October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. So many women I know have suffered from miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss - please visit www.bandbacktogether.com and view just some of them on the Memorial Wall. Theirs are stories of heartache and hope; this one is mine.
In the bottom of my jewelry box is a small compartment I refer to as the Place of Lost Things. There are the casings from the shells fired at my father's funeral, and the handkerchief I clutched all that day. And in a very small, unmarked white envelope, there is the memory of a baby lost before we had time to know it. It is the memory of three babies lost, in the five year chasm between the birth of Katie and my successful pregnancy with Julia.
It is an envelope I have not opened since the day it was given to me, after the last loss, almost 6 years ago. Until today.
The contents are small but heartbreaking. It is a token of what may have been, and a symbol of the unanswered questions and tears and hopelessness and confusion that miscarriage often brings.
The first loss came early - about 7 weeks. It happened suddenly and quickly and it was clear before I got confirmation from the doctor that there was no hope. My father was only weeks away from dying, and the pregnancy had given us all such joy during a time of fear and sadness. I remember praying on the way to the doctor's office - if I can not keep this baby, God, please let me keep my Daddy. The guilt I had over that prayer lasted long after I lost them both.
The second loss was shocking. Our first ultrasound had shown a clear and strong heartbeat. When I started spotting at 13 weeks, I couldn't even imagine that anything was very wrong. And even after it was clear that the baby had died - clear to my untrained eye that there was no movement of that blurry body on the screen - I held out hope for a miracle until the very last minute when they performed the D&C.
And the third? The third was crushing. I foolishly took Katie with me to the appointment, and gritted my teeth and did not cry when they told me there was no heartbeat, that the baby measured 8 weeks and had likely passed within a day or so of the appointment. I did not cry until later, in the safety of my husband's arms, feeling betrayed by my body, and punished by God.
Because when you are doing everything right, when you are taking the best care you can, who else is there to blame? What other way is there to feel?
Though I spoke the platitudes and was grateful for the child we had and processed the grief in the most logical way possible, at the end of the day I felt only hopelessness.
And so when, only a few months after the third loss (and the second D&C), I found myself unexpectedly pregnant, I was too afraid to be happy. Too unsure to be excited, too jaded to be anything but full of anxiety. When the first trimester passed without incident and moved into the second, when little flutters became rolling kicks, when my belly was so full I could feel her feet in my throat - I worried, still.
She came out kicking and screaming and red faced and pissed off and all I could keep saying was "Is she okay? Is she okay?" until the Husband finally looked at me and smiled and said "She's perfect."
Born by the power of prayer and progesterone.
Then, surprisingly and unbelievably and joyfully - Henry.
Three babies lost. Three babies born.
I think of those Lost Babies every day, and I give my love for them tenfold to the Born Babies. I can't spend time thinking of what might have been; I am far too grateful for what IS.
2 weeks ago