Every year, I take a moment in June and September to say goodbye. It might be as long as a day, it might be as quick as a breath, but these are months that make me pause, look back, and then forward and say I'm sorry you couldn't stay forever, but I've not forgotten you. I don't think I can.
Awful as it sounds, there are days I wish I could. Let me explain.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. Being a mother of three who has only ever met one child is a uniquely painful experience, one I know I share with many other women. That makes the loneliness less, not the heartache, though. I share my story because putting it into the universe helps me release emotions that would otherwise eat me from the inside out. Emotions I can't place on a friend or family member because, as well as they mean, I do not want comfort. That's selfish, yes, but it's also the truth. I don't want comfort or for them to feel awkward or hurt. I want acceptance. Acceptance to feel bad and sad and angry two and three years after losing babies I named and celebrated and never met. I want acceptance that I can be angry about losing those babies without needing to replace them by medical and scientific means. I want acceptance that sometimes, bad things happen, not because God or anyone else makes them, but because life is filled with equal parts pain and pleasure, and sometimes the pain is harder to forget.
Mostly, I want my time to grieve, and then I want to be able to put my grief away, and celebrate the daughter I hug each day.
I had two ectopic pregnancies almost a year apart. After the first, which was severe and dangerous enough it resulted in the removal of one of my tubes, we waited an entire year before even entertaining the thought of trying to get pregnant again. And when we decided we wanted another child, the ultimate decision came from looking at our daughter, the little girl with sunshine hair and summer sky eyes, and desiring someone for her. A playmate. A friend, the sibling we had both grown up with. Exams ensured I was healthy, my body was healthy, and that I was at no risk for failed pregnancy--no more than any other woman at any other time, at least.
And then the same symptoms appeared--the heavy stomach with the positive pregnancy test. The blood. The reassurance from the doctors that my hormones were doubling at the correct rate, that I was pregnant. And then, that I wasn't pregnant, that the egg had never made it to the uterus. That my baby was never going to grow and be born so I could hold them.
After this, my husband looked at me and asked me what I wanted. And I told him I couldn't do it again--I couldn't try and fail. And I was now high risk, a 95% chance of having another ectopic if we got pregnant. He hugged me, kissed me, and said we were already the perfect family.
And we are, but there are times I wonder if I was selfish.
Oddly, the one other person who understood my decision to stop trying was my father. His direct words were "time to go out to pasture, baby." Trust a logger to be diplomatic.
I laughed. I cried. And I was so relieved to realize that someone understood--someone who wasn't a female with two or three or four children, but someone who looked at me and loved me and understood, perhaps, the pain and fear and goddamn helplessness that comes with not being able to control something so important. Almost as important as that was the fact that his words showed me it wasn't selfish to quit while I had my life, and my sanity. Because there are many women stronger than I who have lost more than I can even imagine, who forged on and had a healthy pregnancy. Women who miscarried five and six and seven times, who heard heartbeats for months before they had a stillborn baby. Women who had every right to be devastated, to give up, and still, their desire was great enough, and their love strong enough, that they finally carried a baby to term.
But that wasn't me. I am a fighter--but I'm also a survivor. I am someone who feels too much and has to work to keep myself from feeling it all, because that's the only way I can move on each day. And survival wasn't important for just me, it was important to think of my daughter, and my marriage, and my family, and survive for them, too.
So, this October, I tell anyone who has ever struggled with the loss of a child, I am here for you. To listen, to support, to be the person who understands that only you know what you're feeling, however many other people think they've been through the same. They haven't. I haven't. Pain like this is unique to its individual because your situation, your life now versus your life then and what you expected it to be are all very different than everyone else's. I am here, saying this, so you understand you are not selfish or weak, and you do not have to forget and move on. You do not have to feel bad for needing to say goodbye, or needing to remember.
Grieve for your lost child. Love them. Think about them. And know that I stand and grieve with you. My heart aches with yours. And my life, like yours, sometimes feels a loss that's indescribable.