my miscarriage: wonder and grief intertwined
Updated: Oct 14
I wasn’t sure when I would announce to the world I was pregnant. 12 weeks? 20 weeks? A big part of me toyed with the idea of just waiting until after the baby was born, and surprising everyone, in typical Louisa fashion. I suppose in a sad way, that’s what is happening right now.
Friday, October 9, 2020: We sat in the ultrasound room, and Justin squeezed my hand. He whispered that it would all be okay. I looked at him. His one-of-a-kind hazel eyes, long dark eyelashes, olive skin. Sometimes I look at Justin, I mean really look at him, and am reminded how handsome he is. In this moment, I was looking at this handsome husband of mine that I’ve known since I was 18 years old, and wishing I could be as positive and hopeful, without the gut wrenching awareness that it was not all going to be okay. I had started to bleed the day before - at first just small spots of dark blood which slowly transitioned to bright red blood. “Some women spot during pregnancy, and everything is fine. But we want you to come in for a scan, just to make sure.”
I have always called myself a pessimistic optimist. Or is it an optimistic pessimist? I always hope for the best, but I expect the worst. In basically every situation that arises in life, I analyze what the worst case scenario would be, and then I attempt to prepare myself for said scenario. People who know me may be surprised by this, as I tend to come across as very positive. This is because I don’t let the worst case scenario destroy my happiness, but I also don’t want a false sense of security to eventually take me by surprise. So I expect the worst, but I hope for the best.
From the moment I suspected I was pregnant, I imagined worst case scenarios, and this was one of them.
The technician located my baby, and everything was still. The baby was still. The room was still. “I don’t see a heartbeat,” she said quietly, after we had sat in silence for a minute. Justin was squeezing my hand tightly. I looked up at him, and he was weeping silently. She left us in the room alone, to wait for our midwife. We held each other and cried.
I knew I was pregnant before I took the test. My period was late, and that never happens. Justin needed a test in order to believe it was real. We were in Wyoming for a wedding for two of Justin’s close friends, and I peed on the stick in the hotel bathroom, before we headed to the ceremony. It was positive, and Justin (gently) tackle hugged me with excitement onto the hotel bed. At the ceremony, the reception, on the 12 hour drive back to Washington, there was this new energy between the two of us. We knew something wonderful, that no one else knew. We had created a tiny person. We were parents already to the most perfect little baby.
Justin couldn’t wait to share the news. I wanted to wait, because - remember? I’m a worst case scenario gal. I didn’t think I would want people to know if I ended up miscarrying. I tend to carry my grief in private. I don’t like talking about grief or pain or anything negative, really. Justin, the ultimate optimist, was sure everything would be fine and wanted to shout the news from the rooftop. We eventually shared the news with family, and I wasn’t sure when I would tell my friends.
Saturday, October 10, 2020 - 2:00 in the morning. Our baby, perfectly formed with fingers and toes, lay in a box in Justin’s hands. Pain, grief, wonder. Together, we looked at that perfect baby, in complete awe and adoration, and heartbreak.
I had explained that I wanted to have a natural miscarriage, at home. The midwife had said I would “pass the tissue.” Isn’t it funny how, when I was pregnant, the life within me was referred to as a “baby” by the nurses, ultrasound tech, and midwife. Yet, as soon as that life no longer had a heartbeat, suddenly my baby was “tissue.”
I didn’t pass the tissue. I delivered my baby. My tiny, perfect baby.
The midwife told me it would be just like a heavy period. That’s a lie. I didn’t have a heavy period that night. I was in labor. I was having painful contractions. I was passing huge blood clots. Perhaps the reason medical professionals downplay miscarriage is because they feel it will help women who are in the midst of grief by minimizing the process to something less intense. But I didn’t want to minimize what was happening. I wanted to live each second of it. My sister Nour often says you have to “ride the wave” of what you are going through. You can’t minimize whatever it is, even if it is difficult - you need to feel it. Be present with it. Sit with it.
We woke up Saturday exhausted and sad. It was raining, which seemed fitting. Justin dug a grave, rain and tears intermixed streaming down his face, getting caught in those long eyelashes of his. We prayed and buried our baby that day. Although we do not know the gender, I felt our baby was a girl from the beginning. We named her Faith.
You may be wondering why I wrote this and why I am sharing this. One of the reasons I didn’t shout my pregnancy from the rooftops is because I knew that if I did miscarry, I would want to grieve in private. Or so I thought. But that is not how I feel at all. After seeing my baby - my perfect, perfect baby - all I want to do is show everyone I see a picture of her. I want to acknowledge her. I want to shout from the rooftop that she existed and was part of me and was a person and was our baby. I want to grieve openly and honestly.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. I am not alone in my grief. If you are reading this, it is likely you or someone close to you has experienced this same loss. Yet, we don’t talk about it. Our society has deemed babies in the first trimester as less than. We are encouraged to wait until the second trimester to announce our pregnancy, until we are in “the safe zone.” And if we miscarry in the first trimester, we do so in secret.
I feel blessed to have experienced this in October, which is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. I have seen so many stories this month on social media of personal accounts from women, sharing their grief and their story. We are united in this grief. Lets not hide it. Lets not dehumanize our babies. Let’s not minimize this experience. What we have lost is real. And it is time we, as a society, support women and men who are experiencing this loss.
I share the picture of my baby with you today, because I want you to see how perfect and beautiful she is. She is not “tissue.” She is a baby. And whenever I think of her, the grief and wonder I feel will be forever intertwined.