Starting a Family
I've found so much happiness in my partnership and marriage with Bennett, my husband. Yes, sometimes we argue and get frustrated with one another. Sometimes I am not as kind with my words as I would like to be. Sometimes things don't go as planned. With our one year anniversary a few weeks away our world, temporarily but completely, fell apart.
On my favorite day of the year, the summer solstice, surrounded by Bennett’s family while on vacation in Gloucester, Massachusetts, I found out I was pregnant. After many months of trying and being told by multiple doctors that my chance of naturally conceiving was around 5%, we were over the moon. We told his family immediately in a fury of joy and tears and hugs, and I called my family and our closest friends. I quit drinking, took prenatal vitamins, recommitted to yoga, got acupuncture, didn't lift heavy things, double washed all my produce, gave up sushi, and everything else all the books and blogs and my parent friends told me to do. Self care was at a peak - I wasn't just caring for me, I was caring for something that could be a baby! I tried my best to be scientific about it and called it a zygote, embryo or fetus, depending on where I was in my pregnancy. Weeks past, and I kept taking pregnancy tests to make sure I was still, indeed, pregnant. We had an early ultrasound and it showed two embryos in the same placenta. Identical twins! WHAT!? I was nauseous all the time, constantly exhausted, always in the bathroom, and had to buy new bras - everything in my body was screaming at me that I was pregnant. We went to our second appointment and saw the two little embryos turn from circles into beans (scientific terms, clearly) and heard the heartbeats. It was magical. They were becoming babies in my mind.
The days following that, I started to feel better. I recognized it as the feeling of relief. The hearts were beating! The chance of miscarriage was less now that we’d heard the heartbeats, right? Right. All the carefully curated blogs I read reaffirmed this belief. I could finally sleep better at night, and I did, holding on to my belly as I drifted off. During the day, I often found my hand grazing my stomach. I began to love the two tiny heartbeats inside of me. I was in awe of them and terrified of them. I secretly named them. They were boys, I could feel it.
Over the next few weeks, I no longer felt nauseous, and assumed that this was the ups and downs of a healthy pregnancy. I stepped on the scale almost daily, relieved when I'd finally gained two pounds. I felt great. The fear was being overtaken with excitement. I was nearing the end of the first trimester. I started planning on how we would announce to the rest of our friends and family. Bennett and I always vowed not to do any cheesy birth announcements, but I began thinking of them anyway. I told a few friends and coworkers because I just couldn't contain my excitement.
We'd been furiously looking at houses that could accommodate our growing family, and decided to try out a doctor close to our desired new neighborhood. I was excited that we had sneakily found a way to see the babies again between appointments with our regular OB. This new doctor was a kind and gentle man, excited to hear about our natural twin pregnancy after I had been told that it was next to impossible. When he turned the ultrasound toward us, I immediately knew something was wrong. Bennett was holding my hand. The doctor looked worried. Then he told us he couldn't find the heartbeats as he put his hand on top of mine, still resting on my belly. They were gone, and had stopped growing right after our last ultrasound, the heartbeat ultrasound. I'd had a silent miscarriage and for nearly 2 weeks had been carrying around two dead fetuses without knowing. My body had been lying to me. Just like that, I was no longer a mother, or a could be mother. I was back to just being me.
What happened next is a blur. Bennett was crying, I was hugging him. Nurses told me next steps and handed me papers, the doctor hugged me, told me how sorry he was. Without shedding a tear I shoved the papers into my purse and walked out the door, and then I collapsed. I'd seen this in movies but had never known a pain so strong that you literally can't walk anymore. This was yesterday.
I've been up all night deleting my lists of baby names and my secret baby registry, unfollowing the Twins groups I joined on Facebook, throwing away the books and the ultrasound photos that I'd been proudly displaying on our fridge, making appointments for my D&C. I've been up all night unbecoming a mother. I had a glass of wine and sushi and it wasn't nearly as good as I needed it to be.
I have had a remarkable, lucky life punctuated by some periods of intense pain and trauma. The universe hasn't always been kind to me and because of that, I've become resilient and strong and brave. But I was ready for a break. I was ready for this amazing thing to happen to me, to happen to Bennett, to happen to our family. I was ready to be a mom, even though being a mom scared me. Through all of this "why me," I've had to remind myself that there is a person right next to me who has my back for the rest of our lives, and a community that loves me and wants to take care of me, and not everyone has that. I know that, I see that, and I wouldn't trade anything for that, even this unspeakable pain. I’ve also learned that many, many women have had miscarriages. This unspeakable pain isn’t unique, and there’s something comforting about that.
Just like abortions, women don't talk about their miscarriages. Why aren’t we allowed to talk about our pain, our choices, our unluckiness, our bodies when it comes to the harder, more uncomfortable parts of reproduction? Why is something so common so taboo? I have to keep reminding myself that I did nothing wrong, and this isn’t a cross to bear alone. To all the women who have had trouble conceiving or staying pregnant, I’m sorry. I hope we can all find some peace, some answers, some forgiveness.