When Perfection Falls Short
For me, the worst part of miscarrying is feeling misunderstood. It goes without saying that my husband and I, like most couples, had no idea how to handle a miscarriage, especially how to grieve it. We weren’t sure who to tell, how to tell, or even how to talk about it with each other. It was kind of like the day after trying a new exercise activity and you discover “new” muscles from how sore they are. Each day we discovered new feelings because of how unfamiliar we were with exercising them.
Of course I felt tremendously sad and disappointed the moment we learned we had miscarried. I went on to pass our baby at home, which lasted about 5 days. It was horribly painful and every twinge compounded the sense of loss and hopelessness. But every so often, and intensifying with each day, resentment and indignation joined me.
Saying “I’m a planner” is an understatement. I’ve been characterized as Type A, anal retentive, high strung, perfectionist – you name it. And I’d have to agree. What people don’t see, though, is how those tendencies come from a deeply genuine, and well-meaning place. And how they can be just as, if not, more, painful for me than anyone else.
When I was a kid we didn’t get a regular allowance. We occasionally got $1 or $2 for doing extra little chores. Maybe $5 or $10 for doing big projects like cleaning out the entire refrigerator or washing our parents’ cars. Hey, that’s a really big project for an 8 year old. Any time we had money, my mom would get out my plastic accordion file organizer. The kind people use to store receipts or coupons. Each of us four girls had one of our own. She had labeled the divider tabs with budgeting categories: Saving, Giving, and Spending. When I exchanged my dollar bill with dimes from her change purse, I put one dime in saving, one dime in giving, and the last eight in spending. All I had to do, then, was wait.
My sisters and I responded four very different ways to this budgeting practice instilled upon us. I just happened to be the one who wholly and emphatically subscribed to it. I believed this to have a black and white, right or wrong, good or bad way of being done. I decided that if I budgeted this way forever I would be a good and right person. And because I would be such a responsible person who always had money saved, I would never be found unprepared. I thought if I followed every rule perfectly, I would not only be able to handle anything but life would have no choice but to deal fairly with me in return. I transcribed this belief into almost every other aspect of my life. It’s unfortunate how severely I interpreted a wise practice meant only to be a guide.
Fast forward to 2017 and my husband and I have been married 2 and a half years. Marriage had been (and still is) such a gift. We had fun together and loved learning about each other. We were energized by the challenge to merge our lives and create a new rhythm. And we were, finally, both personally emotionally and mentally ready to be parents. To top it off, even though we don’t rake in the big bucks, my compulsive saving habits had their first true moment of glory. I had saved three months of my salary for maternity leave and my insurance’s out-of-pocket maximum.
In December of 2017 we decided to stop preventing pregnancy. That small step was equally beautiful as it was scary. Nothing made us feel more like a real team. And all we had to do, then, was wait.
I found out and told my husband I was pregnant on June 28, 2018. We miscarried on August 4th. We were advised to wait a few months before trying again but, in the very few words we could handle to hear out loud, we both said we’d need more than a few months to try again.
Grieving the loss of our first child was, and is, hard because we lost the 3rd member of our team. It was the first being we both loved with all the intensity and joy in ours. It was intensely physically painful and brought emotional pain I never could have fathomed beforehand.
And along with all of that, it exposed and shattered and upended my understanding of me. Everything I thought I knew about life and myself was up in the air now.
Some people do feel 100% ready to be a parent. They waited and prepared in every way they knew how. And sometimes they’re more upset that their trusted traditions and belief systems seem to have crashed and burned. Sometimes hearing condolences for the child who is lost is lacking because life itself has forsaken them.