I’m sitting in a cafe weeping as the soundtrack to Waitress echoes above. It’s a musical I took my mom to weeks ago. We sat front row, eating pie from a jar and watched the incredibly talented Jessie Mueller belt her heart out about trying to find herself in this world as she brings a baby girl into it. That night, we left mine at home with her dad but her unborn sibling was with (her grandmother and) me. I bawled throughout the entire show, hyperventilating with each bite of cookies and cream. It was reminiscent of the time I sat on a cross-country flight, while pregnant with my first, watching What to Expect When You’re Expecting, eating an ice cream sundae, sobbing. The cliché pregnant lady. The difference? I didn’t lose that baby.
One week and two days after that night on Broadway, in a car en route to Virginia, our lives as we newly knew them changed. Lilly was no longer a big sister in-waiting (How do you explain loss to a toddler?), Zach, no longer a father of two and I was no longer pregnant. Just like that. In a instant, our future as a family of four sadly slipped away from us.
It doesn’t matter that I drove myself (I’d lost a child but that didn’t mean my other had to suffer. She needed to nap and stay in safe surroundings with her daddy, the hospital was no place for her.) to the hospital with a hotel towel between my legs or how far along I was. The details aren’t important. The pain is the same. Whether you’re nine weeks or months, didn’t hear a heartbeat or naturally miscarried, knew the gender or didn’t, it’s your first or your fifth, the loss of a baby is beyond devastating. Far more troubling than I’d ever read, heard or thought about. I was especially naive despite my sister, sister-in-law and some of my best friends having unfortunately endured it. I wish I could go back and hug them harder, call them daily and love on them so much more. I had no idea. Unless you’ve gone through it and, my God, I hope you never have to, you cannot fully understand the depths of despair.
Still, my heart goes out to those that are farther along than I was, have a stillborn or lose a child any moment after they’re born, all of those experiences have to be a million times harder and, for that and so many reasons, I consider myself blessed.
It appears, I have no problem getting pregnant, we’re lucky in that regard and, I thought, after having Lilly, I had no problem staying that way either. The way I saw it, everyone has their things. Mine were unenjoyable pregnancies (This recent one, I was extremely nauseated and had hypothyroidism, creating such exhaustion that it felt like I had Mono.) and low milk supply; it never occurred to me that I might miscarry. Still, I’d say and do all the precautionary, PC things, “If everything goes okay…”, “knock on wood”, but in my day-to-day actions, I was cavalier, uncomfortably comfortable.
I told friends early, strangers often, testifying that if something went wrong, I’d want my loved ones to know anyway. And I do. I just wish not everyone- doormen, cashiers, cleaning ladies, fitness instructors and every nurse, pharmacist and receptionist- knew. The apologies don’t get easier. The updates are not fun. I’m fairly stoic but when people are nice to me, I break; sympathy is not something I handle well. At the first, “I’m so sorry”, I’m in hysterics and it’s hard to regain composure. Then, I feel bad for making them feel bad and vice versa. It’s an awkward, unnerving, get me out of here scenario, often played out on the streets of New York.
I was this close to the second trimester. Not a terrible amount of time but when you’re sick all day, every day for all of it and in bed for most of it, the time is terrible. And long. Very long. Still, not even a season’s length but enough to envision and plan our whole lives. A baby, they say, changes everything. This one certainly did. We were talking about a big move, new house, school, a potential job change, hiring some help, reconfiguring holidays and vacations… There wasn’t one area of our lives that went untouched by this little life.
And then, it was gone.
And I was okay. For a day. My family marveled at how well I was doing. Even I was impressed. I had a huge appetite, ordered room service, drank wine, showered, blew my hair dry, put on make up (things I don’t often do in my normal daily life), cradled my new little niece and laughed with my daughter. It’s clear now, I was in crisis mode. The party planner and news editor in me came out. I did my research, asked questions, familiarized myself, problem solved, fielded calls, reported info and said my thank you’s, making it through each next step, check, check, check. It was a breaking development and I was on a high from the adrenaline of it all. I even posted pics. Because that’s what I do. To some, it may seem insane. To me, it was about having control and trying to maintain some consistency and order in my increasingly unraveling world.
