Sunday, June 04, 2006

The One that Got Away

I did it first thing in the morning: peed on a stick and watched incredulously, delightedly, as the faint shadow of a little pink line became clearer and clearer. It was May, 2002, and I was positively pregnant. As my mom put it when I told her the news, "I never knew you had it in you!" Neither of us had much faith in my ovaries – after years of irregular cycles I fully expected to face fertility problems, yet here I was, pregnant after only two months of trying.

That was a Wednesday. For the rest of the week, I walked around with a smug, secret smile on my face, harbouring this delicious news. Harbouring, that is, in the sense that I didn’t announce it to my students, or to my employers, though I did blab to my friends and family, even to random acquaintances at church the following Sunday. And the pregnancy-related irrationality set in early: I saw a squirrel one morning as I was walking across campus. It stopped and looked at me quizzically, and I suddenly panicked. What if that squirrel had rabies? What if it bit me and hurt the baby? "The scary part," I told my mother, a woman for whom worrying is a love-language, "is that it’s never going to go away – the worry will only get worse."

The spotting started Sunday morning. I felt the first little gush as I knelt down to receive communion, confiding my good news to the priest so he could pray for me and my baby. By afternoon, I was bleeding freely, and the doctor who did my blood test told me the pregnancy had probably ended five days earlier – the same day I took the pregnancy test, saw the little pink line. If there is a good time to have a miscarriage, it’s early enough that there’s no need for a D&C, no painful cramping or regret for those useless weeks of nausea. But it was painful and somehow humiliating that my joy and excitement had never had a foundation. I felt embarrassed that I had bothered going to the hospital when medical attention was so obviously unnecessary, embarrassed about all the people to whom explanations were now owed due to my incautious, premature revelations.

I always think of that baby as Audrey, a name I stumbled across during that week of happy web-surfing, of visiting baby-name sites and due-date predictors. My due date would have been February 11, the same day as my own due date, the date my mother looked forward to with so much anticipation during the nine months of her pregnancy with me. There are those who firmly believe, and take comfort in the belief, that they will see their lost children in heaven, those babies who never made it into the second trimester, all grown up and real. I’m not sure. A miscarriage as early as mine almost certainly resulted from a defective ovum. Not enough genetic material to make a whole person. Not a real pregnancy, just a figment of modern-day technology: a line on a stick, nothing more.

When Monday came, I went back to work. Hubby was writing his LSAT that day, shelving the grief that had shaken him so profoundly the day before. As always, he was supportive of my emotions, buying me popsicles, being whatever I needed him to be. But then a song came on the radio: "So you sailed away / Into a grey sky morning…" and I saw my husband more raw and grief-stricken than he’s ever been, before or since. But he pulled himself together and scored a 179 – one point short of a perfect score. And I stood up to begin my lecture, opened my mouth, and started sobbing. It usually takes a few minutes at the start of a class to get everyone’s attention, but that day the whole class fell silent as 35 alarmed faces looked in my direction. When I could speak, I said ponderously, "The Wind in the Willows is an animal story. Why do you suppose children’s literature is so often about animals?" – and after a stunned pause, about five hands shot up, eager to be of assistance. When I got home that day, my in-box was full of emails. My Muslim students offered to pray for me, and another student told me how her father was sick, probably dying, and expressed sympathy for my loss, whatever it might be.

I don’t believe that "things happen for a reason" (as I explained, at length and with some acerbity, a week ago). What I do believe is that the bad things that happen – the good things that fail to happen – create a space in which something good can come into existence. Not something better, necessarily. Not something worth the trade-off. But something that is real, and good. A community of compassion and support in an academic environment that is too often cold and alienating. A wee Bub, who was conceived the following February, a few days after that little one would have been due to be born. But never again have I felt that giddy joy and excitement, that freedom to hug my husband and announce, "We’re pregnant!" Because I was right in what I felt that day when I saw the squirrel, tail twitching in friendly, or rabid, greeting – we don’t get to "have" children: we borrow them for awhile, at best, and we pray that they will reach their full potential.

(And thanks to Amy at Binkytown, whose beautiful post about this experience made me remember my own.)

A Perfect Post

18 comments:

lildb said...

While I don't have the words that supply the right sentiment, I feel it strongly.

