Not that I imagine it has been any significant loss for anyone, but it’s been three months since I’ve written anything for this blog, and not for a lack of content. In that time, I’ve seen a solid handful of movies, including: Booksmart, the tremendously funny directorial debut for Olivia Wilde, Midsommar, Ari Aster’s blessedly less upsetting, darkly funny follow-up to last year’s Hereditary, Avengers: Endgame, the incredibly dope wrap-up to the main focus of the MCU’s Infinity Saga, Aladdin and Detective Pikachu, both of which technically qualify as “movies,” and a few others. Countless trailers have come out, although for the life of me the only two I can think of right now are Knives Out and Jumanji. It’s basically been three months of countless opportunities to write about things that have genuinely excited me, but I just have not had the drive to write anything about them.
So, why the disappearance? There is a short answer, which I will reveal alongside a content warning so that other people who have dealt with the short answer can make the decision to continue reading into the longer explanation.
The short answer and the Content Warning is that, in November of last year, my wife and I lost a pregnancy in its twelfth week.
Before I go any further, I do feel like it is important to clarify that I’ve had many conversations with my wife about the idea of this post, and confirmed that she is okay with my sharing our story in this way, especially since as much as it impacted me, it impacts her more, and it felt essential to me that she had a say in this.
I also won’t go into detail about the 24-ish hour period as we became suspicious of what was happening, finally confirmed what was happening and the aftermath of all of that, as going into detail of that feels excessive. All that you need to know is that it was probably the worst night of my life and it’s a moment that changed me forever, and that was after only two months of knowing about what could have been. I realize that some people have it much worse, especially the people who actually carry the child/go through the actual loss process, not just an incredibly invested partner.
Over the last few months, since I’ve stopped writing for this blog, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to open this conversation with more people. My main plan was to frame it around the film Roma, a film whose focus is the strength of women in the face of a wide array of terrible circumstances, not the least of which is the heartwrenching, single-shot sequence where the main character, Cleo, played by Yalitza Aparicio, delivers her stillborn child. The plan here was to frame the impeccable film and its display of how incredible women are around the strength of my wife. But as I wrote this, I struggled on how much to include about the movie or how to make the difficult transition into talking about something so personal. So, there was a partially written article out there and in my mind, blocking me from feeling like I could write about anything else. I eventually decided to drop that article, and drop this discussion in general. However, my wife encouraged me to write something. She knows that it is something that will help me process everything that happened in November, and thinks it’s important that I do whatever I need to do in order to do that.
What she probably doesn’t know (at least when she suggested I still write something, she’ll find out when she reads this before I post it), is that a huge portion of this will still be me praising her. I was blown away then, and I’m still blown away now, by the strength that she was able to display in this incredible situation. That’s not to say that it was easy, or that she was able to move on. Nothing about this process was easy, nor has it really become easier, nor has she moved on from our first child. But she was able to carry on with her life, pulling on the strength that I never could have known was there until a situation called upon her to reach into that reserve. If you ask her, she is going to credit her family and friends who helped her in those immediate moments. Friends like K. and B. (abbreviated to keep their anonymity, but they deserve to know how much we appreciate them), who were there in the immediate moments after we realized what was probably happening, or like M., who stepped away from a rehearsal dinner to call us, or D. and S. who stayed awake, texting us into the early hours as we received confirmation of what we feared, and then visited our home the next night, or A. and C., who took time away from their lives to keep us company over the days after that. She will credit our families, including our parents who rushed to the hospital when we decided to go to the Emergency Room and were awake with us into those terrible early hours, or her sister and brother-in-law who changed plans for a graduate school campus visit to make sure she had as much family around her in those difficult hours shortly after we returned from the hospital. She’ll credit me for the support that I gave her, which, sure, I guess. I was present for her in as many ways as a partner can be, knowing that I could never truly comprehend how difficult the process is. All of these people, and so many more, deserve credit, and on some level, they absolutely helped my wife find the strength within herself, but at the end of the day, that’s the truth of it: we didn’t give her strength that she didn’t already have. We just gave her the support that she needed to be able to draw from the inherent strength that she has. She was back to work in a few days. She spent two nights away from much of her support system the next weekend as she went to a conference in Chicago (again, shoutout to another K., who kept her company in her free time for the conference). If she chose to take more time from work or to opt-out of the conference and get necessary re-certification hours elsewhere, she could have and nobody would have blamed her. But she continued. She didn’t move on or forget, but she proceeded to live her life. She’s incredible.
