Grief is Different

Told by: Lily

Today, I am not a mother.

Bear with me while I explain.

I became pregnant on December 17, 2010. 38 weeks ago. Today was my due date.

I wasn’t pregnant very long, though, and I have nothing to show for it. I think I even threw the one positive test I had away. It wasn’t accomplishing anything to keep it. I have a photograph. But that is indistinguishable from a million other positive tests all over the internet.

I felt the first sharp cramp before I went to bed on a Monday night and I felt the twinging and pinching and stretching constantly through the next week. I finally got confirmation the morning of the 8th day. And I felt the overtaking hot flash that possessed my body the instant the cramping stopped that evening. The next day, the test was negative. A blood test a week later didn’t even suggest anything had happened.

It was brief but it may have been the longest week of my life.

Now, you may be asking, by what insanity was I paying attention? Well, at this point,
we’d been unsuccessfully trying for a year. It still isn’t taking. Infertility is a hideously painful set of conditions, and for me it’s been pretty debilitating and worst, isolating. It doesn’t own my life, but it is always in my thoughts. There are a few select people I’ve told, but there’s really no one to discuss it with, even other infertiles. It is a very private journey.

Early miscarriage is as well. They call pregnancies like mine “chemical pregnancies.” Can you imagine anything more dismissive? Conception is a long process that begins with the meeting of gametes and ends days after implantation when this weird mass of cells starts to differentiate into placenta and embryo. This is more than a week before the embryo differentiates into the three cell layers that will become gut, muscle and bone, or nerves and skin.

This clump is in no way a baby or a person to be missed. It has no personality to miss and there has been no shared journey to build a bond. But if you’re paying attention, you might just notice that it is there. You might just have waited for it. You might just have begged for it. You might just spend the next week nearly refusing sleep just to feel it for a few more hours. But all that has been is a whisper of a promise. Unlike those who miscarry after a few more weeks or even months, I don’t have multiple tests. I don’t have wishful belly photos. I don’t even have a dot on an ultrasound to remember.

But it touched me every second of those days and I knew it was there.

I didn’t bleed right away. It took two weeks for this to end. This happens. It also stretches out the process of letting go. Immediately I was heartbroken, then I rationalized and was okay. I had proved I could conceive! Early miscarriages are almost always some sort of genetic abnormality. (You see, sexual reproduction is a terribly flawed process and all sorts of mistakes can be made in what seems like an easy few steps of combining DNA that result in a nonviable organism.) I still feel this way. But it was cold comfort when the miscarriage finally completed, and it remains that today.

I am so painfully aware of how different my grief has been from those who have lost term babies. It is different from my mother, who lost her first at about 20 weeks.
It’s even different from women who lost babies at 6 or 8 weeks. I would never presume to know what these women face. But my arms are still empty and my heart still aches.

*I ask that you keep your prayers to yourself. I am still healing and they can still wound me.

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