October 14, 2002 was a Monday. It was the Columbus Day holiday, and my husband had the day off. I hadn’t been well lately – kind of nauseous, tired, not quite myself. I had almost gotten car sick just a few days before on a short ride to take our then 4 year-old son and almost 2 year-old daughter to the pumpkin patch. That wasn’t like me.
It was my husband’s idea to get a pregnancy test. After a few moments in the bathroom, I came out with an incredulous look on my face and a positive pregnancy test. It was somewhat surreal as our other children had been born after months of infertility treatments, surgery, and medical intervention. While we were very open to having a third child, we already felt so overwhelmingly thankful for the two we already had; besides, we just didn’t think it was possible.
We decided to not tell anyone our little secret until we were 100% sure everything was well. I immediately made a doctor appointment for that Friday but got my blood drawn the very next day. My HCG levels indicated I was about 6-7 weeks along. And so I carried my private joy around along with my nausea for a few days.
By Thursday night, I knew something wasn’t right; I was cramping, almost-labor pain like. Because our children were already in bed, I drove myself to the ER to get checked out. And there, around 9:30 p.m., I miscarried our very tiny baby.
It wasn’t anything I had done wrong; there was probably nothing the ER staff could have done to prevent it either. Once a miscarriage is in progress, there is no stopping it. It took me a while to work through that information; but I believe now that I couldn’t have done anything differently.
Thankfully my miscarriage was complete, and by midnight, I was back home, in my bed, in my husband’s arms as we tried to process what had happened in the course of a few short days … and we began to grieve for our child. Because we hadn’t told anyone of our pregnancy, we only shared with a few close friends, our pastor, and our nearest family about the miscarriage. I really didn’t talk about it then, but I feel like I need to talk about it now.
Every year, on October 17, for a long time, I always bought myself flowers in memory of our child that was born “into heaven” as some call it. A child we’d never meet, never even know if it was a girl or boy. I didn’t stop doing that until we had another huge surprise in 2009 as we were blessed with a healthy, full-term baby girl. My sadness was turned into joy, and our so-called rainbow baby has filled that hole in my heart. I know not every grieving mother gets that opportunity, and so I am even more aware of what a great privilege I have been given.
Even though I no longer buy myself flowers on the anniversary of the miscarriage, October often turns my thoughts to what might have been. Our child would be 16 years old by now.
The statistics are that 1 in 4 women will lose a baby in pregnancy, delivery, or infancy. 70 babies – a school bus full of children – will be born still today. 1 in 160 pregnancies will end in stillbirth.
On October 25, 1988, American President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the month of October, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. October 15 is designated as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, which includes, however is not limited to, miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, and the death of a newborn.
Today I want to remember my child – the one who never lived outside my womb, to acknowledge that he or she was viable just for a few weeks, but left an impact on us. And I want to remember your loss as well, to acknowledge the strength and grace you had to go through it and to go on living without your child. Lastly, I want to say thank you to those who don’t know what it is like to lose a child, but who support friends and family who do.