As I sit here, glass of wine in hand, babies asleep upstairs, I consider myself in a truly fortunate position to be writing about losing yet another pregnancy. I’m still two for five, you see, which is two more children than some have. Women and their partners who are devastated by a void they want filled with sleepless nights and shitty diapers and colic… and that intoxicating newborn smell.
I was that woman, too. Five years ago, after a couple of years of fruitless trying and on a hunch, I took a pregnancy test before attending a big ol’ family wedding. “Pregnant 2-3” FINALLY! I took a picture and texted it to my husband, telling him that it probably meant there were two or three babies in there. (Men don’t understand ovulation and pregnancy week counting, why not have some fun with that.) I was a powder keg of joy, elation, and gratitude for the next 12 weeks.
I was in Silicon Valley on a business trip when I had a little spotting. My doctor encouraged me to go to the ER to “make sure everything was fine.” Everything was not fine. I was sent home to Chicago on an airplane with my unborn baby and its un-beating heart still inside of me. Each morning brought those bleary moments where I’d awaken having forgotten that I was 1 in 4.
I survived a D&C, went to Bonnaroo, and decided the next time would be different. The next time wasn’t all that different. Fortunately this time I miscarried early on and naturally. But “products of conception” do not a baby make. And my arms were still empty.
Obviously, that would change and I would go on to have two healthy pregnancies. Two C-sections, two babies, two years apart. We’re still in the thick of toddlerhood times two and yet, somehow, I found myself peeing on a stick again. This time I asked my husband if he thought our new double stroller was sturdy, and when he said yes, I replied, “Good. I’m pregnant.” That was that. We were going to be a party of five.
Of course, we’re not going to be the cute #partyoffive I had started to imagine. I lost this baby just shy of 11 weeks, and the aftermath has been a difficult, surprising, and new collection of feelings and experiences. I was hesitant about sharing this in a public forum because who wants to hear another story about pregnancy loss? But this baby deserves its day. And this message may meet another woman at a similar place in her journey, and if it makes even one person feel a little less alone then it’s my duty to share it.
5 Thoughts on Losing My #PartyofFive
Sometimes a difficult decision is the right one. Grief is hard. Mourning and anger and devastation and surgery and bleeding and exhaustion make it even harder. As I negotiated how much I let myself “go” and how much I tried to stay “on” for my family, I arrived at what has become almost a sense of relief. My babies need me, all of me, present, happy, and healthy more than they need another sibling. I need the fleeting moments of their toddlerhood in their entirety more than I need another baby to love earth-side.
I have five children. I don’t have to birth a baby, or breastfeed her, or change his diapers for a child to be mine. The moments I have cradling a non-existent belly, the name list I recently deleted from my phone, the looks I exchange with my husband as we anticipate parenthood in its many forms — I will always have them. I will always have my angel babies, the lessons they taught me, the love they grew within me, and the way their existence made it possible for my family photos to look the way they do at this very moment.
Feelings are okay — even the good ones. This pregnancy didn’t make me as anxious as my others. Part of me assumed that I was now one of those women who just magically “popped out” babies. But what I think actually happened was that my ability to live in the moment finally defeated my skepticism. Obviously, you know that I would have been right to be leery, but among the many lessons I’ve learned this go-round is that allowing yourself to feel joy is infinitely better than anticipating disaster — yes, even if you’re blindsided by loss.
“Shine until tomorrow.” I got those lyrics tattooed on my arm following my first loss and the first bar of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” after my second. Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of how important it is to continue shining until the next good thing, and how, eventually, the dreams you dare to dream will present themselves. If I hadn’t lost my first two pregnancies, I wouldn’t have the daughter and son of my dreams. I’m still trying to decide what the silver lining is in losing a pregnancy without the promise of another, but I’m confident that it will present itself. Whatever your faith or spirituality, the miracles of life is a perspective for which I am ever grateful.
F*** pregnancy loss. To anyone who has lost a child, who has yet to experience the birth of a child, who has yet to yield that glorious positive pregnancy test: I see you, I feel you, and I have your back. For all the times you hear “everything happens for a reason,” for every “try not to worry, it will happen,” for every “don’t give up!,” for every time your stomach turns seeing someone’s pregnancy announcement or social feed full of cute kids: I’m sorry.