Learning acceptance amidst life and loss
Writing brings the opportunity to reflect and reorganize your thoughts in a way that helps you to better process what is happening. In fleeting moments a thought or a phrase has crossed my mind, but the effort of putting it on paper or typing it out meant I was acknowledging the thought was there, and I was meant to write about what just happened.
The thing is, I don’t want to write about it. I want it to never have happened, and it feels easier to just move on with my life and ignore the incredible weight and pain that I’ve just experienced. If I ignore it and hurry up and “replace” the loss, maybe I can stop feeling the sting or hold off the now daily tears that are triggered by anything from a newborn in the grocery store to a 73-year-old telling me life is worth living.
Maybe, just maybe, if I spout everything out without turning back to read it or reflect then I can pretend once again as if it didn’t happen. The quicker I type and the more I rely on the coffee to rush me through, the better I can manage without tears, anger, or fear.
Sure, I’ve done the stages of grief, or rather I’m doing them — all but the true acceptance part. I’m making plans again and then hide under blankets as frequently as possible. In describing these feelings it probably sounds like I’ve just been through war, but from an outsider’s perspective, my life has hardly changed.
I’m 26 years old and constantly fighting to be who I am, who I am supposed to be, and who I will be. In August of this past year, all of that was threatened and immediately altered when I saw those two pink lines, side-by-side, quietly declaring that it wasn’t just me in there anymore. My life’s direction shifted as I threw up daily for months, be it from the hormones or the overwhelming emotions, it’s hard to say. I scrambled in fear to mentally rearrange my purpose and story and value in the world.
Would anybody respect me? Sure, there were circles of friends or social settings that would be excited for me. But would I lose all credibility with the creative world I so badly wanted to be known in? Would my writing only be discovered within the confines of being a mommy blogger who wrote about that package of Pampers I was about to be so familiar with? Would I isolate those in my age bracket, in my neighborhood, and in my field who would never choose to have a baby at this point in life?
I’ve traveled the world, I’ve worked all sorts of jobs, I’ve taken risks — but would it all be forgotten as drool and spit-up slowly caked onto my clothing? Traded for the warmth of a baby who could not yet talk, much less appreciate any words I managed to write between feedings and late night sobbing sessions?
Would I still know who I was while I not only lived my life as a supportive wife but also as a stay-at-home-mom? Regardless of the reasons for working or staying home or fighting for some sort of semblance of both, my person was no longer just me. There was another one in there who was changing my diet, making me give up sweets, waking me up before the sun, and giving me a nonstop need to pee.
Those changes were sudden and relatively small compared to the immense fatigue and vomiting I now incorporated into my daily life. The excuses seemed feeble as all I could come up with was that the constant tired that must have come from that last trip out of town or the new work I was acquiring in the past few weeks. My life was permanently changed, and it was time to feel that final stage of grief.
Acceptance was the new me. I knew I always wanted to be a mom and have a house full of kids. That dream just always seemed fuzzy and far away, a bit like playing with Barbies or daydreaming of giving some sort of award acceptance speech. But now, this was real. In a matter of months I would bring home a newborn, and we would be best friends…or at least until I ran out of patience from loss of sleep.
So I relished the sickness some slightest bit. I knew it meant something great was happening. I would still be me, but there would be more to me and deeper perspectives to bring. My stories would change, and somehow I’d write them in a way that connected with people like me. Girls who become moms before they were ready, women who had dreams but didn’t know how to chase them properly, and new parents who just wanted to make it through to the end of the night. I’d likely lose some of my audience as a writer and even some friends, but there was so much more I would gain.
I started to share with new people I’d meet. Those people you see but once in your life, those were the ones I knew could keep this secret safe. That person at the conference who lived far away, the dental hygienist in case I might vomit, and even the TSA officer who pat me down and said she just knew. Each time I grew more confident that this was the reality, yet whispers told me to fear for the worst.
Had this all been a dream? Could I make this stuff up? Keeping it a secret brought doubt — without people knowing I was pregnant the reality didn’t quite sink in.
But time ticked by and no letting up. Morning sickness marched on, all day and night. The studies had shown it’s a good sign to be sick. Your baby is growing and might even come out with a higher IQ, so they said. Well fine, then let me vomit.
My days slowly became consumed with pregnancy tips: the what-to-dos, the what’s-to-comes, and what-you-must-gets! I hated the thought of being the fool that fell for the myths, the fear-based rules, the “if you truly love your child then you’ll obviously do this.” Yet just the same, I gave up everything from zit cream to nail polish and even caffeine. This was my baby, and I wasn’t going to play games.
I may have been scared and cried tears that weren’t all filled with joy when I found out. I said I wasn’t ready or wouldn’t be good. I gave too much stock to what other people thought and spent too many nights filled with fear. Fear of the future, of what we could face.
Would I be a bad parent? Could we pay all the bills? Would we still have friends at the end of the day? When would I work or what could I do? Would the travel and life experiences I’d already had be enough? What changes would we face in our day-to-day lives? Would we lose ourselves and risk our marriage? What would happen when I’d had enough and couldn’t keep up?
