This isn’t a typical blog entry for me. It’s about the personal, not the professional, and there’s nary a word about a book. But, I wrote this because writing helps me grapple with thoughts and feelings that swirl around and sometimes prevent me from doing the work I want to do, and once it was written I knew I wanted to share it.
I’m only 23-weeks pregnant today, but this was supposed to be my due date. To explain that riddle: the healthy pregnancy I’m in the middle of now is one that came after I had a miscarriage last fall, an experience that left me reeling. Friends who’d experienced their own miscarriages told me that the due date for that pregnancy might bring up a lot of sadness for me, but today the overwhelming feeling I have is gratitude.
I’m grateful that my current pregnancy is going so smoothly.
I’m grateful for my husband and for the friends and family who supported me last fall.
I’m grateful for my six healthy, thriving children (two of whom were born to me and four of whom came home through adoption) who bring so much to my life.
I’m grateful for the excellent care I receive from my midwives and for my good health and fertility at my “advanced maternal age.”
I was about 9-weeks along when I noticed that I wasn’t feeling well. It was a Thursday in early November. My husband was on a rare evening out, and I was home with the kids. I was grouchy and snappish, and I chalked it up to first-trimester exhaustion and hormone swings. Then I went to the bathroom and noticed I was bleeding.
And I panicked.
I felt cramping low in my belly and a dull ache in my lower back.
I called my midwife and explained how I felt.
She confirmed my fears.
I called my husband.
He came right home and took over with the kids while I cried some more.
His patient, steadfast love and support, while going through his own experience of this loss, too, was a tremendous comfort, but I knew I needed to talk with women, too. I also reached out to the very few people I’d told about the pregnancy, two of whom I knew had experienced miscarriages, as well. Knowing that they got through it, with sadness but to a place of wholeness, was a lifeline for me.
They are why I am writing this now. Emails, calls, visits, and text messages from that small group of people sustained me in those early days.
At first, the fact that very few people knew I was pregnant was a comfort. The one person who knew at work was respectful of my request that she not mention it—I knew that any gestures of sympathy in those early days would make me fall apart. But I pushed myself too hard, and less than three days after it started (my miscarriage took about a week to be physically complete) I took a group of graduate students on a full-day trip to two events that I’d planned months before. I was physically exhausted, in pain, and emotionally wrecked by the end of a day of keeping up a good front in public. I went home and cancelled class for the next two days. My only plans for the week were to rest and to vote on Election Day.
And on Election Day I voted, and then that night I sat crying and angry and afraid—and I got some good perspective on my life. My personal loss was real, but the election results left me feeling something that transcended myself and my life. I stayed up until 3AM fighting despair that was in some ways compounded by the rawness that had defined my emotions for the prior days, and that in other ways made my personal loss feel much smaller. I was afraid for those who are so much more vulnerable than I am in our country, with regard to reproductive rights and health among many, many other issues.
In the weeks and months to come, I found myself vacillating between craving community and wanting isolation. When I felt strong enough to share what I’d been going through, I learned about other friends who’d miscarried, too. They all told me that support from other women who’d had the same experience was what had sustained them. I knew that when I was ready I wanted to share part of my story publically so that I could be there for other women in my life who might experience this loss.
Something else that got me through those days was the hope we held for the pregnancy that we are now delighting in (though I admit that in my first trimester I felt an uneasy, self-protective detachment that was its own loss). As I write, I can feel this baby, a boy we will call Zachary, moving, and I remember that something else that helped me get through the first days and weeks after my miscarriage last fall was thinking about the children I know whose mothers had miscarriages before they were conceived. They are the children who wouldn’t be here had the miscarriages that preceded them not happened. I know that when Zachary arrives we won’t be able to imagine our family without him, and his presence will be due to the absence of another who didn’t come safely into our family today.
Sometimes I still cry when I talk or think about it all, and I’m guarded as I write and choose to keep many details private. But the fact of this loss, and the fact of the support that sustained me, are pieces I want to make public because I know, better than I did before, how very many women experience this, and how important it is for us to be able to turn to each other.