I wish this were one of my books, and I could somehow re-write the ending to this story, make it a happy one. But it isn’t, and I can’t. Two months ago, I shared the news here on WU that we were expecting our third baby. Very sadly, this past month, the baby died during the second trimester.
At hard times in my life, I’ve always turned to prayer, and faith. But you know, I’ve always relied on stories—on books and imaginary characters and other authors’ words—too, even if it’s in a different way.
I remember when I was twelve, and in the throws of my first terribly serious summer camp crush. His name was … Jim? Yes, I’m probably more than 90% certain it was Jim; I’m equally fairly certain that he barely registered my existence. But anyway, when summer ended and the autumn leaves were turning colors and it was safe to assume I wouldn’t see Jim again (see fact of his barely registering my existence, above) I solemnly assured myself that, “’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Which now strikes me as side-splittingly funny with a dash of toe-curlingly embarrassing mixed in. And heaven help me, you’d know from that story alone that I was basically doomed to grow up a writer. But at the time, it actually was a comfort to my sparkly pink 12-year-old heart.
On a more serious note, after the birth of my first daughter, I read a passage in Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber that so, so perfectly captured the crazy, joyful, teary, terrifying mix of the postpartum emotions that I remember sitting with my newborn girl in my arms and rereading it again and again and again until I knew it by heart. It felt like a love letter written directly to me—as though this author whom I’d never met and probably never would had somehow still managed to reach out her hand and tell me, You are not alone.
All this month, I’ve thought of a beautiful line from Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer about those we love and lose and grieve for: “You learn to love the space they leave behind.”
We named the baby Wren, for the tiny bird that rose above even the eagle and soared the highest in the legend about the contest of all the birds. I believe that one way or another, I will see her again. But I believe something else, too: I believe that somehow, some way, all this pain and grief and hope inside me now will work its way into my writing, into the stories I tell.
Not that I’m planning to write a book about miscarriage or a mother who loses a child, nothing that directly parallel. And not that I necessarily believe this was the “reason” or “purpose” behind my losing the baby, either; nothing so trimmed-off and tidy. I just know that sometime in the future, in the midst of some book I’m writing, I’ll find myself typing words that would never have come to me without my heart having been cracked open the way it is now. And those words will be my love letter—as I hope in a small way this post is, too—my way of stretching out a hand to anyone grieving, whether for a child, a mother, a father, a friend, and saying, You are not alone.
I said at the beginning of this post that the story didn’t have a happy ending. But I can hope and believe that in a way, it can and will. Another of my favorite quotations is from Ellis Peters’ The Potter’s Field. What we see in this world at the hardest moments in our lives, Peters writes, “is only a broken piece from a perfect whole.”