I’ve waited my entire life to be a mother.
The first time I had a positive pregnancy test, I sat in quiet anticipation staring- at a stick. Waiting. Praying. I didn’t realize that I could hold my breath for the seconds that seemed liked hours.
And then there it was. Faint, but definitely there.
I quickly unwrapped another test and willed myself to pee just a little more so that I could make sure that my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me.
The confluence of emotions I felt was palpable. I wanted to be excited but I was terrified.
As the weeks went on awaiting my first prenatal appointment, I started to picture myself holding my progeny- a tiny version of myself that I would feed and nurture and love.
When I went into the ultrasound room, I sat there quietly as the technician started my scan. I thought I was about to see the most beautiful wonder of our making but the screen stayed black- empty.
There was nothingness.
I was utterly devastated. My grief grew like dark clouds that hung heavy above my head- my sadness overcame me.
To make matters worse, my body felt pregnant for almost a month after.
My womb and breasts felt full but they were void of life.
I tried to refocus my attention to working out and I threw myself into my Bible. I searched for anything that might alleviate the pain that my heart felt.
When I became pregnant again several years later, I was cautiously excited. I didn’t even celebrate my pregnancy until a month before I was due. Going to the bathroom every day, I wiped myself in fear- expecting to see the familiar rust colored tinge on the toilet paper that would signal that my body had “failed me” again. But on November 1, 2015 at 3:47pm, rainbows took on a whole new meaning. Rubye was born and became the brightest beacon in my life.
The joy I felt in motherhood was immense. I felt whole again. Restored. Purposeful.
Less than two years later, Solomon Winston came into our world in a dream birth, at home, and I felt blessed beyond measure. As a birth worker, I knew exactly how precious this was. I had not just one, but two healthy babies. Healthy pregnancies. Straightforward and uncomplicated births. I rejoiced and I marveled at the role of birthing individuals. I never felt so strong and like such a badass in my entire life.
What a gift that had been bestowed upon me and T. I vowed never to take it for granted. I dedicated myself to being the best mother and always putting my family first. Every moment that I wasn’t working, I spent with my kids- reading to them, playing with them and guiding them. I skipped dinners and parties and long weekends with friends if it meant time away from them because I knew exactly where I wanted to be.
When we found out we were expecting again, I was over the moon. Before we were married, T and I had always talked about having three kids and I felt like our dreams were coming true. I envisioned how I would tell my students and thought about sitting under the Christmas tree with my three babies in my arms. My heart was so full of joy!
But after a few weeks, I started to feel like something was off. I talked to my care providers and my birth community. They reassured me that every pregnancy is different and there were many variations of normal but I wasn’t really convinced.
In my heart, I knew that something was wrong.
I started spotting on a Wednesday. I heard and saw the heartbeat that following Saturday. So for THAT MOMENT, my mind was at ease. The statistics are SO promising when you see the heartbeat that I convinced myself I was safe.
But that same Saturday, only hours after such a promising two minutes staring at a flicker no larger than a pencil eraser, I went to the bathroom and the exodus began. I knew that this wasn’t a variation of normal. My body hurt in a familiar way that I had not been acquainted with in so long. My melancholy was tangible. My fullness literally fell out of me. How on earth would I grieve this loss and still mother the children that I have right in front of me?
I couldn’t retreat into myself as I had once before. I had two little humans that needed me- depended on me. People tried to make me feel better by telling me that I was so blessed already. They said I was young and could try again and that I should be thankful for what I have. They did not understand that I lay awake at night and wondered what this little flicker I saw on the ultrasound would be when they grew up. I wondered who they would look like.
I am incredibly grateful for my other children but one life does not replace that of another. And no one ever teaches you how to have these kinds of conversations and how to advocate fiercely for your grieving process and protect your heart from these unknowing daggers that well-meaning people throw at you. When you are young and thinking about being a parent, no one tells you that 1 in 4 losses might be 1 in 3 (or even 1 in 2). After having one miscarriage, the chances of having a recurrent miscarriage are only 5% and a third is less than 1%. I had pretty much won the worst lottery in life when my third pregnancy ended less than six months after my second miscarriage.
My mind went numb. I lost hope.
Women carry SO much with us every single day. But we are amazingly powerful and we continually persevere. Every doula client that I’ve ever worked with has suffered some kind of prior loss. It is that common. But clearly, as evidenced by all of the beautiful babies that I get to teach every day- we prevail.
Talking about things like miscarriage and pregnancy loss doesn’t have to be taboo.
There is so much strength in community. My heart goes out to the families that have held their child sleeping in their arms, who have went in for an ultrasound to find no heartbeat or who have seen the heartbeat one day and it was gone the next. I stand with you and hold space for you.
This winter, God willing, my dreams are finally going to be realized. I am going to sit under my Christmas tree with three babies in my arms.
Verbalizing it is terrifying because I have no idea how things will actually turn out.
My pregnancies have led me through a rollercoaster of transformations, and at times I have felt scared to connect with my pregnancies after so much loss. I had moments where I felt that I could NEVER try again because I couldn’t bear the disappointment. I never wanted to let down my guard again- or be vulnerable.
But I don’t want to spend the final months of pregnancy scared to love what is within me.
Being pregnant again is the bravest thing I’ve ever done.
Sometimes the prettiest smiles hold the darkest secrets. Through my grief, many people had no idea what was going on with me. Sometimes, people make assumptions and ask questions about when you are going to have a baby not realizing that having a baby is all that you ever think about.
Be gentle with yourself and with others. Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “a woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” I’ll tell you what, I’ve been steeping a long time y’all and I’m finally feeling stronger than ever. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month and this is my testimony.