Deep Grief for my Empty Nest
My heart stings with pain as I type this. I am grieving for a baby that I found out never really existed. It all feels so surreal–and scary –and heart wrenching. I found out that I was “pregnant” on July 30th and that felt so special because I remember finding out with Mikayla on January 30th (2014). After a summer of ease, self care, and overcoming the trauma of my previous school year, it felt fateful and right. I had cared for myself so much and so deeply; I was finally ready to care for another again. We were excited, and a few days later when Mike and I got to see both sets of our parents in Burlington, VT we were elated to share the news. It was a celebratory time and gave me hope for a new beginning going into the brand new school year.
A few weeks into the school year, I had an allergic reaction to fire ants and drove myself to the ER. I was especially worried about the “new life” growing inside of me. The process was scary and while there, I asked for an ultrasound. They didn’t seem to make out more than a sac in the ultrasound and no one really explained anything to me, but I could see something in their eyes–hear it in their voices. I later tried to convince myself it was my mind playing tricks on me or sleep deprivation or the meds I was on, but I think on some level I knew…I also remember having a dream about a miscarriage. There was blood everywhere. But again, I put that out of my mind. It is normal to be anxious before you get a confirmation right? My doctor’s appointment had been scheduled for September 1st all along and I was ready for a new beginning. Mikayla’s birthday is in September. It is the Jewish New Year and for most of my teaching career marked the start of a new beginning. It has always been a special time for me.
At the doctor’s, something felt different. I didn’t have the usual reassuring feeling I have had in the past when I went to the birth center. The ER experience (and maybe subconsciously the dream) had left me with a fear, but yet I went through the motions–so excited to see my ultrasound and hear that heartbeat. Except it didn’t come…the midwife whom I had worked with before, had to break the news to me: I was carrying an empty nest. There is a sac living inside of me, but no baby. She was gentle and kind as she broke the news to me. She told me how common it was and that I did nothing wrong; she also said I don’t have to suffer in silence. I took the information in in stride–I am not one to outwardly cry in public, and I am one that needs processing time. The receptionist who was excited to see me again (she remembered me from 2 years ago), gave me a sad look as I exited the building. All I could think about is all the people who would be asking me about how my appointment went and how I couldn’t bare that question…so I just went through my phone and let people know. I think I was craving emotional support and wanting to just save anyone else from the false hope that I had endured. It felt like the most practical and logical thing I could do at that moment and when you can’t make sense of what’s happening around you, it helps to take a step that seems to make sense.
By the time I got to my house, I had contacted everyone, including my principal and coworkers. I ran upstairs and collapsed on my bed and let it all out…I didn’t get up to walk the dog or take Mikayla to the playground. I did get up to binge eat Chinese food and felt awful after. It was a combination of the grease and the trauma; the false hope and the disappointment; and all the first trimester symptoms that I was, and currently still am, experiencing.
For the doctor’s appointment, I had left school early. Right before I left, I learned that there was going to be no school the next day–there was a hurricane passing through. I felt excited thinking it was an extra day to rest and celebrate. In the end, it ended up being a gift–an extra day to grieve and process. I have spent most of the day in bed crying and retreating to sleep. Outside– the sky is falling into rain drops and I feel as though the whole world is crying with me. It reminds me of the day my Uncle Lino died. The weather was the same. It’s funny how that happens.
I remember being at the doctor’s and going through the paperwork. They asked if I had ever had a miscarriage and, ironically, at that time, I was able to check the “no” box. Now, forever after that day, I will always check “yes”–this is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
My heart hurts, and I am grieving. Grieving for a baby that “never existed”–except it did exist. This baby existed in my heart and in my mind. I was in the process of keeping a baby journal, just like I did for Mikayla. Here is an excerpt from today’s entry:
Dear Baby Savage #2,
My heart stings with pain as I write this–this is so confusing and convoluted, but I guess you don’t exist. Did you ever? You definitely did in my heart and in my mind. Maybe you weren’t ready to come into this world? I don’t blame you–sometimes it can be a scary place. I bet Heaven or the other side or wherever you’re coming from is nicer. I guess you will always be my angel. You sent me dreams–that’s how I knew I was “pregnant”–the vivid dreams and that’s why I chose this dream journal to write to you in. I had so much hope, and now I am just crushed. I don’t understand. This is so much bigger than me and at times, too much to process. My heart aches. Somehow my body created an empty nest. I was emotionally ready for you. My body was physically ready for you–but you never came. I guess you weren’t ready. I think you will always exist to me. You felt so real, and I loved the idea of you so much. It is such a strange process to grieve for someone who never “existed”. I feel like I have lost something that I never really had…
Now I am in a liminal space; still technically “pregnant” and waiting for the procedure that will terminate it all. I am leaning into my grief and receiving support around me. I am inviting in my emotions as Rumi suggests in his poem “The Guest House”. I am feeling all the feels.
I wanted to record these raw emotions as there is something beautiful in their honesty. No matter what direction my life takes, I will never be in this moment again. In many ways I am grateful for that, but there is something special about living in the moment and really feeling your way through a situation. I am putting this out there for myself and hoping to share it with anyone who has experienced a loss because maybe it will help them realize they are not alone. Grief is part of our human experience and maybe all of this will make sense some day–in some space and time–but for now, it is raw and real and painful, and I am leaning into all of that.