My husband, Dan, and I are at a wood-fired pizza kitchen celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary. The daily cocktail is right up my alley: blueberry-infused gin, a splash of grapefruit juice, a squeeze of lemon. I groan when the waiter leaves because I want that drink so badly, but I am secretly giddy to have to refuse. When he comes back I ask him which of the house-made cheeses are pasteurized.
“Everything except the pecorino and manchego,” he says.
I dutifully substitute parmesan on our stuffed gnocchi appetizer.
It turns out I could have eaten the darn pecorino.
Before I go to bed that night, I see a slight discoloration on the toilet paper. It’s so faint that I think my eyes are playing tricks on me; perhaps I’m dehydrated and my urine is just a tad too dark. I wipe again and see it unmistakably: pink. My heart skips but it doesn’t sink; I feel concerned but not panicked.
I remember the spotting I had with my daughter and believe that this is just what my body does. The words my nurse-friend reassured me with back then float through my head now: “Spotting is normal in very early pregnancy as the uterus stretches. You don’t need to be concerned about miscarriage unless there is flow and cramping.”
I tell Dan. He looks worried but I assure him I’m not spiraling. “I really believe everything is okay,” I say, and I mean it.
At 7:30 the next morning, I wake up to golden light framing the curtains. I’m surprised and grateful to have slept long and soundly. Dan is still asleep, so I tiptoe out of bed to the bathroom. There is still some spotting but no more than yesterday. I’m disappointed that it hasn’t resolved, but I’m still not panicked.
My daughter, Selah, wakes screaming a few minutes later. I heave her out of bed, wondering if that could make things worse. She sniffles and tearfully tells me that she wants to wear her pretty ballerina dress, so we creep down the stairs together to fetch the dress from the dryer.
Ten minutes later she is wearing the ballerina dress and her ballet shoes. She puts her pineapple pillow in my lap and settles her head onto it, and then she grabs my hand and places it against the still baby-like skin of her cheek.
I am grounded by the reality of her: wispy hair splayed across the pillow, fingers in her mouth, ankles crossed in the way she does when she’s totally relaxed. I stroke her hair and kiss her cheek and remember the way I bled with her—the bright purple clots, my certainty that it was the end. Look at what a healthy and vibrant girl she turned out to be, I think. She has strong toddler legs that dance and twirl and leap. My hope is raw but genuine.
Even still, somewhere I’m not ready to acknowledge yet, I have the profound sense that this pregnancy is ending, and also that I will be okay.
The next time I go to the bathroom, the spotting is darker and more plentiful. My heart registers this before my mind does, and I realize that my pulse is racing.
I return to the couch and Selah snuggles right in where she was before. Unsure of what else to do, I open my Kindle and begin to read. Immediately the thought assaults me: How can I read when my baby is dying?
I was pregnant for only a week and a half, but I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime with this baby. I pictured the first ultrasound: Dan and I in the dark room, laughing with relief at the wiggly jelly bean on the screen. I saw myself holding him or her in my arms in the hospital, my whole body sweaty, exhausted, consumed, happy. I imagined Selah patting the baby’s head and giving gentle kisses and also shrieking for attention because I have a feeling she’ll be the jealous type.
Now all I can see is the age gap between Selah and another baby growing wider and wider, when it’s already larger than I ever wanted.
It hits me that I’m the first person in Dan’s family to have a miscarriage, and we also waited the longest to have a second baby. I feel like a double failure.
Dan is awake now—I can hear the floorboards creaking under his feet upstairs—and when he comes down, I tell him what’s happening. I’m not ready to admit out loud that I’m having a miscarriage, so I simply describe the color and quantity of the blood—“it’s bright pink and leaves streaks on the toilet paper”—and hope he will draw his own conclusions.
Tears fill my eyes and begin to spill over, burning all the way down my face. The burden of his unasked questions is already heavy; informing him of new developments is tiring. I find myself bristling at the fact that I have to bear both the trauma and the responsibility of telling other people about it.
I don’t know how much time has passed. I smell pancake batter and hear the sizzle and pop of oil. Selah’s little voice floats out of the kitchen; water is filling up the washing machine.
I remember that a distant writing acquaintance wrote a book about miscarriage. I find it on Amazon and click “add to cart.”
I make my way to the bathroom again and feel Dan watching me walk away, waiting for me to emerge with a new report. The door clicks shut but it booms like thunder in my ears.
There is a smear of crimson.
It is undeniable, this fresh, sticky, flowing blood.
It’s not going to stop, I know now. When am I supposed to call it? When am I supposed to start sobbing? This whole process has been far more gradual than I expected; it has allowed me to hope for too long.
As an act of surrender, I click “order.”
A few minutes later, I find Dan in our bedroom and tell him it’s over. My voice is quiet and sounds like it’s coming from another room, like it doesn’t belong to me. He pulls me into a bear hug, and I sob against his shoulder, wetting his shirt with tears and snot as Selah dances and twirls around us.
He suggests we go for a walk; we could all use the fresh air. I know he’s right, even though I’m no longer sure how to put one foot in front of the other.
Outside it’s cloudy and drizzling but the sky is bright. Selah begins to sing, “Sunny rain, sunny rain.” She giggles to herself about this paradox: How can it be rainy and sunny at the same time? And me: How can I feel such pain and delight in the same breath?
Selah reaches for my hand and I clasp it, making a point not to cling too tightly. In her little singsong voice, she says, “Mommy so happy!”
“How do you know, baby?” I ask.
“Because Mommy loves Selah! So much!”
Later that afternoon, as I open my computer to write all this down, to make sense of what happened, my Piano Guys Pandora station starts to play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
My eyes are red and heavy. The tears continue to pool; the blood continues to flow; the ache inside me continues to grow.
I hum along and fill in the words silently:
“Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.”
Somehow, I believe it.
Brittany L. Bergman is a writer who is passionate about telling stories that provide refreshment to mothers who don’t want to lose sight of their identity. Her first book, Expecting Wonder, releases in August 2020. You can find her on Instagram or join her email list.