Listen for the Love
Somewhere around thirteen years ago, I had my first miscarriage.
That sentence is ridiculously inaccurate. It was March 6th thirteen years ago. We don’t forget these things. We just sometimes pretend. For me and for you.
I came from a long line of healthy pregnancies, healthy babies. My mother had six kids. The women around me at the time largely had uncomplicated roads to motherhood. It never occurred to me, I’d be any different.
Women love telling their pregnancy and birth stories. Have you noticed that? It’s this incredibly momentous, life-changing experience.
First double blue lines on a stick (and the three after — I have yet to meet a woman who didn’t run that test multiple times), telling your partner, telling your friends and family, the heartbeat, the months of morning sickness, the lack of morning sickness, fights over names, fights over baby showers, labor, delivery — everyone is a story with enough feeling to write a book.
You know what else is? Death.
And a miscarriage is a death. Regardless of how you feel about the meaning of the actual cells, you mourn the death of something you loved. You lose hopes and dreams and plans in the three seconds it takes for your doctor to say, “there is no heartbeat”.
And many, many women and couples do this in complete silence. Utterly alone.
When I learned I was pregnant for the first time, my husband and I told everyone. Somewhere on the periphery was the idea that nothing was truly certain (twelve weeks or not), but we were joyful and joy is meant to be shared.
The look on my doctor’s face at our twelve-week appointment meant I knew before she told us. We’d lost the baby somewhere around week 10 — right around the time, I’d stopped throwing up.
The news was earth-shattering.
My body immediately flooded with a sensation of freezing cold that would end up staying with me for days. My head was underwater. I could neither hear nor understand a thing my doctor said.
My husband processed the information for us. Choices were made. I sobbed in the elevator, I sobbed in the car, I sobbed through the entire month of March.
I called my mother and got her voicemail, but my sister picked up. I gave her the news and asked her in a panic to tell family and close friends. Somehow the idea that anyone might still think of me as blissfully pregnant made me feel desperately alone.
My husband and I crossed back over the threshold to our home having lost so much in the hours we were away. The answering machine light was blinking (because we damn old). My husband pressed the button and the voice of someone I’ve known since childhood filled the room.
“Hey, meg. It’s me. I’m in my office. I heard the news. I’ll be here until about 4. I’m not feeling well. I’ve had a cold for a few days (coughing). If you try me, and I’m not here, it means I went home, so you could try me there if you need me.”
My husband slammed his hand on the counter. I jumped. In all the years of knowing him, I’ve seen him truly angry probably less than five times.
“What the hell is wrong with her?! Calling to tell us about a cold? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”
I sidled over and hugged my poor, exhausted, sweet, heartbroken friend. He’d been alternately shielding and carrying me all day.
“Oh honey, that is a lot for her. She’s terrible at sadness. I promise you. She is devastated for us. That call was so hard for her.
Play it again. And this time —
Listen for the love.”
He did. He heard it. It was soft but strong.
When I was pretending to be okay later in the week another friend sent a bouquet of flowers to my office. It was so large it literally needed a stand — almost like the kind you see at a funeral.
The flowers were delivered while I had a client in my office.
“Woah, what are THOSE for?” He asked.
I can be a startlingly good liar when pressed.
“Oh, I won something. I achieved something…it was kind of a big deal, but not these flowers big.”
“Well, everyone has their own way of showing they love you, I suppose…”
It’s true, isn’t it?
There are lots of lists out there — what to say when someone is grieving, what NOT to say.
The truth is grievers are so rubbed raw by loss, anything you say, anything you do COULD hurt. But we could also need the exact kind of love you are imperfectly offering.
So keep trying.
And we will keep trying to listen for the love.
(the picture below is one of the two statues from the state of Nebraska at the U.S Capitol. Chief standing bear — who is holding a hatchet with a heart cut out — it is breathtaking to behold)