*hugs Ms. Bubandpie*

I think it's hard, very hard, to share this kind of thing here. There's no way of knowing what the reaction will be. It makes me appreciate it, and you, that much more.

p.s. I'm thinking your Pie was born a day after my lil mister - July 25th is his bday. Am I right? And how funny is that? Also, we were due on the same day - July 20th.

metro mama said...

Great post. I've really become aware of the fragility of life since I had my little girl. I don't believe things happen for reasons either. It scares me to death how you can do everything right but so much is still out of your control.

I try not to dwell on this stuff, but I think about it more than I'd like. I try to live in the moment as much as I can.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

bubandpie said...

lildb - I love that we had the same EDD! Yep - July 26 (and those six days between the 20th and the 26th were the longest days of my life). It did occur to me that this is the kind of post that tends to pull "anonymous" out of the woodwork. She just did a little fly-by snipe over at Sunshine Scribe, so we'll see if she turns up here - hopefully I'm too small potatoes for her venom just yet.

metro mama - Yeah, we all need an "off" button on our head for those times when we start to worry about things that might happen - I've got enough to worry about with the things I already know about, such as the fact that my 2-year-old is surviving on a diet consisting almost entirely of yogourt and Mini Wheats.

Mayberry said...

so sad... thank you for telling your story (and so eloquently).

Mega Mom said...

That was beautiful. I've had to walk through it with many friends and family members and no matter when or how, it is always so hard. Thank you for sharing.

something blue said...

How moving. Your words fill me with heartbreak. I'm so sorry that you had that experience.

mommy on the verge said...

Thanks for sharing this, It's very hard for Moms to share their stories of miscarriage and I'm glad you were brave enough to share yours.

Christina said...

I feel like I was right there with you through that description. I'm very sorry for your loss, but you're right - it does make you aware of how fragile life is and how fleeting the moments are that we have with our children.

Mrs. Chicky said...

This must have been very difficult for you to write about and even worse to go through. I've never experienced anything like that before (knock wood) so I can't really put myself in your shoes. But I admire your strength.

H.A.Page said...

Your last line is so very very prescient. We do borrow them for a little while. When taken from that perspective, motherhood becomes an act of daily appreciation rather than one of drudgery.

Wonderful post, full of emotions of conception, hope, loss and the yearning we feel as women.
MotherPie Cheers.

sunshine scribe said...

That was a gorgeous, heart felt piece of writing. Thank you so much for sharing it. I am aching after reading it for my own one that got away...

Her Bad Mother said...

hug hug hug hug

Thanks for sharing this.

I have a guest poster at my secret lair (www.herbadmother.blogspot.com) who just wrote about the same thing, anonymously, because it was too raw to post on her blog. But needed to write it.

Just as, I think, we all need to read it. Thanks.

Amy (binkytown) :) said...

Ms.B- you wrote that beautifully. It's such a hard thing, but it's so nice to know there are others out there who understand. Ultimately, as difficult as it was, I would have loved the one I lost as much as I love the one I have, but then it wouldn't be the one that I have, it would have been someone else and I'm so glad I do have the one I have. Things do happen for a reason..

bubandpie said...

Wow, you guys. I just did a personality test (from the link on your blog, Amy) that indicated I'm extremely trusting (read: foolishly naive). The great thing about trusting people is how often, and how beautifully, they come through. I was having a terrible morning on Sunday, and writing this post was cathartic. Thanks for reading, and for all your kind words.

gingajoy said...

oh MAN. this made me well up way more than effing bagpipes.

"the bad things that happen – the good things that fail to happen – create a space in which something good can come into existence."

I am going to hold on to that--because it's beautiful, sad, and true. thanks!

Les said...

I'm sorry to hear of your loss. I went through many years of infertility and several losses also so I do know what you have gone through and it is not easy. I do believe strength does come from these experiences and proves to show us how something that is so easily take for granted by some is something very precious and not always so easily attainable. Thanks for your post.

Piece of Work said...

Just popped over from Mommy Off the Record. What a fantastic post. I had two miscarriages before the births of my children, so I understand exactly what you describe here. Of course, I could never write it as accurately. Thank you for sharing it. (really, lame as that sounds.)

lildb said...

hey lady, you got another award! MotR knows from quality, too.

*big hug*