TW: miscarriage, pregnancy loss.
Eight. She would be eight years old this July if she were here.
In 2015, one month after our wedding, I got a positive pregnancy test for the first time in my life. That moment will always be one of the happiest memories my husband and I share.
A week later, I got my period as normal. While we were disappointed, we knew that was a possibility considering how early I tested. We comforted ourselves with the thought that perhaps something was genetically wrong and nature took its course; there was nothing to be done about it.
Except a few weeks later, I still felt pregnant. I couldn’t comfortably wear a bra due to sensitivity, my appetite was all over the place, and the water weight wasn’t going away. I hadn’t ovulated again since the miscarriage, but I thought … what if?
I took a second pregnancy test and within ten seconds there were two bright pink lines staring back at me. I immediately called an OB/GYN and got the first available appointment. After some labs, I received a call from the doctor informing me that my HCG levels were consistent with a pregnancy about eight weeks along.
I’m sorry, what? Eight weeks?!
I told the doctor I had my period a week after my first positive test, and he assured me that it wasn’t uncommon for women bleed like a period during pregnancy, and my bloodwork looked exactly as it should for early on in the first trimester. My husband and I were elated! We shared the news with a few close friends/family members and began to imagine what our life would look like in the summer, waiting for this little one to come into the world.
Except a little over a week later, in the middle of me teaching a Sunday school class, the cramps that I thought were normal became next to unbearable. After I got the last child to their parents, I rushed to bathroom.
I went home in a state of shock, really. I don’t remember the drive, and I don’t remember how I told my husband about the amount of blood I saw. I remember rushing to the imaging center for an ultrasound — my first ultrasound — and how the technician tried abdominally and transvaginally for what felt like forever, but we never heard a heartbeat.
Labs were done a second time. My HCG levels had dropped dramatically, so no, it wasn’t possible that we just had our dates wrong and the ultrasound was of an extremely early pregnancy, even though I prayed for that to be true.
“I’m so sorry, but your levels indicate a miscarriage. The best thing you can do is take ibuprofen, hydrate, and rest at home. We’ll need to draw labs again next week to confirm the HCG levels continue to decrease.”
I don’t remember my response to the doctor’s call, but I know I curled up in my bed, sobbing through a type of pain I had never felt before.
The physical pain was not like a period, not at all. I couldn’t walk without support. I could hardly move without pain following soon after. I sat in the bathroom for hours, wondering how I was supposed to flush the toilet. Is this really how all of this ends? Like this?
It took several days for the worst of it to pass, and about two weeks total for the bleeding to completely stop. I felt like a ghost of myself, meandering from this lab to this doctor’s appointment, then back to work — all as if I hadn’t just lost my first child. My husband mourned with me, spent every night after work cooking for me, cleaning the house, and forcing me to take care of myself.
Our first few months as newlyweds felt like a battle — not with each other, but with the universe. We couldn’t understand why this happened, what was the point of it all? How would we move forward from this?
On New Year’s Eve, my husband wrapped me in a blanket and carried me outside to watch the fireworks. It had been days since I had gotten out of bed to do anything beyond personal hygiene requirements. He pressed his lips to my forehead and whispered, “we’re gonna have a baby this year, okay?” I cried quietly into his shoulder, feeling like my entire life had fallen apart, while the rest of the world lit up the sky and filled it with noise.
Three months later, I got my third positive pregnancy test. I waited until I was nearly eight weeks to even test, despite my body making it very clear from week five we had a new member of the family growing. That sweet baby is our oldest daughter, Genevieve. She was born the same week we found out about our first child — one year later.
For years, and I mean until this year, talking about our loss has been either a no-go or has resulted in a complete breakdown each time. I’ve been in therapy going on three years, and this week was the first time I brought her and our loss up (we refer to our first child as a girl). But what was truly healing was the moment I told our three daughters about their big sister.
One day, a new friend of mine casually mentioned her babies in heaven to me. I was moved by the perceived ease of which she said their names out loud, and I desperately wished I could do the same. Her son and my Genevieve are classmates, so I asked her, “do your children here know about your other babies?” She nodded enthusiastically and explained how she introduced her heavenly babies to her children by naming them during family prayers, so they have always known about their siblings’ existence. Saying their names was an every day, normal occurrence for them. My friend had assured me her children didn’t feel any obvious negative emotions about their heavenly siblings, because to her young kids, it just was. They had siblings in heaven, and that was pretty cool to them.
I thought this was such a beautiful way of introduction, but my three girls would definitely notice if I just started throwing a random name into our family prayer. So instead, I just told Genevieve at first. At six years old, I knew she would have more questions and I wanted the time and space to answer them without anyone else around. As I told her she has a sister in heaven, and how sometimes these things just happen and God has a plan for everyone, she just smiled and said, “Wait! I have a sister in heaven?! Just like my friends do?!”
Apparently, her friends openly talk about their heavenly siblings while at school, and Genevieve had never mentioned this to me until this moment. I was filled with relief and peace once I realized she wasn’t sad at all, but inquisitive and excited.
“I’ll be able to see her one day, right?” she asked. I held her hand and nodded, saying, “That’s what I think. One day we’ll all be together again when it’s time, and she’ll be there.”
“How come she didn’t get to be here, Mom?”
“Well, I like to think she came here to show me and Daddy what love looks like. And I think once she got in my belly, you were ready to come here too, but my belly only had room for one baby. I think she let you go first because that’s what big sisters do. And God must have agreed with her.”
“Why couldn’t we both be here at the same time?”
“I don’t know, love. But I’m so glad you’re here. I’m so thankful God gave you to us. You can talk to your sister any time you want — she’s always with you, always here,” I said, gently touching her chest.
She was so excited to tell her classmates about her third sister — and I couldn’t have been more relieved to say her name, to announce her existence, out loud. Our middle and youngest daughters accepted it as a fact of life — they have a sister in heaven, and they’ll see her one day.
One day in the middle of a breakdown, I mentioned to my husband how I desperately wanted a place to visit her like everyone else does when they lose someone they love. I wanted a place, a spot, something that signified her and all she was to me.
He heard me. For Christmas last year, he and my in-laws made a beautiful spot in our garden dedicated to our first child. Next to our statue of Mother Mary is a beautiful little girl, and a bench for me to sit and just be with her.
We can now talk about her freely in front of and to our children. She is celebrated, mentioned, and very much alive within our home, all because we finally stopped hiding her and our pain, and spoke up instead.
While we choose to keep her name within our close circle, thank you for reading about our daughter. She was here, she was real, and she mattered deeply.
Happy birthday, sweet angel.