If I had ever imagined the possibility that one day I would be “over” my miscarriage, I would have expected that particular grief journey to end because of a new beginning–a new pregnancy, one that ends with a healthy baby, and onto the next chapter: Motherhood.
Floundering in the depths of my grief, I was able to console myself by telling me that others have it far worse. At least you know you can get pregnant. At least you know you can get pregnant quickly. At least you’re not infertile. At least you don’t have a genetic disorder. These small reassurances were me trying to paint a silver lining onto the face of grief and patience. Your time is gonna come. I hummed this, one of my favourite Led Zeppelin songs.
Such consolations have been ripped from me. That I was ever pregnant, let alone managed to conceive so quickly, is nothing short of miraculous. (Dr. D estimates I have a 3% chance of conceiving in any given cycle. Now that he knows of my genetic disorder, I wonder if he would revise that percentage.) Whereas I might not technically be barren, I straddle the land of fecundity with the seas of infertility. I am floating in still bathwater with a foot hanging out of the tub.
At this point, my fertility is a moot point, trumped by the mother of all fears: not, will I get pregnant; nor, will I miscarry; but, will I have a severely mentally and physically disabled child? If I were pregnant and even made it to 16 weeks, I would have to do an amniocentesis, something I’d always hoped to avoid. If I found out my child had Recombinant 8 Syndrome, what would our decision be? Continue, knowing our child would suffer for his or her short life? Or terminate?
The only time I have not felt cleaved in two (envy on one side, shame on the other, bound by grief) by the sight of a pregnant woman was in the genetic counsellor’s waiting room. Two questions on the form leapt out at me: How old will you be when your baby is born? How old will the baby’s father be when the baby is born? In that waiting room — a long walk down a maze of shiny peach linoleum, far, far away from medical exam rooms — there is a presumption of pregnancy. Indeed, we were the only couple not sporting a bump. None of these women were sat gently rubbing their bellies as they patiently waited. They perched on the edges of their chairs, looking drained but alert, waiting for the bad news that would force them to make a tough decision. No one smiled or exchanged the usual pregnancy waiting room talk. It was eerily quiet. I felt no envy. I felt bad for these couples… and lucky for us, that we might miss facing such a heart-wrenching decision. Indeed, our genetic counsellor called our pre-pregnancy finding “fortuitous.” But we still have the bad news that I might have a Recombinant child.
This past week has been filled with research and contemplation. We are waiting to hear what Reprogenetics, the lab that will perform the micro array CGH lab, will say about my DNA, and whether they can design a bespoke probe to test our embryos, how long it would take to build, how much it would cost, and, most importantly, how accurate it would be. Meanwhile, DH and I have looked at dozens of egg donors, and even found one we really like. However we decide to proceed, it’s all going to cost a lot. I mean, a fuck lot. If I have a healthy child or children at the end of it, it will be the best money I ever spent… but there are no guarantees.
I catch myself thinking about back when I was pregnant. It seems so far away now. I’m very self-absorbed, as I let all of this bad news still sink in.
It’s hard for me to be supportive of women who are trying to cope after their miscarriage. A single miscarriage is, of course, a tragedy. It is devastating, heart-breaking, soul-destroying. It turns your life upside down and inside out. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I am envious of women who are grieving only their lost ones. I can no longer go to my miscarriage support group because I do not have the patience to be surrounded by such women, and I feel bad about that. But not for long — unfortunately, I have other things to think about.
It’s even harder for me to be supportive of women who are pregnant again after their miscarriage. I know that if I am ever pregnant again, I will be even more worried — not just about miscarrying again, but will my baby be healthy, knowing there’s a good chance s/he might not be. Regrettably, I am downright intolerant of women who are pregnant (with the exception of those in the genetic counsellor’s waiting room). How she came to conceive her baby is of no importance to me. That passing her due date is still hard makes me want to scream, Well, imagine how I feel! I feel overlooked and forgotten. I feel bad that I can’t be this amazing Zen-like philosophical woman who celebrates all her sisters-in-loss’ pregnancies (there are a couple of notable exceptions to this, and you ladies know who you are). But I can’t worry about whether or not that makes me a bad person. It is what it is, and it won’t be forever, one way or another. Besides, I am sure a woman who is pregnant after loss would do better being cheered on by a woman who is or has been pregnant after loss. They are the ones with the wisdom, not me. Sadly, I have nothing to offer, even if I wanted to. I barely have the capacity to bolster my own reserves.
I try to remember what it was like to be pregnant. The happiness. The sense that everything was — finally, after 5 long years of hard lessons — falling into place. Being content with the knowledge that although things weren’t perfect, well, are they ever? this baby is coming and it’s a wonderful, beautiful thing, created in love by two people who are committed to this baby and each other. I started researching cloth vs. disposable diapers, and decided we could wait a while before purchasing a stroller. I devoured the dozen baby books Momsicle so kindly sent me, and hugged the soft toys and burping cloths she’d used as padding. DH and I shyly talked about names. And yet I couldn’t picture holding a baby at the end of this journey. Time and again, I pushed aside the gnawing sense that something was wrong. My body was still acting pregnant and I wasn’t spotting. No one — not even the nurse — seemed worried, so I chalked it up to first-time first trimester nerves and joked to myself that a lifetime of worry had already begun. But somewhere in my head crept the thought, I must enjoy this pregnancy, because what if it’s the only one I ever have? That’s why I try to remember.
I worry that I can’t distinguish between instinct and fear. And I worry that, rather than time being the great healer, the thing that has really moved me past miscarriage grief is the very new and real worrying possibility that I actually may never have a child of my own.