March 21, 2008 was a date I was dreading long before it came to be.
Had I not miscarried in the summer of 2007, it would have been the due date of a long wanted and wished for baby.
In my late teens, a doctor once told me that some women react to a miscarriage like nothing happened, while others grieve as if it was a child they had known. I was one of the latter. Twenty months of trying to conceive our second child involving surgeries, cycle charting, scheduled sex, and a three month round of the fertility drug Clomid brought nothing. Only when I threw up my hands and said, “No more!” did I get pregnant. And that intense joy, that overwhelming sense of pure bliss stayed for three weeks, only to be shattered by my body taking from me the greatest dream I ever had.
I’m not asking for comfort. In fact, I’d rather not have comfort from anyone for that loss. Because people have a tendency to say the worst things when they’re trying to be kind: You wouldn’t have miscarried had everything been alright with the baby and You weren’t that far along and You can try again, were among the many things I heard in the weeks following that devastating loss. No wonder I shut down and barely spoke to anyone by my husband and our almost three-year-old daughter. All I wanted was to have someone tell me, “Hurt as long as you need to.” But yet, no one bothered. Instead, once the wrong words were spoken, most everyone went into acting like I’d done little more than stub my toe. No one seemed to understand that to me, that six-week along pregnancy was a son or daughter I already loved more than my own life.
And then a short two weeks after that loss, my brother and his wife found out they were expecting their second child. They handled everything with grace and kindness, and understanding towards me and my loss. And I found out first hand what it was like to experience happiness and heartbreak at the same time in the idea I would be an aunt for the second time in my life. With each milestone my sister-in-law experienced, I’d celebrate the life of my new nephew, but would feel the heartache at knowing I would have just had the same experience myself.
Summer became fall, and fall become winter, and the second day of spring came about that year. My sister-in-law, hugely pregnant and nearing her own delivery date, called me that morning to see how I was. After chatting for a bit, I mentioned I hadn’t gotten my period yet, and while I was late for my cycle (on day 27 of a cycle that ran 21 to 24 days each month), my sister-in-law became adamant I take a pregnancy test. And if I had learned anything during my pregnancy with my oldest child, its that you do not ever argue with a pregnant woman in her third trimester. Not unless you want to find yourself in the fetal position sobbing hysterically, wanting a bankee for comfort.
So I bought the test, came home, and following her instructions, called my sister-in-law back. My husband and our daughter followed me into the bathroom, and our two cats, Jasmine and Butch, figured they might as well join in on the party. I took the test, placed it on the counter, and had just said the words, “It’s not going to be positive, it’s too soon,” to my sister-in-law when Brian shouted, “Yes!”
For a moment, I was honestly confused. And then I looked at the test. It was positive.
Everyone was shouting and excited, even Amethyst who I’m guessing at three just figured it was related to potty training since why else would anyone be that happy in the bathroom?
But all I could think about what how long until my heart would be shattered again.
Eight days later, I watched as my nephew Tyler was born. I stood, completely transfixed, and watched as this new life took his first gasp of breath. Rarely do moments in my life stand out so vividly, but five years later, I can still see him, covered in afterbirth, his umbilical cord still pulsating with the blood of his mother running through it, as his eyes opened and he took the first breath of his life. Do you know how beautiful that exact moment in a person’s life is, how filled with peace and joy and anticipation and love? There is no comparison.
Holding his son for the first time, my brother looked down into Tyler’s perfect face and said, “Just you wait. In eight months, you’re going to have a cousin, and boy, are you two going to raise some hell!”
And he was right.
Autumn was born November 25, 2008. My doctor had scheduled an induction, and I can remember thinking when I went to bed at 11:30 the night before, “Oh good, I’ll get one good night’s sleep before I have the baby.” At midnight, my labor began. I spent the next eight hours timing my contractions and walking around our apartment. And as they became more painful, I said a prayer of thanks with each one. Because that pain meant that the child I so desperately wanted was on her way finally.
Autumn is hope and joy and love and peace and miracles and everything beautiful in this world wrapped up in blonde hair with my eyes. She is determination and kindness and compassion. She charms everyone she meets within two minutes, even those who do not like children. She is generous and filled with joy and passion at the very fact that she is on this earth. She’s quick to comfort her siblings when they need it, and her beautiful soul shines through in everything she does.
I will always mourn the baby I lost. But I will always celebrate the daughter I was given after. With her birth, I healed from that loss, and I began to believe in hope once again.