Just like becoming a widow or countless other heartaches, infertility or having a miscarriage grants a person instant admission into a secret club. It is a club, of course, that no one wants to join, and it’s one with a lifetime membership.
Every year, April 10 looms on the calendar, and I try to avoid it. It would have been Alex’s 6th birthday and like clockwork, my cousin-in-law sends me something every year on that day. She’s willing to go there with me and reminiscence about what might have been because we both were expected to have babies on that day.
I found out about Alex one hot July evening, but something was different about this pregnancy. I knew it.
I felt different — life felt different. The moment the stick showed positive, it felt like the clock was ticking and I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was scared — too scared to really be happy about anything.
Finally, the impact happened, sucking the breath right out of me. Loud and forceful, it reeled my thoughts from “Is it possible to hope too much?” And then — “I caused this.” Before I could even grasp the situation, I was taken to the hospital for an emergency D and C.
Memories of past and present swirl together as I watch Tori Grace play.
As my youngest entertains herself with a restlessness that only a 9-year-old can when her mama is distant, I think about what might have been in our crazy, messy home, fully overrun with all things of motherhood attending to life with three girls and one boy.
I think back to the moment when I was 15 and my doctor diagnosed me with PCOS, a titled uterus, and endometriosis. My reproductive organs were a train wreck. I would “Likely never have kids on your own,” my doctor said.
But then two years later after being put on meds for my cycles and cysts, I found myself staring at two positive pink lines. Eight years later, we found out we were pregnant with our son. Four months after his birth, we knew our family wasn’t complete. That meant cycle after cycle of fertility treatments. Months passed before we got pregnant. Even then, the HCG numbers ominous and foreboding. Then they couldn’t find her heartbeat and told me to prepare for a miscarriage. But then a week later, much to my doctor’s surprise, I was still pregnant; she looked for a heartbeat again and there Tori Grace in her thunderous heart-beating glory.
I snap back to the present and watch Tori Grace wreck the fort she built as she took over the living room. I wonder if Alex would be playing with her or annoying big sis. I wonder if Alex would have been chubby-cheeked and stubborn like both her sisters. I wonder if my feet would still be bare and dishes still in the sink. And I wonder if any other mother has moments like this.
Is it still OK to have moments of grief over a miscarriage? Can a person compare a four-week miscarriage to one at 20 weeks? Is it OK to feel as if someone is missing?
My mind fills with all my friends who’ve lost babies, those who were born asleep, those who never met their child, and those who had precious few moments outside the womb.
[Tweet “But then I think, no one is stronger than a mother who lost a child and is able to exhale, no one is stronger than a mother who carries that grief in her heart and is still standing.”]
The next moment, my phone chirps, and I’m tempted to tell a friend, “Today, Alex would have been 6.” But I don’t. I’m not sure if she would get it — if anyone would get it. And even then, do I want to bother her with this heavy thought? And then I look back over the years, six years and not one pregnancy, not even a hint of faint lines when I think maybe this time…
I sip my coffee and sift through memories of when my cousin drove three hours one day to tell me a secret. She wanted to tell me first before anyone else found out. Despite having an ectopic pregnancy that nearly killed her, she looked at me and whispered words that pierced my heart. She was pregnant again. She and I, we were pregnant at the same time for three of our pregnancies. We had memories of comparing our bellies, betting whether we would have boys or girls. But this time, she was expecting and I wasn’t. I sat in her suburban and cried. I cried tears of joy for her mixed with bitterness for me. I cried for what might have been for me.
Then I remember going through a friend’s recent miscarriage. We laughed and cried over the gourmet pizza and other reinforcements I brought to her as soon I heard the news.
I told it her it was OK. She didn’t need to be strong. We ignored the hopeful words of the doctor, “Don’t worry, you can get pregnant again soon.” Instead, we stayed in her moment, grieving this pregnancy, this could-have-been.
So I question you with this: Could you be that friend? The one who grieves right along with me, the one who doesn’t say, “You should be thankful for the kids you have. It’s God’s way saying you have enough.”
Could you be that friend who brings a meal, sends a card of encouragement several months later or sends flowers on the baby’s would-have-been birthday? Could you be the friend who understands a miscarriage is a forever loss?
Forever into the future, little moments such as Alex’s would-have-been birthday will remind me what might have been and maybe, just maybe, you could be that friend who hugs us on days like today and says, “What might have been …”