I have been pregnant thirteen times.
No, I don’t have thirteen children.
Seven of my pregnancies ended way before they were supposed to. Before my belly got large; before I really could feel them moving inside of me; before other people knew.
Nobody else saw my babies, but they saw my tears. They didn’t understand. They told me it was better I wasn’t further along. I was told that my babies weren’t really babies – just a blob of tissue and stuff. They said just get pregnant again. They didn’t see my heart was aching – they held it in their hands and squeezed it tighter – closed their fists around it and squeezed so hard it ran through their fingers and didn’t realize it. They told me at least I already had a child.
When I kept having miscarriages they said why don’t you just stop? Why don’t you just count your blessings? Maybe this is God’s way of telling you that you weren’t meant to have more children. Then they said I must be really strong - because this was happening to me, or because they thought I needed to buck it up, I often wondered.
My tears made them uncomfortable. They didn’t know what to say – so they avoided me; ignored me. Some from wishing to spare me further pain – some from their own discomfort.
The pregnant ladies at church sat far away from me – they whispered, they stared. I felt like a contagion – an infectious disease. Someone might catch what I had – recurrent pregnancy loss. Some questioned if I had even been pregnant at all. I became the sad, pathetic person to be pitied. The one they were so glad not to be.
I wanted to show them all the pictures – the u/s pictures of the baby I lost at 10 weeks. You could see her hands, the shape of her head, tiny legs that I had seen kick and the dark black hole that was her heart – no longer beating. It had been a tiny flickering thing just weeks before – fluttering away on the screen, now it was still. I was still losing my breakfast every morning. My heart an empty black hole – my chest an aching chasm. My womb contracting – bleeding what was left of life.
I wanted to show them the baby I held in the palm of my hand one night. Alone and spent, I saw her – I held her. I delivered her and brought her up out of the water. Then I put her in a Ziploc and carried her to the doctor’s office the next day in my purse. She was real – she was a baby! The tiniest, smallest baby I had ever seen. I was in awe of her and devastated by her at the same time.
I wanted to show them the bruises from the drugs I injected to conceive them. The scars from the surgeries I had to have when things went wrong. I wished sometimes they could feel the pain of overstimulated ovaries, the heaviness. The agony of a rupturing fallopian tube. All the blood. If anything – the medical bills. For “nothing” they sure did cost much.
I wanted to tell them of my dreams – the dreams I spun each time. Blond hair, brown hair? Curly? Straight? Blue eyes or my brown eyes? Long fingers and long toes like their daddy? Would they be musical and creative like me? Logical and mathematical like daddy? Tall and slender? I would read them books, sing them lullabies, rock them, hold them. I would hear them play, pick up their messes, clean them, feed them, love them.
They would call me mommy.