Loss of Hope
I wasn't certain whether to blog about this subject at all. It's intensely personal, and I could've easily kept it to myself. That said, one of the things I've appreciated over the last week was hearing from other people who've gone through the same thing. The idea that this post could help somebody in my situation is comforting. Plus, maybe writing will be cathartic enough to spare me a few hours on a therapist's couch in the future.
Some of you may have noticed a change in my behavior since New Year's Day: the sudden career angst, the flurry of travel, the veiled references to major life changes. That's because on January 1st I found out that I was going to be a father. It was unexpected, earth-shattering, unsettling, and quite wonderful. Since then, Dawn and I have been adjusting to the idea of being parents, planning for the attendant lifestyle changes, and dreaming - until last week, when we lost the baby.
We knew the statistics on miscarriage, particularly for first pregnancies, but tried not to think about them much. Dawn had fears, which I duly played down: "I'm sure we'll be fine, you don't need to worry." In all the planning and dreaming about how our lives would change, we never planned for the possibility that they wouldn't. Now we're left with nothing but a half-empty bottle of prenatal pills, a shelved copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting, a strip of ultrasound pictures, and a "I (Heart) NY" onesie we bought on our NYC trip. The next seven months are suddenly a blank.
In our excitement, we'd told our families and most of our friends that we were expecting. Telling them that we aren't anymore was heart wrenching. I still haven't told a few. They were all so excited for us before - but what can you say to this? I wouldn't have known how to comfort someone in my situation outside of well-worn platitudes. Our house smells of the many flower bouquets that were sent to us, and the pile of cards on the counter contain so much sympathy that it's starting to grate on me. The truth is, a week's outpouring of condolences has me numbed to the point that I don't feel nearly as bad as people think I do, or perhaps think I should.
Before I found out Dawn was pregnant, I was ambivalent about kids. I knew I wanted them, but mostly in the abstract: "I'd like to have kids, someday." I didn't feel the need to immediately start a family and disrupt my well-ordered, comfortable lifestyle. After the initial shock of impending parenthood wore off, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself eager and excited about having children. The things that I'd be losing that I'd previously held dear - leisure time, carefree travel, a peaceful house - I scarcely gave a second thought to. I had no idea the reordering of priorities would come so quickly or naturally. The talk about how drastically having kids changes your life...I had always taken it to be a natural consequence of having your life overrun by messy, needy little invaders. I realize now it's the other way around. I very much wanted to have my life overrun by a messy, needy little invader of my own. And then the rug was pulled out from under me. I once again have my leisure time and carefree travel and peaceful house, and I don't particularly want them. It all seems like a rather cruel joke.
The baby was still very young - around nine weeks when it died in early February. It had a beating heart, but only rudimentary cardiopulmonary and nervous systems. If its brain was functioning yet, it certainly couldn't register pain, much less any sort of self-awareness. I take some comfort in that. A late term miscarriage would be harder. The loss is still real and goes beyond the loss of the fetus itself - it's moreso a loss of the hope that the tiny developing person represented. Dawn and I talked about what we thought it'd be and what we'd name him or her, and which room would be the nursery, and how we'd handle childcare, and how we'd take our kid to Switzerland once they were old enough to get a kick out of running around the Alps. On January 3rd I wrote my child a letter for them to read on their 18th birthday. There was an entire lifetime of possibilities in our minds that died, and that hurt as much or more than the actual death.
I know we're not the only ones who've gone through this, which helps prevent endless wallowing in pity and belief that God harbors a unique and deepseated personal hatred for me. Plenty of other couples have dealt with miscarriage - to say nothing of worse forms of loss - and we'll be alright. There will likely be other children in our future, and I finally know how I really feel about that. That's one silver lining, if I must search one out; the other is that Dawn is fine. I absolutely could not handle something happening to her. I'd come apart.