If you’d asked me a year ago when my family would be complete, I would have told you without hesitation, “When there are 4 of us.”
Since the loss last summer, the months have crept by in 2-week increments. I bleed, I ovulate, I fail a test or two, and then the cycle starts all over again. In December, I had a brief flicker of hope that the cycle was over. A second pink line so unexpected, rather than feeling joy, I felt confused. The next day the cycle started over again. Hope gone, just like that.
In the evenings, my family gathers at the dinner table, and the 4th chair is conspicuously empty. Especially now, as my due date for the loss approaches, I think, that chair shouldn’t be empty. There should be a high chair there. There should be a bassinet by our bed, a crib in my daughter’s room, a second car seat in both cars.
We go out to eat, and I see parents sitting with 2 children, one big, one small. We go to the playground, and I see dads supervising their little one on the playground, while mom cuddles an even smaller one in a wrap. At daycare, frazzled mothers wrangle both their children into their car seats at the end of the day.
My little family is wonderful, but at the same time, it feels too small. Incomplete. We keep waiting for the one who will round us out.
But…what if this is it? I didn’t get to choose how my pregnancy ended. It was decided for me, by a host of medical professionals. I didn’t get to choose how breastfeeding my daughter ended. My milk simply dried up one day, and that was that. And maybe I don’t get to choose this time when my family is complete. Maybe my body just won’t cooperate this time around, like it did in birth, like it did with breastfeeding, and this is exactly what my family is supposed to look like.
One thing a loss will teach you is gratitude. I’m grateful for my daughter, who was conceived easily and born healthy–a feat which now seems so impossible, it might as well be magic. I’m grateful for my husband, who is a wonderful father and who has been loving, supportive, sensitive, and patient with me through all the hard stuff we’ve been through together. I’m grateful for my job and for our home and for our life, all of which are pretty amazing.
I’ve been trying to adjust my perspective, to focus more on all the things I do have rather than the few things I don’t. It’s hard to let go of that idea of what your family should look like, though, and to accept that 3 may be all that ever sits around your table.
What if this is it, though?
A lot of people think when I say this that I’m looking for assurances. Of course you’ll have another baby. You’re young-ish. You’re healthy. You had one no problem, and got pregnant easily the second time, even if it didn’t go to term. Of course it will happen for you.
I don’t want assurances, though, because they may not be true and because they don’t really help with the sense of loss and emptiness. I want acceptance. Affirmation. If this is it, your family is beautiful just as it is. There is nothing missing, nothing lacking. You’re whole…which is something very hard to feel after a miscarriage.
Sometimes I feel like everything about motherhood has been a lesson in letting go. Letting go when your doctor tells you at your 20-week ultrasound that your baby may have something terribly wrong with them. Letting go when your baby crashes when you’re in labor and you have to be rushed into surgery, all choice and action taken from you. Letting go when your baby is collicky, when your baby barely sleeps, when your baby wants to eat every hour on the hour, around the clock. Letting go when your milk is gone, even though you weren’t ready to stop breastfeeding. Letting go when your toddler doesn’t want to cooperate and seems determined to do exactly the opposite of whatever you ask them. Letting go when your attempts to bring a new life into this world fail.
What if this is it?
What if this is it?
Then this is it. And you just have to let go of whatever else you thought would be.