When it came time to head home, there were tears but the ride back was filled with yet another round of calls in-between talks with my husband and songs with my daughter. It was somber yet survivable.
That changed the moment I walked into our apartment. The reality hit harder than it ever had before. I left our home with a baby in my belly, I returned barren. Every where I looked, there was yet another reminder: A sonogram picture, prenatal vitamins, maternity clothes I’d recently purchased… And then there was real life. Unpacking, laundry, groceries, bills and work are all depressing enough when returning from a good trip, crippling when coming home from ours. I immediately got in bed and stayed there for the next two days. I didn’t care about anything, if I ate, what I ate, how my daughter was doing. I’ve never felt a low like that (and I’ve dealt with some shit in my time).
But thank God for Lilly. I don’t know where I’d be right now without her. She gave me purpose, reason, belief, a schedule, activities and, yes, headaches and hot-tempered moments too but the heartache was far less than I imagine it’d be without a healthy child. And while I would’ve given anything for a responsibility-free week where I could sit and sulk, holding her was- and is- the greatest therapy in the world.
It’s been three weeks since I said goodbye. And while I’m far stronger than I was, it’s not any less sad. There’s no more hurdles to jump or steps to take. The doctor’s orders are simply to wait, which is perhaps the most painful of all. My family is stalled as I witness everyone else growing theirs. Milestones on social media, pregnant women passing by, others delivering… My best friend since 2 and I had always dreamed of living, having babies and raising kids together. And most of that fantasy has become reality. We were roommates after college, my first pregnancy overlapped hers and my second was on track to do the same. Now, she’s gone on without me. And while I’m thrilled for her, my heart can’t help but break a little more at the photos of her son practicing to be a big brother with his baby doll or her OB updates.
Meanwhile, the calls and concern have dissipated and the silence is stifling. I’m alone with the reality of my ruined dreams. Every date changed, thought revised, plan altered. Life has returned to normal but I feel anything but. The new little onesies I picked up lay there taunting me, baby bulletins enter my inbox uninvited, every newborn commercial, each celeb bump photo, all painful reminders of what was once mine, now lost.
And it’s not just the emotional (read: hormonal). Physically, I’m on hold too. Because it was my second pregnancy, my body had already started to change, hips wider, stomach rounder, shorts snug and (TMI alert!) I was, up until a week ago, still bleeding, cramping, wearing maxi pads, couldn’t work out and still can’t get in a pool. It was one thing to go through all of it with a new baby at home to balance it out, having to endure it without one is excruciating.
Miscarriage is staggeringly common yet I feel unbelievably alone. And equally over-indulgent. I didn’t lose a spouse, parent or grown child. My pain pales in comparison. I should suck it up and soldier on. The range of emotions I go through (pity, perspective, guilt) within moments of each other is enough to give one whiplash. I honestly feel sick from it all. It’s safe to say, I’ve experienced most stages of grief: Denial, sadness, anger… so much anger. It’s much like a breakup except there’s no one to be mad at. This little innocent never did anything to anyone and there was no reason or cause. In fact, the actual hospital report read: “miscarriage: inevitable”.
They say it’s nature’s way of weeding out the weak and I’m both comforted by and resentful of that notion. I may only have been nine and a half weeks but, make no mistake, that was my child and no one, no doctor, friend, not even a generic form or diagnosis, messes with my baby. But, like rain on a wedding day being “good luck”, I choose to accept the condolence because the alternative is blaming myself, which I’ve done plenty of. I was too active, too indecisive (We weren’t even sure we wanted a second child, which, of course, changed the moment we found out we were pregnant and have never been more at peace.), waited too long, didn’t deserve it… And then there’s the questions. From both well-meaning friends (“Did they say what caused it?”) to the massage therapist who suggested it was too much stress after taking one swipe at my shoulders. The terminology we associate with it (“miscarried”, “lost the baby”) doesn’t help either. How can one not feel responsible?
I’m not sure how you ever really heal. Unless it’s with a new child. I hope I’m that lucky. I hope I get to be a mom again, for longer than a trimester. Until then, I’ll work on being as whole as possible with part of me gone.
To see a video I made for The Today Show about my experience, click here.