Eight years ago, in April 2008, I lost a baby who was due on Christmas Eve… and then lost another later that year, who died inside me at 3 months gestation and had to be removed from my body in mid-December. I think of them at this time of year. I think of them while I trim the tree, while I make cookies, while I listen to holiday music. I still have this. I open it and smell it every year.
It still hurts. In quiet moments, at this time of year, I hear echoes of Christmas laughter that never actually existed and never will be. I still cry for them. For sure, there is sweetness in what I have, which is very much, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any bitter with that sweet.
I do not share this to evoke sympathy for myself or to bring anyone down. It is merely a gentle reminder: This time of year is difficult for so many who would do almost anything to feel more joy, and it is difficult for a great variety of often unknowable reasons. As always, remember that everyone is dealing with something, fighting something, and needing something. Without needing to know exactly what aches in our sisters and brothers, we can still offer kindness, patience, and love during times of heightened stress and pain.
Don’t worry about me, please, but send some extra love and peace to other people during this time. Look for those opportunities; make those moments possible. Give a smile to a stranger, hug a friend a little longer, hold a door, pay a tab, let someone ahead of you in traffic, say a kind word.
Kindness, above all, heals and strengthens.
Sending so much love to you all. <3
There’s a little something that pulls at my heart this time of year.
I don’t talk about this stuff very much any more. I talked and talked and talked about it a lot for awhile. I even mentioned it a few straggling times once I’d mostly grown quiet about it. A lot of friends and strangers questioned my resistance to healing. I don’t know if this is just something about me, an excessive emotionality that disallows me from ever really letting go of the deepest pains.
Maybe everyone is like this. Maybe you are. Maybe you aren’t.
It still hurts me at this time of year when I think about the babies who are not here, the one who was due on Christmas Eve, the one who quietly died in my womb in December and then had to be removed. Two of my kids won’t get presents from Santa this month, nothing to do with being naughty. They just didn’t make it. They never had a chance to be naughty. They slipped away before I ever had a chance to hold either of them.
I’ve always loved Christmas. I still do. But this little something pulls at my heart now too. It’s a melancholy kind of joy I feel nowadays during the holidays.
I choose to feel the happiness of the season, because most of the time, I do have a choice.
But when the tears come, I let them take over for awhile. That’s a choice, too. A mostly healthy one, I think, regardless of what anyone else might believe. When they dry up again, I hold onto all the joy I can find, and while I let the pain visit, the joy is where I remind myself to dwell.
May you all find the greatest joys and dwell in them for the rest of this year and into the New Year. xo
April 26th rolled past me, as it did you. It brought pain and joy and all things in between to him and her and them and the others. It was a day, and we all walked into and out of it, just like we do so many others. Some days leave their marks on you and those marks, be they soft lip prints or jagged, deep carvings, stain you. This is Life’s Tattoo. This is the one that can’t be removed; you just have to learn to live with your new ink. You may even find beauty in it.
I thought about this baby several times on this past day that happened like they all do, as clocks everywhere mark the time that slides by without any effort. It has been 2 years since that first miscarriage, the one that opened the door on a special kind of fear and loathing, and introduced me to the doubt of my female body. On this day I wondered, as I have so many times, who that one could have been if conditions had been just right. I sometimes stare off into nowhere, eyes distant, face slack, thinking these thoughts. Then I sigh deeply and swallow a lump in my throat; my hand may wipe at a tear that rolls absently. Other times I feel a peace, a moving on, an acceptance.
My world feels different than it used to so many moons ago. I am changed. There are some wonderful differences and there are, scattered about, some not so fabulous ones. These things, the changes both good and bad, are all just a part of the What Is. I can handle that. I can roll with it and still find a reason to be, see a splendor in life. It’s always there, waiting for me to rediscover it.
There have been times I didn’t think that was possible – that I’d be able to see beauty and feel bliss in life again, be able to even care if it was there or not. But I hold that knowledge, that truth, close to me now, as I live and breathe. This tender awareness seems to sit in the palm of my hot hand like a smooth pebble. It holds weight and feels cool against my skin. I like it; it grounds me.
I have learned another truth during this time, as well. A less fabulous one, I’m afraid. In every situation during the past two years where I have said to a group of women (of any size) that I have had miscarriages, at least one of them always shares that she has had one, also. There are too many of us. Why does it never fail to shock me, even though I know well by now how often it happens?
To all of you who have experienced this or other painful loss, I thought about you today, too. I felt sadness and tension, and then I released it. I sought the love and peace in my heart. After soaking it in for awhile, I released that into the universe, too.
I hope it finds you, much like a cool pebble that might just land, unexpectedly, in your upturned palm.
We purchased this year’s tree on a Sunday while John was home for a day. That night, I put the lights on it. The smell of a real Christmas tree is something I love so much that I don’t exactly know how to put it into words. The olfactory sense can trigger some of the strongest sense memories we have, and I think this smell is linked into the magic and joy that laces my memories of Christmas as a child. We never had a fake tree, so when I smelled this smell – a real pine, cedar, or fir – it meant Christmas was coming. And that meant magic, love, and light. It meant my soul would lift and float for awhile.
