Three. That’s how many babies we’ve conceived and lost in one year. My new therapist offered to call them embryos if it would make me feel better, but it wouldn’t. Embryos are what they would be if they were not intended, not loved, not cared and dreamed for. These were our babies and always will be. I consider myself a mom of four, even though three of them never made it past the second trimester. But I can’t say that. When people ask me how many children I have the answer is, of course, one. One perfect 6-year-old daughter. And when other women who I know have had miscarriages and stillborns and infant losses are asked how many children they have, of course the answer is the number of living. But we all know the truth in our hearts.
Only weeks ago yet forever ago I was assembling hidden inspiration boards on Pinterest that I intended to make public as soon as we were confident enough to make our happy announcement. Clothes, registry items, products and advice we’d need in the coming months and years was being curated as I lay in bed or on the couch or on the bathroom floor, my body too tired and sore to do much else. I’d finally broken down and purchased a few maternity basics as there was no hope in buttoning any of my regular size jeans, and I often wondered if I would ever be able to again given my age and the multiple pregnancy. Projects and trips had been cancelled, put on hold, or sped up to accommodate both the official due date and a more realistic expected one, and real estate in two different states was analyzed in the hopes of making some very big decisions quickly. I went to sleep at night with my hands on my belly trying to feel those first few flutters expected at any moment, and I woke every morning wondering how much they’d grown while I’d slept. Now I place my hand on my soft abdomen and miss them so much it’s hard to get out of bed.
The last miscarriage was hard, this time was harder. Is harder. It will take longer to bounce back into the land of the living and although physically there is no permanent damage, emotionally that is not the case. I am still getting promotional emails for formula and cord blood registries and car seats. Alerts pop up on my phone telling me that my baby is now the size of an onion and what nutrients I should make sure to be getting this week. I delete the apps and unsubscribe from the mailing lists but more keep coming. My body is late getting the message as well, ready to nurse infants that aren’t here. There suddenly seem to be more babies around than ever before. And so many twins. And everyone I see seems to be pregnant. I resent the once forbidden wine, sushi and unpasteurized cheese that I’m now able to have after months of craving them.
I am heartbroken. I am angry. But mostly I am really really sorry. It doesn’t matter how many doctors tell me that it wasn’t my fault, that there was as a one in a million chance of the anomalies, or that neither my body nor our genes caused the problems. In my mind I failed these babies by not giving them the best chances for survival. I don’t know how but somewhere something went wrong and it happened inside of me. I am sorry that my amazingly paternal husband still does not have his own child, one with features and gestures that he and his family can compare to their own. I am sorry that my daughter still does not have a half-sibling like we have now twice promised her she would have, and who instead has a mother who cries all the time.
I am also sorry that when a woman sat next to me at the cafe with her beautiful baby in her arms, I didn’t smile and ask her questions like everyone else did. Instead I turned away and tried to work through the suffocating emotion without making a scene. And I’m sorry that I abruptly stopped and walked the other direction when I saw a couple on the beach with twin toddlers. Sorry that I didn’t attend the PTA meetings, dinners, and trunk shows where I knew someone would be pregnant or showing off their new family addition. Sorry that I couldn’t really go anywhere, worried that the tears would suddenly start streaming down my face and I would have to explain why. Sorry that I couldn’t bring myself to comment on friends’ sonogram images, pictures of their babies in Halloween costumes, or their beautiful new maternity photos. So so very sorry that I can’t share in their joy. But they have friends, family and strangers smiling at them, approaching them, touching their bellies and asking about sleep training and onesies and siblings and strollers. I have a void. Literally a void in my body where new life is supposed to be growing. Figuratively a void in my life that baby showers, kicking, mock-tails, registries and birth classes were supposed to fill right now. In a few months I will feel the void that infant crying, midnight feedings and diaper changes were supposed to fill. But how do I tell them, these happy sleep-deprived people, how bitter I am? I can’t, and I won’t. But the ache is constant. I miss my babies and the dreams I had for them. I miss being exhausted and sick but knowing it was all for a good reason. I miss the anticipation of their arrival in our lives.
I know that I am still living, that my heart is not the one that stopped. I hope to one day forgive my body for these cruel betrayals. I hope to receive forgiveness from the friends and strangers who didn’t get the happy version of me they were expecting, and who didn’t know why. I hope that one day my husband and I either find the strength to try again, or find peace in not taking the chance of more heartbreak. I can’t comprehend either at this point but I am grateful that we do have options, knowing that it could all be much worse and is for so many. If our life consists of only my daughter, our beautiful marriage and supportive family, then it certainly isn’t something to complain about. I know.
I am sorry that in my fragile heart right now, it’s not enough.