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In the Time of Loss

The hardest moment wasn't when the doctor broke the news that I was pregnant for the third time in three years. It wasn't when the nurse told me that the incredible stomach pain I was experiencing probably meant that I was losing the baby. I don't even think it was when I witnessed the look of alarm on my doctor's face as he studied the ultrasound screen in the middle of the night, then informed me that he was rushing me into surgery, ahead of the kidney transplant that was already scheduled for the operating room.

No, the hardest part of the day I miscarried my third child was almost certainly when I woke up alone in my hospital room several hours later.

During that fall of 2001, with the country still in shock from 9/11, my husband and I were struggling to parent our two small children, then 2 years and 9 months old. It had been two years since I'd gotten through a whole meal without attaching a baby to my breast for her own feeding; a full night's sleep was a fuzzy memory; a typical day involved 15 diaper changes, 3 spill cleanups, and at least 2 arguments with my husband about whose turn it was to take care of which child and which household responsibility.

Two babies were already straining our home, and life was challenging at best. With the future uncertain and the news full of the babies who had lost their parents in burning buildings and plane crashes only weeks before, it seemed reckless even to consider bringing another one into this out-of-control world. But even though my hands were full of wipes and rattles and board books, even though we could barely walk through our family room without tripping over an Exersaucer or a dolly carriage, even though the world seemed like a desperate place -- both at home and nationwide -- I still felt that our family would only be complete with a third child at the dinner table. My husband, on the other hand, frazzled by the demands of work and home and babies, babies, babies, would hear nothing of it.

And then that November the doctor told me that, against all odds -- for I had an IUD and had not yet had a period again -- I was pregnant, probably about 11 weeks. I had most likely conceived the baby on 9/11, a night on which my husband and I had turned to each other for comfort and familiarity and the reassurance that the world was not ending. And here it was: proof that the world was not ending. A baby. Surely, a baby was evidence that life went on.

Lisa Tucker McElroy, a writing professor and children's book author, lives in Barrington, Rhode Island.

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