We found out we were unexpectedly expecting in April. I’m ashamed to say that I was not at all glad about this, me, mother of five wonderful humans. I was near to turn 40. The morning I took the test (in a Target bathroom, the family one), I’d gone with my oldest daughter to enroll her in high school. Stephen had lost his job right around the time of the positive pregnancy test, so the timing was horrible.
Turning 40 is weird. Jane, the youngest, would be starting Kindergarten. What would I do with myself, all day, with no little ones at home? And since Jane had come along, there’d been no other babies, though we’d been open to more. I had settled on directing my aging self into becoming one of those older yoga ladies in the Athleta catalogue. Mornings, I’d be the Athleta lady, all yoga and zen and slim-ness, and in the evenings, I’d be more like the ladies in the Sundance catalogue, all tan and fresh and western and artsy. The idea of me, 40, looking too old to be pregnant, sporting a big belly on my approaching birthday, and then lugging a car seat not long after, took some getting my head around.
But I did get my head around it. I made an appointment and went in for my ultrasound, and I saw a real live little Mosley. Moving his little gummy bear hands. Living, just like his siblings, maybe ginger-haired, certainly chubby-cheeked and funny. And we told the children, who danced and jumped and added to our happiness. And we called a man to come turn the useless back porch into a nursery, and my mom bought me a pretty crib and a nursery lamp and I grew a belly and cradled it at church and felt proud to be a mama to six, because I'm near 40 now, and I don't care what people think.
On the fourth of July weekend, we went to my mom’s house to celebrate my birthday with fireworks. We went to the farmer’s market with a good friend in the early morning, and while there, I noticed I was bleeding some. By the afternoon, the bleeding was heavy and the baby was gone. I collected what I could in a jar - the odd remains of a life that was only hopes and wishes, in a kitchen jar. I sat in my childhood bedroom and cried, and my sister and mom and aunt checked on me and sat silently with me and brought me cookies and tea and medicine.
A miscarriage is a strange sort of death. Because something died inside of me, I have been, myself, a grave. I have carried life and I have carried death inside of me. This loss feels like whiplash, like asking for bread and being handed a snake. It’s fresh, and I want to write about it, but the words aren’t really coming out the way I want them to just yet. But I want to share it, even so, because this little one feels like a part of our family as much as Abigail, Lilly, Jacob, Henry, and Jane, and I feel a little silly saying so, because I didn’t know this child, and it doesn’t make sense. But, this is how it is. I’m angry about it, too, but it doesn’t worry me anymore that I’m angry, and I think that’s a good start.
Before I knew the baby had died, I fell asleep watching MasterChef and had a strange dream that a Capuchin priest who is in the process of being recognized a Catholic saint, Father Solanus Casey, was standing next to me and I was at the doctor. He did an ultrasound and then he said, “baby is good!” and left, but as he left he was holding the baby. I don’t know what that means. It gives me a little comfort to think that maybe baby was welcomed into heaven that night. We named him Francis Gabriel. Abby liked that name best, and I had trouble naming him, and the kids thought Solanus was a terrible name because the last part of it is “anus” and I couldn’t disagree. Even in the promised land, names ending in -anus are not probably desirable.
Our church held a blessing ceremony for us after the morning Mass on a Wednesday, and our friends attended and offered their support. So many of the women who stood there beside me have suffered similar losses, but we never really talk about these things. There is a great shame about them - a feeling of our sorrow being disproportionate and silly, and a dark shame that we were not able to protect our children as we should’ve, in their most vulnerable form. What is a mother without her child? I’m carrying the guilt of a few weeks spent wishing I was not pregnant with this little lost one. Did he perceive it? Did it make the loss happen, maybe? (I know this is ridiculous.) When I look at my children gathered to eat dinner at the table, I feel like one is missing. It’s a very real feeling - as real as if we are waiting to bless the food and someone is playing in the bathroom rather than washing up.
I’m embarrassed to say that at a month after the loss of the baby, it is still the first thing I think of in the morning. It stays in my mind most of the day, getting heavier and heavier, and by bedtime, the loss weighs as much as a real baby. It pushes down on my chest and I can’t sleep. I lay in my bed, tv on, thinking of the way the light drained from the children’s faces when I had to tell them that the baby would no longer be coming just after Christmas, because the baby had died. I wonder how long I am allowed to feel this way, and when it has been too long and will be called depression.
In the immediate wake of the loss, we left town to go to the mountains and then to visit good friends in Knoxville and took a last minute trip to Disney, which is an excellent place to escape. Now we are back in the humid heaviness of reality, and school is starting this week, and the year ahead of me looks blank and empty as a tomb. What will I do with myself, all day, with no little ones at home? I’ve been reading lots of fiction and sleeping terribly. To my great relief and also sorrow, the pregnant-looking belly has gone away and I’ve stopped looking pregnant. I feel deflated, like an old balloon. The children were so sad for a while, but we’re all starting to feel normal-ish again. Some light is returning.
I know that Jesus can be found, looking not at all like we expect Him to look, in empty tombs. I know He hangs around the broken-hearted, that He grieves for death and that “He did not make death and does not desire the destruction of any living thing”. But I can’t help but think like Martha, “Lord, if you had been here, this would not have happened.” I am thinking this, too, with the world so full of violence and loss and grief. How long, Oh Lord? Rescue your people.
Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one we must all take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and it all turns to silver glass, and then you see it... White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.