The heavens opened up just now. As I sat here wondering what I should write, or if I should write, the sky suddenly darkened to match my mood. And then the thunder cracked in the sky above me. I haven’t heard thunder that loud since we lived in the midwest in a high rise apartment. On and on it went, cracking and booming, yelling and screaming, seeming to get closer every second. I felt like it was doing my screaming for me, releasing my frustration and anger as I sat numbly, listening. Just as suddenly as it started, it stopped. And then the heavens opened and the rain began to dump. So hard and so heavy and so fast that it looked like the world was one white haze outside. Almost hypnotically, I walked across the room and stood on the deck, watching it, mesmerized. Nature was mirroring my emotions. It was screaming and then sobbing for me, since I am all screamed and sobbed out.
I have been thinking about grief a lot lately. I am tired of grief. Last week was the 12th anniversary of my mother’s death from breast cancer. Usually that particular day doesn’t get to me that much. It’s not usually the “big” days that are hard, it’s usually the little ones. I’ll be going along in my day and suddenly I’m pushing my girl on the swing and BAM! I realize my mom never will. But last week the anniversary mattered to me, and I had a very weepy day. As luck would have it, I was on a beach vacation with my in-laws, so after I had a good, hard cry I soaked up the sun, read a great book on the beach, and spent time with my children in the sand. Things weren’t so bad. My life was actually pretty fantastic, especially since I was finally pregnant with my third child.
It takes me a long time to get pregnant. The doctors can’t find a reason. It just does. 11 months to get #1, 23 months to get #2, 22 months to get #3. 22 months is a long time. A very, very long time. When I realized my period hadn’t started I had to take 5 tests over a series of days before my husband and I started to believe it. It felt like a miracle. I had resigned myself to eternal waiting; I was past the point of crying about it each month. I was just numb. And then it happened. Those magical two lines on the pregnancy test. The emotions were too confusing to put into words. It was almost too much to handle.
We spent an amazing week in San Diego with my family. They were ecstatic to hear the news. Next we spent an amazing week on the Oregon coast with my husband’s family and their best friends. They were ecstatic as well. Dang life was good! On the beach, with the people we loved most, our final baby in my belly. My kids fought over who got to “snuggle the baby” each morning and evening as I put them to bed. My son would examine my stomach each morning and then pat it with a satisfied smile and declare that he thought it was getting a little bit bigger. All throughout the day he would pause as he passed me and kiss my belly. He is the dearest child in the world.
On Thursday of last week, two days after the weepy anniversary of my mother’s death, I felt some cramping and had some bloody drainage. Worry wiggled into my mind, but I tried hard to convince myself that it was nothing. I had always felt that surviving the heartbreak of miscarriage was the one thing God wouldn’t ask of me in the fertility department. I already struggled to get my babies, and my postpartum depression is positively crippling and seemingly never ending. We are talking 18 months of PPD that lands you in weekly psychiatrist appointments the entire time. Surely THIS challenge wouldn’t be added onto my already precariously balanced emotional heap. But the cramps and the discharge didn’t let up, and so I became dejected and resigned.
I told no one for several hours after the first signs. I let it sit. I let it stew. I let it sink in. Eventually I whispered it to my husband and we quietly worried together. Things got worse and I silently worried. I pondered how I would get through this. I wondered how my sensitive little boy would react to the news. I worried about what was coming. But I also said nothing.
Grief is funny, isn’t it? Some people want the world to know about every bad day that they have, every worry, every sorrow. They want to put every little update on social media, they want to talk it out, they want to be surrounded by reassurance, they want all eyes turned their way. I don’t. That may surprise you if you know me personally. After all, I am not known for being a shrinking violet. But the one and only time that I don’t want all eyes on me is when I am grieving. When I feel fresh pain I retreat, I want to process it on my own before I let others process it with me. I don’t like to share my grief. I don’t like to reassure people that I will be ok, even when I won’t. I don’t want to add their sorrows and their worries to my own. I want to own my grief and hold it close and really feel it. And then I want to let it go.
Once my acute grief has passed I open it up and let the world claim a piece of it. I find peace in relating to others, in understanding the pain of others, in helping others and letting them help me. But not in the moment of crisis. If you need support regarding mental illness, loss of a loved one, or PPD, I am your girl. Once I’m past it I’m an open book. But don’t feel bad if you are one of my best friends and don’t realize that I’m crying at home daily because of my PPD or a particularly rough depressive cycle. No one realizes it. I’m an excellent actress. I have a lifetime of practice. I have been smiling through rough times since my mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was 8 years old, and most especially since my mental illness really kicked in around the age of 13. But those are stories for another day.
I decided to try something a little bit different this time around. I always let my husband in almost immediately, but rarely others. My sisters more than anyone else. I sent a text to my dad and my sisters and asked them to pray for me. I was surprised by how hard that was for me to do so early in my grief process. After all, these people have been to hell and back with me on more than one occasion.
Saturday morning pain and bleeding began in earnest and I couldn’t hold a thread of hope anymore: after 22 months of waiting and longing, my miracle baby was miscarrying. My husband told his parents and they jumped into action. Naturally, it was the last day that we were on vacation with them, and we had to check out of the vacation rental home that morning. They took our children home to Utah with them and my husband and I headed to a hotel in Portland near a hospital.
Why does no one talk about how painful miscarriages are? I have heard a lot of talk about the emotional pain of a miscarriage, but what about the physical pain? Cramping? CRAMPING?! That’s labor, my friends. Maybe not 10 centimeters and pushing hard labor, but those are contractions. I have been through labor twice, once completely unmedicated because we waited too long to go to the hospital. I know what contractions feel like, and that is what those were. Labor for a dead baby as small as a pea. I was not anticipating that.
After two miserable and melancholy days in the hotel room I flew home to see the doctor and my husband drove our car to Utah to get the kids. They are on their way home to Colorado now. I had to cancel the last leg of our three week road trip, the leg where I was going to stay with one of my very best friends for a week. I did get to see her briefly when she came to cheer me up in my hotel room, but it wasn’t nearly long enough. Losing my time with her was just salt in the wound.
This post has not been easy to write. It is unnatural for me to share my pain this early in the process. I am still bleeding, and I am still in pain. But the friends I have texted and the people I have spoken with have been a great comfort to me, helping me feel loved and helping me feel validated in my pain instead of feeling guilty or ungrateful for what I do have. After all, what is my pain compared to the pain of those losing loved ones to shootings and all of the other tragic events in the world right now? Nothing. Truly. I lead an astonishingly wonderful life. Sometimes I think about my life and feel baffled by my good fortune. But right now I am heavy with pain, physical and emotional, and I am giving myself permission to feel it.