It’s been over four months since my most recent, most horrible miscarriage, and while I’ve talked about it plenty, I haven’t quite been able to bring myself to write. When you talk about your heartbreak, there is an immediate sense of throwing your pain over a wall, so whomever you’re talking with can take it from you, even if just for a moment. There’s something so freeing about speaking about it, that lifts the burden, however momentarily. Writing is its own brand of healing, certainly—but it’s different. When I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, it’s personal. Until I hit “publish”, these thoughts and these words belong only to me. There is no one else here on my couch to share the burden of what I say here. It’s mine to bear, at least for now. And all these months later, it’s still heavy.
In late October, I needed a break. It took me several days and many private tears to say out loud that I wasn’t handling this well. It felt like some additional failure-like I’d not only failed to carry my child, but now I couldn’t even move on with my life properly? Over time, I’ve come to understand that this is not an uncommon response to miscarriage. Women are so conditioned to NOT talk about this kind of loss, that when it happens and destroys us, we don’t believe it’s okay to be destroyed. With some distance and healing in the rear view, I look back on October and think, “Of COURSE, you needed a break. Three weeks is not a sufficient amount of time to ‘move on’ from losing a pregnancy.” (Spoiler alert: there is no such thing as “sufficient time” to move on from losing a pregnancy. There is no moving on, really.) So even though I was frustrated to need a break, I asked for one, and checked into a hotel in a little island town.
Across the street from my hotel was a bookstore/coffee shop combo that would make any reader or writer swoon. Since the weather (crisp, cold, perfectly fall) was foggy and prevented doing much sightseeing, I took a notebook and a snack and settled in. And I wrote about grief. It’s funny now, the idea that I could have “figured grief out”, three weeks out from my loss. I mean, my hormone levels were high enough that any pregnancy test I took came up positive. My body certainly hadn’t moved on—what made me think that my heart could be healed so soon? In those days, grief was like my shadow. When the sun was overhead and the days were bright, it would minimize- but as the sun retreated it loomed larger. In the quiet early mornings, too. At night, in the darkness, it seemed to cover everything.
Drinking my iced latte in an overstuffed chair that day, I explored the popular analogy that likens grief to waves. I get why it’s so popular—it works. Like the waves, when you are brave enough to walk with grief, it is ever-present, reliable, rhythmic. Always at your feet, but gentle. When you dive into grief, as under the waves, it swallows you whole, but you are still safe in it. Even swimming with the current of a riptide, while it’s all-consuming and takes you far away from where you began, it will eventually let you go, back to the relative safety of the shore. And so it is with grief: when you are willing to be IN IT, it takes you over and takes you somewhere new, but sets you there gently. We get into the most trouble when we turn our backs to the waves. When we ignore them, deny their strength, dig our feet into the sand in defiance…we get our asses kicked. Every time. Grief, like the ocean, is a safer place when we acknowledge, “I know that you are infinitely bigger and stronger than I am. I will not outsmart you or outrun you, so I will follow your lead.”
And as I watched families that day, seemingly all of them with an infant or baby bump in tow, I had no other choice but to take a deep breath, and dive under. I spent the first weeks after bidding farewell to the third pregnancy, third DREAM in a row fighting grief. I fought acknowledging the truth that what happened to our family was devastating and unfair. I fought with busyness and contrived silver linings and constant empty reminders that “there must be a better plan.” I fought, and I lost. I got my ass kicked, every time. After three weeks, I’d been so thrashed by the surf I didn’t know which way was up. I was like that woman on the beach who tried to gracefully exit the water and ended up with sand in places she dare not say, and a bikini top floating 50 feet away. But way less amusing. So I dove under. I let grief wash over me and under me. And it was the safest I’d felt in months.
But just so you know, I didn’t “solve” grief that day in October.
I cried on Halloween because had our first pregnancy stayed, I could have worn a bump-highlighting costume. Like an avocado, or fish bowl.
I was sad on my birthday in December, because I had been looking forward to another pregnant birthday.
I was heartbroken on Christmas, because December 25 was the due date for our first lost baby.
Every month that has gone by without a new pregnancy, I have grieved. Even though I left feeling empowered and hopeful, I struggled with my first fertility clinic appointment, because as any loss mama can tell you—it wasn’t supposed to be this way. And in all of this, I have celebrated, too- a healthy, beautiful child, a husband I love, family and friends I adore, and a growing career. Grief hasn’t taken my joy, but has certainly changed it.
Truth be told, I don’t know what happens next. We could be pregnant in a few weeks and have a healthy baby in November. We could have another miscarriage. We could pursue IVF. We could give up. I don’t know. But I know wherever the tide takes us, we’ll get back to the shore.
I didn’t solve grief. But I did something better- I made peace with it. I made space for it. Somewhere in my soul, I’ve found grace for it. And when I follow its lead, grief returns the favor and gives it all back.
Peace. Space. Grace.