Today I took a pregnancy test . . . and it came back with a bright blue plus sign. A more naive version of me would be rejoicing right now, especially after all the struggle and strife the last year has brought. But I just can’t bring myself there.
In my pregnancy loss support group, our facilitator warned us that any pregnancy after loss can be clouded by a loss of innocence. Her words ring so true in my wounded ears. Three years ago when I was pregnant, it hardly crossed my mind that things wouldn’t work out, and for all intents and purposes, I was right in being blissfully naive. I had a fairly easy pregnancy, and despite the long labor (which I think was a bit more traumatic than I realized at the time), a fairly uncomplicated delivery.
Two years later, I suffered a loss. And that was complicated. It shook up my world. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. I questioned so many things. I came to learn that a positive sign on a pregnancy test is no guarantee, and that not every pregnancy ends with a baby.
When I went to my first prenatal appointment where I found out I was carrying nothing but false hope, I remember having to fill out paperwork and there was a box that said check if you’ve ever had a miscarriage. I remember thinking how fortunate was I that I will never have to check that box. Irony hit me hard as only moments later, I found out that I had now been admitted to the pregnancy loss club. A club that, unfortunately, too many other women belong to.
I never realized how many things this loss would affect, and how it would come up at the most unexpected times. I threw pity parties and felt like a victim for a while. I spent months paying off the expensive D&C procedure with increasing resentment every time a new bill would arrive. It was bad enough that I was suffering emotionally, but then I was suffering financially too, which would bring up a new layer of emotional wounds. I got a new insurance plan and when they called to ask me questions, I had to disclose that I had the D&C procedure, which again resurfaced the pain. When I went for my annual check up with my doctor, there was a question about if anything major had changed since I had last visited a year ago. Yes, I thought. So much has changed. This loss has become a part of my story, whether I liked it or not.
I know that there are so many women who have stood where I stand. Who have felt what I feel. So many women who see that positive blue sign on their pregnancy test and celebrate uninhibitedly, only to find out weeks or months later, that they will not get the outcome they were hoping for. And I know there are women who have suffered more than one loss, or been further along on their pregnancy journey than I was, or who have struggled with infertility only to experience a great loss after finally conceiving. The realization that I am not alone on this cruel journey hurts my heart.
Growing up, I really loved J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. I think at that time I loved Holden Caulfield’s sense of voice. Later on, when I became an English teacher, I found myself focusing on the theme of the loss of innocence and Holden’s desire to preserve childlike innocence for as long as he could. The adult me was a little more jaded than my former high school self, and I think the idea of preserving innocence really spoke to me.
This may seem like a really odd connection, but when reflecting on my own journey with pregnancy loss, the thing I keep coming back to is the loss of innocence that follows.
A part of me wishes I could be the Holden Caulfield of pregnancy loss for all of those women. I wish I could take their pain and preserve their innocence. I wish I could provide a beacon of hope for them.
But as I am writing this now, I realize that if I somehow could magically take their pain and preserve their innocence, I would be robbing them of something greater: the opportunity to transform and be empowered to be their own heroine. I would be taking away the gift that vulnerability can bring, and their own understanding of their capacity to heal and overcome. I found that my experience working through the grief moved me from the victim status to a state of empowerment. I learned that I had the capacity to grow, not despite my loss, but also because of it.
Do I wish that my second pregnancy had ended differently? Absolutely. If it had, I would have a four-month-old today. My daughter would have the sibling she always asks for. My parents and in-laws would have more grand babies to love on. My best friend’s son would have an age-identical playmate. And I wouldn’t have this hole in my heart.
But I also wouldn’t be here on the other side of grief. Healing, sharing my voice, stepping deeper into my personal and creative power. I wouldn’t be writing this, and I wouldn’t be finding more ways to live my truth.
Because, as sad as it is, sometimes only the reality of death reminds us to truly live.
Every life has a purpose, even those that don’t come to fruition. My baby brought me many gifts, and a way to explore my own wounds and connect with others. I have learned that in healing my own heart so transparently, I encourage others to share their stories and do the same.
So looking back on all of this, today I think I will celebrate my positive plus sign after all. Because every day is a gift, and even if this pregnancy ends tragically as my last one did, the experience will become a part of me. I will regret not celebrating every second that I was connected to the roller coaster of pregnancy. The excitement and the pain. The joy and the journey.
I used to follow the rule of thumb that you should wait 12 weeks to share the news of your pregnancy in case “something” happens. That was a safe way to play it. But guess what? Fairy tales don’t always have happy endings, and life isn’t always meant to be played safely.
I may have lost my innocence, but I have also found more things to appreciate and celebrate. And you know that “something” that we’re trying to avoid having to tell people about? Well, it did happen . . . at eight weeks for me. Since I was “playing it safe” I hadn’t told many people at that time, so at first I had to suffer in silence and marginalize my own loss. Only when I belatedly shared my story could I share my suffering, too. But I never got to share the joy that I had felt with some people, and without sharing the joy, how can you truly share the pain?
So today, I am taking a stand and not following the rules. I am sharing my excitement over this new pregnancy, not knowing how it will end, but appreciating the journey all the same. A new journey signifies a new adventure and experience, regardless of what the outcome is. As I am typing this now, I am making an executive decision to celebrate it after all. I know that in the end, this journey, like any good journey, will bring me gifts and lessons, and unexpected wisdom, and profound, soulful connections. And regardless of what happens, for this new journey, I will forever be grateful.