Trigger Warning: This essay describes graphic memories of a miscarriage.
When I gave birth to my son, I was certain it was the biggest accomplishment of my life. When anyone asked me how I liked motherhood, I proudly said it was the greatest thing I’d ever do. So, 10 months after our son made us parents for the first time, my husband and I decided we were ready for baby number two. Effortlessly, I became pregnant within a month. I was ecstatic. Yes, I’d have two babies in diapers at the same time, but the unconditional love was addictive. Creating that love by adding to our family made all the sense in the world.
My first doctor’s appointment confirming my pregnancy was exciting. My son had been unplanned, so my anxiety about being pregnant and unwed had prevented me from enjoying the first stage of that pregnancy. I was eager to enjoy every moment this second time around. After some lab work, I was confirmed to be officially pregnant.
My husband accompanied me to my next appointment a week later; he was as excited about our newest addition as I was. I slipped into my hospital gown while my husband and I flirted and laughed. Soon, we excitedly watched our baby show up on the screen for the first time. We were so eager that it took a moment to realize what the ultrasound machine revealed: A small 7-week-old fetus with no heartbeat.
My doctor seemed unperturbed as she instructed me to get dressed before leaving the room. I put on my clothes in silence. The joyful atmosphere from before was completely erased while we waited for the doctor to say what we already knew. Like one in four pregnancies, mine had ended in miscarriage.
My doctor confirmed it, and there was no explanation for what happened. There were no condolences given. She only stated the simple facts and told me the fetus should pass soon without trouble. I was too numb to respond.
That weekend was spent in tears as I experienced bleeding. I tried to rationalize the miscarriage. Why did it happen? What did I do to cause it? I wanted answers, but there was no way to find them.
I returned to work the following Monday, knowing that everyone was aware of my miscarriage. But I was relieved—having someone innocently ask about my pregnancy would set me off all over again. Instead, I was handled with kids gloves and I couldn’t bring myself to resent it. I felt more fragile than ever.
I was processing the weekly payroll in my office, and that’s when I felt it happening. I excused myself to a private bathroom and sat heavily on the seat. To this day, I can’t explain how it felt, but I could feel my body passing something more than blood. I knew my body had to release the remainders of the fetus, but I had no understanding of how physically substantial a miscarriage can be. I thought my bleeding over the weekend would be the end of it, but now I knew I was wrong. I affixed an oversized pad to my underwear and went back to my desk.
But I still felt it—those telltale uncomfortable signs of bleeding through my pad. I went back to the bathroom; it was like I’d entered a scene from a bloody horror movie. I quickly changed my pad, shaking as I cleaned myself as much as I could.
But I bled through the second pad, and this time, I was frantic. The bleeding wouldn’t stop. I was traumatized. Not knowing what to do, I took out my phone and called my boss. He answered with a chipper voice, no doubt expecting a payroll question.
I don’t know if it was my words or the panicked way I said them, but he and our team’s head of HR knocked at the bathroom door almost instantly. Through the door, I explained what was happening. They wanted to call an ambulance; I wanted my husband. I wanted my parents. I didn’t want to experience this there.
They coaxed me out of the bathroom and I waited for my ride to the ER. I continued bleeding uncontrollably, shaking violently as my boss tried to keep me alert. I remember his comforting words, but they were overshadowed by the horrified look in his eyes.
Mumbled apologies tumbled from my lips—but I wasn’t even sure what I was sorry for. Scaring them? Bleeding all over the place? Bringing my trauma to work? Failing this baby as a mother?
My husband met me at the ER. We were ushered to a triage where we waited for far too long, and I felt the final drop of a heavy mass. Suddenly, the proof of my unborn second child laid on the floor of the triage. I couldn’t look at it.
Just like my OBGYN, the ER doctor walked in, gave me the facts of my miscarriage, and sent me away.
I wasn’t sure what was worse: leaving the fetus that had been in my womb behind or enduring heartless treatment from doctors in the most harrowing time of my life.
It took me years to talk about my miscarriage.
Instead, I did all the things you’re supposed to do. I named her June Jose for the month she was lost and for my father. My dad planted a flowering bush in her honor. I waited to have another child. I spent my third and fourth pregnancies doing everything I could to grow healthy babies—and I did. Still, there was a pain I couldn’t shake, that I still can’t.
In a strange way, I don’t think I’m meant to forget that pain. Living children spend their entire existences filling us with joy, love, worry, frustration, and a litany of other feelings. We love them more each day, and they teach us in both subtle and grand ways. Children lost in pregnancy or infancy aren’t exempt from inspiring these feelings—they just do it differently. The what-ifs intensify those feelings. These children who were lost are simultaneously infinite in their possibilities and finite in their reality. I’ll never know for sure that my child was a girl. I’ll never know if she had my eyes or my husband’s smile. I’ll never know what it feels like to hold her.
No matter how full my heart is, there will always be a smaller corner of it that aches just for her, and I’ve accepted that it is supposed to be that way. My sorrow is never ending, but so is my love for the child I lost.
If you have suffered a pregnancy or infant loss, you can find your local chapter of Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support here, and get their help during this time.