Originally written on November 12, 2016, the anniversary of my first miscarriage.
Anniversaries are a funny thing. We send cards and throw parties when years pass since the days worth celebrating. Cakes are shared, glasses are raised. I just got a reminder in the mail that it’s been another year as a travel rewards member. I was thanked for my loyalty and promptly reminded of the annual fee that will be due soon. How many noteworthy days pass, never to be remembered or memorialized in the coming years? Today marks a year since we lost you, and there will be no party, no toasts (okay, maybe wine). It’s been a contemplative year—full of days that passed slowly and deliberately. As Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Let me fill you in.
Did you know you are a miracle?
Your daddy and I were so excited to start this journey of parenthood, and yet we couldn’t ignore the trepidation in our hearts. To decisively set foot on this path with such inadequate preparation…we knew it would be profoundly challenging. We certainly didn’t expect you to enter our world the way you did, and so quickly! Everything changed, and yet to the rest of the world, there was no observable shift in our day to day lives. It was extraordinary to carry such a secret—to be, aside from our Creator, the only one to know of a new life in this world. How could we be expected to contain that kind of revelation?
Every meal, every move, every extra moment of rest carried so much significance. It was thrilling. It was terrifying. I watched your daddy fall in love with you. I was so amused at his concern, his scheming, his wonder. I was no different, yet fear threatened all of it. I was, for the first time (so I thought), accountable and yet completely out of control. You can imagine the devastation when you left that day. I was complicit in the thing I feared most, and though my greatest desire was to save you any way I could, I was utterly helpless. We often hear about miscarriages in broad, clinical terms. They don’t tell you how cruel and malicious they feel—the way your body is hijacked until the miscarriage is done with you, leaving nothing in return. I watched your daddy’s joy turn to heartbreak, and I cried until I thought I would never be able to cry again. Your absence was so palpable—we feared the tiny, silent ghost living in our home. No amount of busyness, no distraction could erase the reminder of what we had lost.
They also don’t mention paranoia as a stage of grief. As a therapist, your daddy has so many stories of how the mind can be at once so convincing, and so deceptive. I used to listen to his stories in fascination and pity—wondering how one could be so led astray from within. Conspiratorial plots, alternate realities, distorted sense of self…. I understand now; I am no different. In my own grief-poisoned mind, it was obvious that everyone was out to harm me or simply didn’t care. I wanted to be hugged. I wanted to be ignored. I cringed at every human interaction, no matter how gentle or well-intended. The receptionist at the dental office teases me about when we’re going to have kids. The phlebotomist innocently calls me “Mommy” as she draws my blood at an appointment. A clueless friend makes a miscarriage joke at dinner. Another bursts into the room with a pregnancy announcement. How often have I unknowingly done the same? Sometimes I’m amazed we’re allowed to speak at all.
Isolation, I thought, is the answer, and so I did what humans instinctively do when we are confronted with pain and brokenness—I ran and hid. It really was an easy way to live—the solitude combined with my own depravity was convincingly pleasurable as it destroyed me from the inside out. I let myself be lured by bitterness and envy, thinking it would nourish my broken heart. Instead, the pieces were locked in a relentless grip, as I shielded them from those around me. My heart, preemptively guarded against the pain inflicted by others, was also impenetrable to healing and truth. And so, the days went on. I descended into winter (where did those months go?) and while spring brought a change of scenery, the promise of new life felt thin.
Slowly, the obsession shifted from suspicion to pure determination—willing myself to recreate what was lost. Though others assured me it wasn’t true, I felt like I had failed as a woman, as a wife, and as a mom. I failed you. I needed to prove to others that pregnancy was something I could accomplish, and so conceiving became my goal. Yes, I (now) know how ridiculous that sounds, but grief often gives way to heresy, among other things. I temped, I charted, I tracked…I pored over internet forums and used acronyms known only among other women as obsessive as me. I again thought these things would feed my soul and bring healing, so I did them over and over and over…. until I just couldn’t anymore. I was so tired. Life had been robbed of the joy and freedom I once knew. Truthfully, I longed for the person I had been before I ever knew you. She was so fun and careless. I wished you would have known her.
