Yesterday, I went to the dentist for my bi-annual teeth cleaning. With all this Covid craziness, I was a year-plus late but that is besides the point, ha! Anyways, at our dentist, visitors are led down a long hallway to get to the treatment rooms. And the wall that extends throughout this long passageway happens to have frame-after-frame of all the adorable children who grace the building for their checkups and such. It was a good mental day and I smiled as I inspected it to see bright, shining faces full of light and happiness; Then, my smile only grew when the receptionists gleefully explained how children love to visit and see pictures of themselves and friends up the wall for all to see.
This idea should have been met with nothing other than hopeful thoughts. Only, on this particular day I was met with a surprise. You see, when my husband and I scheduled the appointment months ago, we were expecting. And when we spoke with the receptionist on the phone, we had mentioned this little fact so that we could verify safety protocols and even avoid the first trimester. With that pregnancy, I had a lot of morning sickness and couldn’t imagine the thought of fingers being in my mouth for an hour without the thought making me ill. That said, we planned the appointment out far enough that we would be past the first trimester and hopefully in the clear for the more debilitating pregnancy symptoms. However, by the time that our appointment arrived, we were no longer pregnant.
At first, when the receptionist commented that one day our baby would also be a face on the wall, I thought nothing of it. The suggestion seemed innocent enough to me. However, when the second receptionist got excited and asked when we were due, the truth hit me like a boulder! I had forgotten to notify the office that we were no longer expecting. We had miscarried early in the pregnancy, just after five weeks.
For a moment, I stared at her in shock. It was the first situation that I had found myself in where someone didn’t know what had happened. What was I supposed to say to this kind stranger? Was I supposed to tell her that we were no longer pregnant and accept her condolences while trying not to cry? Or perhaps I was supposed to tell her not to worry because we were already in the process of healing and were trying again? I didn’t know what to say!
After having experienced our first miscarriage, I can say that one of the things I have learned is just how stigmatized the idea is. Our OB/GYN reassured us that it was not our fault and that as many as 30-50% of pregnancies end in loss, many before couples even know they are pregnant. But the pain of loss didn’t subside with the statistics. Family and friends who knew about the pregnancy kept saying things like, “At least you can get pregnant!” and, “Don’t worry, just try again!” But as much as I wanted for those logical responses to help, they didn’t. Not until much later in the healing process... Early on, it just felt like everyone was more comfortable with sweeping our dead baby under the rug so that they didn’t have to sit in the sadness with us; like it was easier to just move on and forget that he ever existed.
But, He. Did. Exist! He was inside of me and my husband and I celebrated his existence with anticipation, hope, and love! For ten days, we knew about him. For ten days, we shared some of the happiest moments together as we reveled in our growing family. We talked about names. We made plans to get the house in order for his nursery. We told loved ones that he was coming. We prayed. We waited. We giggled. We envisioned. We were so excited!
Then, he was just gone... I cramped. I bled. I called my husband and my mother in tears. We went to the doctor. We got the horrifying confirmation. We cratered and we grieved together. It took weeks for us to return to any resemblance of normality. My depression spiked and my husband did his best to give me the comfort and space I needed to process, long after he had picked up his own jagged pieces. It wasn’t an event in our lives that we could just ignore and it still affects us irrevocably.
We still think about him everyday and we still talk about him. Granted, he may turn out to be a she but we won’t know that until we get to meet him one day up in Heaven. So, I hope Heaven is real. And I hope that we will get to see him one day and find out if he really is a he. For now, we assume. And we wait.
But the thing is, we don’t want to pretend like he never existed. Instead, we want to celebrate and remember him! Because even if we didn’t get to raise him, he is ours! He will always be the one that made us parents. Parenthood starts long before a baby meets the world outside of the womb, and the reality of him isn’t diminished by the fact that we never got see his face. So, I hope that when people like the receptionist at our dentist ask about him that we will have the courage to tell them about him! I hope that we will continue to share stories about our time with him, no matter how short, and that one day we will tell our other children about their big brother in Heaven watching over them!
This time when I was asked, I panicked. I told that sweet lady that we weren’t pregnant anymore and the sting of that statement stunned me, even weeks after we had decided that we were ready to try again. And when sadness welled in her eyes and she tried to offer condolences, I brushed her off with a wave of the hand and tried to make her feel better about it! I quickly told her that we were trying again and not to feel bad for asking because maybe at my next appointment we would already be pregnant again.
But next time… Next time I hope that I will be brave! I hope that I can stop trying to make everyone else more comfortable with what happened and show them that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to remember our baby and it’s okay to love him even though he’s gone! We can miss him. We can think about him. We can talk about him. We can even celebrate the day he would have been born and the days after that when he would have turned a new age. He’s ours and always will be!
So, when a stranger innocently asks us one day how many children we have, I hope we will have the courage to count our first baby in the number and tell people the truth: that he may be in Heaven, but he still counts!
Hugs and love in the face of tragedy,
With hope and love overcoming,