This year, before we bought our tree, I went in search of something I’ve had in a cabinet all year long. It is a glass spice bottle with a black plastic lid. The glass is very heavy, and the plastic is thick and sturdy. It appeals to me in some way, and so I saved it to use for something when the spice ran out. I had no idea when I put it aside that later I’d be gathering fallen needles to place inside.
Last year, I lost a baby (Davin) right at three months into the pregnancy. It was my second miscarriage of the year and, for many reasons, it throttled me in different and harder ways than had the first one (in April).
I found out on December 9th during a prenatal appointment that he had died. A D&C to remove Davin from my womb was scheduled for December 16th.
I had carried him for a week, knowing he was no longer alive. It was both maddening and oddly comforting. On the one hand, I felt insane knowing he was inside of me and he was not alive; my body was incapable of doing anything to help him. On the other hand, I got to be with him and say goodbye, come to terms with him being removed.
On December 15th, the day before the surgery, I asked John to go get a tree. I didn’t tell him, but I wanted that tree in the house with all 4 of us. That’s how it was supposed to be, and in my fractured state of being, I was going to have it that way, regardless.
When last year’s tree came into our home with all of its wonderful smelling glory my child was still inside of me. The next day, he was all the way gone. I was sedated for some time after that. When the pills ran out there was still wine and liquor. I got tipsy regularly; I ate crappy food. No matter what I ingested, I was empty.
I was empty in more ways than the one that made my uterus ache as it healed.
That tree sat in the living room with me. I watched those lights flash and dance through my bleary eyes. I sat here, numb, with that happy smell. Each day rolled by and I tried whenever I could to enjoy them, even if it was an altered, forced experience.
I cried a lot. I was angry and sad. A lot of days I was just nothing.
The tree was there.
At some time way past Christmas there came a point when I had to admit that the tree was dried out and needed to be taken away. I cried about that, too.
When that tree came into my house, I still had my baby inside of me. Now the tree was about to leave, and I had to keep a part of it, because somehow, it was the last thing I could hold onto about Davin. Is that crazy?
I got down on my hands and knees with that damn spice bottle and I gathered up fallen needles until it was full. Then I put it in one of my kitchen cabinets.
Only a couple of times during the year, when my heart ached the very most for Davin, I went and opened that bottle. I held it, smooth, cool and heavy, in my hand. In my fingers, it felt strong when I felt weak. I stared at the needles. I opened the bottle and smelled.
Pain and joy mingle together in that smell for me now.
Not long before we got our tree this year, I went for that bottle for the first time in quite a while. When I smelled it, I wept for my lost son. The smell was still very strong and crisp. It wrapped me up; it sang to me of both sorrow and delight. Afterwards, I felt a sort of peace.
I put the bottle out as the very first Christmas decoration in our home this year.
I will think of them both every Christmas: the baby who we thought would be born in December 08 as well as the baby who died in December 08. I don’t think I’ll ever smell that happy smell or watch those dancing lights again without a twinge of sorrow. But I believe I will always still smile at them, as well.
Pain and joy mingle together, and that is not such a bad thing to experience, or acknowledge.
It is far better than pain sitting in the heart by itself.
A lot of times I walk past it on my way to do other things without even thinking.
Most days I can pass by it at least once without noticing it there.
Every day I look at it and think of how empty it is.
I’ve thought about taking it apart and putting it in the garage, where I will not see it as often, or be tempted to picture him there.
I’ve stood before it crying because it isn’t being used.
I’ve wondered why it remains in my home even though I don’t think it will ever have use here again.
I contemplate whether it is unhealthy. I worry that it means I’m broken.
I’m not ready for it to go anywhere. I’m not entirely sure what that means. I know what you think it may mean. It’s not that. I’m just not ready.
I know that at some point I will be. And then I will do it myself, and it will be okay.
But for now it stays.
There is a crib in my hallway. It is wooden, and lonely, and it just waits and waits for a someday that never was.
It’s been a very long year.
This past Sunday was an anniversary.
But not the kind you celebrate with an extravagant weekend getaway.
If you’re like me, it’s the kind you await with anxious trepidation, wondering what sick emotional games your head and heart will play with you.
The bottle of Prometrium prescribed by the kind, helpful, and compassionate doctor on the other end of the phone with a sobbing, fretful, worried mother that night, one year ago last Sunday, still sits in my kitchen cabinet.
I still don’t have the heart to throw it away. Yet, I have no use for it. Seeing it reminds me of the baby. That’s not a great thing, but it’s not altogether a bad thing, either. It’s just… a thing thing.
Even though that first miscarriage ripped my heart out, and then I got an injection of Unexpected Hope only to suffer another Cosmic Sucker Punch, I have experienced a bit of healing in a whole year’s time.
But I don’t want to forget. And I don’t mean forget the babies (which I most certainly will not). I mean the pain.
There is something about the pain that is left after something that tears at your heart so fiercely. There is something about it that I don’t want to lose.
