“The baby you’ll have will be the baby you’re meant to have,” my sister told me after my first miscarriage, which was also my first pregnancy. It wasn’t planned, or at least not quite that soon. My husband and I had been married for only seven months or so when we started preparing to prepare to have a baby of our own, which, to us, meant deciding to stop using chemical birth control for a while before trying to conceive.
As it turns out, though, I’m very fertile; I got pregnant almost immediately after going off the pill. Fortunately, it took me peeing on just 17 EPT sticks to recover from the shock and get used to the idea that the embryo developing in my uterus was my destiny — and this from someone who believes in neither soul mates nor fate nor coincidences nor luck. Knowing how many women struggle unsuccessfully with getting pregnant, I was elated that while not on my exact schedule, my husband and I created something that would become ours forever. Really, it was magical.
That’s why when I started bleeding just a handful of days later, my heart sank into a shadowy place where any amount of light emerged as an enemy. How do you reconcile the loss of a future you never imagined until it arrived?
A few months later, when I ‘d conceived again — this time on purpose — I was even more convinced the embryo growing inside of me was serendipitous, as if getting pregnant intentionally made the conception even deeper with meaning. Except when we went to the first ultrasound appointment, instead of smiling when the images first flashed on the screen, the nurse practitioner frowned and hurried out of the room to get the doctor.
Later that same year, it was with measured joy that I became pregnant again. Tempering my emotions turned out to be the right path, because just like the two embryos before it, this one did not survive, either. This, despite the screaming in my heart that the third time would be the charm.
It took some infertility testing to reveal the miscarriage culprit: a clotting disorder in the shape of a gene mutation called MTHFR (short for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase). The good news was that I had a form of MTHFR with an easy enough workaround — baby aspirin and tons of extra folic acid — to remain pregnant. The bad news was that I failed to envision a life without the embryos we’d already lost, because despite the fact that they did not survive, surely they were meant to.
When I got pregnant for the fourth time, I held my breath for roughly nine months. I was too frightened to move, for fear of having yet another piece of my heart chipped away. There’s no other way to say it: It was a miserable 38 weeks. The only moments of joy came during my weekly sonograms, when I could see movement and hear a heartbeat. An hour after each one, though, I was back to counting down until the next one.
But when my little Petunia was born eight years ago, and fit perfectly into my arms at last, I finally understood what my sister meant. And it’s not just in the sweet moments that I feel the kismet. Even now, when Petunia explodes like Old Faithful because her little sister, Peony, has the audacity to merely exist, I do my best to take a deep breath and reach down into the bowels of my patience to search for compassion and empathy.
My daughters are here because of me; for me.
What’s emerged in the years since the losses and gains — besides two clever, whip-smart, sassy, outrageously adorable, kind, curious, and affectionate girls — is my abundant gratitude for the embryos that came before. They needed to exist so I could get to where I am, and with whom I ended up. There were no other babies for me, or another mom for mine. And while it took some trial and error to land where I am now, it just so happens to be exactly the right spot.More On