The months following my miscarriage were a whirling vortex of grief and isolation, and I struggled to find an anchor in life–something I could still do well–something to offer hope in a senseless, soul-crushing situation. For the first time in my life, I kept an absolutely immaculate house. Cleaning wasn’t hard anymore, not in light of what I had been through, and the usual distractions of daily life didn’t hold the same appeal for me that they once had. I was also obsessed with the thought of getting pregnant again as quickly as possible. I felt like I was ‘supposed to be’ pregnant, and if we could just conceive again right away, that would somehow restore the innocent joy our family had once known.
I’m a Christian, and my beliefs on what happens after death are pretty concrete. Still, I felt compelled to grasp at straws when I thought about my baby’s immortal soul. Would God create a soul inside the tiny body of a child who would never live? Or was the soul of our next baby waiting in heaven for a healthy body to be born? Maybe, I told myself, we hadn’t ‘lost’ our child forever. Maybe we would eventually hold that exact baby in our arms, and what I saw as a tragedy was actually just an unfortunate delay. I kept repeating this theory to myself, to lessen my grief and build up the excitement surrounding conception–something that, unlike the miscarriage, I felt I had some control over.
We did conceive again right away, and I’m happy to say we are now fifteen weeks along with a baby who appears to be healthy. Pregnancy after a miscarriage is so much more complex than I ever could have imagined. I spent the early weeks in a state of constant fear, worrying we would lose this baby as we had our last. I read articles and posts online from other ‘rainbow mamas’ so we’re called. The term implies a baby after a loss is like the rainbow after a storm. These mothers seemed encouraged by the mantra ‘Today I am pregnant.’ I hated to break it to them (so I kept quiet), but I found the mantra incredibly stupid. So what if I’m pregnant today? A day isn’t long enough. What’s the point in getting excited about a pregnancy, what’s the point of getting pregnant in the first place, if a baby isn’t promised to us at the end of the journey?
Then one day it hit me, after I had passed all my milestones and was officially further along than I had gotten with our angel baby (I probably couldn’t have realized it before then), that nothing in life is ever promised to us. I had always known this, but I had forgotten. Worrying about my pregnancy rather than getting excited about our new baby was tantamount to saying, “What’s the point of teaching my daughter her colors when we could both be killed in a car accident tomorrow?” Of course there’s a point. First of all, chances are we will live much longer than that. Also, we need to make the most of the time we have together while we’re here. I would never think of approaching our days together in a half-hearted way just because life is so fragile–quite the opposite. So, why was I sitting around waiting to lose my baby, when the odds were against us having another loss? Why didn’t I get out and spend time with other people–none of whom were guaranteed a tomorrow–and enjoy my part in the process of creating a new life!
This pregnancy still hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies like my first one. For instance, hearing the little heartbeat for the first time was bittersweet from my new perspective of having experienced loss. As I waited on the exam table, I felt confident that my baby was alive and well this time. The technician started the ultrasound and there s/he was–moving all around with a healthy heartbeat of 173. I was thrilled, but I also knew that somewhere, at that very moment, another couple was discovering a blighted ovum, or seeing a baby who didn’t quite measure on schedule with an abnormal heart rate. As we indulged in a sigh of relief and cherished our first glimpse of a baby we will (God willing) get to take home later this year, someone else who would have been just as loving a mother as me, was having her dreams dashed and her faith tested to its breaking point. As I smiled at the screen and at the scene in our tiny exam room, E pointing at her little brother or sister’s beating heart, my own heart went out to her, whoever and wherever she might be. I wouldn’t wish that hurt on anyone.
I know I’ll feel the same way at each heartbeat check, at the anatomy scan and at the birth. I hope and pray I’ll continue to find myself on the humbly grateful side of the equation throughout this pregnancy, but I know that in the meantime I will enjoy and appreciate every day with my little blessing.