A couple of months ago, I decided to join my husband on his trip to New York, NY, for a fantasy sports industry event he was attending. New York is my favorite city in the world, but I hadn’t been back there in over 20 years. Since the trip fell on the weekend before our 9th wedding anniversary, it seemed like the perfect time and place to celebrate a little early. We joked that it was going to be an amazing trip because we would only see each other on the day we arrived and the day we would depart for home, due to his event schedule. I planned out the places I wanted to see and things I wanted to do. I asked friends for tips on their favorite places. I reveled in the joy of having only myself to be concerned about for two days! I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to go.
A little under a week before we were set to leave, after some persistent suspicions, I took a pregnancy test and was gloriously surprised with a positive result. We were relieved and overjoyed. This journey to have another baby has expended so much from us, a positive test relieves a bit of the weight we carry. We were also anxious and scared, as only a parent who understands that a positive pregnancy test means you’re pregnant, but not necessarily that you’re going to have a baby, can be. We only had a possibility of a baby at that point. So, we looked ahead to future plans to see how this pregnancy would fit, but also understood that it was much too early to really have any idea of what to expect. We decided to wait to tell the doctor, as well as modified plans for our trip.
I started to have some very light, brownish spotting a few days later, which has happened in previous pregnancies. As much as I tried to tell myself that everything could still be fine, my anxiety spoke louder. About 4-5 days after our first positive pregnancy test, I took another. The positive sign was still there, but it was a little fainter than the one previous. I waited a day before doing it again, and this time the result was negative. I told myself that it might be because I had gone to the bathroom during the middle of the night. It was early. There wasn’t enough hormones built up yet. We still had our possibility.
We flew out on a Thursday evening, after traveling for 3 hours to drop off our daughter with her grandmother before heading to San Francisco. Upon arrival in our terminal, I went into the restroom and saw the first drop of bright red blood. My heart swooped into my stomach and my breath left me in a rush. I had mentally prepared both myself and Justin for this probability, given the signs, but I had still held on to the hope that I could hold on to this baby. I still thought that after all we had been through, with the loss of Lincoln last May and the early loss of our baby sixth months later, the universe couldn’t possibly put us through our third loss in less than a year. Our fifth loss in less than 3 years. It didn’t seem fair.
As we flew from the west coast to the east, the bleeding and cramping increased. Once we arrived at our hotel, over 11 hours after having left home, I was physically and emotionally drained, and felt hopeless and discouraged. We revised our plans for the day, and both laid down for some much needed rest. Once we awoke, we decided to push forward with our anniversary dinner together, followed by a meet up with the rest of the fantasy experts, at a local bar. We wanted to put the miscarriage momentarily to the side, and enjoy some of our brief time together on this trip. The dinner was amazing and the evening with new friends was a wonderful distraction from familiar pain and disappointment. We ended the evening holding each other in bed.
The next day, I begged off from our planned breakfast and let Justin meet up with his friend by himself, since I had spent most of the previous evening in pain and discomfort. As the morning wore on, it only increased, along with my anxiety. I canceled plans with a friend, to watch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and attempted to sleep and avoid. Unfortunately, I continuously awoke with pain, sorrow, shame and guilt. I felt ashamed for wasting my short time in New York, while simultaneously feeling guilty for wanting to do anything other than mourn the loss of the life inside of me.
Around late-morning, the bulk of the miscarriage had passed, and the pain began to ease. I decided to get up, get ready, and attempt to make the most of the time I had remaining in the day. I decided to mix together the plans I had looked forward to most, along with recommendations from a friend I had messaged earlier in the day (one of the few people to know about what I was going through, who offered his love, condolences and advice, along with some agenda choices for my now marred trip). Yet, as I got ready, I was still conflicted with the feelings of shame and guilt that plagued me all morning. I struggled to reconcile my feelings of sadness and loss, with the desire to not miss out on the opportunity to take advantage of my time in one of my favorite places. How could I want to do anything more than lie in bed and cry over yet another baby that would never be held in my arms? How could I, after having waited for over 20 years, waste the chance (not to mention money) to walk around the streets of New York? Would it be avoiding my feelings to allow myself to enjoy the city? Would it be ridiculous of me to spend my brief trip holed up in a hotel room by myself, wallowing in pity? I was stuck in a cycle of self-recriminations regarding what I should do and what I should feel, and how to best be true to my feelings.
As I continued to reproach myself, my thoughts drifted to pondering how our society has changed in many ways, over several decades, in regards to how emotional/mental health is viewed and handled. There was a time that many would approach it by avoiding or ignoring emotions. Simply shove them down as far as they would go, and then keep moving forward. Eventually, the pendulum swung the other way, and embracing and voicing feelings has been seen has the healthy approach. My battle with myself was due to being pulled between the two. I realized I was putting too much stock in what I thought I should do, rather than what I felt I wanted and needed. I wasn’t being true to myself, nor to my feelings, because I was allowing outside pressure to dictate my actions.
Then I began to think of others in my life who had suffered loss, the ways they handled those losses, and my judgement of their actions. I have a friend who lost his wife, after a long battle with cancer. Not long after her death, he made the decision to close her Facebook account and get rid of her belongings. I remember thinking, “No! You’re moving too quickly! You’re not giving the kids time to process this loss before changing things. You’re going to regret this!” Recently, a friend unexpectedly lost her father. A week later, she shared her feelings of wanted to get back to normal and not wanting the negative aspects of dealing with grief. Again, I judged, thinking, “Grieving is normal and healthy. You need this to move forward without the pain crippling you later!” In thinking about these friends, I realized how wrong I had been. I don’t know what they need in order to feel and process their grief. As much as I didn’t want others to rush my own grieving process, I couldn’t push my own timeline on others. These friends could only do what was best for them, and be true to their own feelings. I had to realize that I couldn’t push, even silently and from afar, what I perceived to be best way to handle their loss. They could only find their own way through it, and I could only support them, even silently and from afar, in that journey. I also realized that’s what I needed to do for myself.
I left my hotel room and I walked. I walked from the Financial District to Central Park. Then I walked some more. I marveled in the sights and sounds of the city. I listened to conversations and I people watched. I visited places I loved and found areas I had never seen before. I walked, but not away from my feelings. I found joy, even in the midst of sorrow. I found that holding onto my happiness didn’t mean that I had to let go of the hurt; I could be with both and still stay in the moment. Most of all, I found that doing what I wanted and needed, for myself, was the right thing to do, and nothing could be truer for me.