Thursday, December 10, 2015

When Grief Is Hope's Shadow

Maybe I am.

Maybe it'll be different this time. 

Maybe it's worth one more chance.

Maybe we can do it all again.

Maybe it's not as bad and draining as I envision it to be.

For a few days, I agonized. I wondered if there could be life in my womb again. Feeling scared was my knee-jerk reaction to this possibility, but what threw me off was the hint of excitement I knew I felt deep down. It might have only lasted for a moment but that feeling makes its presence known and there was just no denying it.

Finally, I gave in to the tester to put an end to my agony. There was no chance in hell I was willing to wait weeks to see whether my period would come or if I should be digging through our attic to locate my diaper genie, so I decided to get answers as soon as possible. I took a deep breath, held it in, and ended up with both a sigh of relief and slight disappointment which really surprised me.

I'm not pregnant. Only one line showed up. The unusual cramping I experienced for several nights were not implantation cramps after all. 

Maybe it was just my aging and hormonal body going haywire. 

Maybe it was all in my head. 

Maybe the specter of hope I felt was my body's recollection of Emily, my womb missing her after almost exactly five years. 

In 2010, my husband and I decided it was time to give IVF another shot. Noah was 3 years old and I was ready to go through it again. My body has had enough rest from all the hormones pumped through me, all the ultrasounds and blood draws that anyone going through assisted reproduction is all too familiar with. With the success we had with Noah, I was beyond optimistic that as long as this embryo took, everything would be alright. 

On September 2010, I started with my round two of IVF, taking all necessary medications to trick my body into thinking it was ready for pregnancy. By mid-October, my eggs were harvested, fertilized and three embryos were placed back inside my womb. By the end of that same month, we found out that one embryo took and we were declared 4 weeks and a few days pregnant!

The celebration didn't last long though because by the first week of December, just a week after celebrating Thanksgiving, I was told my baby was gone. She had stopped growing by 7 weeks. 

I still remember exactly what I was wearing on Thanksgiving Day during our annual family gathering. I still remember how everyone was telling me I had that undeniable pregnancy glow. I was happy and excited and enjoyed how everyone was hoping and betting that this time it will be a girl! Looking back now, I know that there was no real 'glow'. During that party, underneath that Merlot-colored top I wore, and the festive mood that enveloped me, there was no longer any heart beating inside my womb. My baby was gone. 

And I also still remember the initial puzzled look the nurse and ultrasound technician had on their faces as they tried to detect my baby's heartbeat. All that quickly turned into sadness and a loss for words.

And how can I forget Noah's words when I came home and stood by our door after that dreadful appointment, with my then 3-year-old saying to me "Sorry you lost your baby, Mama."

Through chromosomal analysis, I was told I had a daughter. She would be 4 1/2-years old by now had she survived. She could be in preschool. She could be playing with Noah's Legos, fighting over them and then hugging it out. She could have helped decorate our Christmas tree. She could be trying to write her wish list for Santa. 

I honestly thought I would be completely over it by now. But I had long suspected that one never really fully gets over the grief of losing a child, a death of one's hopes most of all. I still hang my angel ornament every Christmas to remember my Emily. I still hang a red baby stocking for her, right beside Noah's blue one just to honor her brief presence in my life. The wound has healed and no longer bleeds, and my heart has opened its doors to make peace with God. But healed wounds never meant complete freedom from the memory of the pain. 

My short-lived imagination of the possibility of being pregnant again this year is not about me changing my mind about being a single child parent. I think it's more about me wanting to replace an old scar with a better outcome. It's about me easing out my sense of guilt and failure through the possibility of success. It's not about wanting to replace Emily with another child but about my desire to change a painful narrative that has since defined me; that narrative that says my body doesn't work the way it's supposed to.

Maybe in time I'd be able to accept the full narrative and experience full forgiveness for myself.

Maybe in time the scar will no longer bring any memory of suffering with it but instead only a feeling of grace and Divine wisdom.  

Maybe soon I can go through the holiday season without a sense of lack or the desire to imagine an alternate reality.

Maybe soon I will truly realize that Life is not defined by the number of happy endings we get, but by the strength of our faith that no matter how the chapters in our lives turn out, everything is still bound to make sense in the end. 


  1. Thank you for sharing Joy. I know that was hard for you guys but especially for you. You know that we love you and we will always be by you.

  2. I think there are some things that never completely heal. I mean you go on, you live and you enjoy your life, but you always remember. At least that has been my experience. My oldest turned 17 yesterday, but he was originally a twin. I didn't think about it yesterday but as I was reading your post I started thinking, wow, there could have been two celebrating yesterday. Sending much love! xo

    1. Oh wow, Kathy, you're absolutely right. Happy Birthday to Tom (right?), and thank you so much for your thoughts! xoxo

  3. Such a heart-breaking, beautiful story, Joy! I totally agree that it all comes down to faith in the end. The faith that, someday, everything will be explained and it will all make sense. Thank you for sharing. Crying here in Canada . . .

    1. Thank you, Diane. Your support always means a lot. xoxo

  4. This entry really touched a chord within me. I know that feeling, Joy. The funny stir of excitement, of awe. Then, in your case, the let down. This post is poignant, and beautifully written. Great title. I remember one day discovering with dismay that I was pregnant. Already had two children. My husband and I accepting, then liking the idea of a third child, maybe a girl. At an office lunch the next day realizing something was wrong. Losing the baby on the weekend. Monday, at work, my boss calling me upstairs to congratulate me. Over and gone too soon. Never forgotten. From Penelope

  5. It is amazing how many of us women have experienced this... and how infrequently it is talked about. It is hard to rein in your excitement, the planning (OH THE PLANNING!!!), and then to reverse back to business-as-usual when it all goes awry. I've had several miscarriages (four to be exact) and thankfully have a gorgeous healthy toddler, so I try to keep my focus on what I have, and not what I lost. Big hug to you; it's the wound that never completely heals.

  6. that was so heart-felt Joy, and I can only imagine the hope/grief emotions you were dealing with. We always think that child bearing will come easily and it will be our choice as to how many children we decide to have - this is often not the case and those unmet expectations really mess with our heads!

  7. This made me cry Joy. I lost a baby at 10 weeks. Everything seemed to be fine until we went for an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat. We didn't have any testing done, but I've always felt it was a little girl. It's been 21 years since this happened, and I still think of her from time to time, and wonder what kind of woman she would have become. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  8. Hugs, Joy. My parents lost their first when my mom was 5 months pregnant. More than 30 years later, she cried telling me about it. I am so sorry for your loss.

  9. Oh Joy. This just broke my heart. I cannot imagine the pain that you have endured. My daughter had been told she could not have children since she was 15 and of course now you know that she did, but there was a lot of hurt there for a long time. My BFF has been trying for 12 years with no success. She was getting ready to try IVF when she suddenly got custody of her sister's two children. It's such a horrible way to have to live. I'm sure you will never forget her nor I now that you have shared your story.


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