The first time it happened was almost 6 years ago. I was almost 10 weeks pregnant when I woke up that morning. 2 hours later I was sitting in the emergency room of a local hospital. My husband’s hand was wrapped tightly around my arm as my leg bounced nervously while we waited. A young boy sat next to us with his parents and wailed. He held a twisted bloody t-shirt over his hand. There was one of those cheap, white styrofoam coolers at his feet with what can only be assumed the rest of a missing appendage I couldn’t see under the makeshift t-shirt bandage. He had been there when we showed up and now the nurse with a wheelchair was coming to get me already. The boy wailed louder as they pushed me away and his yells about how it was his turn grew more distant. My face burned red for surpassing this poor kid in line and I fought back tears.
The nurse closed the thin, multicolored curtain to my room. They took blood samples, hooked me up to monitors, read over my chart, gave me some medication, and then sent me home with a dying baby. If they were so sure I really was going to miscarry this baby, I just wanted to go home. I didn’t want to stay there or have any procedure. I wanted my home. I curled up on the couch that night not quite believing it. My baby was still alive so maybe the medication would help. Maybe he would be ok. Maybe there would be a miracle.
No such miracle came. I was in agony. Something they didn’t tell me was how much it would hurt. Not hurt in the emotional sense of losing a baby you loved and wanted, but hurt in the real physical sense of what is happening to your body. I was holding my pillow and crying, begging for it to stop but not really wanting it to stop because that would mean my baby was gone. It took a day and a half and then it was 3am and I was crawling down the hallway on my hands and knees. The walls of the hallway tilted up at me and I was sure I was going to throw up. A sharp stab of pain sent me scrambling again and I pulled myself onto the cool bathroom floor. I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt and then it didn’t hurt anymore. It was done. I was holding this tiny little baby, my baby not yet fully formed in the palm of my hand. It wasn’t just a miscarriage. It was my baby and now my baby was gone.
Why would I tell you something so personal? Why would I share a moment like this? Why would I want to relive something that nearly broke me? Because I wish someone would have told me. I wish I would have known what to expect. I wish I had known that it was ok to grieve for these babies and it wasn’t shameful or wrong to love and miss someone you’ve never had the privilege of meeting alive.
It’s still quite taboo to acknowledge this baby and the one that came after and I don’t understand why. In this culture of oversharing, empowering, and talking about most everything so openly, miscarriage (and stillbirth/infant loss) are sorely under covered topics. It’s a devastating and isolating event that many do not know how to respond to. What made it even more isolating for me was the response by others, as if it didn’t matter and I was making a big deal about nothing. People told me there was probably something wrong with the baby anyhow. People told me I was young and could just have another. People told me to look on the bright side, at least it was early and I wasn’t attached. So many people just did not get it. The more overlooked the lives of my babies were, the more desperate I became to make them real and show the world they mattered. I tattooed them on my wrists. I talked about it. I organized a walk on October 15, national pregnancy and infant loss awareness day. I refused to let the world tell me they didn’t matter. They mattered to me very much. They still do.
Now is probably a good time to admit I don’t have a really good closing point. I just want to reassure you that you are not alone. I want to remind others to be gentle with their words to a grieving mother or father, even if they don’t understand. I want to fill your aching, empty arms with words of hope and love. They mattered. Your baby. My baby. Her baby. His baby. They mattered. Let your tears fall without shame for the love you have known and the love you have lost. It matters.