Content note: parenting, miscarriage
My older daughter loves books. Upstairs, downstairs, board books and picture books abound. I periodically go through and put them back in some semblance of order, only to have them joyfully pulled off the shelf a few minutes later for reading. There are classics and newer titles and everything in between.
There is one board book, however, that doesn’t belong to the girls, that never is pulled from the shelf, that I have never read to either daughter.
I bought it nearly four years ago, one burst of optimism in a lot of nagging fear and doubt. I never could get into buying baby clothes – that felt wholly overwhelming to me for something so tentative – but I did purchase a tiny set of board books. The other two I threw away after it happened, I was so sad and so angry, but one I slipped into the box that held a positive pregnancy test, ultrasound photos, the embryo photo, some cards, and a few sprigs from the bouquets I received.
I don’t feel pregnant, I told my doctor at the time. I’d never been pregnant before, but I knew, knew somewhere deep inside that something wasn’t quite right. I found out that I’d miscarried the first one on a December morning when the ultrasound screen showed the pooling blackness of a gestational sac with something inside but no flickering sign of life. The second one though. The second one had a perfect heartbeat.
I hoped that the feeling of this is not right had been the first one passing, but I still didn’t feel good. Or rather, I felt too good. Not a wisp of nausea (but my mother had never really suffered from morning sickness and these things are often hereditary). No breast tenderness (not everyone gets that). No reaction to strong scents (well, it doesn’t usually set in right away). Not overly tired (no more than usual).
But everyone told me that if you saw a heartbeat, your chance of miscarriage was drastically reduced. I bought the books. The Runaway Bunny seemed particularly apt. If you run away, I will run after you, the mother bunny promises her little bunny. I had run after this child, first with all the poking and prodding, then medications, and finally the IVF. Right then, it seemed perhaps I had finally caught this baby.
Even then, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling.
I wasn’t surprised the day the ultrasound revealed the absolute stillness in my womb. Devastated, but not surprised. The babies were gone, but I could not run after them. I could not turn into a fisherman or a mountain climber or anything else like in the story to bring either of them home where they belonged with me.
I let go in the end. I had to. Unlike the fictional mother bunny, I didn’t get that choice.
I tucked the book into the box a few days later. A small gift, a book I wanted so badly to be true.
I could not bring them home. The only thing I could do was send my love.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.