Everyday Life, Hard Stuff, Pregnancy

An ache that ages but never fades

May 13, 2016

*This blog post is a jumbled, and possibly unintelligible spilling of raw thoughts and emotions. In other words: this is “real talk.” It feels a little awkward to write about this — again — publicly, but it’s equally awkward to pass this milestone without giving it any acknowledgement. As with almost everything, I’ve decided to say “to hell with it,” and just proceed, even if I do so in such a way that would make my high school English teacher cringe. We’ll see how it goes…*

It has been six months since I last heard myself wail with grief, six months since I collapsed on my living room floor, crawled to the front door like it was somehow an exit from my reality, and sobbed until I couldn’t produce another tear. It has been 6 months since I got the news: I was miscarrying my first pregnancy.

It still feels like this was weeks ago, not half a year. Even now, I still can’t believe it really happened. But nothing can undo these truths: I’m not having a full-term baby in July, I’m 26 weeks pregnant with a completely different human that is due in August, and there are pieces of paper I have to read at every doctor appointment reminding me of the fact that I have now been pregnant twice. My life has been changed enormously, so many dreams and hopes for the future have been lost, and I am not the person I was in November.

One week I am excited about this pregnancy and the new future I have ahead. The next, I am crying angry tears because someone who I imagined would be with me now, someone I wanted to meet, is not a tangible part of my life anymore. I still don’t know how my heart is feeling. I’m fine on the outside, but on the inside, I’m a kaleidoscope of emotion — not all of which are particularly pleasant, and color me anything but “fine.” I miss the baby we lost in November. I often wonder if they were male or female, what they would have been like. I think about them all the time. But I feel a deep sense of love for the baby girl I am carrying, and this pregnancy — despite its hard times — is very meaningful to me. I didn’t realize until the loss just how delicate this process is, and just how much it means to be able to carry a child until the second trimester, or until viability, or until delivery — given the astonishing odds that we may not be able to do so (~1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage).  I am part of both the lucky and unlucky groups of people, living in a purgatory I never truly imagined I would experience, even when I knew it was a distinct possibility.

Over the past 6 months I have climbed to the highest summits, and drowned in the deepest seas. I do it just about every day, actually. Every time I feel a tightening in my stomach or a non-specific cramp in my belly, I have to dislodge my heart from my throat and tuck it back into my chest. I can’t feel a single thing out of the ordinary and not immediately jump to horrible conclusions. Every time I feel the baby kick me so hard that the hand resting on my stomach jumps upward — the relief I feel is monumental — like taking that first breath after spending two minutes under water. It is that constant tension between the highs and the lows, and the panic and the joy, that makes my heart grow weary. It is knowing that my body has both betrayed and cooperated with me that has robbed me of trust. Even when things were going horribly wrong (I was miscarrying), things still felt like they were going right (I had morning sickness and was not bleeding). There is nothing steady to hold on to in the tsunami of a pregnancy after loss, and treading its churning water is exhausting.

Guilt blankets everything I feel. When I am happy, it eats at me. Am I allowed to be happy when the future is always uncertain? Does happiness mean I am “moving on” when I’m just not ready to do that? Does moving on mean saying goodbye, or even worse, forgetting? The loss colors the happiness of this new pregnancy a shade darker. I don’t want to forget it or pretend that it didn’t happen. That doesn’t feel right. But it also doesn’t feel right to let all of yesterday’s clouds to cover today’s clear skies. I don’t want this pregnancy and this baby to be somehow, always, about what we lost. That doesn’t feel like honoring or doing justice to any of these children or any of these experiences.

Grief is mysterious and complicated. Sadness doesn’t mean the absence of joy. Acknowledging the bad doesn’t mean dismissing the good. I’m still trying to figure it all out.

In hindsight, I didn’t let myself grieve for anywhere near long enough (for my own health) before embarking on a new journey. I saw two new pink lines on a pregnancy test just four weeks after our loss. I tried desperately to substitute one pregnancy with another, to bury the loss in the depths of my heart, to hide it and speak of it only in certain company. But no amount of substituting, burying, or hiding, would stop the memory of the miscarriage from screaming at me, or ringing in my ears like a heartbeat under the floorboards until it drives me mad. I have lost something I cannot replace. My heart is still broken.

Even then, I have gained something so unfathomably wonderful that my heart soars. I could have never predicted the cheer of anticipating a daughter, or of seeing her tiny features in black and white. I don’t sit for hours everyday with my head in my hands. I don’t walk the streets with tears pouring down my face. I appreciate the baby and the pregnancy I have — I really do — but no matter how much I appreciate this pregnancy, and no matter how happy I am, I cannot help but to be reminded of the one that ended. I don’t do it consciously. I’m not trying to be miserable. It’s a confusing space. Why my brain does this is just another mystery. It’s something that cannot be fully articulated or summed up in a blog post — it’s one of those things that needs to be felt to be truly understood.

I wish this had never happened. It is one of the hardest experiences I have ever had to endure.

But I like to think that this will allow me to be a better therapist. The more I know of depression, or grief, or a whole host of experiences, the more I can empathize. There has to be something good to come of this. But maybe that’s not true at all. Maybe not all bad things have to teach us something good. Maybe saying that is a way to ignore or even invalidate one’s painful experiences. Maybe this didn’t happen for any particular reason. Maybe the why is unimportant. Maybe not every story has a happy ending. Maybe the positive meaning, if any can be drawn from this, will always remain a mystery.

Though I might not be able to see the positivity of experiencing such a tremendous loss, I have regained the ability to see the positivity in what I have gained only because I have gone through that loss. I have recently started to feel truly connected to this pregnancy, because I have finally developed the capacity to see this having a positive outcome. It began when I had a dream about my grandpa, my first since he passed. In this dream, my grandpa and I had a very short conversation. I said that I missed him, that I was so glad to see him, and that I was so happy he was here. He smiled at me, and told me that he was happy to see me too, then added, still smiling, “but you know I’m not really here” (which I interpreted to mean physically). He winked at me, and I let just a moment pass before I reached out and hugged him. That hug felt so real. I woke up afterward feeling oddly comforted, and with a clarity and a hope I haven’t had in so long. Some people interpret a dream with these themes to mean that great changes are ahead, and someone is coming along in the future to help you process the loss. It was after this dream and learning about this particular interpretation that things started to fall into place for me. My mindset about the future began to change. August will undoubtedly bring great change, and I am going to meet someone new: our daughter. I know her presence will serve as the light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. All it took was that dream and I could suddenly imagine a successful outcome of pregnancy and childbirth, I could imagine holding my child for the first time, I could imagine going home and starting our lives as a family. While the past and that what-could-have-beens were taken, never to come to fruition, none of it can diminish the bright future that lies ahead. That future might not be certain, but it exists in some capacity. The path that leads to it might be fraught with grief, but the destination could well be worth the hard travel to get there.

I wanted to tell you that I — we — are okay, but that we haven’t forgotten. I wanted to tell you that this is a complicated journey filled with excitement and sorrow. I wanted to say that we love our daughter, and know we are so lucky. I wanted to say that I miss and love our little “blue zebra” (they probably take after their dad…), our daughter’s brother or sister, so very much that my heart physically aches. But even then, I have hope. I have hope that one day, all that I feel will make more sense. I have hope that this pain isn’t the end of our story. I have hope that the grey skies and rain will clear to reveal the rainbow we long for. I have hope, period.


“Mysteries, Yes”

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity,
while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

-Mary Oliver

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