They say the second you see your positive pregnancy test, you become a mother. The moment you feel a presence within you, you create a bond with the life growing in you. Sometimes it takes days, even weeks to finally see the pretty pink lines. But when you finally see it, you understand how important this is – you notice how much deeper you feel everything and how much more meaningful your days become. You start to envision your days coming up – your growing figure and impending shopping trips. The next 9 months flash before your eyes and you see everything from pink tutus to black bowties. Lavender nurseries to gray crib sets, pretty butterflies to cute little cars. You can almost feel her tiny little hands wrapping around your finger, and hear his small excited voice saying “Mommy!” for the first time. The prospect of her having your partner’s eyes and your nose is the most exciting thought to cross your mind all day. Of course you’re a little scared, but you’re bringing a life into the world and the joy that fills you is just all consuming!
And then you see it: a spot of blood in your underwear. Your heart is racing and while you try to simultaneously hold back the tears and calm yourself down, your mind creates a thousand worst case scenarios. As a first pregnancy, this induced a lot of frantic Google-ing of early pregnancy spotting. And as the day progressed, so did my spotting and my panic. The next day at work, it felt like someone was taking a knife up through my uterus into my stomach. When you have debilitating cramps as a teenager, this becomes normal – but this was out of the ordinary. This was the kind of cramping that was intensely sharp and severe, that made you cry out audibly in an extraordinary amount of pain. After the cramps increased in severity, so did the bleeding.
I called my doctor from my car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. After trying to keep it together long enough to explain the situation they told me to get to the ER as soon as possible – I was having a miscarriage. As soon as I got off the phone with the doctor, I did what any scared 21 year old would do: I called my mom. And after a hysterical (on my part) phone call with her, I called my husband to come pick me up and take me to the ER.
A long afternoon in the ER being poked and prodded externally and internally left me dazed and numb. The doctors used choice words to describe my condition like “Medical Abortion” and “Happy Accident” that just made me more upset and angry and yearning to leave the hospital. The cramps were slowly going away, but what replaced it was a haunting emptiness that radiated from my stomach and ached in my heart. The words rang in my head, “your baby is gone…” but didn’t seem to fully register for days.
The bleeding came it clots and I ached for weeks. My body ached in places I didn’t know I had, and my soul suddenly seemed all too tangible when it pulsed and seemed to cry out for the touch of a little body it hadn’t quite known. I stopped eating. I had no appetite and I didn’t want one. What was the point if I wasn’t eating for two? I spent days arguing with my husband over the smallest things, just to break down the next moment crying and wailing into his arms asking him why our baby had to go.
There’s a certain numbness that overshadows your life when you lose a child. I watched my baby leave my body in unrecognizable pieces, and that’s an experience that will shake you to the core. When you lose a baby early, one of the most painful aspects is not having anything to remember her by. You know she was there, but her presence was so small. She left as quickly as she came, and what hurts the most is feeling like she was never there. You see the world through a darker lens and your mind is clouded by what could have been. The only mark she left on the world was you.
It’s important to remember that while her mark was small, it’s still there. Your grief is valid, and processing that grief is just as important for you as it is for anyone else that was not as far along as you, or farther along than you. Processing emotion looks different for everyone: some like to push it down far enough to make it “disappear” until they’re in a better position to handle it. Some like to let it register and let it all out at once. Do not let anyone tell you how to handle your sadness. You do not need to workout to feel better. You do not need to just forget about it until it goes away. You do not need to just get over it. The only thing you need to do is handle this grief in your own time on your own terms. There is no time limit for grief.
The best way to hold onto your sanity through this is to find your best coping method. (I recommend speaking with a therapist if this is difficult for you – I see a therapist once a week and it helps a lot). I have tried exercising the pain away. I have tried eating enough healthy foods in a day to fill the holes she left. I have tried writing her memory away into a journal. These things did not work… but art did. The best advice I received was to create a memorial for my baby. When you remember that you are the mark your child left on the world, it makes sense to create something else to show she was there. I created a shadowbox for her. We named her and I wrote a little poem for her – it hangs on our wall next to our bed.
As I made the box, I found myself in a strange state of calm. I wrote the poem and felt my sadness seep through my fingertips onto the paper. I arranged her dolls and found myself pouring every ounce of love into the smallest movement. I found markers and mementos to put next to her name and found myself wishing our family members long passed were waiting to meet her. I emptied my heart into the box – all of the sadness, all of the pain, all of the tears of sadness and joy she gave me – they all went into the box. And then it was done. She was gone, and what I had left of her was a pretty pink box on my wall to remind me that even for just a few weeks, I was her mom. And for just a few weeks, my life was upside down worrying about her future and how much I loved her already.
Three days from today marks 4 months since my miscarriage. My only saving grace is that while the pain doesn’t go away entirely, it becomes just a dull ache in your bones. I’m able to put the ache away some days, but most days it’s a fortress I hide myself away in. It is a constant uphill battle to remember that being happy is possible. It is a struggle to find a balance between putting this experience behind me but never forgetting her. It may be something I struggle with for years to come, but I know that no matter what, she’ll always be the little girl I almost knew.
Autumn Rebecca Kimmey
Though I never felt you in my arms
I felt you in my heart
Though I never heard your laugh
You still brought me so much joy
I never heard you cry
Yet my heart is burdened with great sadness
We dream of you with broken hearts
And wake up without you every morning
We wish you could have stayed
But we know you have a better home now
Please know that we loved you
And we will never forget you
All our love,
Almost Mom and Dad