The child that might have been
jane sanders ILLUSTRATION
March 7 marked 10 years since I lost my first pregnancy early in the second trimester.
Ten years since I sent my now-ex-husband emails just before our doomed ultrasound in which I said, “We MIGHT find out the sex of the baby this afternoon, so we NEED TO AGREE ON NAMES SOON!!!”
Ten years since we left the doctor’s office and I made him go back into the house, while I waited in the car, and throw away the copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and the Preggie Pops and all of the congratulatory cards I’d been saving for the baby book.
Ten years since I hunched sobbing over the hospital intake form that asked, the morning of my D&C, “Is it possible you might be pregnant? Yes or No.” “I don’t knowwwww what to puuuuuuut,” I wailed, and my mother took the form away from me and finished filling it out herself.
Ten years since I insisted, still bleeding and high as a kite on painkillers, on baking and assembling a from-scratch strawberry Napoleon for my family just to prove that I could make something successfully, even if that “something” wasn’t a baby.
Ten years since my milk came in, unexpectedly and excruciatingly painful both physically and emotionally, and the Internet told me that cold cabbage leaves could help, but it was so close to St. Patrick’s Day that the supermarket was sold out of green cabbage, so I used purple cabbage and stained all of my bras and my entire torso with bright streaky pink. It didn’t really help, either.
It seems like forever ago. It seems like yesterday. Everything is the same still. And everything is different.
“I think,” Ruby told me once, “that that baby was me, only I wasn’t right somehow, and so, like, God or whoever just took me out and fixed me and put me back a month or so later so that I would be exactly perfect for you.”
“Maybe so,” I told her. I don’t believe it, but I also don’t not believe it. I don’t know what I believe.
“Were you lonely?” she asked me another time. “When you were pregnant with me after your miscarriage, were you ever lonely?”
She was 5 then. I was shocked. Lonely. Out of all the feelings in the world she picked lonely, which was so exactly what I was the whole time I was pregnant.
I felt separate from my husband, who seemed much less affected by the miscarriage than me. I felt separate from my mother, who had enjoyed an effortless pregnancy with me and didn’t know exactly what to make of my high-risk status. I felt separate from the happy pregnant women in my birth class and the happy perky teacher who told us that we had to let go of our expectations.
Looking back, I was almost certainly clinically depressed and in a constant state of near-crippling anxiety. But yes. Yes, Ruby, I was lonely.
And that’s what I said: “Lonely? Yes, I was very lonely.”
She laughed. “Silly Mommy,” she said. “You shouldn’t have been lonely. I was with you the whole time.”
Another time, maybe a year later. “Were you scared, Mom?” she asked. “After you lost the first baby, were you scared when you got pregnant with me?”
“Oh, yes,” I said. “I was scared every minute of every day that I might lose you, too. I was very scared.”
“But you did it anyway?”
I laughed and cried and told her she was welcome, that I’d do it a thousand times over to have her in my life.
This is all I ever wanted when I got pregnant the first time. I wanted babies in my arms, babies to love, babies who would turn into fascinating, thoughtful, fun kids. I have that in spades. But I also will forever wonder about the baby that never was. I am happy. I am sad. I am grateful. I am fulfilled. I am still, sometimes, lonely.
Excerpted from Eve Crawford Peyton’s blog, Joie d’Eve, which appears each Friday on MyNewOrleans.com.