It was a cloudless Sunday afternoon. We were driving home through our twisting, small town roads under a canopy of leaves that left the streets dappled with sunlight, and I was daydreaming about what your face might look like someday. Then, it happened. Something shifted, you disappeared, and my heart dropped into my gut.
I knew before I got out of the car that I had miscarried, and yet I still hoped against hope, offering a million silent promises to God, while pulling down my pants moments later in the bathroom. But it was already done. The blood streaked my inner thighs without sympathy or ceremony, and you were gone.
“How do I say goodbye to a whisper?” I thought.
And then I sobbed and Kai knocked on the door. Then we were both crying and Duke couldn’t understand why.
For days after, my emotions, hormones and body swirled in pain. The midwife told me in the examination room it was nothing that I had done; my mother told me on the ride back home it was nothing that I had done; Kai held me in his arms each night and told me it was nothing that I had done.
But none of them could quell my sense of guilt and the deep-seated fear that I had brought this upon myself and upon you in some way.
I’d been working too hard in the preceding weeks: staying up late writing, lifting heavy gear at the farmers market, drinking too much coffee in the morning, constantly worrying about how I was going to do it all and be a mother to a newborn, this time with Duke already at my knee.
Perhaps my self doubt dampened the spark that created you? Otherwise, surely you would still be here and I would still be daydreaming?
The following weekend, two of my closest friends came in from out of town to help piece me back together again, as only old friends, dirty jokes and four bottles of wine can do. We stayed up late, trading wounds and war stories. They cooked me spicy pasta for dinner and scrambled eggs in the morning, and told me once again it was nothing that I had done.
And in between those moments, life went on.
I continued going to work every day, interviewing chefs, attending events, having mundane conversations on the phone and countless email exchanges, all with the secret that you had ceased and that I was grieving.
Because no one but a few confidants knew yet that I had been pregnant. Because our culture is set up in such a way that it’s acceptable for a random mom to ask me at the daycare dropoff when I plan on having our next child, but not for me to answer, “I just had a miscarriage, please fuck off.”
Or at brunch with work colleagues. Or at a casual play date in the park. Or performing an interview with someone I’ve only just met.
Is there such a thing as miscarriage rage? Because I feel it quake inside of me. I feel it most when these exchanges occur and I’m forced to confront the sad little facts in the presence of a stranger who will walk off into the sunset unaware and smiling, while I choke up back in my car.
Seemingly everywhere I go, someone wants to know if Kai and I are actively trying to procreate. Maybe it’s because Duke is so cute and smart.
“Just the one?” asked an elderly man one table over, at a local pizza parlor this weekend.
“Just the one,” I smiled and nodded toward our little man.
“Better get going,” he continued. “Gotta keep up with the Joneses.”
Flinch. Gulp. Exhale.
“I guess… so,” I said, looking away.
Inside, another version of myself grabbed the cocktail in front of me and threw it, mason jar and all, at his greying aged skull.
I hate everyone, sometimes. Including myself. I know I’ve made these same mistakes. I’ve occasionally overstepped. These people aren’t trying to be jerks, I remind myself.
But, God, it still hurts. And, man, I miss you, whoever you were. Kai does too.
“I was just cleaning and found the pregnancy test on your side of the bed,” I texted him weeks after that bleak Sunday afternoon. “I’m going to throw it out.”
“Yeah. I’ve been holding onto it,” he responded. “I don’t really know why.”
It took me a while, but I think I do. He kept it because in a strange, surreal way that piece of crappy drugstore plastic is the only evidence that you ever existed. That and the stain of magical thinking.
So we clench our teeth and smile through the unwanted rejoinders, privately still in mourning. Still figuring it all out.