I wrote this the day after my most recent miscarriage this past winter. On Mothers Day weekend I want to remember the mamas who are thinking about the babies they never got to meet.
I knew already. It was the headache.
I always get a headache right before my period with the hormone fluctuation. And so, yesterday, when I woke up with a headache, I knew there was no more baby.
I’d known I was pregnant for about a week. It was unplanned and I admit I panicked a little at first. This would be our seventh child… and that number made the planner in me panic. With seven children, we’d no longer fit into our minivan. Our neat and tidy division of kids-into-bedrooms, two by two by two, would be thrown out of whack. And the number… it just sounded so big. Seven. It sounded like a whole other world. (Does that sound ridiculous? Six sounding perfectly reasonable but seven sounding crazy? Maybe a little. But I worried because that’s what I do when a major life event happens that I didn’t plan.)
Strangely, I was never worried about fitting another child into our routines, our family life. After six children I know that kind of thing all works itself out beautifully. We all have room in our hearts to love one more. The love is the easiest part. As I worried about cars and college tuitions, I held tight to that vision: more love. Another person to love. A tiny, soft, pink bundle snuggled up against my chest. The feeling of a little cheek against my shoulder, breathing sweet breaths on my neck as we rocked together. Of course I could love another baby. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I already did.
The thing is, I was equal parts freaked out/terrified about my life taking a turn I didn’t expect, and over the moon to have a tiny baby again. I have been wrestling with this decision for two years, since the birth of my youngest: to have more or not to have more? People probably think that when you have this many kids, you’ve just thrown your hands up in the air and thrown the birth control out the window. But each of our children has been carefully considered. Our family size has been deliberate, not a whatever-happens-happens kind of thing. I’ve just never been one of those mothers who felt “done.” In the last couple of years, since we became a family of eight, I’ve prayed and prayed to make a decision about my family size and have peace. And the week before I found out about this pregnancy, I was finally starting to feel really at peace with ending my family at six. Six seemed right. I even know the moment it hit: I was holding B and dancing with him in the living room, and he was giggling and I thought, this is it. This. Right here. I am happy with this just as it is, and I finally feel content. I don’t need to have any more children.
And then one week later, there I am, staring at two lines on a pregnancy test.
Honestly, I felt kind of duped. Like, why? Why give me that peace and then throw me for this loop? My chest felt tight as I struggled to reimagine what our family’s new future looked like.
But as the days went by, I kept thinking of getting to hold that tiny baby — a new life — and felt so blessed to be given that chance… and my heart leapt. I mean, I could feel it grow. So I began to smoosh down all of that other stuff, shove it way down, and just concentrate on that sweet, sweet baby coming into this world. I let that feeling surface and carry me…I let it fill me up. I wanted my baby to feel only love from me. I got excited. I thought of how happy our other children would be when we told them. I wondered what gifts this baby would bring to our family and I prayed I would be the kind of mother he needed.
And then I woke up with the headache. The headache that wouldn’t go away.
I had been miserable with morning sickness all morning, but the headache nagged at me, so I decided to take another pregnancy test for some reassurance. The lines on the pregnancy tests had never been particularly dark. Surely with all of this nausea, the hormones were kicking in and the lines would be darker.
But this time, it was negative. It was still negative as I walked into the light and held it up and saw nothing and then set it down on the counter. It was still negative when I walked out of the bathroom and gave it some time, and walked back in and picked it up and held it up to the light again. Negative, as I threw it away and tried not to cry.
So when the bleeding started the next morning, I was not surprised. I expected it. And instead of being relieved, I was so sad. I’m sad and I’m disappointed and I feel broken. And I’m angry, because it’s one thing to decide to not have any more children, and it’s another thing to be given a child, begin to love them, and then have them taken from you. It’s not how anybody wants to end their family. When you lose a baby, you lose the entire future you envisioned with him. You’ve shifted your mindset to include a new person, and now that whole future is gone. You grieve not only for your baby that you’ll never get to hold, but for the family that won’t be.
Maybe I was wrong about six. Maybe seven seems right.
I loved a baby for one week in my belly. I will miss him forever in my heart.