"You should be worried about me." she typed an honest response to her friend, but decided to erase it before sending. There is no reason to punish someone for trying to be kind. It is so obvious when something is wrong. For periods of time, she disappears and disconnects. The only people who see it are those who have been trained to recognize her silence as a cry for help.

Instead, she replies "I'm ok." a lie to protect her heart from potential platitudes about God's mysterious ways, and statistics on healthy pregnancies. She had been a faithful believer her entire life. Blindly faithful. Arrogantly faithful. This wasn't her first tragedy, but it was her first test of faith. It was as if the light had gone out inside her. She was angry at God.

Weeks prior, she had been filled with the hope and excitement of an addition to their three piece family. Her daughter was picking out names like "Petunia," an inside joke borrowed from her grandmother. It made her smile and gave her excitement for their future. She was blessed, and her daughter was going to be an incredible big sister.

At seven weeks, they saw a glorious, tiny heartbeat, and she laid to rest most of her first trimester worries and anxieties. It felt like an answered prayer. She reveled in every symptom as if it were her personal daily confirmation. The announcement was all but planned, and she counted the days before she could share her precious secret. "I think we should announce on Mother's Day, wouldn't that be fun?" she prodded her husband. "I know it is a little early, but the ultrasound that Friday before should give us some extra confidence."

------

The sky matched her tears with weeks of steady rain, the most they had received for this time of year in the last decade. The hardest part was watching the rest of the world carry on while her reality was so broken. There was anger, but no place to direct it. Hopelessness, but no way to communicate the depth. Many women experience this, but she felt so alone in her heartache.

"So, this must be what it feels like when God says no." It seemed like a cruelty, or a punishment. "Am I unworthy?" Her heart and her brain pulled in opposite directions. "This is how people turn away from God," she thought to herself, "they feel like He turned his back first." Everything is different through the filter of a broken heart. She had to make a decision on the next painful part of this tragedy, and it ached inside her.

-----

When they arrived at their Friday appointment, they waited with anticipation. "Why do they need my social security number? I'm not the patient." said her husband. She was filling out paperwork because she hadn't seen this Doctor before, but he came highly recommended by a friend. "I hope we won't have to wait this long EVERY time." she said. "I am starving, we should have eaten lunch. Maybe they won't keep us too long." Stupid complaints seemed reasonable at the time.

After an hour wait, she was called back to pee in a cup, weigh in front of a stranger, and smile awkwardly throughout, like it is a totally normal thing to do. She cracked a joke to the nurse "Of course you reconciled the weight of my shoes, jeans, and jewelry, right?" The nurse smiled politely even though it was probably the six-hundredth time she had heard an insecure woman rely on humor to see her through those embarrassing patient requirements.

The room was cold, but nice. "Oh, I really like the floors in here!" She said to her husband, as though flooring were a sign of a quality practice. Eventually, the doctor knocked, and entered the room they had been assigned. They answered each other's questions, and made friends so the next part would be more comfortable. Then he asked them to follow him to the ultrasound room.

As they were walking, she commented on the song playing over the speakers in the ceiling. "I saw Fun. at Taste of Chicago two years ago, and it is one of my all time favorite memories." She replayed a scene of her daughter dancing with her sister beneath the stunning Chicago skyline at Millennium Park. The sun was setting, and everyone around her was smiling and singing along, present and happy in the moment. It was one of those memories that stood out from the rest. A shiny, beautiful moment bobbing in a sea of mundane, suburban routine.

Everything was prepped, and he squirted cold gel on her belly. They looked eagerly at the projection of dark gray and light gray blobs until they found the small bubble, the particular blob they were scanning for. She recognized the worry on his face before he had a chance to hide it. "I'm having trouble finding the heartbeat, let's get a closer look transvaginally." the doctor said without emotion. He left the room, and she tried to remain hopeful as she changed and covered herself with a paper sheet, the least comforting thing in a moment full of worry and vulnerability. Locating the bubble once again, there had been no movement. That tiny, glorious flicker had gone out. She already knew before the doctor finally spoke, "I'm sorry, I'm afraid this is a miscarriage." She looked at her husband and saw his face fade, then she dropped her eyes to the floor, and responded "I understand." He continued talking, but she couldn't hear anything.