As the weeks pressed on, I felt I had nothing to give. My work, my drive, my relationships — I wasn’t bringing anything to the table. How could I have a child in this world when I couldn’t even keep up with the life I already had?
Yet in all of that fear and worry and doubt, I knew this was right. Each hour felt like it lasted forever as I counted down the days. I looked through the calendar and imagined what was to come. Soon we’d be announcing to family, to friends…to everyone. These were the last holidays we’d celebrate as just two. There was Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and plus all those random spring holidays. Life would be full as I grew, too.
Things were about to change, and both the budget and my pants were getting real tight. I knew what was coming, and finally felt that it would all be alright.
This baby was wanted and loved so much. Each week as it grew from the size of a seed and eventually to a fruit, it was my baby. My first child, the one that would make me a mother the same weekend as Mother’s Day come May.
The spare bedroom/office was suddenly more. It didn’t have furniture in it yet, but I could turn around and see what was in store. I knew in my heart that this would work.
I could tell I was losing myself, but it felt like I only lost the parts that I wouldn’t need anymore.
I no longer had the same sense of urgency to climb to the top. My work still would matter, but it was already established and could wait there for me. I knew where I stood when it came to what I was capable of. Writing was mine, and it could continue to develop with time.
I stopped fighting for relationships that were long lost, and focused on what I had instead. I didn’t need to chase down and beg someone to be my friend. I had people I could count on who needed me as much as I needed them, no questions asked and no networks or cred. I wasn’t what I did, who I knew, or even what I could give. Those people were already there, they were the ones who loved me and cared.
And with that I realized my life would speak louder than the words that I write. My child would see me, and I would just show them what life was really about. Being grateful for what you have. Riding the wave of changes and difficulties. Learning to cope. Caring for others. Letting people be there for you. Fighting for what matters. Giving yourself grace. Loving without hesitation or pause. Love always, always please love.
So there’s the bow to the story, all tied up and pretty. The problem is, I gave you the bow before I finished and got to the close. But the bow matters just as much as the end. Hold onto that bow — that glimmer of love, peace, and hope.
Please, I beg you. Go back to that bow, read it, and cling to it dearly.
Difficulty will come.
Learn to cope.
Care for others.
Let people be there.
Fight for what matters.
Give yourself grace.
Love without pause.
The thing is, my life will still speak, but not to that child.
I’ll never know that face, the kicking feet, the soft skin, gurgle, or laugh.
After all that, I’m back where I started. I can’t say the words to sum it all up. We could get into medical terms and specifics, but no matter how you say it, my baby is gone.
I’ve heard about people who had a miscarriage. I knew that it happened and could be quite sad. I didn’t realize how stripped naked I’d feel.
There was no more need for announcement ideas, no baby strollers, no books to read, no clear emotions to feel. In some ways it feels like we lost more than a life. You lose what you worked through, the conquered fears, and the submission to what was to follow. There will be no glimpse of that beauty, no hearing that child’s life-altering first cry.
All at once, both nothing and everything matters.
It happened. It happened to me. It happened to us.
So tell me then, what words shall I write? Words that tell you what happened, to help me process those three months I was pregnant. Because this hardly feels fitting or worthy of all that I did, thought, or felt.
There’s still the donut runs to laugh about and the names we considered. I haven’t yet shared about that terrible week filled with doctors, hospitals, and drugs while the rest of the world continued just the same. I should say more about how people loved me and listened and prayed.
Further, I could tell you the words I now greatly hate. Those things that brought other people comfort but cause me to panic and try to walk away. Then there’s that girl who was newly pregnant I forced myself to congratulate.
Life’s lessons and stories abound. You want me to find meaning, to make reasons for all that just happened.
No, the answer is no. There’s simply no good reason. I gave you the bow already before. If you wanted it to end there, then why keep reading more?
The bow stays the same, no matter the outcome.
The strange dreams, unexplained feelings, rambled words, and lost sense of direction — that’s what I have, not a due date or a baby. Right now, that’s all I get. So please forgive me as I stumble around without the right words to say. There’s a lot going on, but it’s just in my head.
My life looks the same, my body stopped growing. To you, I was not pregnant before, now here I am not pregnant all over again. If you’ve never met me, you’d likely never know. Why would you or should you?
The rush of thoughts and feelings are too difficult to explain. So I’d rather keep quiet and try to work through them to get through the pain. This isn’t an article, essay, story, or rhyme. It’s me spilling my thoughts, but on the paper this time.
Miscarriages often go quietly and some want them to get the attention they deserve. If that’s for you, then please share your story. But as for me, it isn’t easy. No matter how hard I try, I don’t know how to tell you all the thoughts, feelings, plans, hopes, dreams, and emotions without starting to cry. I can’t tell you what I’ve lost or why I’m sad or what I want. Not because it’s a secret, but because I don’t know — it’s just gone.
Written October 2015 following the miscarriage of our first child. Shared now in honor of Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day, a day that terrified me last year just days prior to finding out we were experiencing a loss of our own.