Until last week, I felt that I was making steady progress on the healing front. I could talk about Ethan without crying. I was sleeping well. I was excited about our new baby.
I started to wonder when I would stop mentioning Ethan in conversation. It’s been my habit when someone asks me how many children I have to recognize Jacob (who is usually present and obviously my son in these situations), then continue to say that we “lost one in January, and are expecting another.” This has become the elevator pitch of my motherhood. I think most of why I mention Ethan is because I am nervous about this pregnancy, and I want people who are interested to know that this pregnancy is different; I’m carrying differently, not in my belly, but in my heart.
I figured that as time passes, as our children (existing and to come, we hope!) get older, I’ll begin to leave Ethan out of the conversation. I’ve done it a couple of times already. The thing is, that’s exactly what it feels like: like I’m leaving him out. I know he doesn’t care, but part of me cares. I’ve told myself that it’s okay that I’m not ready for that yet. I can answer the way I feel comfortable and other people can, and do, accept that reality, when I feel it’s appropriate.
In that vein, I’ve had three experiences in the last two weeks that have surprised me. Each time I’ve mentioned Ethan, these random parents, whom I’d just met and may never see again, told me they’d had miscarriages, too.
Exhibit A: Neighborhood mom.
Duration of conversation: Twenty minutes.
Our neighborhood in Brooklyn has a listserve through which people can buy and sell baby items, clothing, household items, etc. It’s like a constant garage sale, and yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. I went to pick something up from a lady who lives a fifteen-minute walk away. She asked if I was expecting. I told her I was, and that we “lost one in January”—my go-to phrasing. Without flinching, she told me she’d had four miscarriages before she had the two sons that I had the privilege to meet. She also told me about her sister, who’d had reproductive cancer and couldn’t have children.
Exhibit B: Dental hygienist.
Duration of conversation: However long it took to clean my teeth. Which, by the way, are very healthy. Thanks for teaching me good dental hygiene, Mom. Still no cavities!
I began seeing a new dentist last December, when I was pregnant with Ethan. Because I was a new patient, they wanted to take x-rays. Because I was pregnant, they could not. This time when I came in, they asked about my pregnancy. I told them I’d had a miscarriage, but I was pregnant again, so maybe next time on the x-rays. Both the dentist and the hygienist were sympathetic and not afraid to speak in terms of faith. Though he is Jewish, I really appreciated the dentist phrasing a question this way: “When are you due, God willing?” I had to ask him to repeat himself, because I didn’t think I’d heard right the first time.
But this isn’t about the dentist. It’s about the hygienist, who quickly told me that she’d had a miscarriage at eight weeks, after trying to conceive for something like a year. She and her husband have been trying again since, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Here’s the kicker: She told me no one in the office knew about her miscarriage. I don’t know if other people could hear us through the curtain, but we talked a lot in an environment that she otherwise hadn’t opened up in.
Exhibit C (I think this is my favorite.): Fellow parent at the allergist’s office.
Duration of conversation: Too long; this doctor is one of the best in his field, but it means we wait a long time.
Luckily, this time at the allergist’s, there was another little boy only five or six months older than Jacob. He and his dad played with Jacob and me and we all kept each other entertained while we waited for our little ones to have their tests done. Towards the end of our impromptu hang-out, the dad asked if Jacob was our only child. I said no, but switched things up this time in my speech.
With my hand on my belly, I told him we had one on the way (a phrase I don’t really like; it implies the child is not “here” yet, when it goes everywhere I go) and we . . . you guessed it . . . “lost one in January.” Oddly enough, he and his wife are expecting in October and lost a child in between their son and this new baby.
I loved that he didn’t use the word “miscarriage” like the other women did. He said they’d “lost one too.” I also love that we are living parallel lives, down to the allergies!
So when do you stop talking about a miscarriage? I don’t think you do. I don’t think I will.