As a way of acknowledging my grief and trying to work on some form of acceptance, I decided to write a letter to my unborn child, lost due to a missed miscarriage. I would have been due around July 17th, 2013. In memoriam, I thought I’d perform my own little Mizuko kuyo ceremony with my Jizo Bodhisattva statue (a common Buddhist practice in Japan to honour the death of a child) for my own little “water baby.” A tangible way to help deal with my loss.
Dear Baby Elise,
On this month of your would-have-been birth, I wanted to commemorate and honour your existence. It’s funny how our short time together made such a huge, everlasting impact on my life. I wished for you to happen for such a long time, and then I gave up wishing. You were a complete and utter surprise. Life is like that sometimes I’m discovering. You did have some pretty bad timing, I will give you that, but I will never regret you. Never. I only regret that I couldn’t bathe you in absolute total love that some mom’s do from even before conception. I regret that I carried some doubt, a lot of anxiety and a huge amount of fear. All I can say is that I knew in my heart that I wanted to carry you, I wanted to protect you from harms way and envelop you in all the love and goodness that I could give. Did I falter and hesitate on occasion and become overwhelmed? Yes. Oh yes. But I knew I could and would love you more than life itself. In the months since I’ve lost you, there have been many times that the pain has been so great and all-consuming that I’ve wanted to give up, surrender and fade away from this life and into the vast darkness and emptiness that I’d already been feeling. I’m still working on that. All that I can say is that the moments of gloom are slowly receding into more moments of lightness and brightness.
I knew of your existence only 5 weeks in. Three pregnancy tests in three days confirmed your arrival. I saw your image , a cute little non-descript round nubbin at 6 weeks, 2 days (according to the ultrasound). After that first appointment I jokingly told your dad that you looked like him, trying to ease the tension of a difficult situation. I compulsively typed in “gestational development” into the search engine to see what new things you should be up to each week: a set of eyes, a shortening tail, hands, fingers, toes, perhaps soon a new detectable heartbeat. Would you soon grow from the size of a lentil into a strawberry? I called you my little lentil as a pet name.
I worried constantly with every new cramp, twinge, and sharp pain. My morning (aka all-day) sickness was abating, and I never felt really exhausted as some others had complained about. But all the information I could gather reassured me that it was all normal. Nothing to fear. Besides, there was none of the dreaded spotting. No signs of a miscarriage. Breathe a big sigh of relief. I was going to be one of the lucky ones, one of the dwindling few to get pregnant after 40 and carry a healthy full term baby. But deep down, I am a pessimist, not an optimist. Deep down I knew that it would not be.
I went for an ultrasound scan around 10/11 weeks. We wanted to do genetic testing just to make sure that you were ok. We patiently waited (with a very full bladder!), casually glancing at all the other pregnant women there, listening to them talk excitedly about their scans with their partners, discussing what they saw of their growing babies. I wanted to be a part of their circle.
The ultrasound tech was so professional, so kind, such a poker face. It’s funny how afterwards, when the doctor told me the results of the scan, I felt bad for the tech who knew that you were gone, but he couldn’t tell me. I don’t know why I feel more pity for him than for me. It’s just easier I guess. I should have known when I saw him put the Doppler on and there was no heartbeat. I do ultrasounds for Christ-sakes. You had stopped growing at 7 weeks 5 days, your yolk sac was calcified. You were gone and I didn’t even know it. How is that even possible? My body failed us both on many levels. At first, when I heard the news, I was in disbelief. I wasn’t really that upset yet. I went home and had a big glass of wine. I had dinner. I slept. Nothing really sank in until the following day. Then I sobbed while your dad tried to console me. And I’ve continued sobbing ever since. Less so as the days, weeks, months have gone on. But my heart is still broken.
The grief is reinforced when I see pregnant strangers. Or when newly pregnant co-workers who don’t know my pain, share their happiness and pregnancy stories with seasoned veterans. I try to avoid the discussions, but I can’t out run the hurt that I feel. I feel like such an outsider. Or when that friend who was pregnant at the same time as me is giving birth to her new, healthy baby. It makes me miss you even more. The sadness overtakes me. I can’t breathe.
I’m trying to come to terms with your loss, our loss. I wished for a girl, your dad wished for a boy. But all I really cared about was that you were going to be a happy, healthy baby. Your dad was going to make you homemade baby foods, none of that bottled, store-bought food for you he said. I had hoped you would share our love of animals. I thought we could take bike rides together. I wanted you to take swimming lessons, pick up a musical instrument (hopefully the piano like me and your great grandmother, who was a piano teacher.) Music runs in the family on both sides, I’m sure you would have inherited some talent along the way. I had saved some old toys and books of when I was a kid, that I had hoped to pass along to my own kids someday. They will remain sealed in a box in the basement. I had so many stories and things to share with you. I think that is what I grieve the most. The loss of hope, the loss of a dream.
You will be my one and only. Life circumstances have deemed that to be so. This also makes me sad and is something that I am grieving. I am so sorry that our time together was so fleeting but please know that you were wanted and much loved. Always.