I originally wrote this article for Well Rounded in 2014. I would like to share it with you again, with some edits, because October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.
I've learned so much from the women I have met through this infertility journey. I call them my fellow warrior goddesses. I've met many in internet communities. “Look for the gifts your baby left you,” is one phrase I read on a fertility board somewhere that has both haunted and helped me so much. When I read those words, they broke my heart. Even now, I can hardly think of them without my eyes welling up in tears. I didn’t like to think of the babies I lost as babies. I preferred to think of them as cells dividing that just didn’t make it. They didn’t have a soul, did they? But, they were so much more than “just cells dividing,” regardless of whether they had souls or not.
We had been trying for years just to get a positive pregnancy test. My two pregnancies came only after much time, heartache, frustration and financial drain. Each time I miscarried, I lost not only my hopes and dreams surrounding the arrival of the babies inside me, but also the possibility of relief from the infertility nightmare we were schlepping through. And, of course, so much more than that.
The day of my D&C procedure, and the weeks after my first miscarriage, were some of the saddest–if not the saddest–that I have known and ever hope to know. At the hospital, I had to leave my husband in the waiting room. Except for unfamiliar faces, I was alone. It was cold floors, white stale, cold lights, and a cold, naked body covered with a green gown and paper hat.
The crying came from another world. I was watching myself yelp, and I couldn’t stop. My mind went blank. Sadness simply poured out of me, and that’s all that was there. I’d never experienced this kind of sadness. I went to the bathroom and stared out the window and cried; I walked into the second waiting room and cried; I laid down on the procedure table with tissues in my hands and I cried some more.
When I woke from the anesthesia-induced sleep, there was some relief. My pregnancy was over, but so was the painful waiting to find out whether I was going to lose my baby. I had my answer. It wasn’t the answer I hoped for, but it was my answer, and I had to accept it.
Through this process I learned that when I mourn, sadness comes in intervals. When the sadness came, I allowed myself to mourn. I didn’t try to cheer myself up. I protected myself, and took care of myself in every way I could think of, and I allowed myself to go into the darkness. It was so terribly sad and dark. It was awful.
The lows were followed by highs and then the lows would set in again. During the highs, I received one of the greatest gifts from my first baby. When the tears ran dry for a while, and I had some time before the next low, I felt amazing peace. My heart was open. The pain had cracked it open. When the river of tears ran dry, there was an opening that let the light in.
Maybe too exhausted to think, I would experience the world just as myself, with no commentary from my mind. Colors were vibrant, everything was beautiful, love and intimacy came more easily. It is something that I still practice now–trying my best to stop the mind so that I can enjoy the moment as myself. With the help of this sweet little soul, I had some pure moments filled with love. These moments still help me in my practice of keeping my heart open, and I am forever grateful.
I was still experiencing the ups and downs of my first miscarriage when we transferred our next embryo. When I was pregnant with this baby, I remember feeling so happy and thinking to myself what a sweet girl this baby is (we knew the gender because we had genetic testing done on our remaining embryos). I believe I could feel her sweetness.
She did not make it far along at all. I did have a positive HCG level but it was low and not rising properly. I think this was considered a chemical pregnancy because we never saw much, if anything on the ultrasound. “I think I see something but I am not calling it your pregnancy,” is all the doctor ever said. Shortly after this, I stopped my fertility medicine and the pregnancy ended on its own. I didn’t allow myself to go deep into the darkness this time. I was pissed.
I decided that I didn’t have to be nice anymore. I always try my best to be nice; I am sometimes a real people pleaser, and I am trying still to navigate my way through being nice and being genuine in times of conflict.
But for a while I wasn’t so nice at all. It didn’t make me feel better. In fact, when I wasn’t being nice, I realized the world wasn’t so nice back. I realized that being able to be nice was a gift that I had for many years and took for granted. This sweet baby girl showed me that being sweet is a gift, and I didn’t deserve anything for it. But the world returns the favor anyway.
After my tears dried for that pregnancy, and life moved on and the pain faded some, I realized that the gifts my babies left me came in the form of lessons. And these souls who never made it to the world except inside my womb, chose to come here to teach me about love. One broke my heart open and created a gateway allowing light inside that prior to her visit did not have an entrance. The other taught me that being kind is not something that I am giving away or something for which I am owed, but it is a gift that I have been given. When I am kind, my world is more beautiful. I get to experience my own kindness as well as reap the gifts of kindness that return to me.
Even as I write my feelings on this page, tears stream down my face. The pain doesn’t necessarily go away. But, I have no doubt that these gifts will help me be a better mom, wife and person. And, for that I am grateful. Still, I do not think this is fair. Infertility is not fair. Make it known - I do not condone this type of learning - universe. I also believe people can learn from joy and abundance and I pray that is how my and everyone's lessons come from now on.