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The second time I flushed the remnants of my lost child like a goldfish funeral, the ache in my gut intensified. I hate to be brash, but crudeness emanated at this moment realizing another pregnancy would yet again not result in a life.

My first miscarriage weakened me. I remember being fully submerged in my love for that tiny being. It was hard to face because I had lost a future I had already allowed myself to imagine. Still, my suffering dulled as I mustered up the courage to soldier on. One in six, I said. My body must have determined something was wrong.

It hurt, mostly because I wasn’t getting what I wanted when I wanted it. With my self-constructed affirmations, I returned to my happy self. I renewed my workout goals, I gave up carbs, and I pretended I wasn’t trying to get pregnant in the early months that followed.

Still, I tracked. So two months later, I knew I was pregnant nearly three days before those pink lines appeared on the test. I was elated. The timing was all wrong for my teaching schedule, but I didn’t care.

I had my “rainbow baby,” a term I didn’t love, but now willingly proclaimed.

By 6-weeks, I told some friends even though I’d usually wait to share the news. My disastrous ordeal in the months prior served as my get out of jail free card. Surely this pregnancy was a gift in return for my suffering. It was the light at the end of my tunnel, the open window to my closed door, the . . . insert whichever cliche best fits here. Chiefly, I was proud of myself for embracing life beyond my suffering and moreover, certain this was my rewardthe positive spin to end my tragic tale.

A Rainbow Baby Brings Hope, But Doesn’t Erase the Pain of Miscarriage

I pinned nurseries on Pinterest and booked two doctor’s appointments for 8 and 10 weeks, one to hear the heartbeat and the next to discover the gender. My husband and I started seriously house hunting. I happily began eating whatever my heart desired. It was time to really enjoy food. I let the news slip to extended family over Thanksgiving. They were elated. And me, I was over the moon with excitement.

Then, the spotting started.

I knew it was bad immediately, but the doctor didn’t seem too worried. He told me I could come in a week early, just to calm my nerves. My previous miscarriage had wounded me. I was probably overreacting. Still, my intuition kept me on high alert.

I lay in his office and watched as he found the heartbeat . . . “132,” he exclaimed, and tears emerged from my ducts. Really? I asked to see the screen. I had been so sure things were about to turn rotten. However, here in front of me was the beating heart. The baby was measuring just shy of 7-weeks, a few days off from my predicted timetable. He suggested that I mixed up the dates, and I accepted his statement even though my heart knew the truth.

The thing was, I knew the exact day I had ovulated. My body is a well-oiled machine that operates on a precise schedule. I was 7-weeks, 2-days, but I accepted this fallacy. I wanted this to be my reality. My baby was healthy. My baby had a heartbeat. This bleeding was not another miscarriage lurking in the shadows.

He prescribed progesterone, and I left the office, happy but on edge.

I even ordered dinner after a few days of feeling unable to stomach anything. I felt my anxiety dwindling until an hour later when the bleeding intensified. Somewhere deep inside, I knew things were about to take a turn for the worse. Yet, I lied to myself. There was a heartbeat. I was having this baby. I took the medicine prescribed and willed myself to sleep.

I woke, gulping as I pushed down my dread. I was bleeding heavier now. Why wasn’t the medicine working? I texted my husband throughout the morning as my nerves mounted. By 11:30, I excused myself to use the bathroom. There it wasthick, bright red blood—and the rest of it. Just like last time, the parts of my child, my forming placenta, my insides had been flushed out. I stood staring at the crimson bowl, darkness seeping in. Shock consumed me.

It took me moments to accept this was really happening again. Conversely, when I called my doctor, he accepted it quickly. He sprung into action scheduling blood work and future appointments to pinpoint the problem. The problem . . . with . . . me. Could I no longer carry a child? Was I damaged? Two miscarriages in four months. How could this happen?

A storm cloud formed over my rainbow. Everything was gray.

