You may or may not know that October is national Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I didn’t, until a few years ago, when I realized how many moms have gone through a miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of an infant. I think in face to face conversation, it’s still something that doesn’t get talked about very much. But the internet, it turns out, has done a lot to make this type of loss less isolating. I hope it can continue to do that, and to that end I wanted to share my story, even though it’s only tangentially related to food and cooking.
It took us a really long time to have our first child, my now-3-year-old son. Five years of waiting around on message boards meant I saw all the things that could happen – the long wait to conceive in the first place, the early losses, the later ones. Before I ever got pregnant I understood that nothing was guaranteed to go the way we had hoped. I spent that whole pregnancy so anxious about the baby, and, once he was born, struggled with anxiety pretty badly. Several friends and acquaintances went through stillbirths and neonatal loss during the months surrounding his birth and I was acutely aware of how fragile life can be. I felt fortunate but also a bit guilty. I still think of those babies and of their parents pretty regularly, although, failing to heed my own most-given advice, I rarely contact them to say so.
I was surprised when my second pregnancy happened quickly and easily, and had a feeling it might be twins. Weird, I know, but many Facebook PMs will attest. I had an early ultrasound and, it turns out, I was right – two babies! Several weeks and several ultrasounds passed, with both babies growing right on target, until one day one baby wasn’t. Our baby B, whom we named Francis, had passed sometime between scans.
I doubt I’ll ever forget finding out. I had an OB appointment and I had to take my son, who wasn’t quite 2 at the time. He hated doctors’ offices and was really upset the whole time – and they were almost an hour late. I was holding him, lying down, and the OB said “Well, I can’t find a heartbeat for baby B. I mean, it could just be the probe. So you should go for a more detailed ultrasound.” She didn’t even help me sit up, and I wrestled a screaming toddler back to the car and started bawling.
I had to wait until the next day to get the ultrasound with better equipment, sitting in the waiting room with excited parents-to-be, trying not to cry. After over an hour of waiting there, I finally went back, and of course the tech confirmed what I already knew; I had to wait for ages for her to finish the full scan and then for a doctor to officially sign off on the ruling. The doctor said I seemed “very upset.” I should think so. I had to go upstairs and see my OB (a different one from the day before), who said that these things happen and the other baby might or might not be fine.
It was hard to get through the rest of the pregnancy without being scared constantly that I’d lose baby A, too. Ultimately she was born safely and she turns one year old this month. I wonder what her twin would have been like all the time. I got tired of looking at “demise of one fetus” on my paperwork visit after visit. And since the pregnancy continued, I didn’t have what most women experience with a miscarriage, the physical loss. It’s like Francis was wholly theoretical – seen on a screen and then vanished slowly to nothing. (They had to continue scanning both twins until there was no longer any evidence that Francis had existed at all.)
I had hyperemesis with the pregnancy, which was physically debilitating. Combined with the grief of losing one of the babies, I really wasn’t able to do much at all. So you see I know what I’m talking about when I talk about days when you cannot get up the will to even decide what kind of pizza to order to feed the family. With B’s first birthday approaching, I feel it more strongly again; I feel like I should be more present for her, but I also just want to be sad in bed for a few days. With two young kids at home, that will happen approximately never, so I go through the motions and feel bad that I’m not more engaged this month. That I wasn’t last year when we lost Francis in the first place.
I’m sharing this story in the hopes that it might help another mom feel less alone sometime, and as a reminder for those of us who have had losses to be gentle with ourselves.