I should be having a baby this month. Instead I’m trying to keep myself busy with mindless activities or things that hold far less meaning to me than the fact that, I should be having a baby this month. I sometimes wonder if I’ll be this acutely aware around the due date of our second baby, or if I feel this one more strongly because it was the first one. All I know is that I should be having a baby this month.
After nine months of trying, we finally found out we were pregnant on February 3rd. We were elated. It’s amazing how quickly you start planning a life for those little babies. I was already plotting out when we could tell friends and family, and what birthday parties might be like that time of year, and how far apart in age they would be from their cousins.
At our 8-week appointment, the doctor couldn’t find a fetal pole or a heartbeat, and the baby was measuring only 6-1/2 weeks. The news wasn’t promising, but they’d seen this before. We waited a week and the baby grew a tiny bit. Still not encouraging, but we held onto that tiny shred of hope. One week later with no growth, and it was confirmed: not viable. It didn’t matter that I already knew exactly how I wanted the nursery to look.
In retrospect, I think I knew before I went to the very first appointment. I had hoped my subsiding symptoms were really just luck, but I already knew.
It doesn’t really matter that you technically know that a miscarriage can happen. It still completely rocks your world. There are a million doubts, and a million questions. Was it the coffee I continued to drink? Is my work too stressful? Was it the non-organic food I consumed? And it’s not really any of those things, and I know that, but it’s an endless mind game that doesn’t stop.
We found out we were pregnant a second time just before 4th of July. This time around, I’d say we were cautiously optimistic. We saw our doctors at 6 weeks, and were completely shocked, relieved and delighted to see and hear a strong and steady heartbeat right away. Is anyone ever prepared for the joy you feel when you first hear your child’s heartbeat? This new baby helped ease the sting of our first pregnancy.
At 7 weeks there was still a strong heartbeat. This time it felt different. That little thumping heartbeat gave us relief and hope. It couldn’t happen to us again. And despite our acute awareness that miscarriage can and does indeed happen more than once, we were still completely caught off guard when there was no heartbeat at 10 weeks. Shattered is the only word that comes to mind. As it turns out, you can beat unlikely odds, but sometimes the “prize” isn’t really a prize at all.
I spent weeks just completely numb. Partially in denial, partially not caring about anyone or anything. Everything was just sad. The moment you find out you’re pregnant, you start making adjustments to your life to accommodate that little bean, and then overnight you’re supposed to instantly adjust to not being pregnant again. And the world doesn’t blink. I wanted to scream at the waitress who served me my first drink a few days after my procedure. I wanted her, everyone, to know that I had been pregnant and that I shouldn’t be having this drink right now. That I should be home planning how we’d reveal our exciting news to our families. That drink was bitter acknowledgement that we’d lost another baby.
We’d later find out that our second baby was a boy, who had an extra chromosome on chromosome number 15, which is “not compatible with life” as they say. So as it turns out, I’m not having a baby this month. And I’m not having one in March either.
Having survived the first miscarriage, I knew I would also survive the second one. The first two weeks crawled by. Time has never moved so slowly or felt more meaningless. I found myself willing time to pass because I knew that I needed time before I would start to feel better. And the roller coaster of hormones raging through your body as you try to endure is just an added reminder of how abnormal things are.
Two months later, I’m still realizing the impact it’s had on my life. Still picking up the pieces and willing myself to feel normal. Today, I avert my eyes when I see a pregnant woman, which in NYC during fall, is absolutely everywhere. I’m not angry at them. I just don’t want them, or their babies, to feel my sadness. It consumes my thoughts—rushing in at the most random moments and yet hanging there almost constantly. When I’m driving, when I’m working, when I’m exercising, when I’m meeting a friend for a drink, or when I’m sitting on the couch. I get a far away look as I suddenly start thinking about when or if I’ll ever carry a baby to full term, whether I should be pursuing different testing, or how much I’d rather be at home with my baby.
I know that someday, 2017 will just be a distant memory of hard times and crappy luck. That the crushing sadness in my chest will eventually lessen, and that other milestones will consume my thought process over these ones. One day, hopefully soon, I’ll find a way to be more present in my life and relationships. But for right now, all I think about is that I should be having a baby this month.
Note: I really grappled with sharing this today. It's deeply personal and still feels very raw. But I've been overwhelmed by the love and understanding I've felt by those who've shared similar journeys with me. It's such a common thing, and we are only just beginning to talk about it aloud. So if you've experienced a similar journey, or if you do in the future, know that you aren't alone. October 15th was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day - just one day after my due date.