In an instant you were gone. Before I could see your face, stroke your cheeks, give you butterfly kisses, put bandages on that boo-boo on your knee, smell that sweet scent that only babies have, be your earthly mummy, say hello…… before I could do any of those things, I had to say goodbye.
I’ve lost four (4) babies before I had a chance to meet them. Their names are all the same – Angelito – which means little angel. Their lives, no matter how brief, made a great imprint on my heart, and their loss had and continues to have a profound impact on my life. I’ve said that losing them felt like having an unseen loss, meaning that their entire existence was such a mixture of the tangible and intangible, that I wasn’t even sure about the whats/ifs/shoulds of my grief. Could I grieve what I never had? Could I grieve the unknown? Was I even allowed to?
The Aloha image above is a poignant symbol of the lives/losses of my babies. Aloha is a Hawaiian greeting used simultaneously to say hello and goodbye and in the image, the waves appear to be etching closer, ready to wipe away that greeting. Likewise, my whispered greeting to my babies echoed the Aloha meaning and their passing felt like that cool, swaying wave that seemed ever ready and willing to wipe away every trace of my babies’ (as well as part of my) existence.
That wave wasn’t entirely successful though, because precious traces of their existence are still very evident, if only in the minds and hearts of my husband and I. Yes, my babies were known, they were here, we saw the positive pregnancy tests, the doctor even confirmed it, we saw their little heart beats on the sonogram, once or twice I thought I even felt the flutter of their existence in my womb. My Angelitos, why oh why is the doctor now telling me that you are no longer here, that he can no longer find your heartbeats? Maybe his sonogram equipment is broken, yes, that must be it because you can’t possibly be gone. Not now, not this quickly. I’d just told everyone that you were coming. They were expecting you….I was expecting you.
And so began my very surreal, confusing and emotional journey into pregnancy and infant loss. In many ways the brevity of my babies’ lives made my grief even harder. The space and time between their existence and non-existence was so sudden, that it almost felt like a cruel joke. Your mind plays tricks on you, you feel your body has failed you and very few on the outside understand you. In fact, the sheer amount of incorrect assumptions (“What did you do to cause it?”) and insane comments (“Well, at least you didn’t get to see him/her – now that would have really been sad”) that come your way when you lose a pregnancy is mind-boggling. I shudder thinking about it even now. Losing a pregnancy is an experience that no woman should ever have to go through one time, let alone four times or even seven, eight or ten times, as is the case with some women.
Medically my babies were called ‘miscarriages or spontaneous abortions’ and are common, apparently happening in up to 40% of known pregnancies, normally within the 1st 12 weeks (1st trimester). Two of my miscarriages fell in this category and two did not and were classified as ‘2nd trimester miscarriages.’ According to my doctor, although losing a pregnancy in the 2nd trimester is not as common and he wasn’t exactly sure why it happened (all tests came back normal or inclusive), he still felt that it was probably “for the best”. The best for who? Him, me, my babies, the universe? Note to self: 1) Change doctors and 2) Buy aforementioned doctor the not-yet-written book entitled, ’10 Things You Never Say To a Woman Experiencing Pregnancy/Infant Loss.’ I’m sure ‘it’s for the best’ is right up there alongside, ‘you’re young(ish) so you will have another one.’
In the midst of all of the intangibility of my pregnancy loss experiences, something began to become planted in me that was very beautiful and had the potential to be very tangible, if I allowed it to grow. A gift from my babies perhaps? I’m not sure – but their short lives gave me a deeper capacity to love, a stronger reliance on my faith, an ability to not take things (or people) for granted or too seriously, the belief that life is truly precious, the desire to seek out and surround myself with people who lifted me up instead of tore me down, a reminder to slow down and pause, the freedom to be honest in my grief and the permission to laugh again.
It wasn’t and isn’t easy and my loss is never erased from my being, but somewhere along the way, something started to be woven into my heart. A feeling that things will get (and feel) better. A sense of hope where it was once lost – a hope that oddly felt/feels very real and….very, very tangible.
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. If you know of any woman (and/or a couple) who has/have experienced a loss, give ’em a hug, acknowledge their loss and let them know that you are there for them whenever, whatever and however they may need you.
I’m sure that many of you have your own poignant stories of pregnancy and infant loss – or know someone who does. I would love for you to share your story/experience with pregnancy and infant loss with us, so please feel free to leave your thoughts about this this or any other topic in the comment section below. If you don’t want to tell your story publicly but still feel the need to share, please do not hesitate to send me an email at: [email protected] I very much look forward to hearing from you.