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“I caught one! I caught a fish! It’s my first one!” the little boy squeals to his mother.
“I told you that you’d catch a fish today,” she beams with love and pride. There are two little boys, about three and six, if I had to guess, but it’s hard to gauge a child’s age when you have no frame of reference.
It’s a brisk 31-degree morning at Deep Creek Lake, our westward weekend retreat from the busy-ness of Baltimore. I’ve slept in until 7:15 a.m., made coffee, and am about to meditate on the seventh-floor balcony above the dock. The sun has begun its ascent as the light slowly creeps up over the mountains, hugging the lake.
In this instant, I see what could be my parallel life. If my first pregnancy hadn’t turned into a malignant tumor, we’d have a two-year-old…and if my second pregnancy had stuck, I’d be six months pregnant.
“Daddy! Daddy! I caught one, from the water!” the younger boy screeches proudly as his dad wanders down from their room. His R’s sound like W’s, and my heart breaks even more. Dad in tow, they all walk back out to the dock to resume their angling adventure.
My husband is sleeping in upstairs, which he can do because we have no one but ourselves to take care of at this early hour. No smiling child waiting eagerly to be plucked from their crib, no mouth to feed, no diapers to change. I wonder if the sounds have any impact on him, auditory or otherwise, but am grateful for the opportunity to cry alone.
Ever since my second miscarriage this past June, my grief has remained bottled up. It sneaks up on me when I least expect it and cannot express it. Before a meeting when my coworker starts talking about his pregnant wife and how he’s painting the nursery. Around the corner, where an incredibly pregnant woman is waddling back from the café at lunchtime. Pregnant women everywhere, for whom I share an illogical and immense hatred at their ability to successfully carry a pregnancy to term.
“That’s great that your wife is pregnant, I just had a miscarriage last month!” I want to say to my unsuspecting colleague.
Instead, I quietly leave the conference room and go collect myself in the bathroom. Packing up my grief, folding it neatly into a container and putting it in my pocket. When the meeting starts, no one is the wiser.
After my first pregnancy, a molar pregnancy that turned into Gestational Trophoblastic Neoplasia, I was cocooned and somewhat shielded from these occurrences since I took time off of work. I would still see pregnant women when I went to my oncology appointments at the hospital, but these everyday incidences didn’t happen as frequently when my world was comprised of treatment and home…treatment and home…repeat, repeat, repeat.
As I sit and meditate, I hear the birds chirping, the water gently lapping on the shore, and continued exclamations from the little fisherman below. The lake and the trees are blurry through my tear-filled eyes, and I gently let them roll down my cheeks, surrendering to the beauty of my grief in this moment—of the ability to truly feel my grief in this moment.
I have not just experienced the loss—the second loss—of a pregnancy, but also the death of what I thought my life would be. But maybe I would’ve been a horrible parent; maybe I would’ve hated it. I enjoy my space, my quiet, my sleep, and all of those other things you lack when you become a parent. I told my husband at the start of my second pregnancy, “If this doesn’t work out, it’s going to be bad. It is really going to f*ck me up.”
I can’t help but wonder what our parallel life would be like where my first pregnancy didn’t turn into cancer and our second attempt didn’t fail miserably. Maybe we’d be the happiest little family ever. Maybe we’d also be fishing on the dock, enjoying family vacation as a unit bigger than just the two of us. Maybe we’d go hiking, all three or four of us, the youngest strapped to my husband’s back like a heavy pack—delighting in all of the view with the none of the work.
Or maybe I’d start to resent my husband for not helping me with the dishes or the laundry or the baby or whatever. Maybe it would be a beautiful blend of both. Too often, I listen to my friends with children complain that they don’t get enough quiet time, their husbands don’t help, and oh, how exhausted they are at the end of the day. I’ll be honest: this terrifies me.
At the end of the day, right now we are child-free and can do whatever we want. Some days, I revel in the space, the freedom, the autonomy—and some days I end up crying in a heap on the floor, my grief overpowering my will to let it stay contained like a Tupperware with an airtight seal. It builds, and builds, and builds, until I am crying to a group of strangers at Yoga Church because the instructor has brought his angel of a baby and I wasn’t prepared for it.
Pema Chödrön, American Buddhist teacher and nun, said “The root of suffering is resisting the certainty that no matter what the circumstances, uncertainty is all we truly have.”
I don’t know what the future will bring for me, for us, but I have to learn to live with the beauty of uncertainty.