It has been four years since the miscarriage and I have never written a word.
It is not because of grief. I have been sad sometimes. But days here are full. I have the other children tumbling about.
It is not because I am shy. As writers go, I am confessional and self-effacing. I am not afraid to talk about fear or nakedness or the bald patch forming where I part my hair.
No, it is not sadness or timidity. I have not written about the miscarriage because I feel shame. I blame myself. I think maybe it was my fault.
I did not trampoline or drink wine. I did not use nasal spray or sneak sushi.
But I must have done something. Because that baby died inside of me, and I have kept it a secret for a long time.
Even the name itself—miscarriage—suggests fault. There was a misstep, misconduct, some miscalculation. I did not carry that child like I should have.
Was it the heavy trash bag I lifted? The bending over to tidy the living room? How I reached on my tippy toes for the potato chips above the fridge? I am haunted by the slip-up I will never know.
I am not usually euphoric at the start of my pregnancies. I am struck by how not pregnant I feel in those early weeks and months. There is no kicking, little heartburn, and I seldom suffer morning sickness.
But I was particularly attached to this unborn child. I found out I was pregnant the week my grandfather was dying. Aside from my husband, Grandpa Kel was the first person I told. He was unconscious at the time, his breathing labored, his skin feathery and pale. Hospice had already been called in. I sat by my grandfather’s bed, held his cool hand, and told him about the baby we were expecting. If he kept my secret, I said, maybe we would name it after him.
He did keep the secret. Grandpa died the next morning. Two months later, the baby died, too.
We planted an azalea after it was over. A beautiful coral one. When it flowered, my husband and I would sit on the front porch and remember the child that was ours for a bit and then wasn’t. When we sold that house, I agonized over whether to bring the small tree with us. The cross-country journey would be long, the truck hot. Would the new climate be a good fit? We did not want to destroy the only life we had left, our small symbol of what we lost. In the end, we left it.
But I think of him sometimes—in my mind it was a boy, though we never asked for sure—I think of our tree baby, alone in the yard of a stranger, and I know we made the wrong choice. We should have kept him with us, no matter the risk. We should have tried harder to make conditions right.
But, of course, we couldn’t. That’s the way it is with trees. And, sometimes, with pregnancies.
Bodies know. They know better than we do when to hold on and when to let go.
Families who have endured a miscarriage are seldom counseled through the process. This is the only loss we sweep under the rug. We tiptoe when we want to scream. My OB/GYN quietly cancelled my remaining appointments. I switched doctors soon after and never went back to that office again.
But I have carried the sorrow. I have been haunted by the child who never arrived. Our minivan could comfortably carry another. Tables are made for even-numbered families. When the sun shines on the empty seat in our breakfast nook, I swallow back grief.
So I speak today to anyone who has held this heartache:
You did not mis-carry anything. Your body chose this ending. Your body knew the path. It is okay to be sad and angry for as long as you need. But do not sit in silence. Do not weep in shame. Because this was not your fault.
This was never your fault.