In this post: 10 years ago seems like a different lifetime and it was. My pregnancy journey was over and my grief journey began. A Miscarriage Remembrance, my story, but you may relate.
A Miscarriage Remembrance
10 years ago seems like a different lifetime. And in many ways it was. I was still in my 20s. We had only been married for 4 years. It was before we became a military family. Before I completed my University degree. And we were living in Madison, Wisconsin. I was also very naïve.
I never thought that I was, always soaking up everything that I could learn. But make no mistake, I was naive.
I say this, because I honestly believed that a miscarriage wouldn’t happen to me. But grief and loss doesn’t play according to our rules. So when I recently came across a note I had written a couple weeks after my miscarriage, it hit me in what can only be described as a strange way.
It was the Summer of 2008 and I hadn’t even told my best friend my happy news because I wanted to wait until her family’s extended vacation ended and we could be excited together face-to-face. I didn’t know that I’d be telling her both “I’m pregnant” and “I miscarried” at the same time.
When my husband and I found out that I was pregnant, like many new parents, we started to read whatever we could. My favorite part was finding out what size our baby was each week. And it was funny to see what inanimate object was used in size comparison to the child. We found out I was pregnant early on, and the first comparison we received was that to a poppy seed. After hearing this, we would talk to my stomach, calling our baby “Poppy” as a nickname, which has since turned into her name.
About a month away from our vacation to DisneyWorld, we laughed about how I wouldn’t be able to board any of the thrill rides my first time at the famous Florida theme park. We started planning our hopes and dreams. We talked about names we liked for a boy or girl. We told our families.
The Beginning of my Grief Journey
At work, a stomach flu was going around so it was the perfect cover for my nausea. And it was thrilling to know that I had a secret growing inside me that none of my coworkers knew about. Until a friend I worked with shared her pregnancy news and I couldn’t help but blurt out, “Me too!”
The second coworker I told was my supervisor. And not because I wanted to, but because I started bleeding at work and needed to leave.
While driving away, I called my Doctor’s office. Hours passed as they told me to just lie down at home and that everything was fine. I knew it wasn’t. It was common for them not to see anyone until they had been pregnant 10 weeks, and since my first appointment was already scheduled for the next day, they wanted me to wait until then.
My husband was able to leave work to meet me at home and even though the Doctor’s kept assuring me I was probably fine, I demanded to be seen anyway. Hours later, they confirmed what I already knew. My journey on earth with this baby, my Poppy, was over. And it was time for my life-long journey with grief to truly begin.
The Doctor on call explained the D&C surgery I now needed (my first, and unfortunately not my last), but what stuck out to me was her eyes. The usual look of detachment replaced by kindness and pity. Or maybe it was empathy? I wonder now if she knew this kind of loss firsthand?
As it was a teaching hospital, she asked if a team of students would be allowed to observe and assist. As they wheeled my bed into the operating room, I saw the forms of a dozen students watching behind glass above me and I remember thinking, “Well, if this helps them learn, then at least something good is coming from it.”
You’re Not Alone
As time went on, I received private messages and hushed conversations from so many women sharing their story. Their loss. Their miscarriage. I found myself not only grieving my loss, but also for all the women who have grieved in silence for so long!
I believe that while there are fundamental parts of greiving that we all have in common, our personalities and experiences shape each of us to grieve in our own way. Some people are private in nature anyway, but many women have never told someone other than their spouse because of feeling that it would make others uncomfortable. Grief IS uncomfortable. Or feeling that it is unwelcome. Grief IS unwelcome; no one goes out choosing it.
Recently in the news, we learned of an orca whale, named Tahlequah who carried her dead calf on the back of her head throughout the water for 17 days. Much of the world watched as this animal was grieving her baby. News agencies quoted a research scientist saying that, “watching the orca with her calf was emotionally draining.” Grief IS draining. But one beautiful thing came out from Tahlequah’s story. We observed how her pod stayed with her, helping to carry the calf at times as it slid off her head. The world saw that “she was not hurried or left to grieve alone” and that, my friend, is a beautiful gift.
As women shared their miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss stories with me, I was struck that they were giving me a gift. A piece of themselves they felt they could only whisper. And it hit me that maybe the gift I could give back is to grieve out loud. Maybe they want to keep personal things private. Or maybe they just never gave themselves permission. My hope is that no one feels like they have to grieve rushed and alone. I began to share my grief journey publicly, and unapologetically, in conversations and social media forums. I did this back then, and then again in sharing about our newborn daughter who only lived one day.
And it all started with the following note, my miscarriage remembrance written 10 years ago from last month.
I still have them on my left wrist.
A white one listing my name and date of birth along with a bar code. Next to it–and sometimes even sneaking underneath it as my arms swing while walking to and from places I do not desire to be, yet being a quasi-responsible adult am required to be–is a rose-colored bracelet given to me by a young phlebotomist who should have given me rose-colored glasses to match to help me through the coming hours. Days? Weeks? Months? Years?
“Your baby is now the size of a poppy seed…”
As the doctor explains how they remove what should have been the rest of Poppy’s 9-month home, they keep referring to my child as “the pregnancy.” I don’t know if that is because they don’t believe that she really is a baby yet or if they think it would be easier for me if I didn’t think of her as a baby. But how could I not?
Passage Psalm 139 (The Message):
13 -16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.
It’s been exactly 2 weeks since my body said goodbye. I know I can’t. She never truly left; she only relocated into my heart. Maybe that’s why I’m not ready to remove the hospital bracelets? Maybe I still need something to physically remind me of her. That it wasn’t just a good (and bad) dream? For whatever the reason…
Hospital Bracelets. I still have them on my left wrist.
And the memory of and love for, a Poppy in my heart.
Interested in hearing more about my grief journey? Read What It’s Like to Carry a Baby Who Might Die, my journey through a difficult pregnancy carrying our daughter, Ashlyn, who was given an eventual fatal diagnosis.
In a difficult part of your grief journey? Read How to Pray When Brokenhearted, written shortly after my Dad passed away. It contains verses that I learned to pray when it felt like I couldn’t say anything at all. Dowload the verses as a free printable here (No email address required).
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