My husband remained positive. We will figure it out, he said. I’m sad we aren’t having a baby right now, but we will, he said. I remembered feeling that type of loss once, the one caped in future bliss. But this was the second time my body had rejected motherhood. First, 6-weeks and 4-days, now 7-weeks and 2-days because my calculations were certainly correct. I was cast into a whirlwind of loss and dread. His positivity flustered me; I wished he’d join me in my wallowing.

RELATED: Not Every Loss Mom Gets Her Rainbow Baby

To make matters worse, my sadness was compounded with guilt. See, I already had a son, a perfect almost 2-year-old whose laughter lightened up the rooms of my home, whose hugs healed my onuses, and who I loved more than myself. More so, my husband was an amazing man who contributed to those traditional manly duties and still often cooked dinner, who stood by my side and handled the details of this loss, who drove me home and let me cry miserably in our bed. I was indeed blessed already. When it took us nearly a year to get pregnant with our first son, we said we would be happy if it was just us. How could I not be happy now when I had them both?

It is true. This was not my first, but the second child I prayed for. Perhaps that makes my loss seem less worthy. As an outsider looking in, I might say this very thing. But I must tell you, it hurts just the same. I wanted a sibling for my son. I wanted to grow my family. I had thought about having three . . . an expectation that seemed impossible to me in these moments.

I cried unrelenting tears for my two lost babies, my two crushed plans, my two dark days.

I wept and wept, and then, I hugged my sleeping son during his nap and decided to clean my face before he awoke. I decided to stand up and accept that I was no longer pregnant. I texted the friends I had told. They expressed their heartfelt condolences. These messages made my eyes sting, above them sat my sonogram photo of my living dream. Beneath was my statement of loss, a bitter nightmare. Everyone said all the things they were supposed to say. My husband came home and shrouded me in his arms. My son gave me nose kisses and nuzzled into my neck, proving unbounded love.

I am grateful. I am blessed. I am hurting. I am angry. This feels so unfair.

I am envious of those who never knew this pain, but also I am hopeful they will never know it. I am a better person now. I know the other side of pregnancy. Never again will I ask a woman when she plans to have a child, never will I wonder why someone only has one. I will never tell them this is part of the plan, like their loss is a cosmic chess move. Nor will I point out all the goodness in their lives. They know what to be thankful for, and they know what the future could hold.

There is both a bright and dark side of motherhood, and like a Jedi, we try to conjure the force to fight the lack of light. It’s strange that the goodness is so publicized, and yet no one prepared me for a negative outcome. Only now that I have found myself here am I receiving the knowing glances, hearing the stories, and sharing in the grief. It should be normalized, but it is hidden. It makes the journey harder, to at first, feel so alone and powerless against these circumstances.

Mostly, I am fearful of the future, of facing this process once again.

I imagine my potential pregnancies. Every day will seem like another step toward inevitable despair. But what choice do I have? I must shoulder this burden if I ever want this possibility to become a reality. For now, I’ll heal. I’ll live in my happy home with my son who is singing “Old McDonald” as I write this and stacking animal figurines on my knees. I’ll rock him to bed and love that I have been given this beautiful gift.

RELATED: Pregnancy After Loss Requires a Different Kind of Hope

Sometimes though, these gifts selfishly make me want more. Joy breeds desire for more joys. I think, while indeed self-gratifying, seeking more happiness is a natural human behavior. Until obtained, I’m going to try to be satisfied where I am, knowing inside that my loss has left me a little broken, a little unfulfilled, but very, very thankful for each and every joy in my life.

I will remember these losses always. They are part of me now. Still, I will live hopeful that someday I will hold another child in my arms. For now, I will squeeze my son knowing it is indeed both a blessing and curse to be a mother. For even in our pain, our hearts remain full.

Originally published on Medium

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Ashley Testa

I am a teacher, wife, mom, and coffee enthusiast who sometimes reflects on this perfectly imperfect life.

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