I’ve never been good at grieving if that’s something a person can even be good at. But this was altogether different for me. I was feeling the pain of losing my child before I even got to meet her. I wasn’t mourning the loss of the many memories we made together – I was mourning the loss of what could have been, should have been. All of the first moments – first steps, first words, first days of school. And getting to see her with her sister. Her sister. That was one of the most confusing things. How do I mourn the loss of this little girl while continuing to do my best to keep her sister safe and healthy and growing? How do I carry on?
When Justin and I finished telling our parents the news, I know that we curled up on our couch and watched a movie, of all things, but we needed a normal distraction. Noise to quiet the thoughts. I’m not even sure if it was the same night or the next day. All time started to blur together, and I couldn’t even say what the movie was. I actually have no recollection of seeing it, but it was there, just like the whole world around me. And so our days progressed, numbly going through the motions. Thankfully, our appointment had been on a Friday, so we had a couple days before we had to deal with the real world. But it came, all too quickly, and we took some time to be on our own, to process, to learn how to deal.
Sharing our loss with others wasn’t easy to do, but it was necessary. If nothing else, telling people allowed me to avoid some awkward and painful conversations since all of my colleagues and students knew about our twins and always seemed excited to discuss the pregnancy and share in my journey toward becoming a mother. Telling my coworkers – other adults – seemed more simple, straightforward. Telling my students was another matter altogether. Unsure how to approach the issue, I said nothing after I came back to work. I just wanted to go through the motions for a while until I figured out what to say. After a day, I knew I couldn’t avoid it any longer. Some of my students were eagerly discussing baby names and asking questions about the girls and if I could feel them moving, and I couldn’t hide it anymore. I couldn’t pretend that everything was alright. Telling my students was one of the hardest things I had ever done – allowing myself to be so open and vulnerable, letting myself cry in front of each of my classes, all of my juniors and seniors. But it was also the best thing I ever could have done. The response that I received from my students was overwhelming. The collective love they showed me made it ok for me to be human in front of them, not just their educator. They opened up and shared their own stories with me, and with their help I began to move forward.
Did I still cry every moment I was alone- in the bathroom stall, on my way home from school, in the shower, as I tried to fall asleep at night? Yes. Every single day, for months. The alone moments were always the hardest. When I was with others – friends, family, strangers – I could breathe. The distraction was enough for the moment. In the alone moments, the weight of the pain would return, crushing my chest. The knowledge of the little gone girl I still carried would tighten a fist around my heart. And silently I would scream. Although few ever saw me crying, my pain was still there. And that’s not to say that I never spoke about it, and never let anyone see me cry. My husband was there with me through it all, holding me as sobs wracked my body in the darkness of the night, picking me up off of the kitchen floor when my legs could not carry the weight of my hurt any longer. Our parents tried to help as much as they could and my mother was there with me for much of the healing. Some of the best support I received came from the hidden world of women who had gone through similar experiences, and it seemed like they came out of the woodworks. So many of the women in my life had had a miscarriage, some more than one, and in most cases I had never known about them. But they reached out to me and shared their stories and understood the pain I carried. The best advice I was given during this time came from one of these friends. She told me that I should never let anyone, especially myself, tell me that my grief was not justified. This meant so much to me because I did have moments when my brain told me to get over it, but I needed to know that it was ok for me to grieve for as long as I needed.
Although so many of my friends had experienced a miscarriage, no one I knew had quite gone through what I had – carrying twins and losing one. And not everyone’s advice was helpful. Some people told me that although I had lost one girl, at least I still had another. I know they said this meaning well, but this didn’t help to lessen the pain. As if carrying twins meant I had a “backup” in case I lost one. Others said things like, “Having twins is so difficult. It’ll be easier with one.” Again, they probably meant well, but this only hurt. The idea of less work and fewer expenses wasn’t really the point. I had still lost a child.
And then there were the questions. Questions I had to ask my doctor and questions that lingered on the tips of tongues, questions afraid to be asked. The fact that I was still carrying both of my girls was confusing. Because I was still carrying one living baby this meant that I didn’t have a D&C for the baby I lost. I would continue to carry both girls for the duration of my pregnancy. My doctor told me that my body would slowly begin to reabsorb my lost daughter and if I delivered my other daughter full term, it would be hard to even tell that another baby had ever existed. The idea of getting to keep my lost girl with me for a while longer was both comforting and difficult at the same time. I still held her close but didn’t get any closure because I didn’t have to let her go. But I did need some closure, and part of that came with finding a name for the daughter I would never get to meet. Before we learned of our loss, my husband and I had decided easily on one of the names for our daughters, but the second hadn’t been settled. After, we decided that it felt right to keep the name we had agreed upon for our living daughter. We had a short list of names that we had narrowed for the other, but now none of them seemed right. Shortly after losing our daughter, a dear friend gave me a figurine of a child holding a balloon with the word “hope” floating inside. That night I told Justin that I wanted to name our daughter Hope. The following day, without having shared this with anyone, my mother gave me a charm with little bird on a branch and the same word inscribed on it. It just felt right. Although we had lost Hope, she was still with us.
And we still had hope for our other little girl who now had the best guardian angel a baby could ask for. So, despite all of the pain and heartache I was feeling, I tried to do my best to stay healthy. Even though I had no appetite, I forced myself to eat. Another thing that was so disorienting about my situation was that physically I felt fine. I felt the same as I had been feeling for the past few months with fairly typical pregnancy symptoms. I had a hard time being ok with this, but a friend reminded me that I still had a job to do, and my body must have known it even though my brain was having a hard time comprehending. I did my best to continue being the best pregnant person I could be while grieving at the same time. I wanted to know that my other daughter would be ok, that she could make it. My doctor basically told me that I should continue living just as I had been and that my daughter could be safe, but that there could be risks still. I don’t think I fully understood the extent of my situation, but I don’t think anyone did, not even my doctor. From what we gathered, there wasn’t a lot of data on these kinds of situations and what data exists was limited and hard to relate from one case to another. And so we continued on, not knowing what to expect, or what to hope for.