Friday, December 19, 2014

Joy & Loss

I've had this post floating around in the back of my head for a long while now, but every time I sat down to type it out I'd get this warm flushed feeling and be too embarrassed to finish.

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I found out I was pregnant way back May of this year, just a month before our one year anniversary. The days following the home pregnancy test are somewhat of a haze. I remember it taking us a while to fully comprehend what had happened. I remember placing my hand on my abdomen and being filled with a naturally protective feeling and thinking, "baby... I have a baby." I remember Nate started calling me mama, and I started asking him if he liked this or that name. I remember telling two close friends and brainstorming creative, Pinterest-worthy ways to tell our families the news. The timing was perfect as it was Memorial Day weekend and all of Nate's siblings were in town to visit their dad, but we ended up just telling them straight up. There was a lot of hugging, and "oh my gosh"ing. My father-in-law cried and I cried too.

It was the sweetest feeling. I couldn't wait to tell my family! We invited my parents and younger brothers over for dinner. I didn't know how I was going to tell them either, but since my mom knew that we had been trying it didn't take her long to figure it out. I remember telling her that my emotions seemed to be ruling me lately and that I felt crazy, and she asked me straight up "are you pregnant?"

It was kind of weird telling my family, nice but weird. I had to call all of my older siblings to say, "I'm pregnant!" and that felt like such a grown-up thing to say, and around my family I still feel like a kid. They were all, of course, so happy for me, and it was so special to talk with my mom and sister on the excitement of motherhood.

The following week two of our couple friends announced their own pregnancies! I was so happy at the thought of having three little babies around. I remember thinking how amazing it was we would have our baby so close to Nate's best-friend-since-childhood and I imagined our babies growing up together and being best friends, too. I struggled with keeping the news to myself for a while -- I wanted to burst out with "I am pregnant, too!!", but it ended up being kind of fun having this happy little secret between only the two of us. We would lay in bed at night talking about our baby -- it was all I wanted to talk about! "Is this really happening? Nathan. A BABY!"

My dreams had come true! When my morning sickness was so light that it was almost nonexistent the thought of a miscarriage crept into my mind, but I brushed it to the side because that would never happen to me, not with my first. That couldn't happen. I remember our first visit to my OB/GYN -- I was never more willing to pee in that little cup. I remember holding Nate's hand and crying as I listened to those fast, tiny but strong heartbeats. thump thump thump thump thump. At that moment, it became so real! More real than that first home test, more real than even telling all of my family, I heard our baby. I saw our baby. This is real. I happily took the baggy they gave me filled with vitamins and pages of information, and I even happily let them poke me with needles for blood work. I happily went home to tape onto our fridge the pictures they gave us of our little baby blur, and I couldn't stop smiling the entire day.

Life continued on pretty normally. Most of my immediate family knew, I'd told a handful of close friends, and soon found out that my mom had told a handful of her friends as well. I didn't mind though, they were all people I wanted to know, some have known me since birth. I immediately downloaded an app for my phone tracking my pregnancy and giving me tips and updates. Your baby is the size of a blueberry. Your baby now has arms and tiny fingers. Your baby's eyes are forming. When I wasn't working I spent my time researching and learning all I could about pregnancy and birthing. I talked to friends, family, and borrowed stacks of books from the library. Nate went on a business trip to Germany and I had my worst "morning sickness" while he was gone. When he came back we went on an anniversary vacation to Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite. We had such a nice time relaxing, going on hikes, and bonding together. Nate always takes perfect care of me, and he was especially attentive to mine and the baby's every need.

The week after we came back we told our bosses. It was nice for me to see how excited they were, but unfortunately it was short lived. The day I told my manager was the same day the miscarriage happened. We didn't go to the hospital that night because I was so in denial. I called my mom in the middle of the night crying, asking what I should do. I thought maybe this is fine, maybe this is normal, I'll see how I feel in the morning.

After hours spent in the emergency room and an ultrasound that resulted in no heartbeat and an empty uterus, it was over. While the ultrasound was being performed I thought that my ears had stopped working, "Why couldn't I hear anything? I thought. The technician irritatingly gave no indication of anything, so I looked to Nate who had a view of the monitor to give me an idea of what was happening. He just shrugged his shoulders. Later, after the tech left, he said he didn't see anything. I didn't know how to process that. When the doctor finally saw us I felt nothing. Literally, I felt hollow inside. Slowly the tears started sliding down my cheeks. I managed to keep it together as we checked out and walked through the parking lot, then sobbed the whole way home. At some point during the day I also realized what the date was -- my little brother died three years ago today, June 28th -- and I lost it again.

* * *

2013 has been so hard on my family. Illness and death of loved ones can make miscarriage seem quite miniscule by comparison. But it still requires some grief. The amount of women who have come to me and shared their own stories of miscarriage and stillbirth has stopped me in my tracks. It's humbling, and inspiring, and quite sad to hear of all the hurt that happens all the time without our knowing. As I went about telling friends and family about the miscarriage I found myself feeling embarrassed, and I think that's due in part to how our culture handles the issue. In the months following I have come to realize that miscarriage is a taboo topic to many. For all of the material out there on how to have a good pregnancy, how to be a good mother, there isn't a lot that talks about how to go about grieving the loss of a pregnancy, and women everywhere keep it locked up inside, because what else is there to do? I think that's why I waited so long to write this post in the first place.

I realize that people choose to grieve differently; -- I've seen it firsthand in my own family -- some are vocal, some reserved, and some a bit of both. I didn't write this with the intention of gaining pity, and I was so worried that if I wrote this people would feel awkward or inclined to be sympathetic. I've had sufficient closure; I'm at peace with it. We are both fine. My hope for this post is to be able to remove, at least partially, the stigma surrounding miscarriage. I hope that I can use this experience to help other women who may go through it; perhaps we can grieve together and grain strength together like my friends have done for me.

I hope so.

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