Pregnancy can make you deeply emotional, and by the time we landed in Honolulu––a family trip with Jesse’s family, whom we hadn’t seen since Christmas––I’d cried three times already.
The first was thinking about the size of our tiny growing baby on the way to the airport, and picturing Jesse’s family’s reaction when we told them. The second was seeing a family––mom, dad, brother––saying goodbye to their daughter; they’d waited with her through the security line, presumably sending her off to college in Montana (I was guessing from her sweatshirt) and the mom was trying not to cry. The dad was stoic, but when they had to say goodbye at the security checkpoint the dad kept trying to take pictures of her with his cell phone. They were going to be terrible pictures, too far away and of the back of her head, but still, watching them do that I got all weepy, and I thought, Oh, God, 18 years sounds way too soon and we’ll be seeing our baby off to college! I remembered what a friend with teenaged children told me about how you have these children and someday they’ll leave you, and already my heart rebelled against it.
The third time I cried was when we landed, and everyone clapped. Which wasn’t even anything, I was just weepy. And happy, mostly. Thrilled. I whispered to Jesse that everything made me cry, and we giggled together.
Our baby’s first trip.
I wanted to tell everyone right away. Jesse’s stepmom asked me how the flight was and laughingly asked if I’d been sedated enough, and I said no. I’d taken nothing, because the doctor had told me to take nothing but Tylenol for the sake of the baby. And I wanted to tell her then, but we were all veering off to different bathrooms, looking at gates, et cetera, so we held it in for the time being. And it was in that airport in Honolulu, right after we’d been reunited with Jesse’s family, where I first started to worry.
Kauai is where we went for our honeymoon, and for whatever reason, it more than almost any other place I’ve ever been stands out clearly in my mind. Maybe it’s the geography, how everything’s along one main highway on the island. We were thrilled to be going back, thrilled that it was going to be such a meaningful place for us: we went after we got married, and now we were back after we’d found out we were going to be parents. In the airport between flights, in limbo, I looked up everything I could to reassure myself and tuned out of the conversation with family members we hadn’t seen in eight months. Flying into Kauai, also without any kind of sedative, I closed my eyes and pictured my baby.
We all ate dinner together––saimin, at Hamura’s––and there were two times I wanted to bring up the baby, but it was loud and crowded and we were all eating in a line so we couldn’t all quite hear each other, so we waited. We told them at lunch the next day. We said we were excited, and happy, but in truth by then I was already starting to get really scared.
I think I visited every bathroom in every place we went to on the island. Mostly, though, I stayed inside--I never put on my bathing suit and barely unpacked. These are what I’ll remember of Kauai now: the room where I lay on my bed all day, hoping that bed rest would help and pleading with my body not to lose the baby. The Wal-Mart bathroom where I saw more blood. The state park bathroom where we made a pit stop, less because I needed to pee and more because I was nervous. The surf gear shop where Jesse held up a tiny, tiny pair of flip-flops for me to see.
The bathroom in the Kailuea shopping center where a European woman complained to me about people using the air-vent hand dryers, where I went in and saw more blood. The National Park where we saw puffy baby birds and I broke down on the public path and cried. The bed where I curled in a ball in pain, begging God for a miracle as I was losing the baby.
I feel terrible I wasn’t more present with J’s family––the whole time my mind was on our tiny, tiny child. We spent hours on the phone with doctors: calling our doctors at home for advice, trying to get an appointment at the single OB clinic on the island, anything. The first doctor we spoke to was reassuring, and we felt better, and we believed everything would be okay.
Eventually the calls turned to the airlines, so we could just end the trip early and come back home. We were lucky, and found $150 flights direct to San Jose. I didn’t take Ativan just in case, and the flight was terrible. Three times the captain came on the intercom to apologize for the turbulence. My whole family came to pick us up, and we went to In-N-Out. In the morning, we got up and went to the OB and confirmed we’d lost the baby.
We were heartbroken to come home without our baby. We were three and now we’re two, and the hole that leaves behind is a specific loneliness I’ve never felt, one simultaneously gaping and precise.
I cried on the way to the airport and then in our four hours in the airport, thinking about abandoning our baby in Hawaii. I cried taking off from Kauai, where we lost the baby. I cried landing in San Jose without the baby. I cried seeing my parents, who will not be grandparents, and my brother, who will not be an uncle. I cried when we pulled into our parking lot when we were home without the baby, and I really struggled going in.
