If everything had worked out the first time, S and I would be the parents of a 3½ year old, but we wouldn’t have M. When S was pregnant the first time, I shouted from the rooftops to anyone who would listen that we were having a baby. A BABY! I bought little shoes and sweet smelling creams and, when the “danger zone” had passed, posted on Facebook. The day we went in to hear the heartbeat for the first time, I felt like I had taken caffeine pills. As that excitement coursed through my veins, I watched the color drain from S’s face. She already knew the baby was never going to be. I held her hand and tried to get her to look in my eyes, but she just kept looking past me, searching for something beyond either of us. I can remember calling my best friend from the parking lot of the midwives’ office bawling as S continued to live in her body with the remaining “product of conception”. It took about a month for whatever was in her womb to leave. S could hardly move some days and there was nothing I could do to make it better. Yes, I too was deeply grieving the loss of this much planned and already adored baby, but I could get away from it all. I wasn’t living with the betrayal of my own womb or the physical pains that served as a constant reminder. I, the great protector, wanted to engulf S in me and make the pain duller so that at least she could breathe. But I couldn’t do any of that, so I bought chocolate cake. HUGE, thick, gooey slices of 1000+ calorie chocolate cake. Two forks, chocolate cake and silence. And that was all I could do. I kept telling myself that it would all make sense one day. That wasn’t the right body for our baby’s soul. It wasn’t the right time. Now was the time for chocolate cake.
There were many days after the miscarriage that no one asked how I was doing. I put on a brave face and talked about S and her struggles. Most of the time, people just thought about her and her empty uterus. I think that is what I did, too. I got so caught up with taking care of S and pretending to move forward that I didn’t stop to think about how I really was doing. The truth was, I didn’t know how I was. I didn’t know how I felt. I didn’t know how to move through the world as the non-gestational parent in this situation. There were no resources for me. No support groups where we lived. So, I kept pretending I was fine like I thought I was supposed to be, keeping in mind my mantra of, “This will all make sense one day.”
When we started getting ready to try again, it all felt different. It was as if had a keener sense of what was at stake. It was hope for the future and brighter days. It was beyond just our family, but became about the love we were ready to share with the world in the form of our child. Our child. I still lived with a ball in my gut where I stored my grief, but I had become so good at hiding it that I sometimes even forgot it was there.
M was conceived on the first anniversary of the due date for the pregnancy we lost. Some days, I like to think that he was waiting for us all along: that he had been in that previous body and it just didn’t feel right. Sometimes, thinking like that makes me feel better. To be honest, I don’t think about the miscarriage much anymore. If I really went there, I think I could let go of some of that ball of grief in my belly. Now that M is here, that ball serves as a daily reminder to what we have and what it took to get here. M is a beautiful boy. He is funny and spunky and so intrigued by everything in this world. He brings light into every day, even when he is cranky. I can look into his wide blue eyes and honestly say it all makes sense.
PS. When I shared this with S before I posted, I mentioned that I thought it was weird that I wrote this today, Sept. 5th, as I haven’t thought about any of this in a long time. Then she reminded me that today is the anniversary of not hearing the heartbeat. I must have remembered on a cellular level.