2 years ago I had my 2nd miscarriage.
My three girls were tucked away, sleeping. We were living at my grandparents’ house. I began getting ready for bed, sat down at the toilet, and did what I’ve done every time I’ve gone to the bathroom during a pregnancy since my first miscarriage - closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and steeled myself, all in a heartbeat. Then I opened my eyes, glanced down, looking for blood, hoping it wasn’t there. I had made it through my entire pregnancy with Lucy without seeing any. But this time, there it was.
I’m not much of a swearer (I had a brief “dirty word” phase in 7th grade but got over that quickly, thankyouverymuch) but in that moment I said every bad word I could think of, sitting there on that toilet. I wish I could say I had been more eloquent in the face of another heartbreak. I wasn’t.
This was different from my first miscarriage. The first time it was an ectopic pregnancy that burst and then bled into my body while I walked around for another 2 days (denial is a powerful force). By the time I allowed myself to admit that something was very wrong and that we needed to see the doctor, we were off to the ER and I was admitted for emergency surgery and I woke up to hospital food and 3 tiny scars across my belly and instructions not to lift anything for 14 days. I had two 2-year-olds at home who still needed to be lifted out of their cribs and it hurt to move and the pain I carried inside myself was clearly manifested in my body. Our amazing community rallied and I had more meals in my freezer than could really fit. My sister came into town and swept my floor and lifted my babies into my lap. My mom sent an atrocious number of fruit-flavored Tootsie Rolls (so bad, but so good) and I ate them all myself. Friends came and sat with me while I folded laundry and cried. I grieved inwardly, and I grieved openly, and as I marked the healing in my body, I could see it in my heart as well.
But the 2nd time things were calmer, quieter, internal. I waited until the next morning, when my OB had an opening in her schedule. I drove myself to her office and everything was very straight forward - exam, blood test, we’ll call you. Those 2 year olds had grown and were now in first grade, and Lu, who went to play at Grandmom’s house while I saw the doctor, was 3. We lived with my grandparents, both suffering from Alzheimers, although my Mimi’s dementia was worse than Granddaddy’s.
Elijah and I decided to keep it quiet. It was mostly my decision - I just couldn’t fathom how I could explain to my grandmother what had happened and then have to explain over and over and over again. I felt that my role in their home was to care for them, and I wasn’t able to imagine a scenario in which I could be that vulnerable and still do what needed doing. I knew their hearts would break for me and I didn’t think I could handle their heartbreak on top of my own. So we didn’t say anything to them, or to our kids. Just quick phone calls and emails to our closest family and friends. I picked up Aida and Sophie from school. I cooked dinner for our multi-generational family. I cleaned the kitchen floor and took Lucy on walks and cried at night.
We purchased a little gravestone in memory of this baby we had lost, and also the one before. A few months passed and we tried to explain to our children what had happened. We walked with them and our priest up the hill to our church’s cemetery and we placed the stone on the ground. We prayed and then I watched my 3 girls run back down the hill, chasing the wind, very much full of life.
* * * * *
Easter came in April, a few days before that baby would have been due. I felt our private loss keenly as we began Holy Week, leaving the church each night in the dark to walk home and tuck our tired children into bed and then fall into our own. I did what every Mama who has lost her baby does when its projected due date arrives - imagined what I might have looked like, belly swollen and cheeks pink in anticipation, if things had ended differently.
We arrived at Great and Holy Saturday, the day in between Crucifixion and Resurrection. The great paradox of the church year. The seats in the church, usually set up so the congregation faces the altar at the front of the building, had been turned so that both sides were facing the middle aisle and the funeral bier of Christ set in the center of the nave. We took our seats and began my favorite liturgy, meditating repeatedly on the mystery of the “in between” - of Christ dead and in the grave, simultaneously descended into Hades and defeating death. Not yet resurrection, but the prerequisite.
The chanters began to sing, “Arise, O God” and the Holy Week-weary, world-weary members of our church (and their enthusiastic children) clutched sticks and banged them against chairs, on the floor, against another stick, raucously signifying the noise that filled Hades as Christ ripped its door from the hinges and invaded that place of death with His Life. The church filled with the noise of it all, the banging and clanging. I looked straight ahead and saw, through a window on the side of the building, brilliant blue sky, a few scattered clouds, a church cemetery. It was beautiful. Tears pricked my eyes and I took a deep breath.
Sometimes we live in the in between. Sometimes we haven’t yet arrived at Resurrection. But the mystery, the paradox - it can be beautiful.