When I became pregnant for the third time, I was overwhelmed but overjoyed. I quickly told friends and family, including my other two children, not dreaming that anything could go wrong. I had gotten pregnant so easily. I had full-term healthy pregnancies on the first two tries. Yet, a couple weeks after that early pregnancy test, I found myself in the midst of my first miscarriage.
I was an emotional wreck, a fact my 4-year-old quickly picked up on. He noticed me, my hand on my stomach and my eyes filling with tears yet again.
"What's wrong, mama" he asked. "Is the baby hurting you?"
How was I supposed to tell my son, who was already preoccupied and frightened by the idea of death, that his new little brother or sister was gone? I didn't know, so I lied and simply said “no.”
I hadn’t meant to lie, it just happened. My mind immediately lurched forward, wondering when and how the impact of my lie would land. What if there never was another baby? How long could I, should I, keep the lie alive to spare him this pain? How many more lies would have to follow to keep this one alive?
My son asked if he could listen to the baby, putting his head against my stomach where there was nothing but a whir of emptiness. He said the baby sounded funny as my stomach gurgled because I had lost my appetite and hadn’t eaten in god-knows-how-long. I stroked his head, heartbroken for myself as my son bonded with a baby that was no longer there.
The lie grew. I imagined it growing inside of me in place of a baby. This lie is the size of an olive, a lemon, a peach. Do you think the baby thinks I’m funny? Yes. When will the baby be here? A lot of months from now, babies take a long time to grow. Is the baby happy right now? Of course, the baby loves it when you are here.
I knew I was only compounding his delayed sorrow by keeping my miscarriages secret. I knew I was making my own grief worse by pretending to be pregnant — talking incessantly about a baby that was non-existent or dead.
Then the lies were washed clean as I looked down at another positive pregnancy test a couple months later. I could talk about the baby and the date that they would arrive and the fun things we could do once they were here. Better yet, I could do so without having to go to the bathroom to sob after each conversation. We made it through three blissful months of lie-free pregnancy before it happened all over again.
My son and daughter stayed with my parents for a couple days when I had my D&C. They weren’t there for the sobbing and screaming and bloody recovery. When my mom Skyped me to see how I was doing, I told her not to talk about it. Not in front of the kids. I didn’t want them to find out that way. In fact, I still didn’t want them to find out at all.
This time, the choice was conscious. I was going to lie to my son to spare him the pain, and hope to god that I would get pregnant again so it wouldn’t all be in vain. It was a gamble that didn’t make sense. The odds were beginning to stack against me in a very real way. Two back-to-back miscarriages, two previous live births. It didn’t make for 50/50 odds. It made for what felt like a shot in the dark.
I tried to dissuade my son from talking about the baby, but the more I pushed him away, the more his curiosity seemed to grow. He had spent over half a year of bonding with a someday-to-be sibling. He wanted a more concrete timeline. He wanted to talk about the details I couldn’t give. The lie began to encompass things like the size of the non-existent baby, their likes and dislikes, the month in which they might be born.
Each time I lied a panic welled inside me. Think about what you are doing to him! I would implore myself. Think of how much more it will hurt when you finally have to tell him the truth! Still, I found I couldn’t stop. I wanted to save my son the sorrow, even if it made mine worse.
I knew I wasn’t making the right choice anymore. I knew I was only compounding his delayed sorrow by keeping my miscarriages secret. I knew I was making my own grief worse by pretending to be pregnant — talking incessantly about a baby that was non-existent or dead. I felt guilty imploring family members to entertain my son’s notions about a baby that was no longer there, knowing full well that another baby may never come.
The lies would keep me up at night, gnawing at the place inside me where I felt my baby should be. It was just another mark of failure to pile on top of my body’s inability to keep and nourish a pregnancy. Everything inside me felt wrong, all the time. Every day I thought I should stop lying and face the uncomfortable truth, and every day I decided not to.
Then one day, fortunately, I didn’t have to anymore. I eventually became pregnant for a third time, and after an anxiety-riddled first trimester, my pregnancy continued, normal and healthy. I was finally able to give my son the answers he wanted about the size of the baby, the time he might arrive, what we might name him. He would forget that this baby had taken two years to arrive, never realizing that two different, distinct babies were left in his wake.
With my final baby’s arrival, everything felt absolved. The miscarriages behind me, the lies that were buried, everything was healed, though imperfectly. And when I look back, I know that I would do it all over again.