A friend of mine died in high school and I remember looking around and seeing a church filled with 17 year olds that had no business being at a funeral. I remember lining up with my peers and walking by the casket, looking down at our dead friend and I remember how sick it made me. I had just given him a ride home two days previous. At the end of the casket stood his parents, shaking hands, greeting people, standing next to the body of their only son. I looked down the line and saw the people in front of me were stopping to say a few “encouraging words” to the bereaved and everybody was trying to put on their big boy pants and their strong faces because I guess that some people find that it helps. What were they saying to those parents? What could a 17 year old say to them that would not just sound completely meaningless? ”I’m sorry”, “We’ll miss him”, “He’s in a better place”. I hate these greeting card phrases so I try my best to never use them. But what fills in the blanks? If you don’t go to the tried and true words, what do you say in their place?
I look up and find myself face to face with the parents, both of them staring at me. Another friend of mine says to me, “Would you like to say anything to them?” and I just stuck out my hand and squeezed the father’s hand and squeezed the mother’s hand and said, “No,” and then I walked away. I am convinced, even to this day, that saying something cheap and plastic in those moments only makes us feel better and doesn’t help the person who really just needs to scream at the sky.
I heard someone say once that if a child loses his or her parents, they are called an orphan. But if a parent loses their child? There is no name for it because it’s just so terrible. The emotions are so far removed from anything you’ve ever felt that no words can convey the despair and destruction that you feel. But how do I know…
Certainly I’ve never lost a 17 year old and God, please, this is my prayer, I hope that I never do but Jade and I have recently suffered a loss, which is what makes our third pregnancy such a big win. As anyone that keeps up with us knows, we wear everything on our sleeves; our victories, our defeats, our victories over defeat, cancer, infertility treatments, our relationship to God and each other, nothing is sacred ground…which is why I’m so disappointed in myself for not speaking about this earlier.
Perhaps it was that thing, that aura, that nameless entity which surrounds losing a child. There is no proper way to bring it up or to subtly announce it. There are no greeting card phrases for miscarriages. Even typing the word makes me angry as it somehow brings it all back to the surface and gives it life and makes me remember that Baby C, our FIRST Baby C, was lost.
Several months ago Jade and I tried for a third baby and, telling almost no one, embarked on the long process that is IVF; hormone therapy, pills, shots, needles, appointments, procedures. It’s not all bad and it’s not all painful (according to Jade) but it’s ALL, which is to say, there is just a lot to do. But that’s OKAY!!! Because it’s all worth it in the end. In the end, after all the time you’ve invested into preparing for the transfer, into all the hope, the hope, the hope that it’s going to work (which is to say nothing of the finances it costs to prepare for it), you’ll have a baby, right? RIGHT?!
Even if your body responds to the hormones, even if you have a good blastocyst, even if the transfer goes well, even if it sticks and begins to grow, even if you pay all the bills and walk away…you’re still not out of those woods. No. You’re just warming up. Now you wait. Now you lie on the couch and you wait for five days. And then they do a test and they tell you that it’s working. And then you lie on the couch and you wait for two days and they do another test and they tell you that it’s, well, sort of working but not totally. Something might be wrong but we need to do another test.
And now this baby who you’ve named, this baby which is growing in you, this baby who you’ve started to make memories with, this baby who’s PICTURE YOU HAVE SITTING ON YOUR DESK….is maybe not going to enter the picture at all. This baby that you’ve attached to and begun to love is possibly about to die.
And then it does die.
And they give your wife “medicine” to “clean out the baby”, my son, my daughter, getting flushed down some fucking toilet. I am furious at God and I don’t understand and everything around me, every word spoken is nothing but a hum, a murmur, the noise inside a seashell. The world shuts off and goes gray and nothing matters. Not money, not success, nothing. I want only to drink copious amounts of alcohol and cry and scream. I don’t want to stand and shake hands with people while they whisper their bullshit phrases to me.
And so we tell nobody except those that already knew.
And then we feel as though we have somehow cheapened the short life and memories of what would have been our third child.
So here I am now, putting it on my sleeve because I don’t like holding things inside and I don’t think that having a miscarriage is anything to be ashamed of. I’m a Christian man living in a very weird world and I don’t understand many of the things that I see or experience but it doesn’t change my relationship with God. Relationships hit rocky patches and, after all, I am only made of dirt. I demanded answers from The Almighty, “I am good! I do good things! I love people! I help strangers! I do what you ask! I lived up to my end of the deal! Now where are You and where’s my kid?!” and there is no answer.
I caught Quinn playing with the electrical outlet the other day. I took the cable away from her but she screamed and screamed and screamed and cried and thrashed and banged her head on the ground and she so badly wanted to put the prongs in the holes in the wall. Of course, no matter what amount of screaming she did, I wouldn’t listen. I knew better. Even though she was angry at me for taking away something that she wanted, I knew it was for the better. And I just have to think that God works the same way. He sees me screaming and crying and demanding what is mine back but, I must believe that He knows best. I don’t know what that means, in it’s entirety, but it’s all that I have.
Now, coming in October we have our third addition and, somehow, there is an extra sense of wonder and amazement. Rory and Quinn held their own sort of mystique being our first children and everything going as smoothly as it did. This new child is surrounded in a thankfulness as we know what could happen, we know what could be and the horrible, unnamable thing that breaks our heart is also the thing that will always pour into number three.
Son or daughter, I’m very excited to see who you are. Please stay safe.