Daytime, I blocked it out. I simply decided not to talk about the miscarriage, not even to my best friends, my former college roommates. Every year, my roommates and I get together for a “Wild Women’s Weekend,” and that spring it was going to be in Portland, Maine, at Denise’s house. Often in the early happy weeks of my pregnancy, I’d imagined telling the girls that I was pregnant. How they’d squeal, how we’d hug. And this was to be a special weekend indeed because two of my five roommates were pregnant, and we were having a shower for them. So, in my envisioning of the weekend, I’d decided we would celebrate their pregnancies the first two days, and I’d share my news with them on Sunday night, so I didn’t hog the spotlight.
Instead of that happy scene, the weekend was a painful farce for me, “oohing” and “ahhing” about each little hat or blanket. Piled on the couch with my best friends, in our pajamas, eating cookie dough and drinking Bud Light, I’d never felt so alone and inconsolable. They could tell something was wrong, but I didn’t want to wreck the party, didn’t want my pregnant pals to be self-conscious about their glorious bellies, the pregnancy massages and pedicures we’d treated them to at the spa in Portland. But the last night, instead of telling them about my pregnancy, I told them about my blighted ovum. And then my friend Laura said the words that opened me, like a key in a lock, into my grieving. She said, “Whether the baby is four minutes old, or four years, it’s still a death.” That Laura—who’d had two sons and a miscarriage herself—could know this, could say this, gave me permission to mourn that child.
In the months after the miscarriage, I had put a distance between Tommy and me, because I asked him not to talk about the miscarriage, which he respected. Now I knew I needed to talk to him about how I was feeling. It wasn’t easy, but when I dreamt about the baby, I’d describe the dream to him in the morning, his arms around my flattened stomach, the chilly Illinois dawn coming through the drapes. At first, the words came as haltingly as they did from the rusted tin man in The Wizard of Oz when he’d been found at last. Gradually, the talking seemed to help.
I stopped comparing my pregnancy, which ended so early, to friends’ stillbirths and other tragedies. I stopped trying to rank sorrow, realized that the world has sorrow enough for all of us, and when some of it falls to you the best hope you have is giving yourself permission to suffer through it. I suffered through it. I still suffer through it. I allowed myself to think of the child as exactly that, a child. It wasn’t nothing; it was never nothing.
I was wrong to be impatient with my weakness, as I saw it, wrong in trying to “get over” my miscarriage. Those feelings kept me from grieving how I needed to grieve to begin healing.
Despite my fears that I would never become a mother, I did conceive, and in May of 2001, I delivered a healthy baby girl, Claire. She is joyous and sprightly and curious and stubborn, and she daily fills me with joy. Four years later, we gave her a brother, our little Thomas, now six months old. I spend my days in a pleasant haze brought on by sleep deprivation and the intoxicating scent of baby-head. Whenever I am asked, I love to talk about these two little creatures who have made me so blessed. And though I don't mention it to most folks, I also think of the first child, who will always be part of me. I have accepted that I’ll never “get over” my miscarriage. And that’s okay: I no longer want to. I’ll carry it, instead. I’ll carry it and carry it and never put it down.
Beth Ann Fennelly has published two books of poetry, Open House (Zoo Press, 2002) and Tender Hooks (W.W. Norton, 2004). This essay is adapted from her first book of nonfiction, Great with Child (W. W. Norton, 2006).
A version of this story originally appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Conceive Magazine.