I took the test in a spur of wouldn’t it be funny, but, it couldn’t possibly be true moment of early marriage. Married for three weeks, I looked to Google for further instructions on “how to read a pregnancy test.” Positive, it was, and the Internet said so, too.
I found my very new husband playing Sega NHL 95 in our attic and wearing Wheaties flip flops and a T-shirt with the insignia of his favorite bar, perfect parent attire if I’ve ever heard of any. “I’m pregnant!!!” I said excited and terrified, both of us with eyes wide open and hearts beating in fear, neither of us ready, but who ever is? “Are you sure that test is right, I mean its just a stick?” he asked because, I don’t know, he’s Jim.
I spent a lot of those early days thinking about whom we made, and what she would be like, moments of instinctive knowing that I’ve had during each of my four pregnancies. It was a girl, with dark slightly wavy hair, chubby cheeks and chubbier thighs, long eyelashes, lips like her dad, sanguine at heart, and clumsy by nature just like her mother. Although already claimed by my big sister who seems to only make boys, on my list of names, Mary Margaret was first, but, by the possessiveness displayed by my sister rivaled only by Gollum in Lord of the Rings, I decided it would probably be best to let that one go.
For the next few months, my husband, baby and I traveled to Australia, where she made it clear that she hated salmon and its smell. She preferred me sleeping, and eating Captain Crunch. Through nausea and tiredness she began to teach me that motherhood is a full time position through which I will be made better and more humble, especially as gagging in public or frantically running away from restaurant tables on which calamari is served became part of my normal behavior.
In August, at 8 weeks gestation we heard her heart beat in elation, and learned she would be due four days before my St. Patrick’s Day birthday. Dreams of drinking birthday Guinness and holding my new baby girl dressed in green and wearing a bow filled my mind and had me searching for infant St. Patrick Day attire immediately. At 9 weeks, the swamp of Washington DC made us both eternally grateful for air conditioning. At 11 weeks, we began going to graduate school together, and I announced that I would be having a baby during Spring Break and returning to class directly after, because I had absolutely no idea what birthing a baby is like.
At 14 weeks, with my baby bump beginning to pop, Jim and I drove to our first sonogram, with our car packed to spend a weekend with friends at a lake. Running late due to indecisive packing abilities and an inability to choose the proper bathing suits for a belly beginning to protrude, we drove as fast as Fairfax, VA and all of its 4 billion stoplights allow. I called my sister on the way. “I know you want a Mary, but I just can’t get over today’s feast! It’s the Holy Name of Mary, today and I get to see my baby!” It was Friday, September 12, 2008. Five years ago, today.
I laid back in the small room in the back shivering with excitement. As the image appeared on the screen, we stared, unsure of what to look for, and before we had a chance to ask where she was, “This is what we call a missed miscarriage,” the short statured doctor said. “No it isn’t,” I fought back. “I’ve had no symptoms, and we already heard the heart!” I continued angry that such a tiny woman could announce something so hugely devastating. She continued with options and choices, detailing each terrible procedure available, attempting to make eye contact, but respecting my stubborn opposition. We left in silence.
We drove home in silence, too.
We broke down at the bottom of the stairs. I was crushed to lose her, terrified and embarrassed to tell others that we weren’t pregnant after all, furious that my own body gave me no indication of its failure, flabbergasted that we were being asked to suffer a loss so early into our marriage, determined it was a bad doctor with a broken sonogram machine.
The mourning continued for months and still does. There was confusion, and hormones, anger, and grief, gratitude, and thanksgiving, self-gift, and acceptance, a marriage made closer, and a deeper appreciation for those little growing babies no matter how small, and whether or not they come at convenient times.
Every year, on this day I feel sadness and a longing to see her face, and learn more about her. She’s my Mary. And on her due date of March 13, I woke up missing her, only to discover my pregnancy with James, a boy I imagined to be just as he is, because God loves me so much, even if flowing Guinness could no longer be part of my birthday plans.
In my experience, loss through miscarriage is not something that is often talked about, and, (big surprise!) I like to talk. I needed to and (clearly) still do. But, beyond my own needs, I believe these little guys and girls have stories to tell as well, and that’s my Mary’s.
Happy Feast day to all, especially those with the name of Mary!