What No One Ever Tells You About Losing Your Baby
One in four women will experience a miscarriage, the loss of a pregnancy in the first 20 weeks of gestation. Twenty-five percent of us have or will go through it, yet it remains one of the loneliest experiences a woman can endure. Our partners don’t feel it the way we do; our friends and families may not have even known we were pregnant yet, or they just may not know what to say.
It’s not simply that we don’t talk about miscarriage enough, personally or in society at large, it’s that most of us have difficulty imagining how truly sad it can be. Before I had mine, I even thought maybe some women were just making a bigger deal of it than they really needed to. I couldn’t grasp why people talked as if they’d lost a child, because that embryo wasn’t really even a thing yet, was it?
Then I had my miscarriage.
You can never unknow what it feels like to lose a baby, even a teeny tiny one, barely a shrimp, less than seven weeks in utero. That loss compounds itself with so many other losses too; the loss of the life you imagined for yourself as a parent and for this little being, the loss of naiveté around what pregnancy means, the loss of unadulterated bliss at seeing two lines on that pee stick.
The first time I got pregnant I was so sure of myself, so certain that I would give birth to a healthy baby with ease and joy. After months of plotting and planning and $30,000 spent on newly-opened credit cards, I was fully invested in this little being to be — the future human who was supposed to be our first child, our beloved son. For many months after my miscarriage I couldn’t fathom trying to get pregnant again, knowing what I knew now, how deeply my heart could fracture, what it felt like to flush a tiny sac down the toilet.
The second time I tried to get pregnant, again with so much preparation required, I did my best to protect my heart by not expecting anything. I didn’t download any pregnancy apps; I didn’t mark significant dates, not even the due date, on my calendar. Even after getting a positive pregnancy test, I didn’t speak of the future in anything other than the conditional. Every statement about the pregnancy came bookended with huge disclaimers. “If the pregnancy continues,” I would say.
While I’m a generally rational person who stays calm in a crisis, and I firmly believe that worrying about things we can’t control is pointless, none of that mattered during the early days of my second pregnancy. I was terrified. I’d be fine for a few days, and then something, anything, even just waking up nausea-free would make me question the solidity of the pregnancy, and I would break down into relentless tears.
Turns out, despite my best intentions to protect my heart, I already really cared about this baby, too. More than anything, though, I was scared of what would happen to me if I had to go through that loss again. How could I possibly stand it?
I had to remind myself, and have had Simone remind me many times, that this was a new and different pregnancy. As each week went by, I knew my risk of losing the baby kept going down, but statistics only mattered so much. When I was very scared Simone would promise me the only things she could: no matter what happened with this pregnancy, I would be okay; she would stand by me through whatever happened. I meditated and spent time outside, cried when I needed to, found support online from others pregnant after a loss, and tried my very best to be gentle with myself.
Eventually, with the help of my brilliant therapist, I decided that I would just try cultivating some faith as an experiment. I decided I didn’t need to actually believe that everything would be okay, I could just pretend that I did. They say when you smile you feel happier, and this experiment worked much the same way. I spoke with certainty, purchased my first adorable baby item, and smiled while envisioning holding my child in my arms. I tricked myself into belief, and it worked.
My mother-in-law once told me that grief deepens us. She was right. Though I would never choose my miscarriage again, it did deepen me. It enriched my capacity to feel both the worst and the best that this new pregnancy has to offer. It illuminated the broad expanses of my heart, in all its strength and its brokenness. That’s the thing about that kind of love, the love we feel for the people we care about most in the world — it is so risky. By allowing ourselves to experience the breadth of our emotional capacity, we recognize just how much we have to lose.
I now treasure every day I have with this baby inside me. And we only have 60 or so days left together this way. I take nothing for granted, not one hiccup or jab of a tiny elbow. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to carry this little life around. You never forget what it feels like to lose a child, even just the glimmer of one, but if you are very lucky, you are given the chance to fill your heart again. And right now, as I write this, mine is so dangerously full of boundless love.
Haley Jude is a San Francisco-based filmmaker. When she’s not obsessing over what kind of new moves Tiny has cooked up — or what kind of sling she’ll carry her/him around in — she’s creating content. To learn more about her and her partner, Simone, and catch up on her Queer Mama video series, click here.
Originally published at www.elle.com on June 25, 2015.