Leaving the room fairly quickly, he told them to take their time. There was a short flood of tears before they decided to leave to pick up their daughter. The entire office looked up uncomfortably as they walked past the nurses' station into reception to check out. Everyone knew, and they had terrible poker faces. They rescheduled for two weeks later, and she stepped into the sunlight for the first time in a parallel reality of grief. She still couldn't hear anything.

Disbelief, heartache, and guilt filled her stomach. She wasn't hungry anymore. She might not ever be hungry again. Calmly, she texted the few who knew her secret so they wouldn't blindside her with innocent questions. She tried to hold it together, but didn't know why. There was nothing to say, and one thought or word could break the emotional damn.

That night, after her daughter was asleep she finally cried into her pillow. She didn't stop crying. She fell asleep, and when she woke up to her to new reality, she cried more. Calls came, and were unanswered and unreturned, and she cried more. Texts and flowers and condolences arrived. She felt nothing or she felt everything, and she cried more.

Emerging from her bedroom cave the next afternoon, she could hear her daughter giggling and watching cartoons. "Mama, I pooped on the potty!" "You did? You are such a big girl, I am so proud of you!" she answered with her whole heart. Her appreciation for her daughter fell under a heartbreaking new perspective. She never imagined she could possibly have loved her more, but at the thought that she may not have ever existed or worse, been taken, her love felt desperate.

There was a decision to be made, and an unknown timeline to make it. Allow her body to recognize the miscarriage and naturally progress? Take some pills to encourage the process? Or have herself put under for a D&C, a medical procedure that removes the unviable pregnancy. There was no wrong or right answer. She read personal stories, researched each option, and talked to the few women she knew who had been through something similar. A week of puffy eyes, and odd hours of sleeping passed before she came to a decision. She was most afraid of doing it naturally, but the other options left her with something worse than fear, uncertainty. Would she be the very small percentage of women who have scarring after a D&C, potentially making her infertile? Would inducing the miscarriage be more painful?

She arrived at her decision to trust her body with full support from her husband. The body that became pregnant, and wanted to be pregnant, and was mourning the life that couldn't happen. The brain that imagined the nursery, someone crawling, walking, playing tag, starting school... the heart that beat faster as the second pink line showed up, and filled with joy as she told her husband and daughter... The arms and legs that would have held and rocked a baby into early morning hours every night, through exhaustion and broken sleep... This body deserved the opportunity to respond without fear. And, this little one deserved the strength of a mother who would carry their tiny body until it was no longer time.

-----

This pregnancy was a blessing. This life was loved from the moment the heart began beating, and continues after it stopped. She faced a fear, and found strength in herself she hadn't known. A strength that helped her grow, and taught her to be grateful, even for the things that weren't easy to understand. It takes courage to live in this tragic world, even more so to continue shining a light for others. Heartache creates humility and compassion, and grief is universally understood.

A few weeks later, "Carry On" by Fun. came on in her playlist. She had run out of anger and tears, so she allowed the song to continue. It reminded her of her happiest memory and her saddest, simultaneously, and it held even more meaning. Ironically, or perhaps not, the lyrics are sad and empowering. In this moment, she realized that God had been there all along.

 

"Carry On"
Well I woke up to the sound of silence
And cries were cutting like knives in a fist fight
And I found you with a bottle of wine
Your head in the curtains
And heart like the Fourth of July
You swore and said,
"We are not,
We are not shining stars."
This I know,
I never said we are
Though I've never been through hell like that
I've closed enough windows to know you can never look back
If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone.
Carry on.
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground.
Carry on.
Carry on, carry on
So I met up with some friends at the edge of the night
At a bar off 75.
And we talked and talked about how our parents will die,
All our neighbours and wives.
But I like to think I can cheat it all
To make up for the times I've been cheated on.
And it's nice to know when I was left for dead
I was found and now I don't roam these streets,
I am not the ghost you are to me.
If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone.
Carry on.
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground.
Carry on.
Whoa!
My head is on fire but my legs are fine.
After all they are mine.
Lay your clothes down on the floor,
Close the door, hold the phone,
Show me how no one’s ever gonna stop us now.
'Cause here we are
We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we’re miles away
Sun will come
We will find our way home
If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone.
Carry on.
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground.
Carry on.

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