The soul takes flight to the world that is invisible, but there arriving she is sure of bliss and forever dwells in paradise.
This week has been a bit difficult for me the past couple of years. It would have marked our baby’s 2nd birthday, had he or she been born.
I am still sad for her loss, even though I know I would not have had Michael otherwise. I don’t know that she would have been a girl, but I strongly felt she was. We wanted to name her Emily Claire.
It’s as if a piece of my heart is no longer with me, and is in a place I can’t access. I imagine her twirling in heaven. Do children continue to grow there? I think maybe they do.
I can see her having a tea party with my Grandmother, seated on one of Great Grandma Clara’s beautiful, bright quilts. They’re pouring imaginary tea, smiling and squinting in the sunshine.
I imagine her walking in a garden with my Grandfather and Uncle Peter. They inspect all the flowers and plants, as he tells her the name of each.
Later, she’s at the beach with my Grandpa. They’re standing in knee-deep, navy blue water, and he’s teaching her to jump the waves, like I recall him teaching me many summers ago.
Then, she’s at a table with my Grandma. Grandma’s young again, before dementia robbed her of her quick wit and agile mind. She’s working on a large puzzle, so many pieces spread out. She tells Emily they must select out the straight edges first. I think of this every time I start a new puzzle.
Before this happened, I did not realize how common miscarriage is. For some reason, it seems it’s something that’s not talked about, kept behind closed doors. As most miscarriages happen early in pregnancy, it can be a very isolating experience. The sadness is profound, but silent.
I wish women did not feel they had to suffer miscarriage in silence. It’s hard enough on its own, a strange mix of sadness and grief, mixed with guilt, and somehow shame.
I’ll never forget the events leading up to her loss.
I learned I was expecting early one summer day. I awoke strangely early. I had a feeling about it, and took a test. I thought it might be too early to find out. I remember my delight and excitement, my blood pressure rising with nervous energy, and a big grin on my face, as a faint pink line appeared.
For a few weeks I went about as if in a dream. I started thinking about being a mom of two, how we would move the bedrooms around to accommodate a new nursery. I took more tests as the days went past, feeling satisfaction as the line grew darker, attesting to a higher concentration of hormones.
Not long after, we attended an old-fashioned July 4th parade in town. We sat on the sidewalk, and watched classic cars decked in flags and banners drive by, people waving, and kids darting here and there for the candy they threw. Julia was beyond excited at all of it. I remember thinking how happy I was, that life could not get much better.
This is when I began to worry something might go wrong. All around me things seemed to be going terribly wrong for people I knew. These were good people who did not deserve to have tragedy in their lives. I felt guilty feeling so happy, that everything was wonderful and about to be perfect. It was inevitable that tragedy would touch us as well.
And so it almost felt right. That, I, too, now had been marked, by death, by life, by tragedy.
We had just been planting some new plants in the garden on a sunny Saturday morning. I felt wonderful and alive. I came in to make lunch, and used the restroom to find two tiny, unassuming, almost minuscule drops of blood. It could mean nothing; many women bled in early pregnancy and went on to have healthy, bouncing babies, but somehow I knew, right then. I have never worn that pair of underwear again.
The doctor who saw me on short notice did an ultrasound, but could find no heartbeat. As she swung the probe swiftly to each side, I knew she was checking for an ectopic pregnancy. As she breathed and placed the probe back in its place, she said, ‘For some reason, it didn’t continue to grow.’
It didn’t continue to grow. It didn’t continue to grow. I kept repeating the words in my head. As if there had never been a baby at all, or I had imagined the whole thing. But a line of positive pregnancy tests attested to her existence, each one with a corresponding line darker than the one before. She was real to me, and I loved her already.
Just the day before, I had lunch with two close friends. I hadn’t meant to tell, but I was so happy, and was starting to feel nauseous, surely a sign all was as it should be. After, it was hard to tell them, and I couldn’t help but feel they must think I was silly. This certainly was why people didn’t tell so early.
The next days and weeks were very hard. Two days later was my birthday. Friends reached out with well wishes. It was difficult to smile and say thank you, as if nothing had happened. When my family called expecting to say happy birthday, instead I had to tell about a baby they hadn’t known existed.
After that, I was so busy with a work project I tried to immerse myself in, but the grief would boil over in between calls. My baby had died. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.
I read everything I could online. I found articles for physicians about the medical term, spontaneous abortion. No wonder no one calls it that, so cold, as if my body somehow rejected her. But, I wanted to know, had I done something wrong? Was it that glass of wine I had before I knew? That cough medicine I took? Had I exercised too much? Had too much caffeine? These doubts would continue to haunt me into my pregnancy with Michael. I wouldn’t exercise or garden again for more than a year.
Slowly, I began to feel happy again. At first I felt guilty to find myself laughing, but as months went by, I felt joyful again. Michael was a shining star that came into our lives nearly a year later. His early cries were insistent, and his smiles endearing. He was his own person, in no way replacing her. I still missed Emily, but I was at peace.
Later I came to think of the new garden we planted that day by the mailbox as Emily’s. I take special care of those plants. Every spring Julia and I plant something new there, and I remember her and what might have been.
We love and miss you Em!