Eventually, I was faced with a choice: would I continue to live this way, or would I relinquish my control and trust the God that had been there through it all? It felt so risky, in my mind, to give up the only shot at making my will a reality. I was at a standoff with a God, who to my constant relief and frustration, would not yield to my own desires. Afraid of the consequences of my stubbornness, I took a chance. Isn’t that what repentance is, anyway? Shifting hope from one counterfeit savior to the unmistakably real one? I was terrified of the unknown and yet, at peace and finally at rest. The burden I was never meant to carry had been lifted off my shoulders with no contingencies. I could be free.
For 365 days, this same God has fought to win my heart over. I am grateful for His relentless patience. My stubbornness had met its match in the mornings that persistently greeted me. Oh, that sunrise wasn’t beautiful enough for you? Here’s another. I started to recognize them for the gifts they were, and I thought of how many more I would have loved to share with you. I started to open up again to the people that faithfully awaited my return, risking more hurt that I might enjoy the fullness of life I remembered. Your daddy said my laugh was sounding more familiar, that I was smiling more. I started to see love all around, in spite of the pain. There is so much love and grace if we are only willing to see it.
Then, the most amazing thing happened. Did I tell you that you have a younger brother or sister?
We were enjoying some blissful rest on a Sunday afternoon. Our home was finally feeling like a haven again, instead of a tomb. Your daddy had just preached on the sovereignty of God earlier that morning, and I was so proud of him. At one point during his message, I had taken a picture when the slide behind him said, “God is always in control.” Oh, if only I knew what was in store for us then. It was that same God, not I, who brought your sibling into existence. We couldn’t believe it as we stared at the positive test result that day…I was convinced it wouldn’t happen for a while, if ever. We cried with joy and amazement and the fear, always quick to arrive, started to creep in. Still, we knew this was a gift from the Lord. Of course, He would do something like this…after all, we hadn’t even started our infertility treatment yet! I could take no credit.
By the time the reality of this gift had sunk in, we discovered we were losing it once again, just a few days later.
I could feel that familiar bitterness and anger growing within me like a tsunami, threatening to crash down and wreak havoc all over again. It was as if, suspended in mid-air, it was waiting for my reaction. I just couldn’t find it within me, this time. I thought back to the many days that were lost after you, the joy I rejected because I thought it was irreverent. Against such things there is no law. I had thought choosing joy would mean I had lost you for good, but I now know it is the greatest way to celebrate your life.
And so, my grief looks different this time. We faced that same sorrow once again, but with a new resiliency, and I have you to thank for that. We’ve learned to let ourselves feel without losing our footing, and yet, I have so many questions. Some days, it is curiosity alone that propels me forward. Questions of heaven and metaphysics seem more practical than ever before. Where are you two? Are you in soul sleep? If I see you again, will you know who I am? Will it even matter then? Your daddy and I wake from dreams where we are with some version of you, another concoction of our limited minds. While it is sweet, we know it isn’t real. Oh, how I pray for the real opportunity.
Just as when you and your sibling first came into existence, there are so many that are unaware of who you are. Today could have passed without mention, and you would remain invisible. As I said earlier, there will be no party today, no cake—but it is a day that will always matter to us. It is a day worth remembering. It makes me so grateful for a God that sees and numbers each of our days, with none of them forgotten.
And so, we pass from this year into the next one with great hope and gratitude, because for whatever reason, today has been given to us.
Wherever you are, you are not lost. You are not forgotten.
I just wanted to let you know that I am not lost either.
I love you.
Michelle Gee lives on the Central Coast of California, and is a soon-to-be mom of twin boys, Elliott and Asher (due October 16th!). She and her husband, Jon, share a background in psychology and theology, and are passionate about sharing and listening to stories, especially on the topics of infertility, pregnancy loss, and parenthood. When not writing, Michelle enjoys serving at her church, reading, singing and playing guitar, cooking, hiking, and great conversation over a glass of red wine. You can connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.