I’ve been thinking about how miscarriages are like break-ups. The emotional aftermath is similar. Both experiences rob you of innocence.
Although I have several friends who married their high school sweethearts, most of us do not. Most of us have our hearts broken — and break hearts too — on our journey to marriage or a lifelong relationship. And though some would argue this is healthy and necessary to assure marrying someone who is “right for you,” let’s be real: the process is brutal and often traumatic. Our hearts become battered, wounded, and broken. They heal, praise God they do, but they are not the same. They will never again trust so easily or surrender with such abandon. The scars remain.
But do you remember “before?” Before you heart was scarred? People say you never forget your first love, and I think it’s not because of who they were necessarily; it’s because of who we were. Unafraid. Uninhibited. Unhurt. Deliciously naive perhaps…but fabulously carefree. Sweet sixteen, first dates, first kisses, first boyfriends. We all have different stories but I think most of us have some fond memories of a time gone by when we didn’t hesitate to give our hearts away. When the world of love was only butterflies in our stomachs and stars in our eyes.
We tend to look back on these yesteryear memories half-embarrassed, as if we were foolish to be so reckless, so trusting, so in love with love. It’s sad…I wish we didn’t view this tender chapter of life this way. But it’s understandable, of course, since we all know how the story progresses… Gradual disenchantment for some. The strain of long distance for others. The backbreaking pain of betrayal, of unfaithfulness. The incredibly not-mutual breakup. The “we don’t want the same things” stalemate. The “we don’t work but my heart can’t accept it” gut-punch. The “stop playing around and do something” ultimatum. Heartbreak takes so many forms. Sometimes we’re the victim and sometimes we’re the perpetrator. In every form, however, heartbreak steals some of our innocence.
We start guarding our hearts fiercely. We become painfully aware that relationships are not necessarily safe. We make subsequent partners work really, really hard to get close to us. Better to expect disappointment than allow ourselves to cultivate hope. Hope leads to heartbreak, we tell ourselves. When my husband told me he loved me — after 3 weeks, mind you — I tried to talk him out of it for a solid hour and a half. I thought he was severely unhinged. I even told him I planned to eat my placentas as a last-ditch effort to freak him out and convince him I was unlovable (did not work). When my friend’s husband told her he loved her, also after a short period of time, her response was simply and hysterically, “You’re bat shit crazy!” Risking our hearts after they have been broken (especially if multiple times) is TERRIFYING.
I have long loved Sarah Buxton’s song, “Innocence,” which is about remembering one’s first romance and realizing the wonder of it all was the innocence that accompanied it. Here is the bridge and last chorus:
And coming here has made me come to this
The one thing I can’t get back
Is the one thing I miss
And it was breaking rules, flying blind
What you see through younger eyes
It wasn’t what I thought it was
Man, I swore he was the one
And now and then I miss those days
But coming back to this place
I realize it ain’t him I miss
It’s that young girl, wide-eyed, first love
One time innocence
We remember the joy. Unbridled joy. And…later…the sting. The fall from grace. And for many of us, the devastation. We learn how to move forward. We incorporate our heartache into our story. We discover purpose in the pain. We “get better.” And, at the risk of sounding like a Rascal Flatts song, we eventually find someone new who lights us up like no one ever has before. Someone who makes “happily ever after” a reality for us. But…our story is still our story. Past heartaches fade but they don’t go away. They change us and they change relationships. They make communication harder. They make trust harder. They make marriage harder. The fairy-tale innocence is gone for good.
And so it feels to me now regarding my miscarriage. Gone is that “young mother, wide-eyed, first baby, one time innocence.” My heart has been marked in a new way. My maternal fall from grace. I know healing will come, albeit slowly, but I do know I will heal. I also know this will never “go away.” A baby lived inside me and that baby died. That is real and it matters. My heart is broken anew, and though the break will fuse, a scar will be left in its place. And whenever I decide to tread cautiously into future pregnancies, it just won’t be the same. It can’t be.
I will wonder if I will make it past 11 weeks. I will tell people my news with caution instead of joy. I will find it hard to trust my pregnancy, to believe that my womb is inherently safe, to believe that my baby is fundamentally strong. I will be, I’m sure, terrified. Someone coined the term “rainbow babies” for children born following losses, following the storm of death. I recently heard the term “sunshine babies” applied to those children born prior to a woman experiencing any baby losses, and I felt that was so fitting. Gabe is my sunshine baby. I disregarded numerous pregnancy rules while I carried him; enjoying quality sushi and raw milk and occasional glasses of wine. For the most part, I had no desire to have ultrasounds to “check” on him or prenatal testing to confirm his health. I just “knew” that my body would nourish him perfectly and safeguard him completely. I just “knew” that he was growing normally and believed his kicks were sufficient assurance of his well-being. Sunshine babies and first romances are so delightful. So pure.
Now the sunshine is gone. I believe I will see the rainbow someday, hopefully someday soon. But the storm has come and I am standing in the rain. I feel the loss of innocence, the loss of pregnancy purity. The loss of “before.” Not all is lost but this IS lost and I’m grieving it. Next time it will be joy co-mingled with fear. And I think that’s normal and reasonable and expected. I also think it’s sad. Thanks for reading. ❤