What do you do when you’ve miscarried a child you weren’t ready for? How do you get over the grief of a loss so profound, your heart can’t fathom it? And how do you consolidate two opposing emotions and console yourself through the pain?
As much as I love children, I never wanted them. I still don’t. At 14, I told my Chilean parents not expect me to get married or have kids. I wanted to focus on my career, my writing, and my art. I knew it then as I know it now.
But then there I was, 33 and pregnant. The minute I knew I had this life form growing inside of me, I fell in love with it. I’d been told in my early twenties I was unable to have children due to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. At 26, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis after battling my horrific menstrual cycles for years. I was told my quality of life was going to be very limited and I would not be able to conceive. Hearing this at 26, I felt overwhelmed and confused but fine with not having children. I adore kids but motherhood wasn’t something I’d ever aspired to. I started educating myself about my illness, took this in stride and kept fighting. Eventually, after much debate, I started taking birth control to keep my agonizing symptoms under control.
Some years later, I underwent a grueling but successful deep excision surgery with the top specialist in NYC and was able to finally have a normal life and shortly after, fell in love. A year into the relationship and seven years on the pill, a DVT formed and I was pulled off of it immediately. However, I was not informed or prepared for the whirlwind of emotion one could experience when hormones are pulled askew in such a way. Suddenly, I was not quite myself. I was interested in starting a family, making roots and my partner was in total agreement. I started thinking about things I’d never desired or wanted. I’m not blaming my hormones here. But I will say that my decisions for a few months were mainly based on the chaotically stark hormonal imbalance my body was experiencing.
We saw the words embarazada on a Chilean pregnancy test while on vacation. We hugged each other in jubilation. But the sudden realization that my whole life was going to permanently change suddenly starting sinking in- deeper and deeper until panic settled deep into my soul. Still, I was happy. It was nothing short of a miracle, although as an atheist, perhaps that’s the poor verbiage. And I was with someone I wanted to share my life with, and this kept me going.
Until I was scolded by my (now ex) gyno for having gotten pregnant while on blood thinners. Until I started feeling like a stranger in my own body. I started suffering from what I now know to be body dysmorphia, an almost complete disconnect and yet oddly full connection to my body and its changes. I also felt like I had my very own best friend growing inside of me, and I was excited, despite how sick I was. I remember that feeling so well…that feeling will be imprinted in my body and mind forever.
We were excited to go to our first sonogram. I’d been incredibly sick and cramping so horribly that I finally wanted to see the baby for myself. I was a high-risk patient due to my reproductive conditions, so I was able to see a doctor quite soon after my return to the states.
We held hands as the doctor pulled up images of our baby. Only, there was nothing to see, just an empty amniotic sac. We later came to find out I had partially miscarried, and my body was most likely going to naturally release the remnants. At work, when the labor pains hit a few days later, I was in a delusional state and thought I could walk it off. My boss, a former nurse, worriedly sent me to my doctor. The procedure in that doctor’s office was the most painful one I’ve had to date. Because as he extracted what was left of my child, he also took my heart and sanity with him.
There is no preparation for this kind of situation. There is no preparation for the postpartum depression that hits a few days after the shock wears off. There’s nothing that comforts you- nothing can take the pain and guilt away. The shame of postpartum depression over a baby you can’t even hold. Because they’re gone. There’s no preparation for the toll this takes on your body, your mental health, your self-perception. There’s no preparation for the strain miscarriage puts on a relationship. The eventual deterioration of what was a steadfast union. The unending sense of loss, and grief of muddled mental clarity.
And when the relationship disintegrates and your belly is still around, an empty home for a child that no longer is- what do you do? What do you do when you feel so much agony in the void that has become your life? The sense of failure in not being able to carry this love of yours to life. Never meeting this precious creation or holding them in your arms. Worse, there’s also a huge sense of guilt in feeling a small bit of relief because ultimately, children weren’t in your life plans and your relationship wasn’t meant to last.
And now you can go forward with your dreams- but at what cost?
There’s no emotional guidebook to restoring your joy, your positivism, your carefree personality. You can read a million books, see a thousand therapists, take hundreds of different medications. Nothing can erase the hurt of such heartbreak. Nothing can ease the agony of this kind of tragedy and loss. It’s a pain that settles in the marrow of your being. Unshakeable.
You land in this void of agony that’s uncharted and realize: This is where you piece your brokenness together. This is where you glue the fractured tiles and create the mosaic of your new life, piece by jagged piece. This is where you thrust yourself as far as you can from the darkness that envelops you.
I found myself navigating dark waters in the aftermath of my loss as miscarriage is still a relatively taboo subject in our society. Although in recent years, many have opened up about their experiences, we’re still a very long way to go in terms of visibility and support. Even within our own relationships, families and friends sometimes unintentionally say insensitive things as a way of consolation. There are times many don’t know how to broach the subject and ignore it all together. It took me sometime to speak about my own experience openly, and it still stings to this day.
Now, more than two years later, life is different. In the time that has passed since my loss, I’ve experienced all kinds of grief, sorrow. But I have also loved, smiled, laughed heartily again. I have learned to enjoy life. I am grateful for the millions of lessons that have presented themselves to me. Appreciative of the hardships that have tested my resolve and shown me the tenacity of my spirit. When I believed I was depleted, I dug deep into my well and found a new conduit of abundance. I have grown to understand that life is precious in its transiency and fragility. I have taken on challenges to improve upon my own sense of self, teaching myself how to value the minutiae of everyday life. I have grown stronger as an artist and writer, welding my power through the weaponry of my words. My advocacy and activism sturdier by the minute. I have learned how to be kinder to myself and try to practice self-care. I am finally healthy again and energized, my creativity expanding exponentially.
Most importantly, I have learned that this kind of heartbreak, unshakeable as it is, can be survived. I am forgiving myself every day for the various turns my life has taken as a result of my decisions because they all lead me to where I am today. It’s a difficult journey, and healing is not linear. Yet this loss has taught me to expand myself, my artistry, my empowerment. It is, I am finally learning, day by day, how to accept and love myself for who I am. Slowly and patiently. One day at a time.
Lucy Torres is a writer and artist based in NYC and author of The Taste of Broken, an autobiographical poetry book on illness turned NYC experimental art show. Lucy is a LaGuardia Performing Arts Center LAB 101 Grantee and has featured at the Inspired Word Series, Queens Literary Festival, International Women’s Artist Salon and Local Project. Lucy is an unwavering women’s rights activist, fighter of self-love and advocate for gender/racial/ability/class/age/body size equality.