With my first pregnancy, my best friend and I had due dates two days apart. After our positive tests we shared giddy glee, bewilderment and amazed that we would get to experience this side by side. I miscarried four weeks later. The grief following a miscarriage is intense; it will double you over and you’ll find yourself clutching your heart between your deepest sobs. When you realize you’ve been left behind, that the closest female in your life will go on to experience and have what you’ve just lost and so desperately want, it becomes unbearable.
A situation like this is truly complex and heart wrenching. You feel like you should still be able to feel only happiness for your friend, despite your deep pain. Isn’t that the definition of strength? To rise above your own misfortune to be able to relish in the joy of those you love? “You’ve been through a trauma,” I was told. “You can’t expect yourself to be able to do that.” I battled my conflicted feelings in the days following my miscarriage. I wanted my best friend’s support during my toughest days, to tell her everything I was experiencing and cry out the pain. But I couldn’t go near her. In my moments of strength I thought I could. “Update from my ultrasound today. I’m actually 11 weeks along right now, not 8” her text read. “Congrats” was my weak reply, before sobbing into my husband’s arm. “She didn’t even take her folic acid!” I wailed, knowing I sounded ridiculous. At our ultrasound two weeks prior we saw a slow-developing embryo, just three days away from it’s final heartbeat. I would have done anything to learn I was actually 11 weeks along, just one week shy of the desirable 2nd trimester.
As I focused on how difficult this was for me, she slipped away. Hearing of my misfortune, the agony and pain I’d been in, hit too close to home. She didn’t want to see her worst nightmare, personified in the form of her best friend, reflected against her own growing belly. She had too many of her own fears as she navigated pregnancy for the first time, and felt it was best if we stayed separate during this time.
I not only grieved the loss of my pregnancy and the loss of the baby I thought I would have, but I grieved for the loss of my best friend. I grieved not being able to be a part of this time for her, not being able to be her cheerleader, the way we both were for each other’s weddings. I became paranoid I was suddenly a pariah to pregnant women, as if somehow they would think what I went through was contagious. I thought I just needed to get pregnant again, to fill the void and mitigate the pain and jealousy. But it became so much more complicated than that.
The night of my wedding, as I was pulsing with love and appreciation for everyone who traveled to central Mexico to see my husband and me get married, I grabbed onto my brother’s soon-to-be wife. “I think we’re going to be pregnant at the same time!” I whispered to her delightfully, with all my innocence and naivety intact, giving her a booze-fueled hug. I knew she and my brother would be trying for a baby soon, just as my husband and I planned to. During my second pregnancy I had strong suspicions that she was finally pregnant. We spent three days over Thanksgiving nauseous and exhausted, complaining but never acknowledging to each other the culprit. I miscarried shortly after, at nine weeks along. A few days later my husband walked into the kitchen and held me. “It’s true,” he said gently. It was something I already knew but still hit me like a thud in my gut. “She got pregnant the same week as you. She has your due date.”
I had wanted to be tough this time, to avoid the deep pit of emotional wreckage I experienced following my first miscarriage. But with these words, every bit of displaced emotion emerged, and I collapsed into my husband’s arms and cried, sobs coming from a deep and broken place. “That’s MY baby!!” I wailed over and over, knowing I didn’t make sense, but believing it nevertheless. “She has my baby! That’s my baby, that’s my baby,” I cried, not knowing why I was saying it. “Where is my baby?” I finally asked my husband faintly, feeling overwhelmed with heartbreak that this question couldn’t be answered. I had tried to convince myself that this time it was easier, an embryo had never developed – there was never a baby to be lost. But in that moment I knew it didn’t matter. That familiar grief filled my body as I crumpled with the same heavy sadness.
Again, I anguished over the way I was feeling. I had looked forward to being an aunt for so long. I loved my brother and sister-in-law so deeply and was devastated that I would feel anything other than happiness that they were expecting. Their pregnancy announcement became about me, not wanting to cause me more pain, not quite sure how to share the news. I had robbed them of one of the more exciting parts of getting pregnant – sharing the news with loved ones. Once again images of them at their ultrasound getting good news, your baby’s heart is beating and is growing right on track, something we had yet to experience, filled me with that same sick feeling, the envy that pulsed through every bit of my being, the ugly pit in my stomach I had grown to hate. I knew from experience that time doesn’t dissolve these feelings; as she becomes more pregnant I will feel more and more empty.
I don’t understand why I had to endure such a difficult situation twice, why one of the more painful aspects of my first miscarriage had to replicate a second time with my sister-in-law. It seemed cruel, and unfair. But I knew I needed to use what I learned through the first experience to keep my relationship with my brother and sister-in-law healthy and loving. I knew the best way to make it through would be through love and communication. And I knew with silence comes misunderstanding. You start to project what you think the other person is thinking and feeling, always assuming the worst. She’s mad because I’m not going to her baby shower, I had thought of my best friend’s silence. She doesn’t understand what I’ve been through. She has no empathy! When we finally spoke I found the opposite true, she had been harboring feelings of sadness and guilt throughout her whole pregnancy, often so deep she had trouble maintaining contact. Because of the distance I felt the first time with my best friend, I immediately started grieving the loss of my brother and sister-in-law. I thought they would slip away too, in a blurry mess of awkwardness and not knowing how to not cause me more pain.
I know I’m being tested, and I know that I will need to harden myself enough to not let the seeping pain control me and cause me to experience the loss of more people in my life. I’m going to be an aunt and I’m going to let my love for my brother’s unborn child, my future niece or nephew, help me get through this.