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In the Time of Loss

Nothing to mourn

Except that it wasn't. The very next thing I learned was that the pregnancy wasn't viable. The doctor needed to get me into surgery and remove the IUD, and try to save my ovary and my fallopian tube from the embryo that was probably embedded there. And it needed to be done immediately, before I had time to think, before I had time to mourn.

Here was the rub: In the mere hours I had between learning my baby existed and losing it, I'd loved that baby, connected with it, and gave it a name and a place in our family tree. But while I was making that baby real in my mind and in my dreams, my husband was wringing his hands at the thought of having another child. Life was so stressful already, he thought. Losing this baby might be the best thing that could happen. We'd never known him (to this day, I'm sure it was a boy), and we shouldn't miss him. We should just rejoice in the fact that we had two beautiful, healthy children and that we weren't going to have to figure out how the heck to take care of another one. We hadn't planned this baby; he hadn't wanted this baby; and the baby couldn't be born. To my husband, there was nothing to mourn.

And so, as soon as they wheeled me into surgery, my husband went home to our two baby girls. He didn't sit waiting to join me in the recovery room; he didn't send flowers to the private room where I cried when it was all over. To him, removing this baby that was never to be was no different than having an abscessed tooth extracted. It was hurting me, it needed to come out, and then everything would be fine. Life would go on, not because our baby was growing inside me and offering hope but because losing the baby gave him hope that he could continue to cope with life and with caring for two terrific kids who were already born and whom he already loved.

I woke in my hospital bed the next morning, pulling myself through the post-anesthesia haze to the sound of the phone ringing insistently. It was my husband. "How are you?" he asked me. What happened? I wanted to know. "You're fine, honey, just fine. I talked to the doctor a few hours ago, and you're going to be as good as new in just a few days."

Fury rose in me. As good as new? I thought. Could that possibly be what my trusted doctor had actually said? As good as new? Or, more likely, was "as good as new" my husband's translation for "fully recovered physically"? How could anyone possibly think that I was as good as new? How could my husband, this father with whom I had made three -- not two, but three -- precious children know so little about me as not to understand that losing this baby was ripping me apart just as surely as it would if I lost him later in some terrible tragedy, in a car accident, in a playground fall, yes, even in a blown-up building? "What's wrong?" he asked. "I'm just tired," I replied. If he didn't know what was wrong, I wasn't going to tell him.

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