October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, which is fitting, for me. October 2007 was when I had my miscarriage.
I sometimes don’t feel right claiming my grief, because the whole experience was so short. I found out I was pregnant on a Sunday, and the pregnancy ended that Wednesday. In those three days I had envisioned our whole life, though. I was so excited to be on our way toward parenthood. I got in at my clinic right away to get the pregnancy confirmed. We didn’t tell our parents, because of course we would wait until the end of the first trimester when things were more certain.
After my appointment Tuesday afternoon, we went for a hike along the Mississippi, in a corner of Mendota we’d never been to before.
Wednesday morning I went to team meetings and one-on-ones and felt so happy carrying my secret with me. After a late morning meeting, walking back to my desk, I passed out.
When I came to, someone had fetched Mike from his desk nearby, and he took me home and I was bleeding and that was the end of that pregnancy. I called my mom, and then I wished I had told her the news when it was good, so I wasn’t starting with the awful news.
I went back to work the next day. My doctor told me we’d have to make sure I controlled my anxiety when I got pregnant again.
I did get pregnant again, blessedly soon. The miscarriage loomed in the first 14 weeks or so, with every strange sensation triggering fear that this baby, too, would be lost.
He wasn’t lost – he was Will, and we were so grateful to have HIM in all his individual specific loveliness, that I lost track of that miscarriage. In fact I thanked God for an early miscarriage – if one were to come, I would rather it come in week 6 than week 10 or later.
I lost track of it until last October, I guess 13 years later. Six months into the pandemic we were looking for fresh places to hike as a family, since we had been to the favorites so many times. We ended up on the banks and cliffs of the Mississippi near Mendota. I knew where we were and dismissed it as insignificant, a different life or my over developed sense of drama getting the best of me.
But my body knew, and my body wasn’t letting go easily. We couldn’t figure out where to catch the trail. There were creepy outbuildings. Every cell in my body was saying LEAVE. I kept asking to leave – though whether I said it out loud or not, I don’t know. Mike was focused on the present, on creating a good experience for the kids we had with us. My body was feeling the loss of the kid we didn’t have with us.
I don’t think about that miscarriage often. But I feel that it’s with me, that the grief lives in a tiny corner somewhere in me, and that it wants to be seen and felt every once in a while. It “all worked out” for us, with our two healthy children. But October is a reminder that I loved that little bundle of cells, too, if only for a few days.
This letter from Father Clay – appropriately written in October! – addresses the need to let grieving happen. I will admit I was so determined to get pregnant again and have everything be okay and not overreact to something that I wouldn’t even have known about if I had waited another week to take the pregnancy test – that I didn’t see it as something to grieve.
The grief found me in my fears about pregnancy twinges, and in my panic on the bluffs of the Mississippi in 2020. I will give myself permission to feel that thing that happened to me and the loss that happened to our family. I will send that little bundle of cells a kiss and some love whenever it asks for it, and I will hike the bluffs while the leaves change, whenever I can.
Dear People Whom God Loves,
Grieving loss is a natural human process that enables us to heal the wound the loss has caused. Grieving helps our recovery.
Many of us, however, resist the grieving process. This is understandable, because grieving includes feeling the pain the loss has caused. We want to run away from the pain or seal it off. If people close to us are resisting feeling the pain, they will usually want us not to show our grief, because that brings them too close to their pain. When we don’t grieve, the pain stays covered up inside of us and causes physical, emotional and spiritual damage.
We fool ourselves when we think we can avoid the pain and just get on with our lives. When we feel the pain, we need to cry. We need a place that is safe to cry. We need people who will just be with us and let us cry. The well-intentioned advice to buck up and be strong is damaging and interferes with the healing process.
We need people who will love us and be there for us. We need rituals to help us grieve. That is why wakes, funerals, burials and visiting the grave are so valuable. Severe loss is not only felt at death, but on other occasions such as the breakup of an important relationship or a deep rejection. We need a ritual for these losses also.
Smile, God Loves You.
This letter, dated October 13, 1996, was printed in Dear People Whom God Loves by Father John Clay (c) 1999