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The Baby That Didn't Stay

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Sixteen years ago, I had a miscarriage. No one knows this except for three people: myself, my husband and my doctor.

My husband and I were newly married that fall. We had spent our honeymoon talking about how we couldn’t wait to start a family. Letting our dream of a baby percolate felt exciting and oddly comforting. We agreed we wanted a big family; my husband said three, I said four. I yearned to be pregnant. I had always felt I was meant to be a Mama, I would know how to love a baby better than anything I’d ever done in my life.

We decided we wouldn’t try for a baby, but if it happened, it happened.

It happened pretty easily. Two months after our honeymoon dreams of a tiny life, my period was late. It was the week of Thanksgiving. I took three pregnancy tests, all said I was not pregnant. I felt pregnant. I thought the tests were wrong. I felt an urgency to know the truth.

I called my doctor and told the receptionist I had been taking pregnancy tests because I was late, but they were negative although I thought I was in fact pregnant. The receptionist said to come to the hospital to have my blood drawn and they would check my hormones to see if I was pregnant.

I raced to the hospital. I waited in the waiting room, palms sweaty. I felt like we should hurry. Like if I blinked, I’d miss this baby I felt in my heart was a reality.

I got my blood drawn. I waited for the call from the doctor with either a “yes” or a “no.” It didn’t come before we left town for Thanksgiving. We spent Thanksgiving with my in-laws. It was our first holiday as a married couple, and we felt we had a tiny secret blooming. We didn’t tell anyone our suspicions. We held our secret close to our hearts as we went through the motions of the holiday: food, long walks, thankful hearts.

I felt different in my body. I sensed I had a life growing in me, despite all tests being negative and not knowing what the blood work would show. If I burrowed down deep into my consciousness, I knew something had changed inside of me. My husband and I shared secret smiles and knowing looks.

The day I went back to work after Thanksgiving, I started bleeding. Minutes after I realized what was happening, my doctor called. She said, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” I felt confused. I burst into tears and tried to explain that I had just gotten my period. I asked what I should do. Was there any possibility I was still pregnant?

My doctor said to go to the emergency room and they would be able to help me find answers.

I drove to the ER, heart pounding in my throat, stomach clenched with fear. The doctor who saw me in the ER was a young man. He looked not much older than me. I could tell he was uncomfortable with my panic over whether or not there was any possibility I could still be pregnant. He said my urine test showed I was not pregnant. I asked him if there was any way he could check to make certain, because the urine tests I had done had all come back negative as well. The young doctor agreed he could do an internal exam to find more answers.

I waited in the awkward silence as this young doctor reluctantly examined me. I felt the heavy loss of what might have been. The doctor finished his exam and sadly told me I was not pregnant.

That was that. I was sent on my way, out of the ER. There was nothing left to do or say. No one offered an explanation. No one comforted me at the ER. The exam was done, the result was determined, I was sent home.

I couldn’t understand what had happened. It seemed like a dream. Had I even been pregnant, or had I imagined it? I argued with myself that although my blood test had been positive and my doctor had said I was pregnant, I must not have been. I shoved the idea of this tiny life far from me. I shut it down, I tried to forget about it. We didn’t tell anyone about our loss. Why make our families and friends feel the sadness of something they didn’t even know they had lost?

Once in a while, the question of this life would bob back to the surface of my consciousness: had I really been pregnant? I felt like it was selfish for me to mourn a loss that was only weeks old. Some women spent months being pregnant and then lost their babies. I did not feel worthy of mourning. I had been a minute pregnant. I felt like I should not feel sad about something that was so new it hardly seemed real before I lost it.

All these years later, I’ve come to realize this was a true, real life that existed inside of me for a few weeks. It’s OK to mourn its loss. This life was real, I immediately loved it, and then it was gone quicker than a breath on a fuzzy summer dandelion. This baby was a wish, unrealized. But it was a baby.

Sixteen years after we lost our tiny wish, I am ready to acknowledge it. I am ready to mourn the loss of it. It doesn’t matter that I was only a few weeks pregnant; it was a reality. Our tiny wish was real and then it was gone. We got to spend a holiday dreaming of our secret, building hopes for our future. Sixteen years later, I’m ready to validate my tiny wish’s existence to the world in hopes that other mamas whose babies did not stay know they are not alone. No matter how long that small life was, whether it was weeks or months, it matters.

Someday we will be reunited with our tiny wishes who were too fragile for this world. Until then, the small life that did not stay will always be in my heart.

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Thinkstock image by HTOUDY

Originally published: June 1, 2017
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