“‘Are you going to try for a girl?’ I can’t tell you how many strangers have asked me that question over the years. We did try… well, we did have a chance. I knew the odds of having a girl when you have three boys already are probably slim. I would be ecstatic over any gender, and that is the truth.
We were a family of six for two and a half whole, beautiful short months. Of course, my three sons don’t know this but there was a reason we made them share a room together. There was a reason we were freeing up some space. There was a reason Mom was weepy, crazy, and tired. We were going to add to our tribe. My husband and I were surprised, then excited–I’m talking really excited–and then it became our norm.
We downloaded an app for baby names, comparing our thumbs up and laughing at our thumbs down. We discussed when I would be in the hospital, his paternity leave (which we never had before!) and let very close family in on our new and beautiful secret.
It took my husband and myself a while to get pregnant the first time around. Dealing with insurance companies, fertility shots, thyroid disease, the ups and downs of trying and then trying some more. I never knew what our fate would be after we had twins. It was so hard to get pregnant and I came to terms with the fact it may not happen again.
Fast forward 14 months later. Our sweet Will was conceived and we were elated. Who knew all it would take was a vacation and a large fishbowl drink? We were busy, like crazy busy, just like sleep-deprived, joyous, half-insane parents are in the beginning. We had three under two. Life was amazing and hard and beautiful.
We loved having a bigger family and thought about expanding but I was hesitant. I had celiac disease, thyroid disease, and was getting older. I was just tired. Could I do it again?
Then came the late period. I didn’t think much about it because I was late the previous months, chalking it up to wacky hormones. I grabbed a cheap home pregnancy test at the local supermarket and took the test right before picking the kids up from preschool. I laughed when a plus sign appeared in the tiny window of that cheap pregnancy test. And then I was in shock, and confused, and ecstatic.
I called one of my best friends, who raced over to the nearest pharmacy to buy more expensive pregnancy tests. I thought the cheapness of my first test may have affected its validity.
When I took the tests again–three more in fact–and they all came back positive, I was so excited to tell my husband. My friend and I thought of fun ways I could tell him the news and decided on making everything baby for him for dinner that night: baby carrots, baby peas, baby back ribs. As he ate dinner, I asked him what all those foods had in common. He was clueless and as he finally realized that meant we were having a baby, we both laughed as tears welled up in our eyes.
We never told the kids. I wanted to wait.
I had my first ultrasound, but I was unsure of the exact date of conception. My last period was odd so I made an appointment with my OBGYN so we could figure out how far along I really was.
I had a lot of ultrasounds in the past. The doctor measured the baby at six weeks and a few days and said the heartbeat was very faint. The ultrasound was a little longer than normal and I felt a bit uneasy. My doctor told me to come back in a few weeks so we could get a better measurement and find out my exact due date. Although this ultrasound felt different to me, I put my worries on the back burner and allowed myself to enjoy this time in our lives.
It was two days before Valentine’s Day and the next ultrasound came. My husband couldn’t be there for that one, the first time he couldn’t be there for one. I told him it was fine because there would be more. I knew he had to go to work so I went to this one by myself.
I can’t even describe the way I felt as I had an internal ultrasound, laying on my back, staring at the ceiling, making small talk with the technician because I babble when I get nervous. This was taking way too long. Then she was quiet. I was quiet. I knew what she was going to say. There are no words to describe the feeling when you are just waiting on the words you know will come out. It’s surreal, almost like time stands still, almost like time wants you to have a few more minutes before the words you are about to hear will change your life.
‘I looked and looked but the sac is empty. I’m sorry,’ the technician announced. Instant tears. Instant heartache. Instant loss.
I had to lay there for a long time as my doctor entered the room and looked again, confirming what the technician had seen.
As she talked about the next steps and my options, my mind just stopped working. I couldn’t grasp what she was saying, let alone remember what she said. I just wanted out, out of that room, out of this moment.
They asked if I was okay to drive. ‘Oh yes,’ I assured them. I really could be a good actor if the moment called for it. I just needed to be alone.
I drove to a Home Depot across the street. It’s funny the little meaningless details you remember in moments that change your life. I parked my car away from the other cars at Home Depot. I couldn’t believe there were people going about their business as my world was crashing down.
I picked up the phone and called my husband. He knew if I called during a meeting, it was urgent. ‘Hello?’ he answered.
‘We lost the baby,’ was all I could get out before weeping and shaking. Hearing those words said out loud made it even more real. ‘And I don’t even know what they told me to do. Can you call them back and ask?’
As my husband left work, calling the office back and figuring out sitters for our kids for the next hour, I knew he would be my rock. My husband is nothing short of amazing. He is patient, loving, and kind. He is one of the best dads I have ever seen. He takes our kids on special dates and finds time for each of us while working so hard. He’s supportive of my dreams and is my biggest fan.
When he saw me, we just hugged. He read to me some scriptures he had found on loss and tried to find the right words to say. But most of all, he didn’t say much. He listened to me and we held each other. It was his loss too.
After making the choice to have a D and C the next day, he took off the next few days of work which I know must have been really tough to cover and was there by my side, making me laugh, holding me when I cried, cooking pancakes when we got home because that’s all I wanted, and lying next to me as I fell asleep.
The procedure wasn’t too bad. Of course, I couldn’t stop crying but the pain was minimal, and I thought we could begin to heal.
Little did I know, the pain grew worse the next few days for me as my body would go through contractions, as I would bleed, cramp, and still experience symptoms of pregnancy.
Everyone grieves differently. If there’s anything to take away from this experience, I hope I leave you with that reality.
I would come to find out a lot of women in my life had gone through an experience like mine. It was actually shocking to me at how common it seemed to be.
I also realized my grief is a lot different from most. Don’t get me wrong, I am so blessed to have my three boys and I love them with all my heart. But I couldn’t be around them for a couple of days. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to experience joy. I felt guilty for loving another child when I had just lost one. I wasn’t ready to talk about it for a while. I didn’t want to see any pregnant bellies. I lost it when I saw baby clothes hanging up in the closet. I thought maybe I was grieving too much. Maybe I should be better as I tried to go to social events, still feeling the pain and contractions as I smiled and forced laughs.
That Valentine’s Day, I laid in my bed and cried over my loss. I didn’t get my husband or kids anything. We didn’t decorate my husband’s car like we always do with hearts and cards. My husband and I didn’t go to a nice dinner or share a bottle of wine. We just survived the day. Maybe it showed us what Valentine’s Day is really about: unconditional love.
As the days went on, I was able to accept the love my children gave me and not feel guilty. I was able to talk to others about what happened. I was able to write it down as a form of therapy for me.
If something in your life happens, please know you are not alone and that everyone grieves differently. Also know, you will find joy again with laughter and love and TV shows and family again. A little piece of you will always be longing for what could have been but there is even bigger space for all things that will be.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melissa Burnett, 39, of Columbus, Ohio. Visit her website here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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