It was a boy.
Her words hit me like a punch I didn’t see coming.
I sat at my desk at work, my phone pressed tightly to my ear to keep her words from spilling out.
I’m sorry, I just felt you should know.
She never asked if I wanted to know. Did I want to know?
This wasn’t the first time I’d lost a baby. But it was the first time I had learned the gender. I wasn’t ready.
I was never ready.
The other day, I was unpacking a box of books and I came across a book of poetry I had given my husband when we were first dating. e.e. Cummings. 100 Selected Poems. In between i like my body and Humanity i love you, there was a sonogram.
Our first baby.
The one we never talk about.
The one very few people even knew ever existed.
The one whose conception and subsequent loss came at such a tumultuous time in both our lives, that it was quickly chalked up to, it’s probably for the best.
The baby that never should have been and never would be.
The one who defined everything that we ultimately became.
That loss felt like a punishment, for any wrong doing I’d ever committed, for every moment I hadn’t walked a straight line in my life. For all the times I’d put my own needs above all else.
I convinced myself that baby was a lesson to warn me about my selfishness and I carried the pain of that loss in silence as my penance.
The second time, it was different. All was right in my life, in my world. This child was planned. This child was wanted.
But like water, he slipped through my fingers before I could even attempt to hold on.
I’ve learned a lot of life lessons from grief and how uncomfortable personal tragedy and suffering makes the people around you. I’ve been on both sides. One of the things my miscarriages taught me is that no one wants to talk about it. The mention of the word makes people squirm, their eyes dart over your head, their mouths change the subject. Even from the people closest to me came the always well meaning, yet useless, heartless platitude that every woman who has lost a baby knows.
You can always try again.
My losses were early into my pregnancies. Because no one around me had become attached yet, maybe they assumed I hadn’t either. To everyone else, it was a blip on the calendar. They didn’t know I’d already breathed in the sweet scent of my newborn’s head, held a tiny precious finger in my hand, or sang him fifty lullabies off-key.
You can always try again.
After I swallowed my bitterness and grief, we did try again.
And we were grateful for the birth of our beautiful daughter, who was so content in my belly that the doctor had to go in there and get her two weeks past my due date. She was and is our gift. Our daughter who came into this world like an angel of mercy to heal this broken mommy’s heart.
Heal my heart she did. She filled us with love and light and joy so complete, you could touch it. She healed my heart so much, that I never saw the next miscarriage coming.
I wanted her to have a sibling, a partner-in-crime, a lifelong friend, someone to complain to about her parents when she was older, her port in a storm when life got bitter. We wanted a bigger family. We wanted to fill our home with the sound of children who were driving us crazy, who made us laugh till our sides hurt, who made us cry from loving them so much.
Yet again, I was not ready. How could I be ready?
You can always try again.
The words pounded on my soul like a hammer until the reverberations took my breath away.
I was done.
As much as I wanted more children, I couldn’t do it anymore.
My husband and I lay next to each other in the dark, the safest place to open my heart. I told him that I couldn’t handle anymore heartbreak.
She can be an only child.
That’s not what you want, he said.
What I want doesn’t seem to matter.
I was resolute.
I was terrified.
Yet, I found a sliver of hope inside me.
For the fifth time, I became pregnant. It was very planned. I needed the sense of control, despite the knowledge that in the end, I controlled nothing.
Right on schedule, the signs of miscarriage emerged. I sat on the floor of my bathroom and cried. I cried while I listened to my daughter happily playing in the next room. I cried feeling like I had let her down, like I had let the dream of what I thought my family should look like slip through my fingers once again.
I’m sorry baby, I whispered to her through the closed door.
I knew the routine by now. I called my husband at work. I called my doctor and told her what was happening. She’d been down this road with me before, so she scheduled me to come in a few days later. The day of the appointment, I made my husband stay home. He always wore his heart on his sleeve and I couldn’t hold myself together if he was sitting next to me, crumbling.
I refused to look at the screen while she performed the sonogram. I didn’t need to see yet another one of my babies floating away into the universe without me.
Then the room filled with the unmistakable swooshing sound of a heartbeat.
I turned to see my doctor smiling and rotating the screen towards me.
The baby is just fine, she said.
But the bleeding…the signs…the everything…
This wasn’t like my previous miscarriages or the pregnancy with my daughter.
This was new territory.
I rode the waves of my pregnancy with bated breath, my growing confidence slowly replacing my anxiety each day.
My baby girl entered the world on the wings of hope. She flew into our hearts and replaced our fear with love.
She is my fighter, a kid who gets back up no matter how many times she might get knocked down. She’s the one who throws caution to the wind and lives life with 110% of everything she’s got.
She is exactly what our family needed and she completed us.
There was no question she would be our last. It took us some time to say it to each other, but we knew. We had more love than many ever will and we were grateful.
Life gives and takes without much consideration for the condition of our hearts. Happiness does not protect us from sorrow, but the sorrow certainly gives us more reason to celebrate the happiness.
I stared at the sonogram inside the e.e. Cummings book a little longer and tucked it back inside. I still wonder about my babies that never were to be and sometimes I play the what-might-have-been game. But mostly, I look at my two children that are and am filled with so much love that some days, my heart hurts from the joy of it.
They are my happy ending.