That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Perhaps it’s just the idea that this pain is the only thing I have left of this baby (of both of these babies), and the thought of letting go of it and moving on is just… well, shitty. Unpoetic as it may be, that is the best word for it. Letting go of that pain feels shitty.
If I can smile all day long every day (even when I’m looking at the damned bottle in the kitchen cabinet), then it feels as though I have nothing left of them. As if it does not matter that they were here one moment and then gone the next.
Fault me for it if you will, but nutty as it sounds – this pain is a tragically beautiful thing, and I don’t plan on letting go of it until I am holding my babies somewhere. Whether that is in some eternal dream or Heaven, or wherever else… that’s when I’ll release this gnawing grief.
Until then, that very pain helps me appreciate every hug, flower, and ray of light in this world. Because I’m a foolish girl, and when the light of the sun shines too prettily for too long, I have a tendency to take everything that’s good in my life for granted.
This pain? The way it lingers and sometimes flares up? It taps me on the shoulder and says, “Be grateful, woman.” It’s my reminder.
I refuse to even want to let go of that.
This past Sunday, I planted flowers for our lost babies, who we call Taylor and Davin.
They were purple alyssum, a choice made in order to simultaneously bow my head to another soul that was spirited away too soon.
I could want to be numbed (and some nights, I kind of am) or I could wish for complete healing, to leave these feelings behind and forget them.
Instead I’m going to hold onto what’s left of this pain, and when it feels the most raw, I’m going to try as hard as I can to turn that prism of pain toward the light, so that it creates the most beautiful rainbow I can make that effer shoot out.
I close my eyes at night and the blackness that stares back at me from inside my eyelids is deep and dark. I know my eyelids are right there. But if I didn’t… well, I wouldn’t. And then it would just seem like… Endless Dark.
It’s what I imagine it must be like inside a uterus.
Disconnected from the day, and staring into the black nothingness, I can’t help but start to feel like I’m floating. You know, as if I’m in some kind of fluid.
My thoughts drift. I realize that I have no real knowledge of what is sustaining me, only beliefs… feelings.
I just am.
I sense there is someone out there – very close, but in another sense, so far still. Someone who loves me, whom I do not yet really know. Someone who wanted me; someone who is waiting patiently to meet me.
My heart is beating but, after some time, I start to feel very tired and weak. I have the sense I am fading.
I still feel, but it’s so dark, and getting darker.
Suddenly there is nothing.
In the morning, I wake again, and I get to open my eyes. I see the world around me and time marches on.
I get to keep going. I continue to be.
I hope that they are somewhere where their eyes have opened unto the most beautiful sights they could ever dream of, and that when I get there to join them, they are bursting with stories of all the things I’ve missed while they were waiting patiently to meet me.
On October 3rd, 2008, I found out he was alive inside of me.
I was surprised.
I sent my husband this photograph in an email with the subject line, “Ready to rumble?”
The body of the email said, “Here comes the fear, do-do-do-do….”
I was scared.
But also, I was cautiously happy.
Before long, I was full of hope. And dreams. And the future.
My last pregnancy had ended in miscarriage at 5 weeks.
On October 18th, 2008, I had morning sickness for the first time. I have never been so happy to feel so sick.
I turned my arms within and held my baby a little closer, starting to believe I could hold on to that sweetness forever.
On November 10th, 2008, I saw him on a fuzzy, mini-ultrasound.
I saw his heart beating. And that was it. I Believed. He could make it.
We called him Fuzzball.
I thought one day I would be rubbing his head, calling him that.
I began showing. It felt glorious.
On November 24th, 2008, I heard his heart beating. It was vigorous.
In spirit, I jumped over the moon, grabbed a star, and brought it back to earth with me. It glowed inside of me.
Up until the end, I thought he was a girl. Maybe that is because, at a time when I felt like I was filled with snips and snails, he filled me with sugar instead. And spice.
And everything nice.
On December 9th, 2008 I found out he had died.
Everything nice scattered in the wind so quickly.
I saw him on a high quality ultrasound that day. He looked beautiful to me. I wish I could see him again.
I was too shaken up to ask for a print of the image. I regret that so much.
I have a pile of things – a pregnancy test, papers, armbands, photographs. They’re just material things. They are cold. They do not kick me in the stomach. They will never smile at me or hug my neck. But I look at them; I touch them.
I think of him.
On December 16th, 2008, people I hardly knew removed him from my body by way of a cold, surgical procedure. His body was sent for testing.
He was considered biological material.
Biological material. He did not have a name then. He was labeled “the product of conception.” They cultured his cells in a lab.
Davin had Trisomy 13.
I could write a whole essay on this alone, but that will come later.
I wanted to find a boy’s name I liked that meant “Hope.”
Even though I feel very little of it right now, I wanted to name him after the thing I thought I had lost forever, but which he gave me in surplus, even for such a brief time, without receiving anything in return.
And which, I know, will return in time. In part because he taught me that it’s okay to hope again even after you think it’s impossible.
Even if it hurts. Because it tells you that you are alive. And that you want to keep living. And that you believe that each day can be new if you can just let that come back to you.
Instead, we named him Davin, which means “Beloved.”
Forever he will be.
I miss him so.