I woke up this morning to the rapid rumble of children’s feet on the ceiling. Moments later, I heard their laughter outside the window. Our upstairs neighbor girls keep a small trampoline in the yard behind the building, and they play under the cherry tree that I’ve taken so many pictures of. I watch their beaded braids bounce around; I wave and they wave back. They always make me smile (not only because they are our Girl Scout Cookie supplier).
This week, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to smile at them, that other people’s children would make me sad. Because last week, I was pregnant, and this week, I am not.
Last month, my hand shook when I showed Kyle the positive test, the pale blue line that means, “You cannot go back now.” Despite financial stability, loving husband, supportive family, health insurance, and everything else on my list of privileges, I was scared because I knew the numbers: of all the women who see that line, a third of them never see the baby. And I knew there would be nothing I could do.
For the next month, I felt altogether helpless and immensely powerful. My body grew tired and sore, sacrificing energy and resources to grow our person. I maintained my usual activities, save for the coffee and wine that had bookended my pre-pregnant days. I read a lot.
I read that, by next March, I’d have 45% more blood than I did at that moment. I read about breast milk, how my skin would absorb my child’s saliva, which could tell my seasoned immune system if the baby was sick. Then the milk––which would change between days and nights and seasons (!!!)––would deliver antibodies to teach the child’s new system to fight off sickness. I felt like a whole universe of miracles: if my body needed something, it would just make it. Just like that. I imagined the swirling complexity of hormones, enzymes, elements, and cells that were somehow communicating in secret to form our person.
And then I learned that it had all stopped. The same swirling, secret system that could have formed a whole human? It found an error and shut down. In a moment, I changed from a miracle factory into an involuntary hearse. Kyle had to remind me that that is still pretty miraculous. Somehow that helped.
We were not yet home from the doctor’s office when I sent out a distress signal. It was just two words, the same words the ultrasound tech had spoken in a practiced, sympathetic voice that held onto the tones of her native Chinese. I sent the words first to my sister, then to my cousin, then my mother friends, my best friends, my writer friends:
No heartbeat. No heartbeat. No heartbeat.
Copy, paste, send, paste, send, paste, send. The message went out in regular intervals like the pulse the doctor couldn’t find.
And then, just as consistently, words came back. My mom cried with me. My mother friends left voicemails. Our pastors came over with ice cream. I felt known and loved and so, so sad.
For the last few nights, I’ve been waking up for hours at a time. I don’t want to keep Kyle awake, but I need reassurance. I need sympathy. So for hours each night, until my belly stops twisting, I read through the texts. There are 38 separate conversations for me to read. Thirty-eight! That’s how many people (likely including you) have taken time to read my words and offer their own. There are 38 “I love you”s, 38 offerings of “anything, anytime,” 38 promises of “I am here.”
What kind of amazing life is this that I have 38 heart-friends who grieve with me? A dozen in this city alone have fed me and hugged me and refused to let me feel alone. And the ones who aren’t here, they sent stargazer lilies and cupcakes and other small, happy things to fill the room instead.
So there are silver linings. I’m able to have wine again, though it doesn’t quite taste as perfect as it did two months ago. (Or maybe I just bought something too cheap. It wasn’t a celebration drink, so I hardly cared to choose well.)
I had to go back to the doctor today. I had the same nurse as before, and she somehow made me feel like she was happy to see me while understanding that I really didn’t want to be there.
That’s what it feels like to be loved lately:
I so deeply wish that you didn’t have to be there for me, but I’m so beyond-words thankful that you are.
This is especially true for 9 of those text conversations I read through at night. Those 9 are my friends who have also had miscarriages. Nine is so many. I’m sure I know more women who have been through this*, but it’s not something many people comfortably talk about, let alone post about on the Internet.
So why do I post about it? Because you are here, and because of the numbers.
You are here because you care about me, and I want you to know that I am grateful. It’s so, so important that I know you care. I want you to know that I am okay. I really am.
But I want you to know the numbers, too. Miscarriage is so common (not that that makes it any less difficult). I’m only able to say that I’m getting by because of those nine women who let me carry some of their pain, too. They were the first people to come to mind when we heard our bad news. They lived through this. They are okay. They have healthy kids. It’s because of these women that I haven’t lost hope, I don’t feel an ounce of guilt, and I’m still smiling at my neighbor girls with my whole, hopeful heart.
Their stories are not my story. But if we share our stories bravely, we might all feel less alone.
*EDIT: Since I first posted this, twenty more women have messaged me to say, “Me too.” That makes almost 30 in my network. Chances are, you know someone who needs to know they’re not alone. Feel free to share this.