only silently indignant the first time.
I’d felt foolish for worrying my way through the entire two weeks we waited for my HCG levels to rise. Women have babies all the time, why should you think this pregnancy’s special. Get over yourself, suck it up, get back to the grind.
Foolishness turned to shame the moment he accused me of refusing to accept a detail he’d neglected to share. My sixth pregnancy, or my seventh, I would have understood completely that I’m sorry meant no baby.
But it was my first.
And I didn’t understand.
And it sucked.
Shame hid beneath intense recurring pain the morning of the procedure. They afternoon before, they’d inserted medication to soften my cervix and I should have known that softening the cervix was just a schmanky way to say labor.
But it was my first.
And I didn’t understand.
And it hurt.
Recurring pain turned to a referred ache that hovered over my heart and started to stab as people tossed around all kinds of careless cliches, sometimes all in one breath. You’re young, there must have been something wrong, heaven needed another angel. They summed up my life-wide devastation in ten second sound-bytes they dropped between blinks. I’d been kicked out of the Baby-Making Club. Everywhere I turned was a Baby-Carrying Member. And those well-meaning but careless words made it worse.
In my first rush of maternal intuition or maybe I had just hoped for a girl we chose the name Isabella Kathleen for its grace and beauty. I still have feelings of foolishness about this because so many of my friends lost babies they actually held.
Babies in blankets. Babies with beautiful silent lips and soft cool skin.
Heather and baby Hope Renee.
Ashley and baby Mary Rose.
Cheryl and baby Rachel Lynn.
After our first loss, I wrote for the first time in years and put together an informal gathering with a handful of family. I can still hear the words of one who couldn’t understand. What are we remembering…..there wasn’t anything…..right?
There were kind words too, words that knew. Older women I’d known for years shared their losses, tucked away for seasons, and women at a support group gulped out fresh stories of leaving the hospital empty-armed.
I listened to a few songs over and over during dark midnights and read every page I could find on miscarriage and pregnancy loss.
I walked around numb and lonely, feeling like a freak show because I wasn’t pregnant and because I couldn’t just get over it.
I looked for answers in my faith but theology ground deep into my bones wasn’t worth smack in the middle of the night. Let me tell you what was though.
He’s worth smack in the middle of the night.
He met me sitting lonely on my green velvet sofa. He sat with me while I sobbed and tucked me in with his peace. He held my head when I could only stare at the twinkle lights on my stupid plastic tree hour after hour. It was the beginning of the first years in my life that I understood he cared about me. Not just what I did, but who I was, who he’d made me to be. It was the beginning of the journey that would bring me to write in this place I think……
We didn’t name any of our other children or commemorate their losses. I think I grew tired of holding the uncomfortable gifts of silence people handed me when they didn’t understand. I’m wired to swallow everyone else’s feelings. The only way I knew to escape their awkwardness was to drink my own pain down so deep they couldn’t see it.
Distinctly different feelings wrapped unique DNA around each miscarriage, but my survival strategy was the same loss, after loss, after loss. Target, to buy new lounging pj’s for procedure day and Lowe’s, to make sure I had something to do with my hands.
I found mindless repetitive projects that would pass time between sentencing and execution although the second time, I wanted nothing more than to bust every window in the house with a giant sledgehammer. Most of the time, those stupid jobs distracted my thoughts while I stripped wallpaper, sorted pictures, or painted walls. More importantly, they held parts of my heart I feared would drop off and disappear until I could manage to begin to put them back together.
I don’t talk that much about my losses. They feel private and honestly I don’t know if I’ve processed them as much as I’ve wanted them to go away which is funny to me, considering I process every other last shred of life to it’s bitter shriveled end.
I recognized, just this week that these feelings I’ve been carrying are shame. It’s a hot, sick feeling that makes me want to hide and I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I’m thinking it’s not coincidental (since I don’t believe in coincidence) that last week I picked up a book I’ve wanted to read for a while. Yeah, it’s on shame.
We walk alone a lot of the time as women. Carry the disappointments of our lives hidden from the crowds, often hidden from ourselves. I heard William Paul Young say recently that we’re only as strong as the secrets we keep. I’m learning here how to tell some of mine. Thank you for treasuring them with me.
I love music so I linked below several songs that meant so much to me that first go round. They look goofy because they’re old, but I still love them.