“Be careful with Mommy,” Nick says to Elias who keeps trying to crawl on top of me in bed. It’s the afternoon of the 4th, a time of waiting, without hope. “Mommy has baby in belly,” Elias says in response to Nick’s request for him to be gentle. “No sweetie, the baby went bye bye,” I say. Tears. “Baby went bye bye,” Elias repeats as he bounces up and down on the bed, “Baby went bye bye…”
Despite not sleeping the previous night, I can’t sleep. I finish the book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and as I read about Balinese culture I find myself wishing I lived in a country that still embraced rituals, that held time-honored traditions for each passing… a country that could still speak—through ceremonies and customs-- about the dead. Even babies. According to Gilbert the Balinese believe that babies come to the earth as gods and do not become human until they reach the age of six months, at which time they honor them with a formal ceremony that includes touching their feet to the earth for the first time. After reading this, I put the book down and imagine the small baby in my belly as a god or goddess who chose to return to immortality. How can I honor this passing?
At 3:00 am I get out of bed, grab my journal, and sit in the living room under dimmed light to write a letter to the unborn. I light a tea-light candle for the baby—for my hopes and dreams associated with this child—and watch it burn as I breathe. Breathe in peace… breathe out fear… breathe in peace…breathe out fear…
When the candle burns out, I’m still lying on the couch, watching. 7:00 am. I still have three and a half hours till I’m expected at the hospital. Little do I know, we’ll be on our way to Providence in less than two.
No one warns you about the blood. Or maybe they do but you can’t prepare. You can’t know. As I watch Nick race to get Elias ready to drop at our friend’s house, stealing glances at me, slumped on the toilet, I realize that my life could be in danger too. It’s all the blood. I don’t know what’s normal. I do know I’m dizzy. And scared. We decide to bring me to the emergency room first.
“I’m just gonna go to sleep,” I say as I begin to lose focus and can no longer see my husband’s features as he stands at the admitting desk. “NO,” Nick says firmly, “No you’re not, day surgery is on their way to get you. Stay with me.”
“I’m sorry you have to be here,” the mama-nurse says, “having gone through it myself ten years ago I know personally how hard it can be.” I like her. “Your color’s come back since we started the IV,” she says. She lets me know that the bleeding is normal, my body is starting the process. The doc tells me the surgery will be easier now because he wont have to dilate my cervix manually. He tells me all the pain is for a reason.
I do believe that things happen for a reason and perhaps one day I’ll look at this experience as a gift, a disguised gift but a gift nonetheless. I think of myself, age eight, telling friends that my mom had a miscarriage before I was born and if she hadn’t then I wouldn’t be here because my parents only wanted two kids, which makes me pretty darn lucky, I mean, can you imagine?....But god that feels far away.
I tell Nick if anything happens to me to know I love him. He says he knows, everyday. He doesn’t even have to say the words, his eyes tell me everything.
I hear voices and try to signal towards them to let them know I’m still awake. I need more anesthesia. I can hear you. A nurse leans over me and smiles, “Oh you’re awake, you did great.” “You mean it’s over?” I manage to say. “it’s over.” She says as she tucks a stray strand of hair behind my ear.
I understand why some women try to conceive again as soon as possible after a miscarriage. I get the desire to fill the empty womb with hope, to continue down the path you started, to believe again that your body is capable of carrying a baby. Not to mention the logistics of schedules, time, age, money, and the maternity clothes you already bought. And I also understand why some women never choose to try again. Too painful. Too scary. You find other ways to fill your life and pass the stretchy clothes to your sister.
As for me, I can’t see this as the end, I’m not yet ready to give up the pregnancy dream--even if I didn’t plan this one, it made me realize how much I want it. And yet I’m not ready to try again. Not now. Not in six months. Maybe a year. Maybe…
Regardless, I’ll never have this pregnancy again. This particular blood-line will never be complete. I think we forget this when we expect women to move on without mourning. Without honoring the loss of blood.
--Excerpted from Following Elias, originally published on Parents.com. Copyright 2009 by Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.