Another big reason that I wanted to write this, beyond just praising my wife, and any person who has to deal with the true process of child loss, is because I think it is important to bring topics like this to the forefront. Child loss is not an uncommon thing. According to the Mayo Clinic, 10-20% of known pregnancies end in loss of the pregnancy before the twentieth week, although that number is likely too low, as an unknown number of people can lose a pregnancy without having ever known they were pregnant. Usually, when child loss occurs in that first trimester, there is nothing that can be done. Again, according to the Mayo Clinic, about 50% of child loss in the first twenty weeks is because of abnormal genetic development of the fetus. There’s little, if anything, that can be done to correct that, sometimes things just do not work out when everything is developing in this incredible and complex process. This barely scratches the surface of potential ways pregnancy can be lost, including a loss in the second or third trimester, or the loss of the child after birth, whether because of development issues or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It’s a prevalent thing, but not one that is discussed very often, which can cause those going through it to feel lost or alone.
My wife and I found out how prevalent as family members and co-workers and friends came to us in support, telling us of their personal experiences of child loss. Some had been previously known to us, others were people willing to open up and recall their own terrible experience in order to provide us companionship, and I think that this is likely the case for anyone who unfortunately has to go through this experience. You will find people who have experienced this and they will come to you and offer you your support when you need it the most, and it’s a terrible gift they have to share, but their love and support and understanding is still a gift.
My goal here is not to say that people who do not feel comfortable discussing should get over their discomfort, nor am I saying that we are stronger for trying to be open about this conversation. Every person needs to make the best decision for themselves based on their own situation, whether that is keeping their pain to themselves, only revealing it in extremely personal situations, or if it’s sharing their story for people to know and understand that they are not alone. Whatever is best for you, whoever you are, whatever the pain may be, do that.
For my wife and me, being open about our feelings is important, and we feel like that applies here. Especially, as many people know, as we approach the due date of a new child, our second pregnancy. This pregnancy has been blessedly easier, with consistent reminders that things are going well, whether that be through her stomach growing or being able to feel our son move around. But, as I mentioned before, last November changed us. It took us time to really convince ourselves that this would happen. Any even minor concern or common symptom of pregnancy was amplified and complicated in our minds, and we constantly have to remind ourselves that November isn’t going to repeat itself, even as we escaped the first trimester, the time when child loss is at its most prevalent. We’ve only recently, in the last couple of months, really and truly allowed ourselves to believe that things are going to work out for us, as we decorate the nursery and attend baby showers. Even then, the worry is there. At this point, the worry is always going to be there, even after we get to meet our son. That’ll be a constant part of our lives, one that our past has just made an even more prevalent part of the pregnancy than it would have been had November not happened. But I think that’s good. It shows that we remember our first child, the one that we did not have the opportunity to meet. That child was real to us and it’s important to us that we keep it that way. It’s also important we cherish the opportunity that we will have with this second child, as that is one that many couples do not get to have. We know that and understand that, and even if we can never truly understand what you must feel, we love and support you, whoever or wherever you are.
So, to wrap all of this up. A significant moment of my life was a story that I felt that needed to be told, and until it was, I felt like writing anything else was disingenuous. Now that it’s written, I hope to write again, but more than that, I hope people reading this take away two things. First, my wife and all people who have been in similar situations but have found a way to persevere and to continue on are incredible. Secondly, if you have been there and haven’t been lucky enough to have the support systems than we have had, know that you are not alone. You are strong. You are loved.
Thanks for reading. Love you all.