Our friends had come while we were gone and dropped off cookies and a card; in the morning, when we came back from the OB appointment where it was confirmed we’d lost the baby, there was a beautiful bouquet of flowers on our doorstep, which turned out to be from our close friends on the East Coast, who have been through far harder. The cookies from the night before, the flowers––they made it a little less lonely. I’m grateful for that.
I’m grateful people have mostly been kind. My best friend, who'd been out of town, came over today with food (I haven't been eating much), dropped her backpack on the floor and said she'd brought with her everything in the range of leaving now or moving in (she could stay and work, she could stay and watch Israeli TV, etc.), which was one of the most supportive things anyone's ever done for me. Last night I talked to one of my best friends until two in the morning, and she told me even though it feels a little out there, she thinks the baby knows it was loved. And I mean––God knows, but I hope so, and it really meant a lot to me. It means a lot that at least there are people (thank you, Andi) who know how much we loved the baby.
There's a lot to be grateful for, I guess. I’m grateful we were able to get early flights home and come back and have two days to mostly tie things up with the doctors and to grieve; yesterday we stayed home all day and I needed that. I’m dreading going back to work tomorrow morning and rearranging all the future plans (like maternity leave) I’d privately made.
I’m grateful I didn’t need a lot of medical intervention. I’m grateful it didn’t hurt as much as it could’ve. It was very painful on the worst night, but all I could pray was Please, please, please don’t let it hurt to the baby. Please don’t let the baby feel it. Please don’t let my baby be in pain.
Jesse asked me last night how I’m feeling now that it’s officially over. I don’t know. I miss our baby. I know I’ll be able to bear the future without it, but I don’t want that. But I guess it’s better than the wondering, or the pain as the baby was dying inside me. I thought for a while about whether I would’ve rather none of this happened at all, and for a while I thought so. I don’t now, though. We had our baby for a time, and already I feel like a different person and can’t imagine our lives without it.
The memories of the people who were overjoyed to hear about our baby are so precious to me––knowing that, even if just for a little while, our baby mattered to them. “That kid is going to be so beloved,” the baby's Uncle Tim said, and I cherish that; it was something I was saving up to tell the baby someday. I have an old Christmas letter from my own grandpa telling all his friends proudly about his "prestigious new position in life" as a new grandfather, something I found after he died, and I've always loved having that. I treasured knowing how equally thrilled everyone was about our baby, and I couldn’t wait to share that someday with our child.
And I’m so, so sad we didn’t get to tell more people about our baby before we lost it. I've had a whole list of people I've been wanting to tell. But I thought it would be better that way––just in case, and all––but it turns out I was wrong about that, and I am so sad that most people who hear about our baby will be introduced to it in this way. I'm scared to them it'll feel like nothing, or--worse--no one. Next time, I think, I'm announcing it right away.
This is theologically and biologically problematic, maybe, and I know it, and I know these thoughts can't hold up to the weight of all their own implications. But.
God didn’t save our baby, despite how much we pleaded. And when people try to tell me his timing is perfect and it’s all part of his plan or whatever––frankly, true or not, it hurts. It is comforting on some level I guess to picture our baby in heaven. (My faith, though, is not quite strong enough to have made the flight back home any less than sheer terror, even though I did tell Jesse it would be okay if we died and got to go meet our child.)
But I believe (and this is separate from how I feel about, like, broad strokes about abortion or where life actually begins or anything) that my baby’s life had meaning because of God. I’m really, really struggling with this one. Because the baby was so tiny, so unformed still––and who’s to say it has value? It’s tempting to say our tiny baby had value because of how much we loved it, but you could apply that to anything. You could apply that to money. And--I’ve tried so hard--I can’t quite intellectually pinpoint a reason why our baby matters. And I don’t know, and I don’t know if we can know, when you can count it as a child. Or a human being, for that matter. I thought about that so much when I thought about my baby. When the heart forms? When the nerve endings come? When it’s capable of actual thought (which is probably well outside the womb)?
So I guess I believe that––that somewhere, beyond my understanding, God cares about my baby, and loves it, and brought into the world because its tiny, too-short little life had meaning somehow. Even if only to Jesse and me. Even if I was the only one to whom it ever made its presence known––all those changes in my body I loved and now so badly miss. Even if it was so helpless and so tiny and so unprotected by everyone, even me.
I am so, so sorry, little one. I miss you. Your daddy misses you. You were so loved, and so wanted, and so cherished. You made us the happiest people in the world. I’m sorry I never got to tell you that in person. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you. I'm sorry I couldn't take better care of you. You will always, always be ours. And I hope we get to meet you, and hold you in our arms, someday.