(Originally printed in the May 18 edition of the Hillsboro Free Press)
It’s safe to say the world runs on shared experience (and maybe caffeine).
Business deals are made through a passion for paper goods. Politicians are elected on hot-button topics the public relates to. Relationships are built and maintained over a love for music.
But by far, for me, the most obvious form of shared experience is my two lovely children who accompany me nearly everywhere I go. My girls open the door for conversation with strangers, mostly centered on my mini-me’s. And the common bond I share with these strangers revolves around some connection with children—another parent, a grandparent, a teacher.
The conversations rarely go beyond the basics: ages, names, Social Security numbers. But nevertheless, my girls get people talking.
I find it comforting to have a common bond with others regarding parenthood. I can say, “We are completely potty-trained, even at night,” and other parents understand how big of a deal that is. Or I can say, “She’s taking about four steps by herself,” and other parents immediately smile, probably remembering that special accomplishment of their own child(ren).
It’s also nice to have a sounding board for issues: “Your child plays in the toilet water, too?” “Your child has an obstinate streak, too?” “Your child also sits on the baby’s head?” Hey, no judgment here!
As a parent, you expect those shared experiences, and you relish in them. But what’s hard is when you are thrust into a realm of common bond that you neither expected nor wanted to experience. And at this moment, that’s where I find myself.
|The test I can't part with.|
In early April, I found out I was pregnant. After my initial freak-out moment (the pregnancy was a huge surprise), I settled in and tried to become comfortable with a 17-month age gap between my youngest daughter and the new baby.
My husband and I started looking at purchasing a “Swagger Wagon.” Yes, a mini-van. I have no shame!
And yet, despite my building excitement, I knew something wasn’t right. A lack of increase in numbers on a blood test proved that. But I wasn’t prepared for my diagnosis: an ectopic pregnancy.
Now that was scary. Not only was I going to lose my precious baby, but there was also a chance the pregnancy would rupture, causing me to lose my tube, and possibly my life. So my husband and I were faced with a nasty decision no parent wants to make. Take some drugs to end the pregnancy, or wait and risk my life.
I couldn’t bear to end a life. So my husband and I chose to closely monitor the situation. And my numbers started to go down. It was a weird place to be. On the one hand, praising God for the miracle that was making my numbers go down without medical intervention. On the other hand, knowing the decreasing numbers meant miscarriage.
I continued to make biweekly and then weekly trips to Newton to have my blood drawn. The doctor wanted to monitor my numbers until they reached zero. No one knew how long it would take. And so, for weeks, every twinge I felt, I nearly panicked, afraid my tube was still going to burst.
But thankfully, no rupture occurred and my numbers gradually reached zero. So I was left with my tubes, but no baby.
At times, the emptiness seems almost unbearable. I long for the baby I will never meet. I grieve that the only proof I have of this baby is a positive pregnancy test in my drawer—a test I can’t bring myself to part with.
And yet, I am thankful. I’m thankful that I took the test in the first place, because no signs pointed to a pregnancy. I believe God was watching out for me, prompting me to take a test so I could be appropriately cared for. I’m thankful that I never had to take a shot of chemo to dissolve the pregnancy. I’m thankful I didn’t need to choose between saving my life or ending my baby’s.
And I’m also thankful for common bonds. There are many women who share in my experience of an ectopic pregnancy, and even more women who share in my experience of miscarriage.
Before enduring my own miscarriage, I always felt bad for women who had lost a pregnancy. But I never realized how deeply it cuts. How hard it is to give up your baby, your expectations, your joy and excitement, even for one the size of a sesame seed. How hard it is to know you’re a mother, but have no child to show for it.
Yes, I never expected to end up here. What mother does? But now that I am, I want to embrace the deeply personal, nearly silent community. I want to educate others that miscarriage grief is real; that hurting mothers need support and friendship. And most of all, I want to be an encouragement to others, simply stating, we are not alone.