Trigger warning: miscarriage
Yesterday was my due date.
I didn’t have a baby yesterday. That’s not unusual- most babies aren’t born on their due dates. But I’ve known we weren’t going to be bringing a baby home this month ever since the ten week mark, when an ultrasound technician looked at the screen, looked at my chart, dropped her shoulders and molded her face into a practiced “this is not going to be easy for me but I’m a professional” look. I knew, you see, even before she told me.
I knew that baby was gone.
Grief isn’t linear, but pregnancy is. When you are pregnant, it can seem like everything revolves around numbers: How many weeks are you? How much weight have you gained? How big/small is the baby measuring? Pregnancy is a bit like a bomb, in that it counts down and when you hit zero (whether that’s on your due date or not), your life as you’ve known it explodes.
When you are not pregnant, but you used to be, you are still bound by this timeline, except that with every tick your clock brings you further and further away from the future you thought you would have.
It didn’t help that four women in my life were due in the same week. With every milestone they reached- finishing the first trimester and telling the world! hitting the halfway point and finding out the sex! last day at work before starting maternity leave!- I was reminded of where I should have been. They made it impossible to forget, even when I did my best to minimize contact. When they complained about being pregnant in the heat of the summer and mused out loud about the challenges of starting over again with a newborn, I made non-committal noises and turned away. By the end I just closed my eyes and hoped none of them would have their babies on my due date.
I was happy for them, of course. I was glad they were going to get to bring their babies home. But I couldn’t engage with their joy.
Friends who had lost babies before warned me that the last month before the due date was especially difficult, but it still caught me off guard. For much of the summer I’d succeeded at being happy, truly happy, able to be present in the moment with my living child instead of grieving the one I had lost.
Then the calendar switched over to September, and a weight settled on my chest.
I found myself stalking our basement, overwhelmed with an urge to get all of the baby stuff out of the house. Our basement is filled with memories of E.’s infancy. We had been holding on to everything for three years, through more IVF cycles and more embryo transfers, just in case it was going to be needed again.
It wasn’t supposed to be “just in case.”
It was supposed to be “in September.”
Back in the winter, after it happened, my mother told me a story.
She lost a baby herself, between her first pregnancy (me) and her third (my middle sister).
She had been further along, and more people had known. After she lost the baby, one of my father’s aunts told her not to worry, because my father’s mother would look after the baby for her. My father’s mother had died before my parents were married.
“Shirley will look after your baby,” said my great-aunt. “She always loved the little ones.”
My mother had tears in her eyes when she told me this story. “It sounds silly,” she said, “but it helped. It was the only thing that helped me.”
It can’t help me.
I don’t believe that my baby went to heaven.
I don’t believe that my grandmother, who so loved the little ones, and who died before I was born, will be there to look after my child.
I don’t believe that my maternal grandfather, or Husband’s father, or any of the loved ones that we’ve lost will be waiting there to embrace and love and cuddle our ghost child (who, presumably, will be in some more adorable form than that of a ten-week-old fetus- I’ve never been clear on the mechanics of how this is supposed to work).
I don’t believe that Husband and I will see that baby again.
It was a little spark of life, too quickly snuffed out.
It was unbelievably precious to us, but it’s gone now.
I don’t normally feel like I’m missing out on much as an agnostic.
I have no qualms about raising E. in a secular household.
But today, when all I have left of my baby is a couple of early ultrasound photos and a positive pregnancy test, and our basement is filled with tiny clothes I thought a little person would be wearing by now, there’s no getting around it.
I wish I could believe in heaven.
Feature Image Credit: Author’s own