For several months I have been dodging this experience, telling the event but withholding the impact. Asking for advice in statements and not questions. Then there was the conversation with Sandra this week. After nearing 7 years of being incommunicado, our reunion was seamless, like closing a zipper. With her you feel compassion that no time away erases or erodes. It always feels like homecoming with Sandra. She is a friend that when your heart thinks on her, deciding to stroll by her house of memories impromptu and knock on its door, she hurries to answer, like she was expecting you.
Sandra shared a profound truth during our dialogue, a reminder of why we take breath. Things happen to you so that when you tell your story you help someone else. We take breath so that we may give breath.
My miscarriage (just before last Thanksgiving) was one of those stories I was trying for months to cope with and release. From witnessing the miracle of two purple stripes to redirecting efforts informed by genetic counseling, this have been a whirlwind of silencing rage, suffocating tears, and praying for blessed assuredness. Sandra gave me a breath so that I would stop narrowing mine. Then, I could (hopefully) assist another woman in her choking while trying to breathe out her affliction and affinity.
The weekend I found out we were expecting, we were babysitting again my sister friend’s two sons, one an infant of constant hand-based curiosity (I learned the hard way he liked to chomp on hoop earrings and long hair) and the other an investigative rambunctious toddler (Kim warned me he liked to put things into the hole of a subwoofer to observe what happens, and was constantly captivated by the flashing lights of our modem). We treasured them letting us practice scheduled feedings, noisy playtime, and delivering soothing before-bedtime-baths, as well as tag-teaming to relieve unscheduled nasty colds. We loved being thrust into the weekend’s boot camp of parenting, anticipating soon to be graduates. Showing Kim the pregnancy test, she was excited for us and for her and her husband becoming auntie and uncle.
Then early the following week we found ourselves looking at the ultrasound of our baby girl, cradled in a well of dark wonder. Elated, I grabbed my husband’s shoulder, his eyes swelling with wonder and wanted responsibility. Then, the doctor punctured our astonishment, deflating it by informing us there was no blood flow or heartbeat. He announced it was not a viable pregnancy. Then, he left us to ponder our options.
With relentless optimism my husband assured us that we will try again. And keep trying. We resolved to take next steps, believing that this moment allowed us to see the potential our bodies and beliefs offered us. Our resolution was we bore witness to a moment in shared life to share in creating a life.
What has happened since then, and what is happening, is not a cohesive narrative essay that with time has become easier to prepackage and publish. I confess my fears to my husband. I counsel with friends who are mothers and wives. Yet, through each of these explorations and excavations I’m still not “there.” Unfinished.
I don’t know the picture that assembling the pieces will make. Yet here are some of the pieces I can share . . . I am profoundly grateful my husband became severely ill after the kids left. Inheriting their colds, he was rendered bedridden for several days, unscheduled time that being in close proximity allowed us to begin building again on his promise made in marriage and renewed in the doctor’s office. There remain days of wondering if the loss was statistical punishment for conceiving past 35. Crying through ink to spawn and spool fragments into prose (this is the first to make it through). Pure fright from embarking on the same experience again, only to fail my husband. Again.
Ironically, healthily, losing our baby has impregnated me. With writing. Writing is my embryonic phoenix. Going through decades of numerous versions of poems, notes for my novel, and other scribbled possibilities resurrected in me wanting to birth. Typed drafts in piles vaulted in plastic bins, handwritten notes and drafts collecting in piles of notebooks, and friends’ voices for years echoing “it’s time,” have become the food for this child. I have returned back to creating what I believe I can carry and bring to full term.
Healing occurs with my husband. He shows in words and deeds his alliance in the shared fight for preserving positive beliefs, a washcloth that removes the sweat from my face when laboring through my fears, eyes as mirrors that confirm his love untainted, and a counselor who listens yet who also diligently informs when our session is over and to live out what I have learned.
Talking with friends has encircled me within a newfound treasure. Untold stories. Stories that calm my anxiety and ambiguity living and loving out of a well of dark wonder. Stories that remind and confirm for me (and for us all) women’s resilience. One shared her depression and self-inflicted isolation after losing a baby and then her mother. Others told of their multiple miscarriages before braving conceiving (one experienced two), and braving again between conceptions (one experienced four). One, in her late 30’s, disclosed enduring two ectopic pregnancies and a miscarriage before conceiving and delivering healthy children. One offered the assurance and evidence of both conceiving after 40 and doing so even after previously miscarrying. One elder shared of her daughter-in-law’s challenges in her forties to successfully conceive. The soothing granted in their sharing, the consolation given by them being forthcoming of their intimate trials and tribulations, the relief delivered by them commiserating and confiding in me untold stories punctures the hurt and augments the space for hope.
The genetic counselor, a person of remarkable empathy and relentless advocacy, told us that all we can do now is be brave enough to conceive. Going forward, tests can be done afterwards to inform our subsequent decisions. She gave power and epiphany in that advice. The most major hurdle now is to believe enough to conceive. This is my greatest obstacle at this point. Not age, not DNA. Now, even with doubts and dilemmas still rampant, there is so much evidence of what is possible that in my own juncture I am tempered.
I am more at a fork in the road than a dead end.
At this point, with all the statistics, information, and intimacy, all I am powerful enough to do is conceive. Conceive the belief of getting up and trying again. Conceive that tomorrow is another day. Conceive the hope that we can have a family.
Remembering Sandra’s adage, and Louis’ advice of writing as a journey, there are some things that have moved me to share so that others feel less isolated when occupying the space of common experience. I hope this piece helps to carry one another through miscarriage.