August

Hope in the Rough: Surviving Miscarriage & Challenges Conceiving
By Charlotte Capogna-Amias

As I write this we are on the heels of August with its warming heat like ginger deep in the belly. In our house, as two parents who are educators and have part of the summer off, August often feels like one long Sunday getting ready for the school year to resume with its busy pace.  It’s also the month in which my spouse and I were married, and that brings some joyfulness to a time that otherwise would feel like it’s mourning the end of summer. As I have aged, I also have grown to love autumn- my constitution finds the cooler days better suited to my late-thirties body. Plus, living in New England, I am still dazzled by the beauty and wonderful assault to the senses of that fine season.  So August is that too, an ushering in of sweet autumn.  In short, it’s a month of mixed emotions.

This year, August brings another meaning: it was the month in which I was due to have my first biological baby (we have a daughter my spouse carried). I was due August 24th. It feels important to state that.  It’s something I don’t often say out loud: I was due August 24th.

One thing that has been hard for me since I miscarried is mentally playing the “I would have been…” game. (I miscarried at 11.5 weeks in mid-February.) March: “I would have been starting to show.” April: “I would have started to feel the baby move.” May: “I would have been showing at my choir’s concert… at the university’s commencement.” June: “I would have started the third trimester.” July: “I would have been enjoying my month off, nesting and getting ready to have the baby.” August: “I would have been in my final month of pregnancy.”  

I don’t know if I am alone in this, but since I miscarried I have noticed many more pregnant women as I go about my day-to-day life.  Were there as many pregnant women before or did they suddenly start multiplying at rapid speed?  “I would have looked like her.”  “I would have been due before her.” And on and on it goes… If I’m pregnant again someday, I wonder if someone will think these things about me.

A friend of mine whose partner experienced two miscarriages told me that, in their experience, this mental hook does not end even after the due date passes. Instead it morphs into, “We would have a newborn now.” “We would have a two-year-old now.” Etc.

One thing that I do plan to do this August is to go to my favorite perennial farm and pick out a plant that flowers in late August. I will plant it with the little memory seashell the hospital gave me when they performed my D & C.  It’s sort of a cheesy little thing: chipped paint on the shell’s ribs in pinks and yellows… it might have a butterfly or heart on it. Still, it’s a token to remember an experience- dare I say a baby- I don’t want to slip away and forget. I want to remember that I was pregnant once and that the spirit of my baby lived, if even just for 11.5 special weeks.  

Summertime

Summer-- this wonderful time when people relax, enjoy each other's company, and celebrate with family. This can be a difficult time for the bereaved. Everywhere we go, we are surrounded with images of families together, enjoying each other's company. If you're newly bereaved, it's likely you had images of yourself during these warm, lazy months-- whether those were images of yourself nine months pregnant, or toting a newborn to Cape Cod, it's hard to shed the knowledge of what we "should" be doing. 

When I was newly bereaved, the times that were most difficult were the very concrete places where I'd planned to take my new baby. On a daily basis, while I knew Charlotte would have been with me, I didn't know exactly what I'd be doing with her. But when the time came to go up to our family cottage in Ontario, I was overwhelmed by how difficult it was to go there without her. This was a place I'd come to every year of my own life, and for the duration of the school year, I had envisioned bringing my own baby there to begin her own lifetime of summers on the lake. When we arrived empty armed, my heart broke all over again.

It had been ten weeks and I somehow didn't expect this new wave of sudden, super intense grief. But looking back it made perfect sense-- I had envisioned this moment a thousand times. Pulling up in the car, cousins and aunts surrounding me as I stepped out, proudly displaying my new baby. Instead, here I was, trying as inconspicuously as possible to sneak into the back door of the cottage without being spotted. I walked onto the front porch, took in the view that was so familiar to me, and broke into a thousand pieces more harshly than I had when I returned to my own home after Charlotte died. 

Here I was. I was no longer in shock. I had no cushion of the disarray and confusion that the first weeks after a baby's death brings. I was simply alone, at my ancestral family home, without my baby. Sometimes, the fact that a loss is not new makes it even harder to bear. 

Not all of you will have moments that you remember or experience that are this stark. But I'm certain that you've all noticed that there are certain times and places that feel harder to exist in without your baby. While all our stories are different, all of us who have experienced the death of a baby know that sometimes a new situation can bring about sudden waves of grief we hadn't anticipated. The waves can rock us for quite some time, and all we can do is cling to the sides of the boat and hope that smoother waters lie ahead. Thank you for being in my boat, because knowing I am not alone does bring me great comfort. 

Carol.