I found out that I was losing my pregnancy in November of 2015, on Alex’s birthday. I got home, collapsed onto the floor and cried hysterically for 30 minutes before I called Alex, still hysterical, and told him to come home. I was so distraught, so overwhelmed that I couldn’t catch my breath, and couldn’t stifle the scream I heard emerge from myself as I asked “why?” to the nothingness. I don’t think I have ever experienced a worse day. Alex and I still get upset thinking or talking about it, and I have learned over the past two years that grief truly is a journey. When you lose a pregnancy, you lose more than “just a pregnancy.” I think of my loss regularly, and it is especially hard during this time of year.
October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, but given how frequently it occurs, it is still one of the least spoken of and understood grief experiences.
At the age of 13, I made a promise to myself to always speak my truth, to talk about hard things, to never be silent when it is imperative to speak. It is my mission as an adult, therapist, mother, and person who deeply believes in the value of processing our emotions and the power of honesty to keep talking. Stigma and shame are broken down bit by bit when we talk openly about our experiences. Loneliness is replaced by many individuals holding space for one another when we normalize the experience of just being a human.
This month, I want to talk about pregnancy loss and the grief that comes with it. Along with a friend of mine and many other folks who have experienced pregnancy and/or infant loss, I am participating in the Capture Your Grief Project which consists of 31 acts/themes and photographs that depict certain aspects of our experiences with our loss and grief. For me, the acts for 2017 seem like something I’d rather keep to myself, but a photographic challenge a few years ago consists of themes and acts that I feel really get to the heart of what it means to lose a pregnancy or child, and is something I’d really like to share publicly.
Today, I choose to share with you self portraits of myself before and after my loss.
Before Loss (1st pregnancy):
Here I am at 6 weeks pregnant, two weeks after I found out. I was overjoyed, despite vomiting too many times to count that morning, and going to work sick AF. I remember walking in the rain, listening to some high school R&B jams, thinking about the possibility of miscarriage. I talked myself out of it, reassured myself that everything would be fine. Life seemed so wonderful. I was ecstatic, filled with peace and so overwhelming positive that it created a bubble of blinding light around me. I miss this person.
After my loss, I stopped taking photos of anything — especially myself — for quite a long time. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I got pregnant again very quickly after my loss (against doctor’s wishes, but that is a story for another day and a testament to my desperation) and I did not, under any circumstances, want to see myself pregnant or have a document of my pregnancy. The first photo I took of myself was when I was halfway through my pregnancy, in response to my dad who wanted a photo update.
After loss (2nd pregnancy):
This is me after the loss of my first pregnancy, 6 months pregnant with Kaia. I wanted to make it seem like I was okay, feeling good, and enjoying myself. But in reality I had already spent countless hours in the hospital thanks to hyperemesis and the ensuing dehydration from not being able to keep down liquids (I do regret not talking about this on the blog, but I was scared, and weirdly, ashamed). I was scared, I was angry, I was still grieving. I cried nearly every single hour when I wasn’t in public, talked to a therapist twice a week, spoke to women on the warm line every few days, and was having daily panic attacks. I was crying (and puking, naturally) right before I took this photo. My grief and experience with loss made the challenges in my second pregnancy even harder to face. I doubted my body’s ability to do basic things like stay alive, and I was extremely skeptical that it could make it through an entire pregnancy, that I would actually have a child when it was all said and done. I was pregnant twice, and I miscarried half the time. I believed I would miscarry Kaia or lose her in some way during the 40 weeks I expected to be pregnant, and to not think so, in my mind, was foolish.
Loss changed the way I view pregnancy. I just don’t see it as joyous. I don’t picture myself ever celebrating because a celebration feels like speaking too soon, like it’s all too good to be true, like something only privileged, lucky, blind women do. Pregnancy loss led to me to living in a state of fear. I believe I would have taken better care of myself, lied less to my family, friends, and medical professionals, and felt more mentally sound during my pregnancy with Kaia (despite my struggles) had I not gone through that experience. I don’t want to say it ruined my life, because I am still here standing, but it did ruin an aspect of my life. It ruined pregnancy, for good. And in ways that all of the other experiences I had during my pregnancy with Kaia ever did.
All of this to say: I was happy before my loss, and I was a completely different person afterward.
To sum it all up, fuck loss. I hate that it has impacted me, my husband, a dear friend, and countless other folks. I hate that I am part of communities dedicated to pregnancy after loss, pregnancy loss grief, and trying to conceive after loss. I hate that I am missing a part of me that I will never get back. I hate that I live with an emotional burden caused by something that I just never thought would truly happen to me. I hate that I suffered and still do suffer. I hate that I am one in four.