I was ten weeks into my pregnancy when I lost our baby. Still in the first trimester, so we hadn’t told many people. It certainly wasn’t obvious when you looked at me. So how was I supposed to act? If nobody knows about the baby, do you tell them about them about the miscarriage? We’d already been down this road twice before, but it didn’t get any easier.
Early on in my marriage to Justin, we found I had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). There were a host of symptoms and possible consequences, but the most worrying for us was learning it might be difficult for us to have children.
The first two pregnancies both ended in miscarriage; after that, we got luckier. Eleven years on, and I felt very fortunate to have three wonderful children. They were growing up quickly, so learning our fourth was on the way was the icing on the cake. A new baby to take care of, another chance to experience all those precious ‘firsts’. We couldn’t wait!
Justin and I discussed names and how we’d work sleeping arrangements. We talked about how excited our daughter would be if she got the sister she longed for, and how thrilled our youngest son would be about becoming a big brother. We agreed not to tell the kids just yet though. There was always that ‘what if…?’ anxiety in the background. We wanted to be sure things were ok first. There were still no guarantees, of course, but at least it would be less likely anything would go wrong.
And now here I was. Somewhere between dropping the kids at school and going to buy groceries, I’d realized something wasn’t right. I called my doctor and went in for an ultrasound scan and some tests, where I learned what I already knew in my heart. Our baby was gone before we’d even got the chance to meet him or her.
I called Justin and asked him to come to the clinic. My doctor was so kind and gentle, but nothing could soften the blow when she confirmed our baby had died. The language used in these situations doesn’t help, either. The phrase ‘failed pregnancy’ will always make me feel it’s my fault, no matter how much I’m told there’s nothing I could have done.
There’s no formal grieving process when you lose a baby this way. There’s no funeral to plan, no physical reminder left in the world. So when we left the clinic, I simply told Justin I would go shopping before I collected the kids from school and that I’d see him later. I’d carry on as normal, even though I felt as though I was falling apart inside, because what else could I do?
I had our one-year-old son, Jared, with me. After loading the groceries into the car I was still pushing him in the shopping cart as I returned it to the store. A store employee collecting empty carts smiled at him so my son smiled back. The guy told me what a beautiful son I had and asked if I had more kids. “Two,” I replied. “We’re just headed to pick them up from school.” “So is he your last then?” asked the guy. “The baby of the family?”
It was a casual comment, just passing the time of day with a customer. There’s no way this man could have known what had just happened or how I was feeling right at that moment. The tears I’d been holding in began to flow and I couldn’t speak any more. The worker patted my shoulder kindly. He’d got a lot more than he bargained for with his friendly conversation.
Off we went to collect my older children. Jared kept calling me – “Mom, mom, mom!” – until I peeked at him and made him laugh, one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. My daughter came running out, adorable in a flowered dress and glittery shoes. Her curly hair was in a long braid, and I could see the smattering of freckles over her nose. Close behind her came my nine-year-old son, pleased to see me after a day apart and not yet old enough to feel embarrassed about hugging his mom in public.
Half of my pregnancies have now ended in miscarriage. But half have given me the three greatest blessings in my life. I look at my wonderful children, rejoicing in their vitality even while I grieve their lost siblings. Sorrow and joy flow through me in equal measure. I’m heartbroken at that moment, yet I can’t regret anything that meant these three came into my life.
Because not many people knew we were expecting another baby, it meant we didn’t have to tell everyone about the miscarriage. Yet I felt I needed to, just so the world would acknowledge he or she was real. Losing a baby happens so often we feel we should accept it, cope with it, without making a fuss. I would never tell anyone to do that. It’s a loss, and it should be grieved.
If you’ve been through this, if you are going through it, don’t pretend everything is fine if it isn’t. Do whatever you feel you should to make sure the world knows your baby was in it, however briefly. I’ll meet my little lost ones again someday. Until then, they stay in my heart, in Justin’s heart, and they’ll never be forgotten.