I knew before I could bring myself to look at the screen. I knew, on some inherent level, the fear that had been gripping me when I tried to will it away, like a dark undercurrent beneath me. I knew what I would see when I tore my hands from my tear-filled face.
Emptiness. A gaping black hole staring at me from the screen, a question mark never to be answered.
I found out two days ago that I am, for all intents and purposes, pregnant. My uterus, my midwife explained, is perfectly primed, its walls beautifully thick, in every way shape and form the most hospitable host just waiting to welcome a beloved guest. For all intents and purposes, I have a perfectly developed pregnancy, with one, glaring issue: There is no baby there.
I am 7 weeks pregnant with what is called an anembryonic pregnancy, a pregnancy that keeps going after the embryo has failed to develop properly. It’s a cruel oversight of nature; the uterus growing and thickening, still kicking out hormones, my entire body somehow keeping busy paving way for a pregnancy that can not last. Until my body notices, slams on the brakes when it realizes that, hey now, how did we not see this earlier?!
I am stuck in a hellish limbo, a place between loss and life. Knowing, through the cramping and the bleeding that has already started, that it is over. It was over, in many ways, before it even started. But my soul selfishly clung to the small shred of hope that despite everything, a baby will miraculously appear next week if we can just hang on long enough.
I woke up the morning after I found out, automatically expecting the swell of nausea that has greeted me since I first took a pregnancy test three weeks ago, reflexively feeling reassured that my morning sickness was still there, a sure sign all was well.
Until I remembered.
I feel like I am trapped in some kind of a nightmare. I tell myself not to hope that somehow the medical experts were wrong. That somehow, despite the tests and the ultrasound and this deep-lingering knowledge in my very bones, that my baby will somehow miraculously be there next week. I torture myself by searching for stories of women like me, women who were told that their babies had never developed, only to be greeted with that beautiful blinking heartbeat the next time they went for an ultrasound. I hope against hope, even as my bleeding increases, even as the pregnancy symptoms slowly decrease, even as I tell myself that from the moment I took that test, I knew that something was wrong.
We already told the older kids, a moment I had my sister capture on video. A moment that rips my heart open now when I think of the excited tears that my 8-year-old shed. She was just so darn happy to be a big sister again. My kids love babies. They flock to them, they delight in them, they would rather sit and hold a baby than play with the latest and greatest Shopkin and that’s saying a lot. So I hate that I did this to them, that I took something from them that we never really had. I want to delete that video, it hurts so much. But I’m not sure I ever can.
I never knew this type of miscarriage existed, that it would be possible for nature to be so cruel, giving me all the symptoms of pregnancy — the aching boobs, the overwhelming morning sickness, the super sense of smell that led me to clean out entire fridge in an epic witch hunt for one slightly expired carton of sour cream — even while my body began to cramp and bleed. I never knew it could be possible to be both pregnant and empty, to have hope and feel so hopeless, to grieve for something I never had in the first place.
Because right now? I am not really sure how I should feel.
I don’t know what to tell my children, I don’t know how to think of myself anymore (am I mother of four or five?) and I don’t know how I should grieve. There never was a baby there, I am assured, as if that would be a comfort to me. As if bypassing seeing the lifeless form on the screen protected me from a deeper level of loss.
But I want to know. I want to know if there was a life there, if the baby I had already talked to, loved on, imagined, dreamed and planned for, existed. I want to know if a soul was created, if the love I felt was real, if I have the right to cry, over and over, in random places like the dentist’s chair and in the middle of Starbucks, for a baby that science is telling me was not real.
Was I a mother during this pregnancy? Can I rightfully claim this soul for my own? Am I allowed to speak of my loss as other grieving mothers have, or do I have to back away, gently explaining that my baby was not really there, not the way their’s was, so my grief has to automatically be less?
I don’t know. And I probably will never know. And I really can’t explain to you how hard that is, because every last cell in my body, even the ones that are growing something that has been decidedly declared not a baby, is crying out with hurt and loss and an aching emptiness.
Right now, all I know is that I am pregnant without a baby and it’s a place I never imagined actually existed.More On