I never thought I would have a miscarriage. Then again, I never thought I would have a child, either.
I knew from a young age that my mom had miscarried once, before she’d had my older brother. They didn’t have the term rainbow baby at the time, but that’s exactly what he was. As a little girl, I had a hard time envisioning life without my big brother, and since the story had a nice ending, I somewhat naively believed miscarriage had its place in the world of natural selection all the way into adulthood.
And then I had one of each — both a child and a miscarriage.
The day I began losing a child, I was a mere 12 hours away from my OBGYN appointment to confirm the pregnancy. At the ultrasound in the morning, the technician stayed silent — unreadable. Then the midwife walked in, grinning, telling me ‘congratulations!’ — hardly the greeting I expected. She quickly explained that although I was definitely losing one baby, there was another one growing that still looked fine.
Twins?! I left the office simultaneously stunned and saddened. I was still pregnant! I was still going to have a baby! But I was also still losing one.
That night I googled everything under the sun about ‘vanishing twin syndrome.’ I focused on the stories with positive outcomes where the mother gave birth to a healthy surviving twin. I held onto hope that mine would be a survivor, too. A few days later, the midwife called to report that my HCG levels had dropped, as per their expectation. After all, I was losing one baby. But they had dropped too far. I hung up the phone, angry she had called. Why ruin my night with the news that I would likely lose the second baby?
The next ultrasound confirmed that neither one would make it.
Naively, even in my 40s, I really knew nothing about miscarriage. I knew plenty of people who had them. I knew the statistics — especially at advanced maternal age. I knew the chances of me even getting pregnant were slim. But I didn’t know your body basically goes into labor. I didn’t know how long it would last. I didn’t know my hormones would be raging. Most of all, I didn’t know how incredibly grievous it felt to lose a child that’s barely the size of a lentil bean inside your womb — one you’ve never even held.
It took a month for the whole double miscarriage to occur naturally, and for my hormones to level out. As time dragged on, I found myself questioning everything I had done over the past few months.
Was it the few glasses of wine I had before I knew I was pregnant? Was it the sip of beer after I knew? Was it my stress level? Too much caffeine? The flu? Picking up my 35lb. child? What if I was using my phone too much near my belly? What if I had ‘let myself go’? (I wasn’t in stellar shape this time around when I got pregnant.) What if extended breastfeeding had something to do with it?
In my tear-filled haze, I stumbled across a (probably non-legit) website that said pineapple could cause miscarriage. Pineapple! I had eaten pineapple on a pizza the week the miscarriage started. OMG, I caused my own miscarriage, I kept thinking. The entirety of my life and every decision I made was in question for that whole month, while I waited for ‘the articles of conception’ as the medical personnel coldly called the contents of my uterus, to slip out of me.
I’m no stranger to loss. I have lost far too many people close to me, including that big brother of mine, when he was only 40. Yet this pregnancy loss was like no other grief I’d ever experienced. I kept blaming the hormones, but in reality, it was far deeper. I realized it one night, as I sobbed and screamed at my own mother.
I didn’t even get to hold my babies.
I had recently heard a story of a woman who carried her daughter to full term, knowing the baby wouldn’t survive. She held her daughter for only two hours and yet rather than weeping over her story, I found myself clenching my teeth in jealousy.
She got to hold her baby.
I felt cheated. And then ashamed.
For the twins that I lost…I have nothing to tangibly hold onto. Nothing to grasp, nothing to physically tether them to this earth. I don’t even have a single ultrasound photo, even though I had numerous scans over the course of several weeks. All I have is the brief (yet fading) memory of being pregnant again, overshadowed by the grief of miscarriage.
My loss of twins feels far more compounded by the fact that there is literally nothing to show the world that they once existed in some form. Miscarriage is a grief like no other. There are still slight signs that you were once pregnant — like weight gain that seems impossible to lose, because let’s face it, hormones suck and Ben & Jerry’s are fine bedfellows during times of crisis. But apart from that, and the actual act of miscarriage, there’s nothing to prove you once carried a life (or two), except in your memory.
And while the world around me seemed to literally swell with bellies full of babies, and arms cradling newborns, I realized that I only had my story to hold onto. So, I decided to tell people. I never thought I’d be the person to open up and admit I had a miscarriage, and yet here I am.
I am not alone in this. There are many of us holding onto only memories. Women who have miscarried multiple times, women who held and buried their stillborn children, and moms who have outlived their rainbow babies.
I know that in life, I am still fortunate. Many women don’t get to hold any babies. And even though my ‘baby’ is now over half my size and nearly four, I still got to carry him in my belly for 39 weeks. I still get to hug him and hold him and watch him grow.
Yet even though I’m lucky to have one healthy child, I know I will never forget losing my other two. Every year, when the seasons change, I’ll calculate how old they’d be. I’ll tell the Peanut when the time is right that he almost had two little sisters. Or two brothers. Or one of each. And even if I have another child or children, it won’t be the same, because it won’t be them.