Just like everything else, it seems, the emotional part is the most painful. That’s the part that blows a hole in you the size of Alaska, a gap so wide you think the edges will never be able to come back together and make you a whole person again. Never before had I felt sadness that was physically painful in and of itself. It knocked me off my feet, though I tried to reason it away, arguing with the cement truck parked on my chest that I wasn’t that upset, really, that it had only been a tiny speck of a thing and I already had two beautiful boys to hold in my arms and I couldn’t be this sad over losing someone I had never even met. I just couldn’t be, I told myself.
Except, see, I was that sad. There was a cement truck sitting on my chest and a whole blown through my life, and neither of them would listen to reason. I was scared to fall asleep at night because I knew the morning would bring that moment of remembering it all over again. I knew remembering would knock me back against the pillow so hard that getting out of bed would be the bravest thing I had ever done. But I would get up somehow and walk around the house, a broken thing acting out all the clichés: getting angry at the toaster and blaming myself and secretly hoping it was all a big mix-up, that at any moment I would get a call from the doctor telling me they had read my test results wrong and there was still hope. Time was backwards, upside down, inside out. I took some time off work and let myself forget what day it was.
It was over, but it wasn’t really over yet. Just because our baby’s heart had stopped didn’t mean my body was ready to let go. You have to become un-pregnant somehow, though. My doctor told me I had choices: wait for my body to catch up and end this on its own or have a procedure to have it removed. Not a right choice in sight, there.
For a week, I was pregnant but not really pregnant. I wore pajamas all day because I couldn’t face putting my maternity clothes back on and yet I still couldn’t button my regular pants. I had waves of morning sickness. And then, after the miscarriage came and I thought it would be over, I went into a post-partum state, which incited a bitter feeling that I had betrayed by my own body. The biological backlash is a cruel kind of injury to insult, as I called it. Even my body knew there was no bouncing back or brushing it off like nothing had happened.
The aftermath is messy. Through hot flashes and hormone tests, you don’t get your body back, not fully, for months. It’s as if you’ve gone through the motions of giving birth, but all you’ve got to wrap your arms around at the end of it is that cement truck sitting on your chest.
Today marks two weeks since an ER doctor told me she was so sorry but our baby’s heart wasn’t beating anymore. I have gone back to life, back to work. I smile and ask people how they’re doing, and when they’re gone, I call the doctor’s office to see if my hormone levels are falling like they should. No one seems to notice the cement truck parked on my chest. I answer phones and send emails and sit in meetings listening to words that don’t sound like any language I know. On the way home from work, I stop at the pharmacy to get some iron supplements because I’ve become anemic from losing so much blood. I pray that once this hole the size of Alaska closes up, I’ll be able to button my jeans again. I lose my temper with my kids and cry so hard I can’t even speak when reading them their bedtime story.
Still, it’s over but it’s not really over. I laugh sometimes, too, at my darling children. I remember how good it feels to laugh, and then the feeling evaporates and my eyes fill with tears again. I am just settling into the aftermath. It’s messy and weighs ten thousand pounds, but I’m leaning into the weight and putting one foot in front of the other. Tomorrow it will be fifteen days since we got the news. And then sixteen and seventeen. And then one day, I will stop counting all together. May that day come soon.