I will always mourn Rachel—which is what I had named her. The birth defect that she had is a possible characteristic of Down’s. I always knew that my baby was a girl. I knew with my son; I knew with her. I could never name another child Rachel. She was my Rachel. She was never born but she was always loved and will always be remembered. Despite having something very wrong with her, she was still my baby. We felt the exact same way for her as we had for our son at the same points in pregnancy. I went through the exact same process. This was no different—except for the fact that I would never take this child home.
That’s the thing—people try to comfort you with all of these philosophical explanations that everything happens for a reason—God has a purpose—and even if it’s true that doesn’t mean you need or even want to hear it at that particular moment. I just wanted to hear that people were sorry for my loss. I didn’t need reasons why I lost my child. I didn’t want to hear about how we could try again. We would try again but our next child wouldn’t be this one. This was my baby—not some arcade game that I could add another coin to and start over on. That was it—I would have other children—but they wouldn’t be this child. I had just seen my lifeless child on two ultrasounds. I didn’t need to hear reasons why it happened. I also read that a late miscarriage is extremely rare for a healthy woman. I was medically confirmed as a healthy twenty-eight-year-old. Why me, I thought?
What was worse is that some tried to avoid the topic all together. Two days before my baby was taken from me—people would have been curious about names or finding out the sex in three weeks—instead it was like the big elephant in the room. It was there—and it was obvious but it seemed that most people avoided it. Were people trying to spare my emotions? Were they trying to steer clear of tears and emotional upset? Was that possible at this point? Days after a miscarriage—even if you seem put together you are not completely emotionally stable. Even when you look fine and feel ok—you have moments of tears and upset. I would think I was ok then I’d get in my van and hear some sad song and bust out. Every time I left the house, at first, I always came back teary-eyed and red-faced. I let the radio get the best of me.
It wasn’t that I needed to have a therapy session with a friend or family member, but if someone asked me how I felt I wanted to be able to share a dominate emotion in the immediate days after, which was sadness. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I would want to say. “I just made my son laugh,” I wanted to say, “but I’m having one of those days.” Then some flat-out told me that they wouldn’t mention it unless I wanted to talk. I felt like saying, just ask me how I am and if I feel compelled to chat then I’d share. I felt like some people were trying to turn a blind eye to an event that was still staring me right in the face. This was new. It was raw. It was painful. I wasn’t yet removed from it; I needed to express the pain and hurt, even on good days.
Then there were the few who actually could confront the issue because they knew me that well. They would ask how I was in such a way that I knew they weren’t asking about the superficial parts of my day. They genuinely wanted to know because they cared. They let me talk. They listened. It was helpful. Honestly, anything was better than those who didn’t even acknowledge our loss. I really found out who cared in those moments of pain and sorrow. Maybe some didn’t feel comfortable confronting what happened for some reason. But even if it was awkward I needed to know that they cared.
I think people also expected me to lie around and mope. I couldn’t. I still had my son who still needed to feel normalcy. We needed normalcy. What could I do, lay on the couch for two weeks and order take-out? Our son still needed meals. He needed to go to the playground. I needed fresh air. We still needed clean dishes and clothes. My husband still needed to go to work. He needed my support too. We needed each other.
It helped me to be productive—being productive meant not letting what had happen dominate my thoughts every second. When I did sit down to rest in those first few days I found myself thinking about it even more. What could I have done differently? What if that medicine I took caused this? Would I be cursed again and lose another child? What were all of the statistics?
Just days before I was wearing anything that would show off my tummy. Now after the loss I wanted to wear anything huge that would hide my body. I didn’t want to be reminded. A day or so later, I didn’t even look pregnant but I still had the additional weight, particularly the belly roll that everyone dreads. My fat jeans wouldn’t fit and I couldn’t bring myself to wear my maternity clothes. If I had have worn them, I would have felt cheated. I had no reason to wear them I thought, so I lived in sweats and tent sort of shirts. I didn’t move my maternity clothes but every time I went into my closet they stuck out like a scarlet letter. The Monday before I had just bought some new tunics and couldn’t wait to wear them—now it will probably be awhile before I can wear them again. I had just had my snug fitting wedding bands cleaned and I had put them away and instead wore a plain band. Three days after what happened I shoved a tight fitting ring set back on my finger. I had taken them off because I was pregnant and as time went on I would be even more swollen—now, I didn’t have a reason to be swollen. I wasn’t pregnant.
There were also things signaling the new baby scattered through the house—magazines—a pregnancy book—baby samples—a baby girl outfit from my best friend who I had convinced that I was having a girl. Everything had to go into the baby’s room out of sight. I couldn’t bear to look at newborn sample diapers. When would I be able to bring a baby home to that room?
Time will make things emotionally easier, however I’m sure around my due date I’ll have a hard time. Just a few weeks before I found out that I had had a “silent miscarriage” (the baby dies, but you have no signs), I found a four-leaf clover on a walk with my son and I wished that my baby would be born healthy. My wish will not come to pass, but I will always remember my baby. Three more weeks and we would have found out that she was definitely a girl—which is when people are starting to share the name—talk to the baby.
That last night before my D&E, I sat down and put my hand where all of those diagnostic pieces had been that day—right where she was—and I told her I loved her and I said a prayer. I know I’ll see my daughter again. To me, she was real—she was never born but she was real. She was real from the moment I peed on a stick. She was real at her eighth week when my OB said she looked perfect on ultrasound and had a strong heartbeat and then again at twelve weeks. She was even real when at sixteen weeks when I stared at her tiny lifeless body on ultrasound. She was always real to me.
Five weeks after I had the D&E, I had my follow-up with my OB. I walked into an office full of bellies. My eyes filled with tears. I didn’t think it would be difficult to be there but it was. My OB told us that the pathology showed that our little girl had a rare form of Down’s syndrome that can either be sporadic or inherited. According to the pathology report, about one-third of Down’s children are lost in the second trimester. I started to read everything I could on that particular type of Down’s. But the only way to calculate our risk of having another baby with Down’s was to get our chromosomes tested. There was a month between the testing and being told. All I could do was hope for the best, because regardless I couldn’t change the results. We’d deal with the outcome either way. I have always heard that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, now I know it’s true.
When September comes, I want to do something to remember her around the time she would have been born. That will be when the night air gets a chill and the sky becomes a kaleidoscope of early autumn color. It’s my favorite time of year—and this coming autumn was going to be one of the best. But this year it will be bittersweet and even though we’ll be moving forward, I’ll slow down to think of what might have been. Goodbye my angel, Mommy loves you. I never held you in my arms but I’ll always hold you in my heart.