I was dreading Mother’s Day. We celebrated our “first” Mother’s Day when our older child was still in utero. I was three months pregnant, and my husband brought a beautiful antique rocking chair home on Friday after work. He had to go out with clients all day Sunday, so Friday and Saturday were our celebrations. Each year after that was more conventional: Mass in the morning, brunch and beverages at home after with the requisite cards and gifts. Mother’s Day 2013 was shaping up to be a bit more special, because after four years of inexplicable “nothing”, we would have been expecting our second baby. We would have been ten weeks along. The Monday before, I noticed some spotting in the bathroom, but, from my doula training, knew that this was considered within the range of normal and so set my mind to be calm. I had spent all of Teddy’s pregnancy worrying about every. little. thing, and I felt that I had needlessly missed out on a lot of joy. I resolved to relax and enjoy this time of expecting. Besides, I had an appointment with my midwife on Thursday, so I could confirm things were fine then. The spotting continued through the week, but never changed to the Danger Color, and I was still having wacky dreams and feeling awfully tired, so I continued to Not Freak Out. On Thursday morning I met with two of my friends, who were also to be my birth doulas, for coffee before we headed over to the birth center for my checkup. T and J and I got the center in plenty of time for my appointment, and went straight back to one of the birth rooms, settling in on the couch and chairs a few minutes early. There was a La Leche League meeting scheduled to start in the main room of the birth center about the same time, and we were still keeping the pregnancy intimate, so I was anxious not to run into anyone I knew who might be coming to the meeting and have to explain why I was there! We chatted with each other and then the midwife and student midwife came in and the appointment proceeded normally. The midwife listened for a heartbeat, and did not find one. Again, this was not unexpected for barely ten weeks. She knew I had not wanted to have unnecessary ultrasounds during a normal pregnancy, but she mentioned that she would still be happy to call it in for me if I wished to check on the baby. I said, “might as well!” although inside I was getting fearful. That afternoon, I went to the chiropractor and at the end of my appointment I mentioned that I had experienced some normal spotting but was going for an ultrasound the next day. Friday is a bit of a blur; I couldn’t remember if Matt picked us up from the house or we met him there. We had Teddy with us. He knew about the baby, and even though the worst case scenario was already in my head, I realize now my subconscious reasoning for having him with us, that I felt strongly that he should be with us, that we shouldn’t leave him with someone somewhere as his happy parents and come back with that change on us. (I remember being grateful, on the drive home as I updated our midwife, doulas and chiropractor, that I was not facing the prospect of having to pick him up from somewhere and deal with someone else, and have to sit him down and tell him all over again. All that sounds selfish of me, but that element was a relief, and I do believe that experiencing it with us was best for him, too.) The technician was so, so kind. She cried with me and let us explain it to Teddy in our own way. He seemed to kind of get it, although it would be much later (in a grocery store parking lot, of all places, a perfect illustration of the indiscriminate nature of grief) that he would put it all together. I spent Saturday enduring the labor and birth process of “losing” such a small baby. Saturday night was scary; I had lost a lot of blood, Matt was tired and Teddy needed to sleep. T came to keep watch on me during the night and got up with me when I needed the bathroom, held my hair when I vomited and at one point kept herself awake by doing the dishes that had piled up in the kitchen! Sunday, Mother’s Day, friends came for our usual Sunday brunch. I was tired and sad, but loved having our dear friends and their sweet baby, our godson, with us that day. We had cake and I went back to bed.
As time went on and dulled the sting of our loss, we would joke with each other that no other Mother’s Day could possibly be worse than 2013, that my husband’s bar was now set pretty low. Joking, of course, to cope. But I went into this weekend not knowing what to expect, or even whether to expect anything. I think my relationship with Mother’s Day will always be a stressful one. In early years, I would have forgotten until it was too late. As time went on I became the non-Mother in the church pew (every once in a while I hear someone somewhere say, only half jokingly, that infertile women and bereaved mothers should be exempt from Sunday Mass on Mother’s Day). This year I didn’t know if I would be overwhelmed by memories, what memories we had, anyway. Somehow having memories of hopes, not of actual events, seems even sadder, or maybe that’s just my perspective from today. Her due time was much harder on me than this weekend has been. Being pregnant, struggling again against needless worry, and then dealing with the “could have been”s on top of all of it was rough. I went into the holiday season under a cloud.
I don’t really know what this means for future holidays, just as I don’t know what our next “would have been a baby” anniversary will be like. Without that loss, there would be no Ladybug, and I’ve found enough other women on this same journey to know that that can also be a conundrum of emotion. That is not my struggle now that she is here; I have others, maybe the same as some, maybe some different. We all have our own particular circumstances.
I don’t really know why I wanted this all to be out here. But it felt wrong to keep it in, and I was starting to get antsy about this web space. And it feels like Ladybug’s birth story needs a lot of deep background, so here is some of it.