sayIn the files next to my writing desk there’s a folder labeled “Baby Sears 2014!” in neat, excited handwriting. Inside are ultrasound papers and the remnants of a treasure hunt I made my husband to tell him our good news. But of course there was no Baby Sears born in 2014. Because that was the year I got pregnant in March and had a devastating miscarriage in June.
Now I’m so buried in board books and Duplos and sticky yogurt kisses and little boy snuggles that part of me feels ungrateful writing about miscarriage. Haven’t other people had more losses? Haven’t other women lost babies later than twelve weeks? Hasn’t the Lord recompensed me for my heartbreak? Yes, to all of those. But when your first pregnancy ends in loss, when your mother heart knows death before it knows life, your journey is forever changed.
Growing up I watched my mom experience several losses. That should have made me more cautious, I suppose. I should have steeled my heart just in case. But I fell so hard for that first baby. I had dreams about him before he was conceived. Then, after what seemed like forever, I was finally pregnant! It felt too right to be scared.
Besides, nothing can really prepare you. Nobody tells you that miscarriage is actually birth: agonizing contractions ramping up longer and closer together until your water breaks and a tiny fetus is born. Nothing could have prepared me for the feelings of futility at the months of nausea and exhaustion I passed through for nothing. Nobody could have told me how my in-laws’ unfeeling comments would leave me gutted, nor would I have guessed that some family members would transmit complete radio silence when all I wanted to hear was, “I’m praying for you.”
Nor could I have predicted the kindness of a few far-flung but dear friends who would be my lifelines. Phone calls and flowers came from Maui and Boston, and a package came from Portland containing a quilt and a series of tender poems all crafted by a truly inspired friend.
As most abortion clinics say, pregnancy was different after miscarriage. As miserable as it was, I was grateful for the nausea that sent me running to the toilet to vomit; it meant I had HCG in my body and the baby was still alive. The sight of other pregnant women left me feeling gut-punched, even though I had a beautiful ripening belly of my own. I was envious that those women had gotten to experience the innocence and excitement of pregnancy without loss, envious of friends and cousins who glibly posted baby announcements on Facebook as soon as they had a positive pregnancy test. As for me, I waited until I was four months along to tell anyone but my husband. And I waited until I held my son in my arms to let myself really celebrate.
I’m not sad anymore. My cup is full: full of my three-year-old’s dimpled cheeks, my one-year-old’s toddling gait, two blond heads bobbing as they run and play together in the sunshine. But what about my friends whose miscarriage stories don’t have a happy ending?
Some young moms I know seem to relish the martyrdom of motherhood. I can’t blame them; raising kids is a grueling, thankless job, and complaining is a pressure release valve I use far too much myself. But I wonder if they even see the women at the margins of their circles, women whose eyes say they would give anything for those sleepless nights. I remember feeling that way; I hope I can always remember to measure my words so that I’m not the one wounding someone else.
Our seminary-educated, Sunday School-conditioned brains are trained to look for the moral of every story. If miscarriage taught me anything, it taught me not to take motherhood for granted. Even on the darkest days of debilitating postpartum depression, the longest, loneliest nights nursing sick kids around the clock, I have the assurances of I chose this life and This is what I wanted more than anything and I am one of the lucky ones.
And maybe the point isn’t to distill a sound bite or lesson out of every trial, anyway, even though our human brains want explanations for everything. Recently when my husband and I experienced a messy setback we couldn’t make sense of, my dad gently reminded us, “Some things are just to give us experience.”
As Orson F. Whitney said, “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted…all that we suffer and all that we endure…builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education we came here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”